Biography of the late
Hanoch (Heinz) Silberberg
This very special story of a very special person, named Heinz Jack Silberberg, reached me in response to an advert which we had placed in the NIW (Nederlands Israëlitisch Weekblad). It was sent to me by his good friend Max Samson from the Netherlands. The son of Heinz, Leon who lives in Israel, gave permission to publish this biography on our website so that it will not be forgotten and will remain available for future generations. My thanks go to Max and Leon because this biography of Hanoch (his Hebrew name) has been one of those stories that which I have worked on that have moved me greatly. Hanoch passed away in February 2020. I am proud to present the Dutch translation of his biography below.
Tilly van Coevorden, December 2020
This English version of the story of my life is based on the original, written in Hebrew. This story was written for my children, grandchildren, other family and the archives of our community, where I have been living for the past fifty-six years.
Heinz, Jack, Hanoch
It was in 1919, one year after the First World War, when my father, Albert Alfred Silberberg decided to leave Germany without having a plan as to his destination. My father was born on the 6th of March 1883 in Bad Pyrmont in Niedersachsen Germany, which was is a small town famous for its spa’s. He was the only son of Jacob and Henriette Silberberg, owners of a small guest house.
Albert, my father had never crossed the borders in his life so Holland was the first and nearest foreign country on his way. As it was known that Holland had a big fleet of ships sailing to every harbour in the world, including the most exotic and far away countries, Albert thought it best to start by travelling to Holland first.
At that time the Netherlands (Holland) had two colonies, in the western- and one in the eastern part of the world. They were called the Dutch Western Indies and the Dutch East Indies at that time. The East Indies, today called Indonesia, was the eldest, most attractive because of its richness in produce. This mysterious and unknown country, far away from the "civilized" world, especially for the people in Germany who had never heard of that part of the world was intriguing. Albert who was a salesman decided to go for the unknown and started working for a trading company and travelled around with tea, coffee and other produce from the plantations throughout the country. Albert lived a bohemian life, living with other bachelors some young and some a little older like himself. He enjoyed this “wild life” enormously during the first five years until he realised that he wanted to have a steady life, to build a home and have a family, so he decided to change his lifestyle and work towards the future.
He went back to Germany for six months and with the help of friends and family found what he was looking for. As far as family was concerned, it seems that there was no family to speak of. Very recently I found out, when I finally managed to contact the archive of Pyrmont, that Albert did not have any brothers or sisters and that his parents (my grandparents) had left Bad Pyrmont in 1910 without leaving any trail.
In this period he met Rosa Borchardt, the daughter of Louis and Hedwig Borchardt-Loeventhal, owners of a kosher butcher shop who served the whole Jewish population in their town and its surroundings. Rosa was twenty-seven years old when they met, born on the 7th of March 1897 in a rather small town called Oschersleben, about 160 km. south -east from Berlin, and was a bank clerk. It didn't take long for her to decide, even though she was aware that leaving her home and family for an unlimited period was like taking a leap of faith into the unknown she accepted Albert's proposal. She left her home and would not return to Europe (not Germany but to Holland) until 1946.
Albert and Rosa got married that same year, 1924, and left for the east. Rosa’s biological mother had passed away at a very young age. When Rosa left for the Indies she parted from her two siblings, brother’s Paul and Erich and two sisters from her father’s second marriage with Selma Bernhard, Henny and Hilde, as well as her father and stepmother. Long before Rosa got married, Paul had left Germany with wife and son and went to Palestine. I believe that they settled in the upper Galilee, a swamp area which, because of its malaria mosquitoes, made it very hard to live in, in those days, so it didn’t take long before they decided to leave Palestine and emigrate to America.
Hilde the youngest sister managed to escape from Germany in 1938 and lives in Brazil with her son Julio and his wife, 3 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren. Hilde’s younger son Pedro unfortunately passed away in the midst of his forties. He was unable to realise his dream to come and settle down here in Israel. His two children fulfilled his dreams and are living here in Israel. Pedro’s son Kiki with his family lives in kibbutz Yotvata and his daughter Karen lives with her husband and baby boy in Raanana.
While I'm writing this my Aunt Hilde has passed away at the nice age of almost 99 years earlier this year on the 12th of January 2006. She will be always remembered as the most wonderful and loving aunt. I'm very grateful that I had the opportunity to visit and see her three years ago when she was still healthy, fit and well.
Rosa's younger brother Erich didn't manage to leave Germany in time was lost in the holocaust.
Through research Tilly found out that he was transported and died in the gettho of Minsk more information on Erich Borchardt
When Albert and Rosa reached the Dutch East Indies, they didn't get settled immediately and were wandering around for a long time so my older and only sister Ruth and I were born in different places. Ruth was born on the 11th of December 1926 in Batavia, which today is called Jakarta, and I, Heinz Jack was born on the 6th of February 1931 in Surabaya, a harbour town at the east side of the island of Java.
We lived in Surabaya for 6 months after which we moved to Bandung where we stayed until we (mother, stepfather, Ruth and me) left the Dutch East Indies in 1946 for Holland.
From memory I can tell you that Bandung was a very nice modern city with many commercial areas, beautiful housing neighbourhoods for the rich as well as for the poor, for Europeans, Chinese, local people and all other nationalities and levels of society. Bandung is in the centre of the western part of Java, surrounded by many mountains covered by many plantations of all sorts and not to forget the endless sawah's (rice terraces).
The climate was very pleasant and bearable compared to other parts of Java. And because of its mild climate Bandung was attractive to spend vacations. The Europeans used to come and meet their friends for the holidays in the mountains and in the beautiful hotels round the lakes. The town was divided in two, by railway tracks, which is of importance and will be mentioned later in my story. At the southern part of the tracks the slopes ended coming down from the mountains. In the northern part was mainly the busy side of the city, like the shopping streets, markets, government offices, hotels and the less expensive side of the living area but still, the houses were of high standard. This was a very straight and flat area.
Every neighbourhood was surrounded by four roads and at the back of each yard behind the houses was the district kampong. A kampong was an area with multiple story bamboo houses built on bamboo pillars and their walls and floors were made of thick bamboo veneer. The inhabitants in such a kampong were the natives who worked as servants or the unskilled workers. I loved to walk around in the kampong behind our house as I didn't have any other friends to be with and felt myself very much at home. I think mainly because of the fact that I could walk around barefoot only wearing a pair of shorts. The relationship between everyone was very good and besides all that I loved about my life there was my love for the very hot spicy food eaten with my bear hands from a banana leaf. This is by far the tastiest way of eating food.
My father was already forty-eight years old when I was born and he passed away in September 1937, at the young age of fifty-four. As I was six and a half years old at the time and the fact that he was away from home for many weeks on end because of his work as a travelling salesman I do not have vivid memories of him. I only remember him as a tall broad shouldered bald man, always dressed in a typical colonial suit, “toetoep”, tie and a walking stick.
There is one memory I will never forget: One day he took me to the zoo and as usual he took his walking stick, but he chose a very nice carved one, from his large collection of sticks. This was a special stick of which the handle was also the handle of a knife hidden in the stick. When we came to a cage where a big size orangutan was sleeping and laying against the fence, my father decided to wake him up. With his stick he tried to wake him up and when he woke up and he got hold of the stick with one big hand and didn't let go of it. My father, with the help of two other men, tried hard and pulled, to get the stick back, but the orangutan was stronger. The guard came to help and stepped into the cage and told the monkey to give him the stick. The orangutan first stepped on the stick and broke it into two pieces before he surrendered it to the guard. To my father's luck the walking stick broke underneath the knife, otherwise he would have been in big trouble. That's all the memory I have of my father and only many years later I realized what it means to grow up without a father.
