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Hand knitted floral wall hanging made prewar by a Dutch Jewish woman

Object | Accession Number: 2003.155.8

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    Hand knitted floral wall hanging made prewar by a Dutch Jewish woman
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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Floral patterned, fringed wall hanging created by Sophia Swaab de Groot in 1938 or 1939 in Arnhem, Netherlands, and recovered by her son Louis after the war. Sophia made the wall hanging to protect the wall behind the living room couch. She worked on it for hours over several nights and used a paper pattern to create it. Germany occupied the Netherlands in May 1940 and implemented anti-Jewish restrictions. In July 1942, the Germans began mass deportations. On November 16, 1942, Chelly, 15, Louis, 13, and their parents Meijer and Sophia left Arnhem and went into hiding. Meijer and Sophia hid in Amsterdam while Chelly and Louis moved around to different locations. In summer/fall 1943, Chelly went to Amsterdam to live with her parents. In December, Louis was sent to Lemmer to live with the Onderweegs family. In February 1944, Dirk Onderweegs visited and offered to take Chelly to a safer hiding place. On April 8, 1944, four days before Dirk was to return, Chelly and her parents were denounced and arrested. They were sent to Westerbork transit camp, then to Auschwitz where Chelly and Sophia were killed upon arrival on May 22, 1944. Meijer was selected for a work detail and was killed on September 30, 1944. Louis remained in hiding with Onderweegs until liberation in mid-April 1945.
    Date
    creation:  1938-1939
    recovered:  1946 August-1950
    Geography
    creation: Arnhem (Netherlands)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Louis de Groot
    Contributor
    Subject: Sophia de Groot
    Artist: Sophia de Groot
    Subject: Louis de Groot
    Biography
    Sophia Swaab was born on June 10, 1900, in Utrecht, Netherlands, to Meijer and Heintje van Leeuwen Swaab. Sophia had six siblings: Leentje (Lea), born April 6, 1896, Philip, born September 12, 1898, Esther, born circa 1900, Nathan, born October 18, 1901, Mietje (Miriam), born December 4, 1909, and Jozef, born circa 1910. Sophia’s father Meijer was born circa 1877 in Utrecht, to Joseph (b. 1838) and Leentje de Groote (b. 1853) Swaab. Sophia’s mother Heintje was born circa 1878 in Zwolle, to Philip and Esther de Groot van Leeuwen. Meijer and Heintje married on December 22, 1897. Meijer was a greengrocer and sold fruits and vegetables. They also owned a shop that sold late night snacks. Sophia managed the snack shop until she married her childhood friend Meijer de Groot in 1922. Meijer was born on October 9, 1897, in Utrecht. Meijer had five siblings: Israel, Salomon, Izak, Mozes, and Julia. Meijer’s father died when he was very young, so he was raised by his mother, Rachel Bloemendaal de Groot. Meijer and Sophia moved to Amersfoort and had two children: Rachel (Chelly), born August 8, 1927, and Levie (Louis), born June 28, 1929. Sophia’s brother Jozef died on April 28, 1930. In 1932, Sophia and her family moved to Arnhem. Meijer owned a hardware and electrical appliance store. They were comfortable but not wealthy. They attended synagogue weekly and observed every holiday. Sophia’s father Meijer died on August 29, 1934. Her brother Nathan died on October 18, 1935, and her mother Heintje died on December 10. Meijer and Sophia were involved with the Jewish Refugee Committee and assisted Jews fleeing from Germany. After the Kristallnacht pogrom occurred in Germany and Austria in November 1938, they took in an Austrian Jewish Kindertransport refugee, Eva Haller.

