holocaust, jewish, extermination, concentration camp, shoah, auschwitz, belzec, treblinka, monowitz, birkenau, night of the long knives,
deportations, judenrat, majdanek, westerbork, chelmno, vught, wannsee, theresienstadt, roma, sinti, night of the broken glass, extermination camps, nazi´s,
hitler, jews, diaspora, jewish council, judenrat, transportation, birkenau, ghetto, hans vanderwerff, sion soeters, aktion reinhard, terezin, himmler, david irving
holocaust denial, holocaust lest we forget, jews, synagogue, oswald pohl, odilo globocnik, deportations, judenrat, majdanek, westerbork, chelmno, vught,
wannsee, theresienstadt, roma, sinti, night of the broken glass, extermination camps, nazi´s, hitler, jews, diaspora, jewish council, judenrat, transportation,
birkenau, ghetto, hans vanderwerff, sion soeters, aktion reinhard, terezin, himmler, david irving, holocaust denial, holocaust lest we forget, jews, synagogue,
oswald pohl, siegfried seidl, protectorate, bohemia, moravia, murmelstein, karl rahm, anton burger, karl hermann frank,


In Memoriam: Iwan van Oosten


       The Holocaust, known in Hebrew as Shoah, is the most tragic period of Jewish Diaspora history and indeed of modern mankind as a whole. Twelve years of Nazi-German anti-Jewish Aktion (1933-1945) constitute an uninterrupted progression toward a continued increasing radicalization of objectives and barbarization of methods in constantly expanding territories under direct Nazi control or under decisive Nazi influence to the accompaniment of vicious, sometimes obscene anti-Jewish propaganda. Consequences of the Holocaust are of decisive significance for the Jewish present and future: those consequences are still evident now and will be experienced for generations to come.

Encyclopedia Judaica, Bk. 8, page 831



Hans in 1942 

 Hans in 2002

       My memories of the war years are quite unpleasant. I have successfully managed to block out part of the past that deals with my childhood years. I try to remember, and when I do I see mostly still pictures before me. However, I vividly remember the following episode involving one of my friends. I was thirteen years old at the time. My family and I lived in Assen in the north of the Netherlands and the year was 1943.

       I was eleven when war broke out. I was not even a teenager yet. Nazi occupation of my home town became dreadful reality on 10 May 1940 when the first Nazi troops reached our town. I grew up in the town of Assen. It is the capital of Drente, a province in the northeast corner of the Netherlands. Until then the town had been quiet and serene. Occupation was immediate. It took five long years of Nazi oppression before liberation finally came. Assen was liberated by the Canadian army on 13 April 1945. I had turned sixteen on the 5th of February.

       While attending grade school and the early years of high school I had three close friends. The foursome was made up of George Manak, Piet Tielrooy, Iwan van Oosten and myself, Hans van der Werff.




Iwan van Oosten,
Photo 1935

George Manak
Photo 1945
Max Manak 

Piet Tielrooy
Photo 1943
private collection

       We were a close-knit group. George's father owned and operated a house painting business. George passed away shortly after the war at the very young age of nineteen. Piet Tielrooy was the son of an army colonel who spent the war years in a German POW camp. Piet became a school teacher. His picture can be seen on the left which was taken during war time. Piet passed away at the age of fifty-four. The picture of George was sent to me by his nephew Max Manak for which I am very grateful. However, my story concerns itself with my third friend, Israel Berty van Oosten. However, we knew him by his common name, Iwan (pronounced Eewan). Iwan's grandfather, Jonas van Oosten, had opened and operated a bedding and furniture store in Assen.


The large storefront in the middle was De Walvisch located on the Gedempte Singel in Assen. The lower storefront to the far left was the small candy store of Mrs. Nathalie Fischler-Blok. The families resided above the stores. The unique moving van of De Walvisch can be seen in the foreground. The van was bright orange in color drawing quite the attention.

       Iwan's father, Machiel (Mau), and his unmarried brother Maurits (Mie) took over the business after Jonas retired. The store affectionately was called "de Walvisch - the Whale" after the Bible story of "Jonah and the great fish" by most town people. Certainly no harm was intended considering the similarity between his name and that of the prophet Jonah in the Biblical story. The sad story of the van Oosten family follows here below.


(l to r) : Aunt Hester Hendrina, born 26 November 1905 in Assen. Perished in Birkenau on 29 October 1942. Grandma Gonda van Oosten-Godschalk, born 31 August 1871 in Roden, perished in Birkenau on 8 October 1942. Uncle Maurits (Mie), born 26 November 1901 in Assen, perished on 28 February 1943 in Birkenau. Grandpa Jonas van Oosten, the founder of "De Walvisch," was born on 2 September 1865 in Assen also perished in Birkenau on 8 October 1942. Uncle Abraham, born 24 April 1897 in Assen, died before the war on 2 February 1937 in Assen. Last, Iwan's father Machiel (Mau). He was born on 22 April 1899. He perished in Birkenau on 11 January 1943. Iwan's mother was Johanna (Jo) van Oosten-Jakobs. No picture of her is available at this time. She was born 27 May 1902 in Emmen and perished in Birkenau on 24 September 1943 together with her two youngest sons Iwan and Maunie.