After my father’s passing a new very difficult era started for my mother. She was a widow with two children in a Dutch colony without having Dutch citizenship and not knowing the language too well.
Mother worked in a rather big modern ladies fashion shop which belonged to an elderly German Jewish couple, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph who didn't have children. They tried to help mother, by giving her the job, but apparently Ruth and me were in their way because we weren't of any help to them, on the contrary, so they became very nasty towards us. I still remember the names of the ladies who worked with mother and were much younger than her. Amongst them was one very young lady, just a couple of years older than Ruth and they became friends, her name was Leny Vecht. She didn’t live far away from us, and she used to come in every morning to pick up mother to go to work together about fifteen minutes’ walk from our house.
It wasn't much later, with the outbreak of the war that we lost all contact with her.
It was about 8 or 9 years later that I got a real surprise when I found myself working and milking the cows in kibbutz Gal-Ed together with Leny, but having changed her name to Varda. She got married some time later and moved to Regba which is about 5 km away from where I am living, so our contact was fully renewed and restored. Unfortunately she passed away two years ago.
In order for my mother to save money, we moved in with another family (Stern), they were Jewish refugees from Germany. It was a rather small apartment for eight people, there were the three of us living in one room and there were five of them: the husband and wife , his single brother and the couple’s son and daughter who were older than Ruth. It wasn't ideal, but that was the best solution for my mother. This way she was able to continue to go to work while we had a home and were sort of looked after.
During that same period mother started putting all her efforts in to getting her sister Henny and her mother out of the German claws which were threatening the Jewish population.
It was as if she was fighting for her own life, while the institutions dealing with her application wouldn't help her, or at least were very adamant and slow in giving her the so much coveted permit. They warned her, that if she would carry on insulting the head of a friendly neighbour country (of Holland), they might consider arresting her and will not help her with her request. It was 1938 and my mother called the statesman (Hitler), from the befriended nation, an animal. Finally the permits were granted and aunt Henny left Amsterdam on the ship the Marnix van Sint Aldegonde on the 24th of September 1938 and Oma (granny) left on the same ship on the 3rd of May 1939 and arrived in Tandjung Priok around the 1st of June 1939.
As soon as Henny had arrived we moved into a bigger house and for me this was a big relief because the father of the Jewish refugees, we had shared an apartment with, thought that he had to act as a replacement father toward me which I didn’t like. First of all, I didn't like him and second, I didn't like the German strict mentality and he was a very strict man as only Germans of that time could be.
We moved into a bigger house so that we could also sub-let rooms. Henny was responsible for the household while mother continued working in the shop. Aunt Henny was also an excellent cook which made them decide to start some sort of a catering business.
It was my job, daily, after school to deliver 8 till 10 meals on my bike in all directions of the town. Once Oma had joined us she became a big help to Henny in the daily household chores.
The four rooms that we rented out were always occupied either by salesman or pilots who came from Holland after a four days flight. The imminent war in Europe and its atmosphere was in the air and more and more refugees arrived in the Indies. Very quickly all the rooms were occupied by these refugees, but they didn't stay for long as they frequently moved on according to their jobs or other reasons.
From the moment we moved in with the family Stern many things changed in my life.
Although my own parents were from German descent they got acclimatized to the local customs, the mentality in the Indies very quickly. These were the Dutch colonials, the Sundanese people and the so-called natives. Their kind of behaviour was adopted by us children. This then suddenly mixed with the Stern's German attitude changed everything as father Stern thought that he was now responsible for our education as we had no father and a mother who was at work most of the day. I was only seven years old but I didn’t like him and his strict German education so I was obstinate and didn’t follow his orders.
Even with the arrival of Henny and Oma that kind of living didn't change much and I had to except this way of life whether I wanted it or not. That was the time that I approached Judaism more than ever before. Every Friday night Oma took me to the synagogue, what was not more than a very big rented room but it was big enough for all the Jews in town. Ashkenazim prayed together with Sephardim and anyone else who was a Jew, so the noise was terrible as each person prayed and sang according to the way he was accustomed to. Besides that, I joined a Sunday class for children of all ages to learn some Hebrew and lessons on whatever a good Jewish child should know. We started lighting candles for Shabbat at home and celebrated the Jewish holidays. Oma was responsible for a big change in my life which wasn't always to my liking, but what could I do. She, with the help of Henny, or was it Henny with the help of Oma who made the house rules and we had to comply. Henny was a spinster and had never dealt with children before.
In May 1940 the Germans conquered and occupied the Netherlands. The Dutch population in the Indies couldn't believe that such a tragedy could happen to their home country and accomplished in only five days’ time. The local government arrested all the German men included the Jews immediately. Where these people were brought is unknown to me but after a while most of the Jews were freed again except for the two brothers we were living with. Sometime later we heard that all those men were deported to British India, today known as India. Only after the war we heard that the two brothers were on one of the two boats which were torpedoed, appartently by, what we had heard, German submarines.
Tilly has found the brothers Hermann and Erich Stern amongst those victims who drowned aboard the ss Van Imhoff when it was torpedoed by a Japanese fighterplane on the 19th of January 1942.
In 1942 near the coast of Sumatra, the Dutch steamer Van Imhoff, carrying hundreds of German prisoners of war, is bombed by a Japanese plane and sinks. The Dutch captain decides to save himself and his crew but leaves the 477 Germans to drown. After the War the story is carefully covered up in The Netherlands.
The war in Europe brought a lot of trouble to the Indies; many refugees came from all over Europe, the west and the east, mainly Jews. Also, three Jewish families from Palestine came to our city. Amongst them was a girl I met much later in December 2003, by then seventy years old. We met at one of our ex Indies citizens group meetings who come together three to four times a year.
As many articles were imported from Europe, like medicines, foodstuff, these became scarce and became unavailable. I didn't miss anything; I was happy with what I had and was too young to understand that there was a problem.
My biggest problem happened the day after the war started in the Netherlands. As I arrived at school in the morning and after we entered the classroom and sang our prayers (it was a very religious Christian school) the teacher asked the class, „Who is German?" When none of the children answered this question, the teacher pointed to me and said, „Heinz, you are German!" (Heinz is a typical German name) „ Get out of the class and go to the principal”. I was shocked but I got up and left my school and went straight to the shop where my mother was working. The next morning mother and I went to my school; she went straight to the principal's office. She was furious and raised hell; I can still hear her shouting at the principle. It took only a few minutes and then she came out of the principal’s office took my hand and we left the school. We walked for two blocks and went to the government school which was open to all races and religions. I was the happiest boy because I hated the ,morning and afternoon, praying rituals of the school. At the new school I met friends whom I knew for Sunday school, so I wasn't a complete stranger. Unfortunately as the war broke out in the Dutch East Indies I didn’t even get to finish two years at the new school.
Another strange or amusing episode was when the Dutch tenants demanded my mother to change our family name. Silberberg sounded very German, or else, they would be obliged to leave our place. So she changed two letters and it suddenly sounded pure Dutch, it became Zilverberg. On the seventh of December 1941 Japan surprised the big and strong America. Without any warning they came, bombed and destroyed all American air force and navy in one of the biggest and most important American army bases, Pearl Harbour. In a very short time they finished their mission and disappeared as quickly as they came and left many American victims behind them. That was the start of the war in the Far East. On the eleventh of December the bombing started on the Dutch Indies. Bandung also had a few attacks, but that passed rather fast as the Dutch army surrendered after three months without fighting.