    On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Meijer found a taxi driver who was willing to take them to a port city in the west so they could go to England. They could not get out because the Dutch army had flooded the roads. The Netherlands surrendered on May 14. The German authorities gradually implemented anti-Semitic measures. Jews were no longer allowed to swim in public pools or go to the parks. They were only allowed to shop between 3 and 5 PM. In late 1940, Sophia’s brother-in-law Israel was arrested and jailed on suspicion of working with the resistance. He had a trial and was released in February 1941. Beginning on May 1, 1942, Jews were required to wear Star of David badges. Mass deportations began in July 1942. As the situation worsened, Meijer and Sophia planned to go into hiding. They bought food off the black market and preserved it to take with them. They stored the food with one of their neighbors and their furniture with the other. On November 16, 1942, Dutch police warned Sophia’s family that a raid was planned for that night. Louis and Chelly stayed the night with one of Meijer’s employees, Herman Lagenbach. Meijer and Sophia arranged to hide with the neighbor who had their furniture, but he refused to let them in the next day. They went to Hilversum, where Sophia’s brother-in-law Israel was in hiding. He had contacts in the resistance and helped them find hiding places. Chelly went to a home in Hilversum, while Sophia, Meijer, and Louis went to Amsterdam. Sophia and Meijer sent Louis to Den Helder. They stayed in Amsterdam with Geertruida (Truus) Eweg, who rented them a room with kitchen privileges. Louis returned to Amsterdam in December. He had been turned in by a neighbor and saved by a Dutch policeman. Truus would not allow him to stay because she feared he would be too noisy. Sophia and Meijer sent Louis to a new hiding place in Wormerveer on January 1, 1943. They also moved Chelly between several hiding places, eventually moving her to a different home in Wormerveer. In the early summer, Sophia and Meijer learned that Louis was being mistreated and brought him back to Amsterdam. He was moved between about twelve different hiding places and stayed with Sophia and Meijer intermittently. In the summer or fall, they brought Chelly to Amsterdam live with them. In September 1943, all four family members were reunited. After six weeks, they went on the run. Sophia and Chelly stayed together, as did Meijer and Louis. In December, the family reunited in Amsterdam and resumed staying with Truus. Sophia and Meijer sent Louis to Friesland on December 22.

    In February 1944, Sophia, Meijer, and Chelly were visited by Dirk Onderweegs, the resistance member who was hiding Louis. He offered to find a hiding place for Chelly closer to Louis. Sophia and Meijer agreed and arranged for Dirk to pick up Chelly after Easter. On April 8, Sophia, Meijer, and Chelly were denounced by Ans van Dijk, a Jewish woman who worked for the Gestapo. She thought she was turning in Meijer’s brother Izak. Jaap Grotendorst, the Dutch policeman who came for them, was a childhood friend of Meijer’s and recognized him immediately. Jaap refused a bribe and arrested them. Chelly and Sophia were held in the Amsterdam police station, then sent to jail in The Hague. After about a week, they were reunited with Meijer and sent to Westerbork transit camp. On May 19, they were loaded into wagon 9 of a transport and sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. When they arrived at Auschwitz on May 22, Sophia and Chelly were separated. Chelly cried so fiercely that the SS officer allowed her to switch places with another woman. Sophia and Chelly were sent to the gas chamber and killed. Sophia’s husband Meijer was selected for a work detail and was killed on September 30, 1944. Most of Sophia’s family was also killed in Auschwitz: her brother Philip on January 31, 1944, his wife Sara in 1943, their children Hanny, Meir, and Lion in 1943 and 1945, Sophia’s sister Miriam Vigevano on February 11, 1944, Miriam’s husband Abraham and daughter Florans in 1943, and Sophia’s brother-in-law Alexander Cohen in 1943. Sophia’s niece Elisabeth Cohen was killed in Sobibor killing center in 1943. Sophia’s son Louis survived in hiding, as did her sister Lea Cohen, Lea’s daughter Heni, Sophia’s sister Esther van der Stam, Esther’s husband Max, and their son Freddy.
    Levie (Louis) de Groot was born on June 28, 1929, in Amersfoort, Netherlands, to Meijer and Sophia Swaab de Groot. Louis had a sister, Rachel (Chelly), born on August 8, 1927, in Amersfoort. Louis’ father Meijer was born on October 9, 1897, in Utrecht, to Rachel Bloemendaal de Groot. Meijer had five siblings. Louis’ mother Sophia was born on June 10, 1900, in Utrecht, to Meijer (1877-1934) and Heintje van Leeuwen (1878-1935) Swaab. Sophia had six siblings. In 1932, the family moved to Arnhem. Meijer owned a hardware and electrical appliance store. They attended synagogue weekly and observed the holidays. Louis and Chelly were involved with a local Jewish youth organization. Louis attended public school until 1939, when he had an anti-Semitic teacher. His parents pulled him from school and sent him to a Montessori school. Meijer and Sophia were involved with the Jewish Refugee Committee and assisted Jews fleeing from Germany. After the Kristallnacht pogrom occurred in Germany and Austria in November 1938, they took in an Austrian Jewish Kindertransport refugee, Eva Haller.

