Bart Stern
Born 1926

Describes how he survived to be liberated in the Auschwitz camp

And it was by the greatest miracle that I survived. There was, every barrack had a little cabin in the front, which was separation where the Blockaelteste, the Blockaelteste meant he was the, the chief of the, of the, of the barrack, and every such cabin had all the breadboxes, the bread was supplied, brought in with a box with a lock and nobody could get to it. That door, the hinge of the box was already torn off, and I was hiding in that box upside down. Here he comes in to search, he even kicks it, but luckily it gave. I was so skinny, it gave. I could see the...and I was sure this is it. This is how I remained alive. But when they already left, the Germans, about an hour they, they left, there was no sign of Germans, I wanted to go back to the barracks, but the Poles, the, the Ukraines, who were not taken on the death march, they wouldn't let me in. So I was hiding out in the heap of dead bodies because in the last week when the crematoria didn't function at all, the bodies were just building up higher and higher. And I sneaked into, among those dead bodies because I was afraid they'd come back or something. So there I was at nighttime, in the daytime I was roaming around in the camp, and this is where I actually survived, January 27, I was one of the very first, Birkenau was one of the very first camps being liberated. This was my, my survival chance.





Sam Spiegel
Born 1922
Kozienice, Poland

Describes hiding in woods before being liberated

If you asked me how I survived in those woods for eight days in cold weather and everything else, I can hardly remember. I know we had frozen toes and at nighttime we used to go out from the woods. In... in Europe they used to have to put away potatoes in the wintertime outside and they used to cover them with saw... sawdust and then have a door on the south... on the south side that they used to take the potatoes out. And the sun used to come out during the day, so we stole some of those potatoes and we ate those raw potatoes and we had snow as water. And that's how we lived through till we survived from the camp... from those eight

Mirjam Pinkhof Tells Her Story :


    Born in Holland in 1916, to a Jewish family of comfortable means, Mirjam Waterman became a school
teacher at the age of twenty-two. Soon after, she found herself deeply involved with the Youth Aliyah
movement, an offshoot of the Zionist movement. 

    Youth Aliyah was organized in 1933, to save Jewish children from Nazi Germany and Austria by helping
them emigrate to Palestine. After Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, when many German Jews understood
for the first time the seriousness of their situation, the number of parents turning for help to Youth Aliyah
greatly increased. 

    Because the demand for Palestine immigration certificates soon exceeded their availability, Youth Aliyah
brought thousands of the refugee children to "safe" European countries, especially Holland and Britain. 

    By the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, Youth Aliyah had arranged for the immigration to
Palestine of over five thousand German and Austrian Jewish children, and the safe transport of fifteen
thousand others to as yet unoccupied European countries. The children called themselves Young
Palestine Pioneers. 

    Mirjam Pinkhof: I grew up in an environment of very advanced liberal and humanistic ideas, but knowing nothing about Jewish subjects. We were a completely assimilated family. 

    My mother's family was Portuguese Jewish; her name was Lopes Cardozo. As a young woman she entered a utopian society for better living: the Frederik van Eeden Community, something like Walden in America. After her marriage she remained active in humanistic, anti-military and anti-fascist

    My entire family was assimilated, except for my father, who came from the poor Jewish quarter in Amsterdam. He worked his way up in the world by leaving the unpromising conditions in Amsterdam, and moving to the countryside where he bought land to start a nursery for fruit trees and roses. But the
times were not right for it. It was around the beginning of World War One, and there was a boom in the diamond trade, but problems in the nursery business. So for the rest of his life my father earned his living in the diamond trade, while the farm and fruit trees became his hobby. He always stayed in contact with the Jewish community in Amsterdam, and with many of the Jewish refugees coming to Holland in those days from Russia and Poland. He was a very "Jewish" man. 

    But my father was also a vegetarian, and an active participant in many socialistic activities, which is how he met my mother. This is why we five children grew up in Loosdrecht--far from Jewish life--in an enormous garden, surrounded by people who were trying to build a better world. 

    Teaching: There was a school in Bilthoven called the Werkplaats Kinder Gemeenschap (Children's Community Workshop). The founder was Kees Boeke, who was well known at the time in educational circles all over western Europe for his progressive ideas. Boeke was a Quaker, and his school was notable for its idealistic principles. It was run somewhat like a kibbutz, forming its own community, and growing its own food. The people who taught there did so out of moral conviction and idealism, rather than to make money, because the school paid its staff very little. The head teacher was Joop Westerweel, who later became famous in Holland for his resistance against the Germans. I was a teacher at this school. 

    One of the principles of the school was that the pupils could have a say about our teaching and how we ran the school's daily life. In this spirit, a student stood up one day in 1939, and told us that when he came to school in the mornings he passed a house where he saw teenagers hanging around, some up in the trees--all of them very bored. That day he got off his bicycle to talk with them. They told him they were Jewish refugees from Germany who had been brought to Holland by the Youth Aliyah movement. They had a nice place to live, but they had no books, no school, and nothing much to do. Our student asked us, "Could we possibly arrange to bring these children to the Werkplaats for school?" 

    Joop Westerweel, said, "Of course! They must come!" Kees Boeke rented a special classroom building for these twenty-five Jewish children, and pretty soon they were coming to our school every morning, returning to their Youth Aliyah house only late in the afternoon. 

    Because of my Jewish origins, the school appointed me to teach this group. Out of this contact Joop Westerweel and I became very good friends. I learned at first hand about his enthusiasm for helping the Jewish children, and his anti-Nazi, anti-German feelings. He was one hundred percent on the Jewish side, wanting to enrich the lives of these children, and do everything possible to help them. We both worked extremely hard, trying to show that we wouldn't collaborate with the Germans and that we were against everything the Nazis represented.