It only took one day after the capitulation there was no place in town without a stinking slanted eye soldier, they multiplied like ants.The army headquarters were staioned in Bandung. The mansion of the chief of staff, and all the army camps were in- and outside of the city. The Japanese immediately occupied all the schools of the Europeans and turned them into army camps, while the original army camps were turned into concentration camps. Many new rules were made, such as children were not allowed to study anymore, big offices and businesses closed down, recreation and entertainment places ceased to exist as there was no desire for recreation. The first few months passed and slowly the Dutch men from the age of 14 disappeared and were taken into concentration camps after they deported the Dutch army to hell. It was obvious that Germans, Italians and any other allies, besides the Jews, were not touched and were free to move around as they liked.
After all the men were separated from the women they were called for a population registry. During that same period a certain part of the town was cut off from the rest. A big tall fence of bamboo mats, three by three meters in size, was put up with a lot of barbed wire on both sides so that in a very short time that area changed into a ghetto. At the beginning there were a few entries for the people to be able to move around freely and get in and out as they pleased. This ghetto was only one street away from where we were living. As the registration was going on women with or without children were told to move in or out of this ghetto according to their nationality. Soon the situation was unbearable and women and their children, girls and boys up to the age of 13, were pushed in and compressed together. As soon as they knew that they had registered and secured all the Dutch and their allies in the camp, they closed the few entries and no more movement in or out of the ghetto was allowed. The camp was called Kareës.
When it was my mother's turn to register she was called to come to the building where the municipality was housed and was involved very quickly in a discussion between the Japanese registrar and the German adviser. On the question where my mother was born, she answered Germany; this information made the German adviser jump up. He insisted that the word Jew should be added but the Jap didn't agree with this. The German's idea was to get my mother also interned in the Kareës. The Jap wanted my mother to wear a brooch with the swastika but the German didn't agree with this, and my mother certainly didn’t want that, but they never asked her opinion. After endless arguments the solution was that my mother would wear a brooch with red, white and red flag, which meant, stateless. Fortunately, or not, we could stay out of the Kareës camp but didn't have any rights. Mother continued working in the ladies’ fashion shop although there was hardly any clientele. I think it took about a year before the shop closed down completely. The catering business stopped as well as there was nobody to cook for and the rental business was also almost none existent there were only three tenants, elderly Jewish German refugees, left.
Mother and Ruth who was sixteen years old by then started a business sewing brassieres for the middle- and upper-class local women society. Granny lent a hand whenever this was necessary.
I was eleven and as all my Dutch friends were gone I felt quite alone. There were a few German boys left, but my family didn't like the idea of me being friends with them, so I became friendly with the local boys in the kampongs. There was no school and it was forbidden to teach. In spite of that mother found someone to teach me, but always for a short time as those teachers disappeared for some or other reason after a short while and then mother had to search for someone else.
One day I started getting lessons from a young lady native to Ambon. Ambon is an island eastern of Java, their skin colour is very dark, perhaps the darkest from all the islands but the Ambonese population was very loyal to the Dutch royal family and as such many of the men served the Dutch army. Serving the Dutch army overseas meant that every soldier was entitled to get a six-month holiday, every six years to the Netherlands with his family. So this was like the father of my new teacher. As a Dutch soldier he and his wife went to the Netherlands and in those six months their daughter was born, who years later became my teacher which wasn't for very long. One day while she was teaching me arithmetic two kempetai soldiers, shouting and barking entered the house and caught us and ordered us to get up and follow them. All attempts of the teacher by explaining that she is only teaching me mathematics so that my mother could send me to the market to do the shopping didn't help. No excuses were accepted and we were taken to the kempetai headquarters for questioning. First we were interrogated together and later we were separated which is the last time I ever saw her.
While we were still together, she was asked where she was born; her answer was “Amsterdam”. “Ohh, so you are Dutch!” “No said the teacher, I'm Ambonese”. This argument carried on, yes Dutch no Dutch and then suddenly she said; “Jesus was born in a barn but wasn't a cow”. They didn’t understand here reasoning and we were separated and I was taken to another room. The girl was the type of teacher a pupil falls in love with, and I was certainly one of them. In the other room the same questions were asked and I gave them the same answers. They were not very satisfied with these answers and decided to change the tactics. They started beating me with a stick on my unpadded bottom. It didn't last too long, but for me long enough. I was very happy when they took me away again and this time moved me to a very small room which was completely empty, except for a thin bamboo mat. They threw me inside and without saying a word the door was locked and I was left alone. I understood that this was going to be my own private room for the near future. As there was nothing left for me to do as there wasn't much light in the room I decided to lay down and try to get some sleep. I didn't feel comfortable because of my burning bottom but that wasn't the main trouble I couldn't fall asleep. Almost immediately I realized that I had some friends living in the mat who wanted to keep me company, called bedbugs. So I picked up the mat and shook it and then the bugs fell out like rain, and then I crushed them. The smell, oye, the stench of it was unbearable, until today I can smell them. Enough!
After four days without having been questioned or disturbed at all, they suddenly sent me home.
At home my family knew where I was, as the teacher’s parents had informed them, but there was no possibility whatsoever to get me out. After this episode I didn't have tuition anymore. I started wandering around, searching for something to do or some work, but there was no-one who wanted to help a small white child. I found somebody who made awfully smelling soap, blocks of 8 by 8 cm. Also, someone making something that was supposed to be butter. So I rode around on my bike to try and sell these two articles to make some money. My main target was thea area where the so-called white bugs were living. With bug was the name we called the off spring of the Dutch and natives mix marriages. These sales didn’t make me rich so I tried to sell other things as wel but it wasn't very lucrative. Here and there I heard rumours that a group of bigger and older boys were had a more challenging activity. Being curious I was told to get to a certain place near one of the former entries of the Kareës camp and a woman there would tell me what items to buy for her and bring them back to her. She gave me money and fake coupons for the milk distribution and it was my job to get her orders filled.
Every day I used to come to that same place, which wasn't more than a hole in the wall, and brought the same woman all that she had asked for. I tried my best to get whatever I could and then she passed it around to the women inside the camp. Obviously we had to be very careful not to be seen by the guards. I had to wake up very early in the morning to be one of the first ones to stand in line to get milk. It happened every so often that we stood waiting for milk and there was no milk left or I would only get a limited amount which was not enough to cover all the coupons. At that time there were often many other reasons for me not to be able to fill the order. The most wanted articles were milk, bread vegetables and occasionally medicines which were scarce. There was a lot to be done and I was running around, but it gave me a lot of satisfaction although I didn't get any compensation for it. Everything went smoothly for a long time until one day, after the guards had apparently followed me for a long period and had been hiding up to now, ambushed me and in the midst of the transactions they suddenly stood next to me. That was the end of my help or contribution to those women locked up in the camp.
I was taken to the camp office and questioned, later on they pushed me in a car and took me to a sports field not far away from my previous school, were we used to have our gymnastic and sport lessons. I was very scared when we reached that place, as it already had a bad name and was known as the place where people got tortured in the open to show the population what can happen to someone who doesn't behave according to their rules. No more words were said and my hands were tied together behind my back with a string and then tied to a branch above my head. It didn't hurt me but it certainly was not comfortable. I don't know how long I stood there, but every minute felt endless and I was imagining that this was the end as I had seen awfull things happening there before. Two officers came and beat me in turn with their samurai sword on my back, bottom and legs. This was very painful and I think that this was the time that I stopped believing and trusting anyone. It didn't take a long time before they left me there and then after a while they returned and released me and chased me off the grounds. It was only then that I really started to feel the pain but as there were no signs of the beatings I walked home slowly, very slowly. A few days later, out of nowhere, a car stopped in front of our house and two Japanese officers stepped out and stood in front of our door. I recognized one of them as it was the one who had the pleasure of beating me, and as soon as he saw me, he handed me a bag of sweets after which they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared.