    On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Meijer found a taxi driver who was willing to take them to a port city in the west so they could go to England. They could not get out because the Dutch army had flooded the roads. The Netherlands surrendered on May 14. The German authorities gradually implemented anti-Semitic measures. Jews were no longer allowed to swim in public pools or go to the parks. They were only allowed to shop between 3 and 5 PM. Louis was taunted by two boys who were in the Nazi Youth group and began to beat them up daily with his friends. One of the boy’s father was a Nazi and told Louis’ father that he would be sent to a concentration camp if Louis did not stop. Louis became too afraid to violate any regulations, in case his family was punished. In late 1940, Louis’ paternal uncle Israel was arrested and jailed on suspicion of working with the resistance. He had a trial and was released in February 1941. In September 1941, Louis had to attend a new school because Jewish children were banned from public schools. He was also forbidden from visiting the homes of non-Jews. Beginning on May 1, 1942, Jews were required to wear Star of David badges. In July, mass deportations began. In August, one of Louis’ friends told him that he had listened to a BBC broadcast on the radio, which said that Jews were being sent to the east and killed. Louis did not want believe it was true and did not tell his family about it.

    On November 16, 1942, Dutch police warned Louis’ family that a raid was planned for that night. Louis and Chelly stayed the night with one of Meijer’s employees, Herman Lagenbach. Meijer had arranged to hide with a neighbor, but he refused to let them in the next day. They went to Hilversum, where Louis’ paternal uncle Israel was in hiding. He had contacts in the resistance and arranged hiding places for them. Chelly went to a home in Hilversum, while Louis and his parents continued to Amsterdam. Louis was sent to a couple in Den Helder. In December, Louis was reported to the Dutch police by the neighbors, who heard him talking through the thin walls. The Dutch police came to arrest Louis, but told him they would help him. They brought him back to Amsterdam so he could find his parents. They were hiding with Geertruida (Truus) Eweg, who didn’t want Louis to stay. On January 1, 1943, Louis went to Wormerveer to stay with Cees and Lies Stolp. Cees and Lies mistreated Louis. He was given very little food and was not allowed to bathe often or wash his clothes. He had to make envelopes for the family to sell and was required to meet a daily quota. They dictated his letters to his parents so he could not tell them what was happening. Louis’ maternal cousin Heni Cohen, the daughter of Sophia’s sister Leentje, eventually came to live with them. Lies went to see Louis’ parents monthly to collect rent and ration cards for the children. After a disagreement between Louis and Lies, Louis’ father Meijer insisted on visiting in the early summer. He took Louis back to Amsterdam and was upset when Louis told him what happened. Louis moved between about twelve hiding places and stayed with his parents in Amsterdam in between. At the end of September 1943, Louis was reunited with his parents and sister. After about six weeks, all four had to go on the run. Louis stayed with Meijer and Chelly with Sophia. They returned to Amsterdam in December.

