Group portrait of four Zionist youth.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 23768
1935 - 1939
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Netherlands -- Zionist Activity/Hachsharot
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of David and Aviva Ben Heled
Group portrait of four Zionist youth.
Letty Rudelsheim is pictured on the bottom left.
- Aviva Ben Heled (born Alida (Letty) Henriette Rudelsheim) is the daughter of Elizabeth Lies Duisend Rudelsheim and Mozes Abraham Rudelsheim. She was born on March 21, 1915 in Amsterdam in The Netherlands where her father was a diamond cutter, and her mother was a teacher. Her parents were religiously observant and had seven children: Hanna, Michael, Jetty, Ru, Letty, Henny and Samuel. Since Mozes Rudelsheim was born in Leeds, the family had dual British and Dutch citizenships. When Letty was still young, her father died of a heart attack, and her mother remarried in 1938 to Michael Cohen. Like her mother, Letty became a teacher and in the mid-30s taught in the Jewish Talmud Torah in Amsterdam. She also was an ardent Zionist who had spent one year preparing to immigrate to Palestine. She could have immigrated to Palestine before the war, but at her mother's urging, she relinquished her place on the boat for someone who had completed three years of training. When Germany invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, Letty was living on a kibbutz hachshara in Loosdrecht. Nearby lived Miriam Waterman, an assimilated Jew who had been influenced by a unique educational system set up by Kees and Betty Boeke called "Werkplaats" (Workplace). Joop and Willy Westerweel also belonged, and Miriam Waterman taught in the school. These educators were dedicated pacifists and staunchly anti-Nazi. When they learned that German Jewish refugees were living nearby, they offered to accept them into their school. Miriam also contacted the Zionist youth leaders in Loosdrecht and put them in touch with Joop Westerweel thereby laying the cornerstone of his underground movement which eventually saved dozens of Dutch Jews. Letty joined the youth immigration center and started to work for the Waterman family. By 1941 the Germans ordered Jews to wear the yellow star and began deportations to Westerbork. After Letty discovered that the children were to be sent out on the next transport, Joop went to Loosdrecht and met with Shushu Simon and Miriam Pinkhof to outline a rescue plan for the children. Letty went into hiding as well. She first hid with simple working people under horrific conditions, but after three weeks she moved to the welcoming home of Fokje and Johan Bleeker. However, since Letty did not appear to be outwardly Jewish she moved on to let others take her place. She next worked as a maid and baby sitter in the home of a doctor. Letty constantly changed hiding places and eventually returned to the Waterman family and announced that she wanted to join them in their work. They immediately sent her to Rotterdam to meet Joop Westerweel where he was working assisted by Shush Simon and Menachem Pinkhof (the former leaders of the Loosdrecht hachshara). Unfortunately, Shushu was captured while returning from underground activities in France and to avoid revealing any incriminating information under torture, committed suicide in a Dutch prison. After his death, Joop rented an apartment to be used as a transit station and hiding place for anyone wishing to escape across the border. Letty volunteered to live there and organize supplies and assistance to the escapees. Willy Westerweel (Joop's wife) helped. Though Letty had false papers, she was sent to the Rotterdam registration office, where the clerk who also belonged to the underground, gave her a "genuine" forged identity card in the name of Alida Jonker. Life became somewhat routine, until October 10, 1943 when the Gestapo raided the apartment and arrested all eight people inside, including Letty. The Gestapo inspected Letty's identity card, believed she was Christian and separated her from the others. The next day they were all sent to Westerbork where Letty was sent to the prison of Scheveningen as the Christian Alida Jonker, She was sentenced to six months imprisonment in the Vught concentration camp for helping Jews. However at the same time, a spy who had infiltrated the underground informed the Gestapo that Letty was Jewish. One day a Gestapo agent thrust a letter into her hand that was written by Joop who was apparently willing to buy her liberty in exchange for money. She was told to go to the Rotterdam train station and meet someone named Chiel. When she arrived at the station Chiel was there accompanied by Willy, but five Gestapo men were also in waiting. Letty was rearrested and sent first to prison in Scheveningen and then on January 27, 1944 she was transferred to Westerbork where she reunited with her family. Both Letty and her mother worked in the sewing workshop, but since they were not allowed to talk they could not exchange much information. Letty was placed on a transport list to Auschwitz, but was pulled from the list after she was hospitalized with diphtheria. In the interim her brother Michael informed the officials that they were British citizens, and the family's status changed to that of "privileged" prisoners. On March 23, 1944 Letty and 39 other privileged prisoners were sent by train to Auschwitz. She was tattooed with the number 76131 (a number that adds up to 18, the Hebrew word for "Life"). After a while, Letty was diagnosed with pneumonia and tuberculosis and admitted to the camp hospital under the care for of a French female doctor and allowed to remain there for three months. While a patient, she knitted gloves, supposedly for the German soldiers, though they ended up in the men's prison camp. When the camp was evacuated in January, 1945 Letty joined the death march despite her poor health. After three days of walking, the prisoners were transferred to open train carriages that brought them to Ravensbrueck. The next day the prisoners were issued new numbers. Letty was given 102168 which again added up to 18 or "Life". Letty was liberated in May and immediately hospitalized for malnutrition and weakness. She eventually was flown to Belgium weighing only 28 kilos. From there she was brought to the Jewish hospital in Amsterdam where a social worker mistook her for her sister Ru. Letty then learned that her entire family had survived deportation to Theresienstadt except for her brother Michael who succumbed in Bergen-Belsen. Letty spent the next three years recuperating from TB in Davos, Switzerland. In February, 1950 she married David Van Gelder, another Dutch survivor, and they immigrated to Israel the following year.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: David and Aviva Ben Heled
Record last modified: 2008-09-05 00:00:00
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