Note by Tilly: Unlike with the Nazi's, the Japanese did not persecute the Jews for being Jewish in the Dutch East Indies. Clear similarities have been found when I was re-writting and comparing stories that the Japanese had a high opinion of the Jews, and in some parts of the Dutch East Indies some sort of preferential treatment was given to Jews. Making the Jews clearly visible by means of a pin occurs in several stories. Heinz's mother, was given a pin to wear with a red and white flag she was not interned because she was German. In another story by Oded Cohen there is also the mention of a pin given to his father. This pin has a bleu and white inlay of enamel, and most important is a Star of David in silver on top of it. Above the blue enamel the word yijuuuu (Jew), written in Katakana, is engraved. This was probably pinned on his Dutch Jewish father who as interned in a concentration camp, as he was Dutch, in order to give him a slightly better treatment. This hypothesis of preferential treatment can also be found in the book "the fugu plan".** there theory is being looked at more carefully and any update about it will be posted. The interesting thing about the pin is that you would immediatly think that it represents the Israeli flag but then again the state of Israel wasn't founded until 1948. Another completely opposite example is in Surabaya the Dutch Jews where arrested by the Japanse, under the influence of German officers, who where temporarely docked in the port. Here the Jews were particularly badly treated. The were rounded up on the basis of a members list of the Jewish community. More about this in the story of Benno van der Velde.
Mother didn't allow me to continue working or doing things outside the house. As three out of the four servants we had at home were fired there was a lot of housework to do so my part was to clean the floors of four bedrooms and the big sitting-dining room every day. In those days cleaning the floors were still done sitting on your knees. It didn't take long before I was called to come to a certain office and once there, I got the order to report myself at the camp I was caught at. It was at the same days that all the women and children, who were at the camp, were transferred to concentration camps mainly in Jakarta and some also elsewhere.
I don't remember exactly, but this was the period that Oma decided that I had to become a bar mitzvah, although there was no Jewish life anymore in town and no Jewish men left. This is the reason I never read the parasha- Thorah reading but I just said some prayers and blessings with a few women surrounding me. All this just to please my grandmother because it didn’t make any difference to me I was just as happy or not as before.
At the time when reporting to the camp, I was ordered to join a group of other bigger boys to clear up the camp and gather all the belongings that were left in the place and some time laterto break down the fence.
There was a roll call every morning and also at the end of the day. Once a day we had a break and ate the food which they gave us and that consisted of rice soaked into some terrible soup. This job took us almost two months to finish and we were happy to go home afterwards. Finally we were free of all the punishments we had to endure on a daily basis, like endless beatings with sticks and having to stand in one spot in the sun for an hour. This freedom didn't last for a very long time because not much later I was ordered to come to a place to cut parts out of sheets of rubber and stick them togehter to make sandals. That wasn't an easy job; cutting rubber with a pair of scissors and after some weeks I my eyes were very red and swollen. Apparently, the glue gave off some toxic fumes which affected my eyes. Thanks to the manager, who was a native, he transferred me to another place and my eye problem was solved. I forgot to mention that at any time if anyone turned and faced a Japanese soldier or guard he had to stand at attention, bow and only afther that was allowed to carry on.
There was no radio and no contact whatsoever with the world outside of Bandung, but the rumours were endless. Every day we heard that the Americans supposedly were reaching and invading the Indies, but none of that was true and this went on for two years. Later on, even though Europe was liberated none of us knew anything about that, there was no sign of this anywhere until suddenly things changed and the rules became looser, the Japs became more courteous and polite. At that time it was more difficult to get food, the rice had been rationed for a long time but now the amounts we received became less with every distribution.
Then out of nowhere Japan was getting bombed. We didn't know by whom, when and where. Later on, we heard that Hiroshima was bombed. Again a few days passed when we heard the Dutch queen Wilhelmina speaking on the radio and announcing the declaration of the end of the war and the capitulation and surrender by the Japanese.
The same speech was printed on papers and stuck on walls, trees and spread all over town. In her speech she had a most important request for all the citizens „not to take the law in their own hands and leave everything as it is until the allied forces would enter the country, and let the Japanese be the ruler". From that moment onwards they were the ones who had to protect us from any unforeseen upcoming riot of the native people supported by the Japanese. Apparently, the Japanese freed Ahmed Sukarno, the fighter for freedom for the Indonesian people and liberation of the country, who was imprisoned by the Dutch government long before the war because of all his radical national activities. He was exiled to a prison on an abandoned island. It was the same Sukarno who got the appointment from the Japanese to proclaim the Independence of Indonesia.
The first allied forces which came into Bandung, one month after the surrender of the Japanese was the British army. Not far from Bandung, in a very small town called Cimahi, there were mainly former Dutch army camps which were turned into concentration camps for all the civilians. It didn't take long before the young internees and those who still had some strength left took the initiative and left the camps to start looking and searching for their families and belongings. It was very difficult to find their wives and families as most were deported to other parts of the country much further away. There were no lists of names where they could find the whereabouts of their relatives. Most houses and properties were occupied and confiscated or in the hands of people they didn’t belong to. Amongst the thousands of youngsters who got out was one nineteen-year-old, the only son of a family with the same background as my parents. They were Jewish also from Germany and used to be friends with my parents when they all lived in Surabaya. Once or twice a year that boy came for his holidays to us in Bandung as his parents were separated and his mother lived in Holland. As he didn’t know whether we still lived in Bandung he tried, searched and found us. He was Ruth's age and his name was Heinz like me, he stayed with us which at times caused a bit of trouble because of having the same name but five years later he became my brother-in-law.
Men who came out of the camps slowly forced and pushed the Japanese aside and took the leadership in their own hands. It was a very strange situation, the Dutch and Japanese fighting against the Indonesian natives and their upcoming riots and on the other hand the same Japanese were helping the rebellions by supplying weapons and ammunition. Slowly the British army entered the town with their Indian units while the Indonesians already were controlling big parts of the down town Bandung. One day my friend Heinz suddenly came home with a small pickup van and told us to be as quickly as possible and to load as much as we can of the most important belongings because we had to run for our lives. As we drove away, we saw the terrorists at the end of our street coming near, burning and killing whatever was on their way with swords and knives. It was a very close call and Heinz certainly saved our lives. We drove towards the railway tracks and passed them to an unofficial safer area. Some days later the British stationed their Indian units along the tracks to guard us from worse to come. Until the upper command understood that things were going wrong and many people got killed, they changed the guard units. Instead of the Sikhs, who were Muslims like the Indonesians they put the Gurkhas on guard who hated the Muslims.
Finally, after a few weeks of confusion and disorder the Dutch army arrived and cleared up all the extremists and terrorists until the city was liberated again and we were free to go wherever we wanted. We went to see what was left of our house immediately, but we could not believe our eyes. The doors, windows, furniture, everything was damaged and/or destroyed. My mother and my aunt had given some personal belongings, that were dear to us for safekeeping, to our Chinese neighbours just in case we were interned by the Japanese. The included two boxes with silver cutlery, crystal vases, my father's stamp collection, which was supposed to be mine later, and many other things. Most of these belongings were lost, broken or torn into small pieces. Slowly the city got organized and started functioning again. There was another registration for the population, but this time it was a good thing, although it was very difficult to get an exact picture of the state of affairs, as people were still wandering around.
