The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1999/06/01

Q. 1941?

A. 1941.  But it was actually established after the strike,
and then apparently together with another decision, to set
up in Amsterdam a Zentralstelle fuer Juedische Auswanderung
- a Central Office for Jewish Emigration.  This name aroused
many hopes in the hearts of Jews.  They believed that
"Auswanderung" meant outside Holland, and many hoped they
would also be allowed to emigrate.  There were other cases
of very wealthy Jews who were indeed given the opportunity
to emigrate in exchange for huge sums of money.  But later
on it turned out that the same so-called "service," at the
head of which was a German captain, Aus der Fuenten, was the
main instrument for deporting the Jews from Holland.  And
so, there was an example, as we have seen on many occasions,
of camouflage, of deceit, or, as they called it in German,
"Tarnung," in order to cover up the true intentions by the
use of names purporting to say something else.

Q. Dr. Melkman, you have not yet explained the connection
between the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, on the one
hand, and the Jewish Council, on the other.  When was this
Jewish Council established and who helped to set it up?

A. The Jewish Council was established in February, and at
the time the Commanding Officer in Amsterdam, Boehncken,
helped to set it up.  But the links of this Council with
Amsterdam were, afterwards, principally with the Central
Office for Jewish Emigration, and the authority of the
Council was later extended to the whole of Holland.  This
was in October.

Q. Did you know Mr. Edelstein?

A. Yes.

Q. Where did he come from and what, in fact, were his duties
in connection with the Jewish Council?

A. Edelstein came from Prague in March, and his task was to
show the Jews how to set up a "Judenrat" and how they had to
cooperate with the Germans.  We had a meeting...

Q. Cooperation in what sense?

A. How the relations with the Germans ought to be, for the
Jews of Holland apparently did not know.  I participated
with him in the meeting of the Executive of the Zionist
Federation in the house of the President of the Federation
who died, later, in Bergen-Belsen.  I would like to say that
Edelstein impressed me as an honest and dedicated Jew, as a
very loyal Jew.  He depicted the position in Czechoslovakia
for us in very black colours, of forced labour, and told us
that the Germans wanted to kill us.  He apparently did not
know how, but he said they intended to murder us, and the
important thing for us was to stand firm.  He complained
that the Jews of Holland did not understand the gravity of
the situation.  They were encouraged by the strike that had
taken place a month before, and believed that the population
of Holland would not allow the Germans to carry out their
designs in Holland as well.  He warned us that we faced very
grave danger.  And nevertheless we did not accept his
remarks in the way which he expected.

Q. Dr. Melkman, what about the wearing of the yellow star -
when was this introduced?

Presiding Judge: You said, in regard to Edelstein, "He
impressed me as an honest man."  Do you want to add
something to this?  For it is impossible to leave this as it

Witness Melkman: I made this remark because a research paper
on Theresienstadt has been published and it contained
statements which are contrary to the impression I obtained.
I did not get to know him afterwards.  I said that he made
an impression on me.  I believe that he was a dedicated and
trustworthy man.

Q. At any rate you personally did not find any reason to
change your mind about him?

A. No, on the contrary.  The more I think about this man,
and about what he said to us, I think that we did not
understand his words, and that he had only good intentions.

Judge Halevi:  Who sent him to Holland from Czechoslovakia?

Witness Melkman: The German authorities.  Otherwise he would
not have been able to come.

State Attorney Bach:  When was the order given about wearing
the yellow badge, the yellow star?

Witness Melkman: At the end of April - on 27 April 1942 -
and many Jews wore it with pride.  For they said: We are not
ashamed of being Jews; and there were also many non-Jews
who, in the early days, greeted us when we were walking in
the street with this yellow star, and who also distributed
samples of this yellow badge, and wrote on it that Jews and
non-Jews were united in the war against Fascism.

Q. You, yourself, wore the yellow badge?

A. Yes.  Every child from the age of six upwards was obliged
to wear the yellow badge.

Q. From June 1941, after June 1941, were there additional
arrests, and if so, when?

A. There were constant arrests of people who committed
offences, but...

Q. I am talking about the arrests of Jews, about organized
and mass arrests.

A. Before the deportations began?

Q. Yes, before the deportations began.

A. It is impossible to define it exactly as arrests, but
Jews were sent to camps for forced labour.  The order was
that everyone who had no occupation and had no income had to
be transferred to a forced labour camp. But what did they
do?  They withdrew people's licences.  For example, there
were pedlars who possessed licences, and only if they had
such licences were they permitted to sell their wares - they
cancelled their licences and in this way they obtained human
material for the forced labour camps.