    Meijer arranged for Louis to go to Friesland, a province in northeastern Netherlands that had a large population of Calvinists. On December 22, Frans Postma, a detective with the Amsterdam police force, took Louis to Joure to stay with Uilke Boonstra (1899-1944). Uilke ran the resistance organization in southwestern Friesland with Sjoerd Weirsma. On January 3, 1944, Louis was moved to the home of Dirk (1908-1979) and Ann (1910-1993) Onderweegs and their young daughter Bonnette (1940-1986) in Lemmer. Dirk was supposed to find a different hiding place for Louis, but Ann insisted that he stay so he would not have to labor on a farm. The couple also hid a Jewish baby, Robert Wolf. Dirk worked in City Hall and used his position to forge false documents for hidden Jews and to falsify records to match. He forged documents for Louis, one saying he was a refugee from bombing and another saying his circumcision was performed for medical reasons. They dyed Louis’ hair red so he would look less Jewish. In February 1944, Uilke Boonstra was arrested and sent to Vught concentration camp. Dirk took over his responsibilities in the resistance. On a trip west in February, Dirk met Louis’ parents and promised that he would find a better hiding place for Chelly in Friesland. Dirk returned to get Chelly on April 12, but was stopped by their neighbor and told that Meijer, Sophia, and Chelly were arrested on April 8. Dirk used his contacts to learn that the family was in Westerbork transit camp. He went to Westerbork to bribe the guards and get them out, but was unsuccessful. In late June 1944, Dirk and Ann were turned into the Gestapo for their role in the resistance. They were warned by the telephone operator and went on the run. They assumed the false last name Lemstra. Louis was called Leo and Dirk was called Paul. Louis and Bonnette went to a farm in the area, while Dirk, Ann, and Robert stayed together, until they reunited in Bolsward. Louis worked with Dirk for the resistance. He forged documents, worked as a courier, and stole rubber stamps from the Germans. In February 1945, the Gestapo found them again, but they were warned beforehand and fled. Louis was liberated by Canadian forces in Bolsward in mid-April 1945.

    Louis and the Onderweegs family returned to Lemmer. Robert’s mother survived the war and took him back. Louis enrolled in school when it reopened. In August 1946, Louis left the Onderweegs family so he could return to a Jewish environment. He lived in a Jewish orphanage in Amsterdam. He was in contact with his uncle Israel. In 1947, Louis learned what happened to his family. Louis’ mother and sister were killed upon arrival in Auschwitz on May 22, 1944. Louis’ father was selected for a work detail and was killed on September 30, 1944. Most of Louis’ extended family was also killed. Eva Haller, the Kindertransport refugee who lived with the family, survived the Holocaust in hiding in the Netherlands. From April 1948 to February 1949, Louis fought with the Haganah in Palestine. He returned to the Netherlands to finish school, then emigrated to the United States in 1950. He was drafted into the US Army and served in Germany in the Army of Occupation for two years. Louis attended Columbia University and received a degree in Economics in 1956. On June 7, 1956, Louis married Barbara Brenner (1935-2015). In 1958, Louis received his master’s degree from New York University. Louis and Barbara had two sons. Louis worked for IBM until he retired. Louis’s son Marc, age 45, died on August 8, 2004.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Decorative Arts
    Category
    Needlework
    Object Type
    Wall hangings (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, hand knitted wool yarn wall hanging with a scalloped bottom with 8 inch long, thick, dark brown, twisted fringe. Across the front are 3 large, ornate, floral and foliage designs separated by 2 smaller floral and leaf groups in blue, brown, green, yellow, orange, and white, on a light brown background. Along the upper edge is a panel of alternating green and yellow stylized leaves on an orange background, with a dark brown border. Thirty-three, large wooden rings are attached to the upper edge with bronze colored metal hooks. The hanging was constructed on thick string netting and is sewn to brown cloth backing. One ring is detached.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 36.875 inches (93.663 cm) | Width: 74.500 inches (189.23 cm)
    Materials
    overall : wool, cloth, wood, metal, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The wall hanging was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2015 by Louis de Groot, the son of Sophia Swaab de Groot.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-12-07 14:06:48
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn605150

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