By then hundreds of men, women and children came to the city to search for family and to be reunited with them. But then again, there was also the opposite and many people were leaving to find their luck in other places or they left the Indies for the Netherlands on the same ships which had brought the Dutch army. Most of those who went back to the Netherlands ended up staying there but many only stayed for a short time and returned either for family or business purposes. Although we were living in a small house three of our old tenants came back to us, an elderly couple and a bachelor who was of age. This bachelor worked in the same company where my father had work and frequently came to stay with us. What I didn't know was that before he was taken to prison a romance had bloomed between my mother and him.
On the 17th of January 1946 they were married in the municipality and my mother became Rosa Grootkerk, wife of Jonas Grootkerk, a man with a solid Dutch Jewish name. Jonas was born and brought up in the ghetto of Amsterdam and as so many Jews he was a diamond and jewellery dealer. He was a good man, certainly for my mother and tried very hard to be a good father for her two children, which was not an easy task for somebody who had never had children. Ruth who was nineteen at that time and understood the change in our status but me, the small Heinz, the little, almost fifteen year old rascal, didn't adapt to the new situation that fast and didn’t like nor agreed with the changes at hand. Uncle Johnny, the name by which he wanted to be called, (hereafter U.J) had the best of intentions to handle his new family but had many difficulties to get me on track.
Schools were getting themselves organized and it wasn’t long before they could start teaching again. There were a few obstacles as not all the teachers were certified teachers but I guess with the lack of such they did their best to ensure that the children received a proper education. Besides that, there was a big difference in age between all the pupils. When the war started and the schools were closed, I was in the fourth grade and now I jumped to the seventh grade because of my age, not of the level of my education. School hours were from 07.00 to 13.00 and after school I went straight to the offices of the Red Cross to get my work registry. I was registered to do three kinds of jobs and they changed every few days. The first job was gathering the garbage in a certain area, not a very pleasant job, but for this job I received a compensation or bonus. The second job was to assist someone, with a pick-up car, and driving to the various camps which were still in existence at that time. We deliverd mail, parcels and all kinds of other things to those who had not left the camps, for a number of different reasons, yet. The last and the best job was reserved for those who had been doing the garbage gathering job, and that was to be the assistant of the photographer of the Time and Life magazine. It consisted of carrying all his belongings and following him with the army, clearing up the terrorist nests, and later on to work with him in the laboratory to develop the pictures. This job was exciting, very interesting and full of action. This was the reason that many of the boys applied to do this job, but the application was only excepted if you had done a few weeks of garbage work, so I got the job. Besides it being a very nice job it felt almost like an honour to work with Mr. Thiessen, a big heavy built man, who was so nice and friendly.
It was July 1946 when one day U.J. came home from work (the same place and job as he had worked at before) and told us that he was given the approval for a holiday to his motherland (the Netherlands) with his family, meaning mother, Ruth and me. We started to pack and said our goodbye's to the people and friends we knew. Obviously we also said goodbye to grandma and aunt Henny who were not joining us and were waiting for an approval to allow entry into the U.S.A. I never saw grandma again. She was hit by a car in Rio de Janeiro in 1956 and died. Henny and I saw each other again in 1973 when I visited New York, 27 years after I had said goodbye to her in Bandung.
Just before we went to the airport U.J. took me aside and told me to change the order of my two first names. As Heinz wouldn't be a very acceptable name in Holland, only one year after the German occupation, he told me to forget the name Heinz and to continue my life as Jack to which I agreed. It wasn't difficult for those who knew me and they got accustomed to using the name Jack very quickly.We flew to Batavia and stayed there for a few days until our ship arrived. And what a ship she was!
Tilly’s research has found the entry on the passengerlist on the website of 30 dagen op zee of Jonas and Rosa Grootkerk on board the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt which departed Batavia on the 25th of July 1946 and arrived in Amsterdam on the 23rd of August 1946. Children where not registered on board in those days in general therefor no entry of Ruth or Heinz were found.
Before the war it was said to be Holland's biggest luxury ship. At the start of the war it was either hidden far away from the bombs or it was used as a ship transporting troops, the way it is done nowadays. The ship brought thousands of Dutch soldiers to the Indies and took back the same amount of refugees to the Netherlands. During our crossing there were about five thousand people on the ship, hardly any crew besides the technicians and the professionals. All the other jobs were performed by either soldiers on the way to the Indies or anybody, who was strong enough to work a few hours, on the way to the Netherlands. My duty became cleaning and scrubbing one of the decks, in the early morning with other youngster like me. The rest of the day I worked in a store which supplied important personal articles to the passengers. We all slept in hammocks in a big storage room, packed like sardines one next to each other. It was hot and it smelled very bad so it didn’t take long before I took my blanket and went up to the deck where I found many of my peers sleeping. As I had never seen the sea before it was very special to look out into the horizon and to hear the water splashing against the hull of the ship.
The journey took thirty days and even though there was a lot of excitement and adventures on board, 30 days was more than enough. When we reached Suez, before entering the canal we disembarked the ship of a few days. As we entered the harbour and mored at the dock an orchestra was playing the Dutch national hymn. This was very moving and many people started to cry. The pasengers were very insulted when they realised that the musicians were German prisoners of war. It wasn't only because of the orchestra, but these same prisoners of war served and helped us during all the days we were on shore. When we left the boat we were taken by train to the port of Ataka in Egypt. Here we were registered and received our new identity card after which we were given clothes and blankets to get us ready for the European weather. It was for the first time in my life that I owned some long trousers and knickerbockers. This procedure, to get everyone organised, took more than two days after which we sailed very slowly through the Suez Canal to Port Said, where we had another short stopover before continuing nonstop to the Netherlands.
After a long protracted journey of thirty days, we finally reached Amsterdam. There was nobody waiting for us apart from the authorities. As there was no one to receive us we were sent to a beach town called Zandvoort. A big hotel had been turned into an observation centre for refugees. It was the beginning of August and still the summer season but with a lot of rain, so the beaches were almost empty and people were not up to holidays yet so shortly after the war. We stayed there for one month until U.J. found accomodation in Amsterdam. We lived with a typical Dutch family who rented three rooms to us. The living room was on the first floor and after climbing a very steep staircase you reached a big room where I had my bed and after climbing more steep stairs you reached the bedroom of the parents and then again stairs to Ruth's room in the attic. The house was almost in the centre of the town and was built in the 17th century. In general houses with big rooms and very high decorative ceilings, are more suitable for the climate here in Israel.
We didn't stay here for very long , due to the fact that it was too difficult for U.J. to climb those steps on a daily basis as he was not a healthy man which was a remainder of the time he spend in the concentration camps. So we moved again and although our quarters were on the third floor, the staircase was much easier accessible and the steps were shorter. This and the fact that all the rooms were on one level made it much better. The best of all was that we had a real shower room, not like in the previous house where because of the lack of a shower we had to go to the neighbourhood’s central bath house. The Dutch thought I was crazy to visit the bath house every day to take a shower, but we were used to having a bath at least once a day if not more often in the tropics. Something strange happened to me that first winter in Holland, it was freezing, about 12 degrees below zero, as I came out of that bath centre happy and warmed up I suddenly realized that while walking all my wet hair, I had a lot of hair then, was all frozen and this was a very unpleasant feeling to say the least.