I remember one case, of a doctor who now lives in Beersheba,
who was required to examine such a man.  The man came to
him, and the doctor said to him: "You are not able to work
at all."  And he said to him: "Doctor, Sir, please don't
disqualify me, for I have no means of livelihood, and it
will be better for me to be in the camp, for my licence was
taken away from me yesterday."

Q. Approximately how many people went to these labour camps?

A. I don't know.

Q. What was the position of the Zionist youth movements at
that time?

A. In most of them, the position was the same as that of all
the Jews of Holland, but there was one group, a group of
Halutzim who were, perhaps, the first to be affected by the
German decrees, because they were in distant places and
worked on a farm in order to prepare themselves for
immigration to Palestine.  When the order was received that
they had to vacate these farms, they met and discussed the
situation, and that was the beginning of an underground
Hehalutz movement and also the "Union of Religious
Halutzim," firstly in order to hide the Halutzim with
farmers, and later in order to smuggle them out via Belgium
and France, and from there even across the Spanish frontier.
If I am not mistaken, seventy of them got to Palestine still
during the War.  Two very well-known men took part in this
operation, Joop Westerweel, a non-Jew, a teacher, who
several times brought groups like these up to the Pyrenees,
and we even came to know of a speech of his there, a
farewell speech to the Halutzim who went to Palestine.  On
one of his return journeys he was arrested and tortured

Q. Who arrested him?

A. He was arrested by the SD.  He was tortured in a terrible
way and thereafter executed.  And the second was a Jew named
"Schuschu," or Joachim Simon.  He, too, took groups three
times to the borders of a free country, and when he came
back and was interrogated, he was afraid that he might
reveal details, and so he committed suicide in his prison
cell in Breda.

Q. Dr. Melkman, when did the deportation from Holland start?

A. On 14 July 1942.

Q. Which Jews were the first to be deported, and where from?

A. The Jews who were stateless, that is to say, in fact,
German Jews whose German citizenship had been annulled. They
were amongst the first, mainly the young ones.  I know that,
on the first transport, there were pupils of mine.

Q. Where were they deported from?

A. At first they were brought to the railway station of
Amsterdam, and from there deported to the transit camp at
Westerbork.  Later on, in Amsterdam, an assembly point of
some kind was set up in the Jewish Theatre, and there, all
the time, they kept collecting the Jews until there was a
sufficient number to be deported to Westerbork.  Westerbork
was a transit camp.

Presiding Judge: Is Westerbork in Holland?

Witness Melkman: Yes.  It is in the east of Holland.

State Attorney Bach:  Actually, it was a camp which had
existed, already before the German invasion, for Jewish
refugees from Germany.

Witness Melkman: Westerbork was established by the
Netherlands Government, actually from Jewish funds, in order
to accommodate these Jews who had fled from Germany, after
1938, without passports or legitimate entry visas.

State Attorney Bach:  And afterwards the SS used the same
camp as a transit camp for deportees to the East?

A. That is correct.

Q. During this period, between 1941 and 1942, what was the
situation of the Dutch Jews?  Or let us put it this way:
After the first deportations of these German Jews, whom you
mentioned - what was the position of the Dutch Jews, or what
were their fears?

A. The deportations of foreign subjects, let us call it, did
not last long.  Immediately afterwards there were also Dutch
Jews amongst them.  It was already understood that it was
aimed not only against people who were not Dutch.

Q. When did the Jews of Holland understand that they, too,
were the target?

A. Possibly they understood that all of them were being
aimed at, but it already began in July.

Q. In other words, the arrests of the Jews of Holland began
already in July?

A. Yes.

Q. In what way were these arrests effected?

A. In various ways, but in the main they had lists and they
came to the houses to take the deportees.

Q. When you say "they," please make a point always of saying
who "they" were.

A. They were the German police, the "Gruene Polizei," as we
called them, and it was they who came to arrest the Jews.
There were cases of people who received letters at home
instructing them to report.  But, in the course of time, the
Jews - at all events the majority - did not show up after
receiving such a letter.  Then they used to go from house to
house.  There were also certain instances of a large round-
up, when they closed off entire neighbourhoods.  For
example, the first occasion of such a large round-up was on
Simhat Torah 1942, when the families of all those who were
in the forced labour camps were seized.  There were about
14,000 people.  They were transferred to Westerbork.  At
that time they went from house to house.

