The van Dam family poses outside their home in Enschede.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 43147
1941 August 21
- Photo Designation
INVASION & OCCUPATION -- The Netherlands -- JEWS -- Daily Life/Families
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Clara Renee Keren Vromen
The van Dam family poses outside their home in Enschede.
Pictured sitting Hetty, Clara and Isidoor van Dam. Standing are Minnie and Edith.
- Clary Keren Vromen is the daughter of Minnie Vromen van Dam. Her mother was born to Isidoor van Dam (b. March 22, 1876 in Enschede) and Clara Samson (b. Oct. 4, 1880 in Herbern Westfallen) in Enschede, Netherlands on June 6, 1907. Minnie had two sisters: Hettie Wilhelmina (b. July 28, 1902) and Edith Rebecca (b. Dec. 25, 1918. Minnie married Abraham Vromen on December 13, 1927; they had two children Jaap (Jacob) Herman (b. July 21, 1930) and Clara (Clary) Renee (b. Sept. 27, 1931). Soon afterwards Abraham moved to Palestine, and Minnie followed. However, they soon became divorced, and in October 1934 Minnie and the children returned to The Netherlands. She settled in The Hague and took a Red Cross training course to become a hospital assistant. On May 10, 1940 Germany invaded Holland. Minnie belonged to WIZO, formerly Practie Palestine Work, and they asked her to do social work which automatically gave her papers to remain in Holland safely. By the summer of 1942 Minnie's children only could attend Jewish schools and many of their belongings were confiscated. At the end of November 1942 two Dutch policemen came to their house to deport them to the Westerbork internment camp. However, an employee of the Jewish Council pleaded on their behalf stating that as a qualified social worker, Minnie was needed for the community. Minnie also suggested that she and her children could be used for an exchange with Germans in Palestine. The young man from the Jewish Council told Minnie to leave her children with her parents while she sought a safer situation for the family. Minnie stayed temporarily in the home of Louise and Suzanne Meyers, but they decided it was best to go into hiding. In February 1943 the children removed their Jewish stars and went by tram to a certain point where they were met by a good friend who brought them to the small town of Deurne. Jaap was sent to the home of the Vicar, while Clary went to the home of the parents of the Vicar's help. Minnie managed to visit her children on their birthdays. Not long after Minnie, using the false name of Nellie Boorsman, went into hiding in the South of Holland. She first hid on the farm of Miet and his wife Piet [last name unknown] from April 1, 1943 until October 1943. She helped look after their five children and newborn baby Christiaan and helped with the household. In the evenings they listened to the English radio in Dutch which was forbidden.
After people became suspicious of Minnie and she was brought to a second address of simple peasants, and after 14 days moved again to the town of Neuren. The family was very nice, and Minnie helped with the household. She pretended to be Catholic and attended Mass with the family. However, as they were expecting a baby and anticipated having many visitors, Minnie thought it would be too dangerous to remain. She next stayed with her cousin Annie (Anneke) and her Christian husband, Johan Le Febre, for a few weeks. She then found a job as a chambermaid with the Fernhout family in Laren where three other men also were hiding. Minnie remained there from March 1, 1944 until February 1, 1945. The winter of 1944-45 was particularly severe. Minnie had tend the heating and shovel coal. Although the men who were in hiding wanted to help, Mrs. Fernhout forbade them saying that this was work for the servants. Finally when another family moved in, Minnie's work became too difficult, and she gave notice she would leave. At first she hoped to find a way to live with her two children but that winter it was too difficult to find a home. Minnie's son Jaap appeared at her doorstep two days before she was to leave because he had to leave his own hiding place. The Fernhouts fed him the same as the other children. After two days, Minnie went to new position, and Jaap went to stay with Annie (Anneke) and Johan Le Febre. He remained there until the end of the war. Minnie worked for the actor and actress Jan Musch and Mary Smithuizen who also worked for underground. The same month Edith (Minnie's sister who used the false name of Aurelia Ledeboer) went with Jaap by bike to a village to trade some fabric for food. Jaap became seriously sick, and it was discovered that he had an appendicitis. Miraculously they found a surgeon in Hilversum who operated on him without revealing his Jewish identity.
Though Minnie was able to maintain contact with Jaap, she lost contact with Clary for two years. After liberation, Minnie wrote to her sister to see if anyone knew where Clary was. After receiving a negative answer, Minnie registered her name with the synagogue in Bussum. Unknowingly they passed the house where Clary was hiding. Two days later Gerards Hoefs rang Minnie's door and declared that he was Clary's foster father. Once they reunited Minnie learned that Clary had been in Limburg but needed an operation in 1943. After singing an anti-German song, she had to leave the hospital and was taken to the hone of Anneke and Johan. From there, the underground brought her to Utrecht where she was placed in a family for a few days and then moved to the home of Riek and Gerards Hoefs and their two children. They pretended she was their niece from Zeems Vlanderen and cared for her for the remainder of the war. Although the family was Catholic they never tried to impose their religion on her. She became like a daughter to them and after the war it was very difficult to part with this family. In 1977 Yad Vashem honored Gerards and Riek Hoefs as Righteous Among the Nations. Since she had missed so much schooling during the war Minnie took Clary to Amsterdam where she went to Jewish high school for two years. In 1950 she left for London to study nursing and in 1952 immigrated to Israel.
Minnie's parents Isidoor and Clara van Dam also survived the war. Her father, together with Sieg Menko and Gerard Sanders, served as the Parnassim of their synagogue which became the Jewish Council during the war. Isidoor van Dam also served as the treasurer. He had to tell families that their loved ones who had been sent to work camps in Germany had been killed. He was sent to Westerbork for a short period but released for unknown reasons. In the early part of the occupation they were able to remain in their own apartment, even though it was stripped of all their belongings. Eventually they made their way to Boekelo to the family of Henk and Wies van Heek. Minnie's mother knitted for the family and her father helped in the kitchen. When Mr. van Heek had to hide as he worked illegally, the couple returned to Enschede and stayed with three different households until the liberation of Holland.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Clara Renee Keren Vromen
Record last modified: 2007-12-11 00:00:00
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