By the end of 1947 U.J. was told to return to the Indies and to resume his work there. He left the Netherlands for the Indies on his own because he wanted to arrange things and prepare a home for mother and him. Mother was supposed to join him a few months later but unexpectedly it took a year because she fell ill and had to have surgery. She was hospitalized at the Jewish hospital in Amsterdam for over a month. Ruth and I were by ourselves and had to look after mother. The hospital was not that far from our house. By the way, from the moment we arrived in Amsterdam Heinz Rosenberg (the boy who we knew from Surabaya) came back into our lives and we saw him almost daily as he was living around the corner only five minutes away. He was in the last grade of high school, studying economy and commerce, and he became Ruth's boyfriend.
While mother was in the hospital one of the nurses invited Ruth and me to come for the Seder night. We were very thrilled as we actually never celebrated a proper Seder before but didn't have a clue what was waiting for us. We dressed up nicely and went to the address she had given us. When she opened the door she was very happy to see us and led us to the dining room. There was a huge long table set for the meal, but I felt strange looking around the room. The house looked so empty and bare, only a few pictures on the wall of old men with beards. Later on we realized that we had entered the community centre of Agudath Jisrael, the ultra-orthodox Jews of Amsterdam. We still didn't know what to expect and their behaviour and customs were so peculiar to us. Nobody paid any attention to us, everyone had their nose in the Hagada*, which was only in Hebrew. No one made an effort to explain to us what they were reading, what page in the book we were on and it took very long before we finally started eating. It was a very long and very boring evening and we were happy when we were able to go home again. I'm grateful and proud to say that I have been celebrating the Seder for the past fifty-six years in a much more pleasant atmosphere with people I know and their invited guests here in my home at Beit Ha Emek.
At the beginning of the new school year Heinz moved to a town near the German border called Enschede were he joined the institute of textiles. Mother recovered and towards the end of that year she also returned to the Indies to be reunited with her husband Jonas. Before she left b she arranged a place for me to live this turned out to be with a Dutch Jewish family whom I disliked very much. Ruth moved to Enschede to be near Heinz.
I very much wanted to join a training program on a farm for young pioneers to get prepared to go to Israel but the woman in charge of the Jewish agency, Mrs. Mendes da Costa-Vet was a nasty woman and wouldn't except me. According to her I was not suitable to go to Israel and certainly not to go to a kibbutz. I was a member of the Jewish youth federation, which I joined with the help of another (non-religious) nurse of the hospital my mother had stayed in. Before mother had left the hospital I had already dropped out of school and became an apprentice jewellery design and goldsmith. In the evenings I studied, mainly languages. This is what my life was likew until the summer of 1949 when I was finally accepted and could join the training program to get myself ready to go to Israel. The training centre was based in a house in a town called Deventer. My group consisted of a bunch of young people around 18-19 years old. We all lived in the house together and we would leave the house in the mornig, mostly on bikes, and go to our designated farm in a 10 km radius.
We were taught to milk cows by hand in the open meadows, it was summertime so the cows were outside. Those were long days because in the evenings we would be gathering and stacking the hay and filling up the barn to get ready for the winter period. I stayed there about four months until we moved away from this house in Deventer and were accomodated at a much better place surrounded by a lot of land. The girls had agricultural chores as there was big vegetable garden for them there. Again I would leave in the mornings and go on the bike to the farm, but this time it was not as pleasant as before, because it was raining or snowing most of the time. The owner of the farm, where I was mostly working alone, was a clever man and the chairman of all kinds of organizations including the ice skating federation. When I arrived in the morning, he would to tell me to finish milking the cows and gave me further instructions for the rest of the day. This would mainly be cleaning up the pig-sty and in the evening to milk all the twenty-four cows by hand again.
His son didn't help me because in the national ice skating team and his father had other plans for him. The farmers that took on these apprentices knew exactly how to take advantage of these young volunteers. The only daily reward for this work was a cup of milk and two sandwiches and the pleasure of eating in the shed with the cows. There were two centres for training pioneers for Israel, one in Gouda for the younger age group up to the age of 18 and one for the older ones which I belonged to in 's-Graveland, a village near Hilversum. The boys went out to the various farms near or far, not every farmer was willing to engage a young Jewish volunteer. Don’t forget this was only three years after the Secon World War and the pressure and anxiety that existed during the German occupation still existed here and there. Besides that, there were many anti-Jewish farmers. The girls who went to these farms were mainly in charge of the housekeeping and the big vegetable garden.
In the evenings and on weekends the youth leaders, teachers and Israeli messengers came to teach us or to give lectures. We did not have much private moments and were kept busy most of the time. Among the Israeli messengers was a lovely looking Hebrew teacher and she insisted that we should change our non-Jewish names into Hebrew names. I had to change mine from Jack to Yaakov, I didn't like that and changed Heinz into Hanoch. If you ask me I would have still preferred to be called Jack today. We were being prepared to go to Israel (today they say "make alyah") as a group. A group of twenty-four girls and boys and we were supposed to join a similar group from Britain whose first pioneers had already arrived in Israel and were training and getting acclimatized in kibbutz Kfar Blum. The kibbutz movement directed us to go to Gal Ed where we would get our training before starting in our own settlement.
We left Amsterdam by train, in the middle of August 1950 and were accompanied by many followers, family and friends. One week before I left I said my goodbye’s to Ruth and Heinz just after they got married and we didn't know that it would take sixteen years before we would see each other again. Our first stop was Paris for a week’s vacation and then we moved south to Marseille were the boat that would take us across, called Negbah, was waiting for us. We met an English pioneer who was a member of the group we were joining. His name was Ivor Golker who became one of our leading members in the kibbutz.
Kibbutz Gal Ed suited me, my intention had been to reach that place anyway because of Uncle John’s nephew, Shlomo Grootkerk who was a member there. We arrived in the harbour at night and it was such a beautiful view to see Haifa completely lit. The next morning a bus was waiting for us, but many hours passed before we could leave with all the bureaucracy. We then realized that it was one of the boys that had caused a problem. He had expected a problem and that was the reason that he stood at the end of the queue. By the time it was his turn face the authorities and they asked what his name was, he answered Reuven Pots. Everyone burst out laughing and the inspectors wouldn't believe that this was his real name.
Reaching Gal Ed we were welcomed by forty beautiful females, new immigrants, and only two days in the country, they were going to be our neighbours. The only difference between us was that they were walking on four legs. They were a new herd of cows from Denmark, and were still in quarantine, separated from the other cows and were fenced-in next to our encampment of tents. It wasn't that great; it was still summer and hot, so we had the smell of the cows and the flies swarming around them. Our tents were on a slope at the outskirts of the kibbutz, there were no roads or paths built yet so as winter started, we were plagued by that too. All the water was running into our tents, there were no floor boards, so the legs of our beds sank right into the mud. The most trouble we had with heavy storms, the tent would shake and then collapse on top of us. It happend that after a day's work we would find the tent blown away.
We couldn't complain, because we were pioneers and this was the real place to get acclimatized. There was something else because not our Hebrew but our Geman improved. Some members of the community couldn't be bothered to speak Hebrew with us so they used their former mother tongue German. We were told that we would study Hebrew once a week but this became once every three weeks quite quickly and we hardly even met the person who was supposed to teach us. My line of work was in two different branches. Most of the boys wanted to work with the cows but there was only enough work for two people. I became the third person just for to replace someone who would fall ill or was otherwise incapable of doing their duties. My main occupation was working in constuction. I was lucky to work in both branches as those were the only workers to get one half of an egg for breakfast a day. We stayed in Gal Ed for five months. On the third week we were there we were taken on a trip of three days through the centre of the country.