The second round-up was in May 1943.  Then they raided the
old Jewish quarter in Amsterdam - this was the neighbourhood
which they also called the "Jewish Quarter"; they blockaded
it, that is to say the German police put up a blockade
around this quarter on the bridges - there were many bridges
over the canals - and then they arrested the Jews.  There
were also trucks which went through the streets and
announced that the Jews should prepare themselves for being
taken away.

Q. When were you arrested?

A. On 20 June 1943.

Q. What was the actual reason why you were able to hold on
until that date?

A. The reason was that I was a teacher at the Jewish
Gymnasium and they released me.  However, there were also
instances where I, too, was almost given an order to leave,
but this was not carried out.

Q. Dr. Melkman, I understand that meanwhile you had married
and a child was born to you?

A. That is right.

Q. Please describe briefly to the Court how you were

A. This was again a round-up of the quarter in June 1943,
like the one of May 1943.  We had then moved to another
home.  We had to do so on the orders of the authorities -
and then they imposed a blockade around the quarter.  The
police came, accompanied also by plain-clothes men.  They
searched all the apartments to see if there were still Jews
in them, and took us to a central place, and conveyed us by
train to Westerbork.  There were 5,000 of us.

Q. You and your wife?

A. My wife and me.  We hid our child.

Q. With whom did you conceal your child?

A. There was a woman, one of the Righteous Gentiles, who was
willing to accept the child.  At first we did not want this.
But this was the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in
the year 1942 when a cousin of my wife, who was a Rabbi in
Amsterdam, was arrested with all his family, and this
influenced us to such an extent that we decided that at
least the child should be saved.  And on Yom Kippur of that
year my wife handed over the child to a lady colleague of
mine at the school, and she delivered him to that woman, and
he remained there until the end of the War.  He was 14
months of age.

Q. Dr. Melkman - another question: Did you try at that time,
or even before, to secure an opportunity of coming to

A. I tried, even before then, to obtain a certificate.  But
this was very difficult, at the time, for the Jews of
Holland.  During the War there were lists of well-known
Zionists who tried to secure entry visas into Palestine for
themselves.  These lists were recognized by the Germans.
These people were candidates for exchange with Germans
abroad, and those who were on the lists were not, at first,
sent to Westerbork.  Afterwards, it happened that nearly all
of them were deported. Those who appeared on the first two
lists were not deported, but most of those who appeared on
later lists were in fact deported.  Only for us there was
some sort of good luck.

Q. That you were sent only to Bergen-Belsen?

A. Yes.

Q. And it can be said that actually in this way you were

A. Yes.

Q. On that list were included both you, your wife and also
the child. Was that not so?

A. Yes.

Q. Now please tell the Court, having regard to the list, as
the Germans knew it, namely that you were three persons on
this list, you, your wife and the boy, and yet the boy was
not there with you and he was hidden amongst non-Jews - how
did it happen that the Germans did not notice this?

A. It was not such a great problem, because it was still
possible at Westerbork to talk to the Jews who were there.
But something else happened with us.  When we were
transferred on the night of 20 June in a waggon for horses
to Westerbork, a young woman of 19, with a little child, sat
next to us.

Q. What happened to the husband of this woman?

A. Her husband had already been arrested before this because
of some offence and had been sent to a concentration camp.
He had already been put to death there.  Thus she was left
alone with the child.  At night, in the middle of the night,
we started to talk with her and she related her experiences.
Since the boy lay right next to us and he was exactly the
same age as our son - there was a difference of three days,
we asked her: "Will you be able to remain in Westerbork?  Do
you have the right papers?"  She said: "I have been left
alone, and I have no chance."  Hence we suggested to her
that we should take the child, since we believed that our
papers referring to the list of immigrants to Palestine were
valid - the child would be registered in our names, and she
would remain there as long as she could.  And, indeed, it
turned out that we reached Westerbork in this way.

Q. What happened to the woman?

A. Nine days later she was sent away, despite the fact that
she was on her own.  Usually, at Westerbork, a complete
family was in greater danger than a person who was alone,
for they constantly had to fill the quota, and it was always
easier to take a complete family (this was also the problem
with us).

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