       Iwan, whose Hebrew name was Israel Berty, was born on 27 December 1927. That Iwan was born Jewish was not an issue with us teens. All that changed on 2 May 1942, the day when Dutch Jews over the age of five were singled out by the Nazis to wear the humiliating yellow star which openly exposed and branded them. The first year and a half of the war Iwan attended our public school, but new directives coming from the Nazis changed that also. Even so, we continued to see each other after school time.

       Gradually we were also robbed of this small pleasure. The Nazis placed severe restrictions on the lives of the Jewish people. And, to a lesser extent on those not born Jewish as well. The Nazis introduced a detested curfew which no longer allowed Jews to be outside their home between 8 PM and 6 AM. This curfew was imposed upon all Dutch citizens later on in the war as well.

      On 2 October 1942 Iwan excitedly told us that he and his family and all other Asser Jews were going on a long journey. He was nervous about that voyage because it involved the entire Jewish community of Assen. First they had to relocate to a transit camp near Assen called Westerbork. None of us had any idea that it not only affected the local community but all the Jews of Holland. In a macabre sense we anticipated that journey with him. We talked at length about it with each other. We had no idea what the journey was about or where it would lead. No one really knew. But we had a sinister foreboding that it was going to be an unpleasant journey. Especially because of the uncertainties attached to the ominous Nazi order.

       The Jews of Holland had been deceived. They were led to believe that they were settling some- where in Poland. But why Poland? Could they not have stayed in Holland? Poland was so far away. Of course we had read stories about Poland in the newspaper because of the war. We were familiar with Nazi propaganda pictures. We were fed a biased newspaper account of initial Nazi victories on the Eastern front. Then what was the purpose of relocating Jewish people there, resettling them? Resettling them for what? That burning question would remain unanswered for almost three years.

       The Jewish population of Assen was not subjected to large-scale razzia's - round-ups like in other major cities of the Netherlands. A simple written order from the SD office in Assen, in cooperation with the local police usually sufficed. Whoever did not respond to the call-up notice was arrested by the Asser police and transported to Westerbork. I remember the day when the Jewish population of Assen received orders to report to the railroad station. The appointed place of assembly was near a side-track of the railroad station where cattle cars waited to bring the hapless ones to Westerbork. Prior to this, the van Oosten family first had received instruction to vacate their home and business to make room for a German representative who simply took over the business.

       They had to leave their home immediately without taking any of their belongings with them. Initially they received temporary housing with various Jewish families until some horse stables located at the rear of the tavern owned by Boele Geerts, the interior of which is shown in the picture on the right, were cleared and cleaned. It was there that the family found a temporary roof over their heads. It was a dark and eerie pathway that led toward those stables. Piet Tielrooy and I visited Iwan at this foreboding place even though it was forbidden to make contact with him. I suppose two thirteen years olds did not pose a threat.


       The van Oosten family did not remain in those stables very long. We learned that one evening they suddenly had disappeared. A friend, who had risked his life visiting them, found the doors to the stable ajar. The evening meal was still on the table, untouched. After the war it was learned that the family was brought to the Jewish cemetery in Assen with the help of Boele Geerts, the inn-keeper, and Willem Hofstee, the coffin manufacturer. A picture dating back to 1937 of Mr. Boele Geerts is shown on the left below the picture of Jonny, Iwan and Maunie. The family was secretly driven from the Jewish cemetery by car to Hindelopen, a small town in the province of Friesland. Unfortunately, not long afterwards they were betrayed, captured, and incarcerated. Mother Jo was sent to camp Westerbork with her two youngest sons, Iwan and Maunie. Maunie was quite ill at the time as I learned from a letter Mother Jo had thrown out of the moving train intended for her cousin, the family Redeker. In it she writes: "train at half past ten (in the morning), 21 September (1943). Dear family, This is the end. We are going. Weak, but full of courage. Thank you for everything. We received the parcels. My poor children. Very nervous. Maunie looks drawn and has to throw up. He no longer runs a fever. We lay with 25 ill people on the floor (of the cattle car). My little darlings are next to me. We have enough food to eat. Thank you very much. Greetings and a kiss for all the family. We are full of courage. Finder, please deposit this letter in a mailbox." Father Mau, uncle Mie, and Iwan's older brother Jonny were first sent to the notorious concentration camp of Amersfoort. Westerbork records indicate that the whole family was deported to Birkenau were all perished. Jonny is still officially listed as missing.



 Jonny, Iwan, and Maunie in 1935
Photo J.Stern/N.v.d.Oord

 Mr. Boele Geerts, 1937.
Photo Mrs. Henny Hatzmann

       After the war in Europe had ended we heard for the first time that atrocities had been committed. Not only against Jews, against other minorities of Europe's subdued nations as well. We were aghast at the viciousness with which these atrocities had been carried out. Slowly we became aware of the unthinkable truth regarding the ultimate measures that were put in motion to systematically carry out the extermination of the Jews. This particular ethnic cleansing is known today as the Holocaust.