We visited a kibbutz, Givat Brenner, one of the eldest kibbuzim and the thing that impressed me the most was the size of the dining room; it was big. The most important thing was that there were a few tables reserved for the members in a leading function whom were not to be disturbed during their meal. On another occasion we went on an individual trip and I was joined by one girl and two other boys. It was the day of the eve of Simchat Torah which is the Rejoicing of the Law. Our destination was Jerusalem, and we reached it rather quickly although in those days there were not many cars on the roads yet, but those few ones did take hitch hikers. We didn't all manage to get a ride with the four of us together, but were successful in pairs. We joined up in a prearranged place in the centre of the city. The holiday atmosphere was in the air as all the shops were closed and there was no public transportation. It was late afternoon and the streets were empty, not a soul around. Suddenly out of nowhere a girl came up to us and asked us who we were and what we were looking for. We told her; we are new immigrants from Holland on vacation in Jerusalem and asked where we could find some place to sleep for the next two nights. The girl said “No problem” and took us to her home which was in the richer and fancy part of Jerusalem, Merhavyah, ten minutes’ walk from where we had stranded. Her parents were on holiday in the north and she was the only who had stayed behind. She introduced herself as Broriah, a student in the highest grade of the Hebrew Gymnasium. She gave us everything, food, bedding and towels to take a shower. After we were settled she told us where to go and what we should see around town. We couldn't have found a better person, thank you Broriah, you certainly made us see and meet the beautiful side of Israel. Broriah herself!
According to Broriah this was the perfect night to pass by as many synagogues as possible in Meah Shearim, the ultra-orthodox area. It was amazing to see these Hasidim*** dancing, jumping and singing, and obviously, they made us join them in their simchah (joy). We strolled around for two more days not knowing that in six more months we would be in Jerusalem again for a longer period for our army training. After all this fun the weekend started and we were meeting with the partners with whom we were going to build our future. The English and the Dutch group were partnered and were sent to Beit HaEmek, this had been decided by the kibbutz executive board members. This kibbutz established in January 1949 by a group of Hungarian pioneers, but after a very short time many of them left. By the time we were sent there for a meeting with our peers, there were only 20 members left. This made the executive board members decide not to let us establish a new settlement but to join Beit HaEmek which was struggling for its existence and survival. Anyway, on a Friday after work a lorry came to pick us up and to take us to Beit HaEmek. It wasn't very far away but the journey took its time as the roads were very rural and bumpy in those times.
When we arrived we found the place to a few wooden huts and for the rest there were ruins of a deserted Arab village. If it was not a new place at least it was a challenge to start with. We had our Friday night meal there and then a program started with a welcome speech in Hebrew by our host. Next was the English representative who also made his speech in Hebrew ; we didn't understand very much of either speech as our Hebrew was very poor. Now it was our turn to say a few words, so one of us got up and spoke in his best English and said how happy we were to be here and meet our new friends. In order not to have any misunderstanding one of the girls in our groups, who was from Hungarian origin, repeated the speech in Hungarian to the surprise of all the people who were present.
On the first of February 1951, we left Gal Ed for good. Like most stories about Israel and actions that were taken at those times, we left Gal Ed at night inorder to escape the eyes of the British ruler and reached Beit HaEmek at sunrise. We were so excited because we had finally reached our ultimate destination. In the two months which had passed, since we were here last, not much had changed except that they managed to erect four new prefabricated huts with four rooms each. The new huts were not finished yet as there was no floor but just sand, and no doors and windows but who cared, this was paradise compared to what we had left behind.
Most of the work in Beit HaEmek was concentrated on pruning the olive trees and tidying up the orchards. There were thousands of trees and it was a lot of work which had to be done. As there were very few tools available to us to work with this made it a real challenge. There were too many labourers for just a little work so two groups got selected to go and work in other, older and bigger kibbuzim. This group would come home on the weekend, every other week but I stayed in Beit HaEmek and worked in construction and helped with the herd of sheep. Our Kibbutz had two hundred chickens and only two cows at that time.
This situation changed very rapidly, because as from May of that year until November, the Dutch group had to join the army. We were allowed to go back to the kibbutz after six months as this place was recognized as a border settlement, so we were not paid soldiers on duty. Our recruiting period was very special; our platoon consisted of two groups, the Dutch and the American veterans of the Korean War. They were a few years older than us and made a big joke of the training. For them this kind of training was like child’s play and we als a whole group were punished frequently because of the way they were making fun of the training which we did enjoy. After the 6 months and had returned to the kibbutz, I picked up my work in construction again, until I was put in charge of all the storage consisting mainly of mixing the cattle and chicken fodder for the, by now, forty cows and two thousand chickens. This was a lucrative business and this branch of the Kibbutz was growing fast. Tons of fodder had to be mixed by hand. It was only three years later that a nice building had been constructed and was at my disposal including some machinery. I had to carry many heavy bags filled with grain or other feed, from the lorry into the storeroom only later to get mixed again and then transported to the customers. I won’t be surprised if all the trouble I have currently with my knee is because of the hard labour in those days as I continued to do this job for ten years.
In 1962 all the kibbuzim in our area joined forces and built a general mill. This was not only to service our 24 kibbuzim but for the various 90 settlements in the North. I was commissioned to work there and began with the assembly of the heavy machinery sent from Switzerland and was assisted by some Swiss technicians. It was a multi-story building with nine floors and surrounded by many silos. It took six months to assemble the mill after which it only took one push on a button to get all the machines running. What a surprise this was to hav two ton of fodder ready in only four minutes. The daily work was done in two shifts and towards the weekend this would change to three shifts. After a short while, I was made the production manager, a difficult but satisfying job. In 1966 I was offered to take part in a two month study course, on preserving grain, by the management. It was organized and sponsored by the FAO, the food and agriculture organization of the UN.
The studies were going to be held in the big Socialist Union of Russia. I agreed immediately although Hannah, my wife, was pregnant by then,but there was enough time for me to join the course and to get back before the birth of our child. I could not leave immediately as it took a long time before we received the approval of the Russian government. I was joined by someone of our ministry of agriculture. When we arrived in Russia there was someone to pick us up and he took us to a hotel where we met the other participants of the other countries. It was a surprise to see that there were two representatives for each country like Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Iran and Pakistan. Apart from Poland and Yugoslavia these were all Arab countries. It was up to all of us to make an effort to establish a good relationship with each other and we managed, after a month, to get the Egyptians to talk to us and that broke the ice and established a relationship between all the participants. This two month experience is something I will never forget.
In November 1952 there was another English group that came to Israel and they went to kibbutz Maayan Zvi, south of Haifa at the end of the Carmel hills and in June 1953 they joined Beit HaEmek. At the time that this English group were in Maayan Zvi there was another group of youths that had previously arrived there in 1950 from India. By the time this second group arrived, the Indian boys and girls had passed the age of 18 years and were allowed to decide what direction they wanted to go. Most of them had to join the army first. Some stayed in the kibbutz and are still there today, but there was one young girl who decided to join the English group in order to start a kibbutz from scratch. This is how Hannah Daniels, my wife, came to Beit HaEmek. It took nearly three years till she changed her name to Hannah Silberberg. We got married on the 6th of January 1956 a very wet Friday as it was pouring with rain and the same day we officially opened and used the new community dining room. So there were two reasons to celebrate and have a big party. Out of our marriage our daughter Navah was born exactly two years to that day on the sixth of January 1958. After this on the 26th of September 1964, whilst celebrating Succoth**** our son Leon was born. Leon was the first boy in the Daniels family to the delight of Naomi Daniels, Hannah's mother, who stayed with us in the kibbutz. She and her husband had four daughters and after which she gave birth to a son, who unfortunately passed away as a toddler with the epidemics in India. Our third child, a daughter called Yigal was born on the 6th of December 1966.
