Close-up portrait a Dutch Jewish brother and sister.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 23045
Circa 1934 - 1936
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Netherlands -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rita Serphos
Close-up portrait a Dutch Jewish brother and sister.
Pictured are Leo and Bertie Serphos.
- Rita Serphos is the daughter of Maurits Serphos (b. July 14, 1898) and Benjamina Sara (Miep) Koppels (b. September 1, 1898). Miep grew up in Deventer where her father, Levi Koppels, served as a cantor, shochet and teacher. Maurits was the son of Mozes and Bertha Serphos. He was one of eight children, and his father owned a textile factory in Enschede. Rita's siblings Bertha (Bertie) (b. June 10, 1929) and Leo (b. October 8, 1930) were born in Enschede, but in 1933 the family moved to Amsterdam so that Maurits could direct the Amsterdam branch of the family's business. Rita was born on February 17, 1939 in Amsterdam. In late 1939 her parents obtained immigration papers for Canada, but Benjamina was not prepared to leave her parents. Therefore she gave their papers to second cousins of Maurits who had just fled Germany and by coincidence also had three children. The cousins immigrated to Canada, and Rita's family remained in The Netherlands when Germany invaded in May 1940. At the beginning of the war, Maurits distributed his entire stock of merchandise to his most trusted clients. Throughout the war, Miep occasionally retrieved these goods and bartered them for food and other necessities. Rita's uncle Arthur was caught in the first round-up in Enschede in 1941 and deported to Mauthausen where he died two weeks later. After receiving notification of his brother's death, Maurits decided to go into hiding. Another brother, Nathan Isedor ("Natsie") belonged to the resistance and promised to find hiding places for the entire family, though for security reasons he could not disclose the locations to other family members. This made Rita's mother very uncomfortable. Since she was blond and blue eyed, she decided neither to wear the Jewish star nor to go into hiding. Instead she also joined the resistance and bicycled from place to place using the alias Theodora (Doortje) Tijdgaat. Rita's mother pestered Natsie to reveal where her family was hiding. When he told her the location of her husband, she immediately moved him to the attic of Mr. Heeres, a business friend in Amsterdam. Dutch Nazis lived on the second floor of the building which ironically was a blessing in disguise since as a result the building was never searched. Though Rita's father survived the war, as a result of the cramped hiding conditions he developed Burgher's Disease and had to have both his legs amputated after the war.
Miep also eventually learned where her son Leo was hiding and moved him to the home of Mr. D. Feenstra, the head of the underground in the village of Steggerda in Friesland. Leo stayed with them for about a year and helped distribute clandestine flyers. He then moved to the home of Folkert Kuperus in Vinkega and remained with them until the end of the war. Rita's mother also found Rita. She dyed her hair platinum blond and moved her to a new hiding place approximately every three months. Rita was taught to call her own mother Tante Doortje and called each new rescuer Papa and Mama. Her rescuers included a kindergarten teacher Lien Paping, the Marsman family from Oldenzaal and the Heeres family from Naarden (the brother of her father's rescuers). Though she could not bring any of her own toys with her into hiding for fear of identification, her mother brought her favorite children's songbook with her during each move to keep her entertained. Rita's tried desperately co convince her own parents, Levi and Grietje Koppels, to go into hiding and even found a place for them but to no avail. They were rounded up and sent to Sobibor in 1943 where they perished at the age of 74.
Mrs. Serphos never discovered the location of her oldest daughter, Bertie. Bertie had been hidden by an older nurse in Haarlem who was also hiding two Jewish baby boys. They were arrested after walking in the park on a Sunday afternoon. The nurse was sent to Sachsenhausen where she perished. Bertie was sent to Westerbork and from there to Sobibor where she was murdered. At the same time, Rita's cousin Marcel, and her aunt and uncle, Willy and Sophie Serphos, and their son Marcel were also rounded-up and killed. Rita's mother never spoke to her brother-in-law Natsie again. Since he was the only one who knew where everyone was hiding, she blamed him for the deaths of her daughter and the others. During the last months of the war Rita was able to rejoin her mother and live with her in the village of Laren. She attended a Catholic kindergarten and became best friends with two other little girls who unbeknownst to her at the time also were Jews in hiding. Miep worked as a housekeeper for the elderly parents of the head of her resistance group, Martinus Nijhoff. After the war, Rita Serphos remained in The Netherlands and later became a kindergarten teacher, following in the footsteps of her rescuer, Lien Paping.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Rita SerphosSource Record ID: Collections: 2005.572.1
Record last modified: 2006-08-31 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1161486