Stories that Bynd Us: International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and Id like to share a story of my husband's grandmother, Hanna.
At the age of 14, Hanna, fled with her family from her home town of Rheine, Germany and crossed the border into Amsterdam. Their families attempts to emigrate to the US were denied as the U.S. had refused to loosen its immigrant visa requirements for Jews fleeing the Third Reich. Their plans to emigrate to the U.S. were dashed when the Nazis invaded Amsterdam in early 1940.
In the hours before Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10th, 1940, Hanna was smuggled out, alongwith 74 other Jewish children, in the hull of a cargo ship by Dutch war hero Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, who throughout the war arranged for hundreds of Jewish minors to be transported from Nazi-occupied areas into the UK. For five days, the boat went from port to port in the UK, being turned away again and again because it carried German refugees not authorized to enter the country. Just when they thought the boat would have to turn back, the UK relented and allowed them to dock at Liverpool. The frantic, last-minute efforts of Wijsmuller-Meijer and the hurried decision to allow the ship to dock saved Hanna's life and those of the other refugees on board, but it would go down in history as the last boat transport out of the Netherlands.
Hanna was smuggled out, alongwith 74 other Jewish children, in the hull of a cargo ship by Dutch war hero Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer
Left behind in Amsterdam were Hanna's parents and baby brother, Fritz. From England, Hanna corresponded with them through Red Cross mail until one day she received a letter from their neighbor informing her that her family had been sent to Camp Westerbork, a deportation facility from which most Jewish refugees were transported to Auschwitz. Hanna never heard from her parents again.
After spending the war as a refugee in Manchester, England, Hanna later joined her older brother who had emigrated years earlier to the U.S. Hanna married, had 4 children, 8 grandchildren, and 2 great-granddaughters, Sadie and Sloane (my babies), Hanna loved classical music, visiting Yosemite, and lived a long life before her passing in 2018 at the age of 92.
During my last visit to Amsterdam, I wanted to find a statue of the Dutch resistance fighter, Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer. I made a few wrong turns during my quest to pay tribute to Geertruida but I found her after a gorgeous trek through the streets of Amsterdam. Because of Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer extraordinary bravery and the ultimate sacrifice of my husband's ancestors, I owe everything.
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