The ten years I worked in the mill, Miloubar, and in this period I filled different positions there before the kibbutz management decided to bring me back home to take up a more important position in their eyes. The carpentry department needed a supervisor and as such I worked for a further twenty-five years. With pride I look back on the results which can be seen in the public areas like the dining room, synagogue, club house, the hall and all the interiors of the various houses. With the change in the kibbutz the management came to the conclusion that the carpentry was not profitable enough and decided to close that department and I was to hand over the keys of the workshop. After all those years I was fired in a rude and disgraceful way. Besides the fact that I had reached the retirement age, nobody was willing to employ me. I felt needless and unwanted but then I recieved two offers. One of these offers was to come and work in the biological industry for plant propagation. I accepted the offer immediately and I have been working there for the past nine years.
I loved the work and the people who were friendly, and enjoyed every minute I spend there; it was like a second home to me. Unfortunately, because of economical compulsions the business is closing down now and recently thirty workers were fired included me. So I find myself on the road again, healthy but with two rotten knees.
This is the end of seventy-five years of my short life's story. There is no need to add more as everything else is known to many. My life which has had its ups and its downs is filled with love, pleasure and happiness. My private and family life but their has also been part of my life with many disappointments, trouble in the country, the kibbutz and work. Summing up I'm not sorry about any moment of my life the only thing I'm sorry about is that I never continued my studies, because if I would have studied, I would have studied musicology and particularly majoring in music itself.
At the end of my summary, I would like to commemorate my mother, who passed away in 1972 in Holland without having any of her children beside her. The thought that she passed away without having a loved one present doesn’t leave me in peace. Mother had a difficult life, she became a widow at a very young age, the struggle for an income, the fight to save her family from the Nazis, raising two children without a husband and then the cursed war with all its repercussions. She was happily married afterwards for sixteen years but not without worries as her husband Jonas, was very sick and died in Holland in 1966. So my mother became a widow for the second time. She managed to visit us a few times here in Israel, the last visit being Navah's Bat Mitzvah in 1971.
Tilly's addition: Rosa and Jonas Grootkerk returned to the Netherlands with the m.s Modjokerto. The ship left the harbour of Batavia (Tandjong Priok) on the 16th of March 1954 and arrived in Rotterdam on the 23rd of April 1954.
I want to commemorate Ruth my sister, who passed away in September 1976 in Eason Connecticut, at the young age of only fifty. She never saw any of her three sons getting married, not to mention not to having seen any grandchildren. Despite the big distance between us we had a good relationship by correspondence.She tried to make a big effort to come to Israel for Leon's Bar mitzvah but a cursed illness didn't give her that opportunity.
And last but not least, my only brother-in-law, Heinz, who changed his name as soon as he got settled in the States to Dave, there is no second one like him in the world. We were like brothers and for me he was my big brother who loved my family very much. He was always worried that we were short of something. On his way to Washington to visit Leon and Limor who were studying there, he got sick and quickly returned to his hometown, Vero Beach, in Florida. He had to undergo surgery from which he never woke up.
I'm very happy to say and write that I have a very good relationship with my three nephews, their wives and their sons who unfortunately live so far away from us. They are:
Max, Judy, Jason, Russell and Joseph who live in Wilmington, Delaware
Rex and Fay who live in upstate New York
Jimmy and Babs who live in Union City, California
I'm very thankful that we have telephone and internet nowadays.
Beit Ha’Emek, 25th of April 2006
23rd of September 2013
Seven years have passed since I wrote my story and since then many things have happened: nice and sad ones. In addition to the five grandchildren that were born when I wrote my story, we have since been blessed with another 5 so yes we are the grandparents of ten grandchildren, yes 10! Apart from it being too noisy when we are all together, I shouldn’t complain and it is very nice to have so many grandchildren.
All I remember and is on my mind is what happened recently after I had to undergo surgery twice.
Because of having surgery an anaesthesia twice I have lost most of my memory and this is a big problem for me.The old memories are still there but I have trouble with the short term memory.
The surgery I had was initially to have a replacement knee on the left side but while I was on the operation table I suffered a heart attack. The doctors decided to keep me unconscious for the next ten days and performed a by-pass operation afterwards. This happened in the summer of 2012 and since then, I am very forgetful and have no idea what happened to me. Not only did I lose my memory but I have also lost the sight of my right eye which makes things even worse. The worst thing is that I can’t drive a car anymore which makes me more miserable as I have to depend on others to take me where I have to of feel like going.
* Haggadah is the book that we use with the story from the Book of Exodus about the Israelites being deliverd from slavery.
**The Fugu Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and the Jews During World War II
If someone who is rich and powerful comes to you for a favor, you don't persecute him - you help him. Having such a person indebted to you is a great insurance policy. There was one nation that did treat the Jews as if they were powerful and rich. The Japanese never had much exposure to Jews, and knew very little about them. In 1919 Japan fought alongside the anti-Semitic White Russians against the Communists. At that time the White Russians introduced the Japanese to the book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Japanese studied the book and, according to all accounts, naively believed its propaganda. Their reaction was immediate and forceful - they formulated a plan to encourage Jewish settlement and investment into Manchuria. People with such wealth and power as the Jews possess, the Japanese determined, are exactly the type of people with whom we want to do business!
*** Hassidim of Chassidim are Orhtodox jews who originated in Eastern Europe in the second half of the 18th century. They strictly follow the Mosaic laws.
**** Succoth is also called Feast of Tabernacles or Fest of Booths and the Jewish autumn festival of double thanksgiving
Roza Borchardt 1897 - 1972
Louis Borchardt 1854 - 1919
Paul Borchardt 1883 - 1969
Henny Borchardt 1920 - 1995
Hilde Borchardt 1907 - 2006
source: Yad Vashem
My father Albert Alfred Silberberg
and mother Rosa Silberberg - Borchardt
Heinz, my mother and Ruth
Albert and Rosa Silberberg - Borchardt
Example of a walking stick with hidden knife
ss Van Imhoff a ship that was in service of
the Koninklijke Paketvaart Maatschappij (KPM)
Passengerlist of the Marnix van Sint Aldegonde
with Henny Borchardt on board in 1938
Passengerlist of the Marnix van Sint Aldegonde
with Selma Borchardt on board in 1939
With Ruth in the back of our house
Maison van der Veen where mother worked in Bandung
Bragaweg Bandung, Maison van der Veen was at number 55
Type of pin the story is telling about
Possibly the pin meaning "stateless" worn by Rosa
My sister Ruth and me
Rosa, Heinz, Ruth our car and the driver
Heinz and Ruth
Ruth in front of our house in Bandung
Twentse Dagblad Tubantia
betrothal of Heinz Rosenberg 24 years old
and Ruth Silberberg 23 years old
Postcard of the ss Negbah of the Israeli Zim lines
The m.s Modjokerto
Left Hanoch or Chanoch as he was called with his good friend Max Samson who took the initiative to sent us Hanoch's biography
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