Betty Straus poses with her dog in a garden in Utrecht.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 78969
- Utrecht, The Netherlands
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Betty Cohen
Betty Straus poses with her dog in a garden in Utrecht.
- Betty Cohen (born Betty Straus) is the daughter of Benjamin Straus and Hedwig Levita Straus. She was born on April 13, 1920 in S'Heenrenberg, Holland where her father was a shochet. The small town was on the border of Holland and Germany, and had about 40 Jewish residents. Betty was the youngest of four siblings. She had two brothers Harry and Joseph, and a sister Dini. Benjamin Straus was born in Holland, either in 1881 or 1882, and became the head of the Jewish community in S'Heenrenberg. Hedwig Straus was born and raised in Cramberg, Germany, either in 1881 or 1882. The children spoke both Dutch and German.
Betty attended school until the age of 16 which was very close to the start of the war. Because the Straus family had relatives in Germany, they felt as though the war already came by 1933, even though it didn't hit Holland until 1940.
As head of the Jewish community, Benjamin Straus helped refugees cross the border into Holland from Germany. However, since the police all knew him, Betty picked up the refugees and brought them to their house. The refugees stayed there until Betty's father could send them by train to other parts of Holland. Because S'Heenrenberg was on the border, it became one of the first Dutch towns the Germans occupied. Betty was 20 years old at this time. Things did not change immediately in their small town. Betty's brother Joseph was serving in the Dutch Army. Harry worked at a butcher shop, Betty learned to sew and her sister helped maintain the house. The Germans imposed a curfew, limited the hours the family could shop and confiscated their gold and silver. During this time, the Straus family didn't fear for their lives, but everybody had a packed backpack just in case they were suddenly transported.
On the night of February 11, 1943, a Jewish man in the town came to their house to warn them that they would be deported the following day. After imparting this information, the man fled. Betty's parents decided the children should go into hiding. As head of the community, Benjamin felt he could not leave and needed to stay to help others. He told Harry to take the girls to the forest and stay there overnight. Then aearly the next morning, they were to go to a farm where they would be able to make a phone call, and then someone would come get them and take them into hiding. The children never again saw their parents. Many years after the war they learned that they had been sent to Auschwitz, where they died on February 26, 1943.
The three siblings found the farm, and the Tieme and Alie Beuving came to rescue them with bicycles. Tiema was a member of the underground. Harry stayed behind and to hide elsewhere. Betty and her sister traveled about 15 -16 miles in the dark on a bike. Along the way they stopped and ripped off their star patches and buried them in the ground. The girls stayed with Allie's family for about a year. They were religious Catholics, and in church, they prayed for the well being of Betty's parents. The house was two stories and the girls shared a tiny room. They had to stay in the room most of the time, in case a German came by. Betty spent her time sewing and doing a little bit of knitting. Her sister was extremely depressed and Betty had to make her feel better, even though she experienced many of the same feelings. In January of 1944, the German's arrested one of Tieme's friends in the underground. This put Betty and her Dini in great danger. That night they hid in a tiny space in the basement that was only about 30 inches wide and was only accessible by crawling through a tiny hole and had to stand the entire night since there was no room to lie down. They left the following day, January 11, 1944 in the midst of a terrible rain storm. Allie led the way on her bicycle. Since Dini had trouble seeing, Betty rode in the front of a tandem and pulled her sister along; Tieme followed behind them. Eventually, they made their way to a farm house where Harry already was hiding in Azewijn, Gelderland. The farm was owned by elderly couple in their 80s who lived there with their grown son and daughter, Joep and Agnes Garben. The Garben's barn became their hiding place. They put up some poles to make the barn look like it was falling apart and had been abandoned. Inside the attic of the barn, they created a small hole surrounded by straw for the three siblings. In addition to those security measures, they also placed wooden planks with a lock on the inside and a large pad lock on the outside.
Betty, her brother and sister shared that hole for over a year. There was no bathroom. They were scared that if a German came to search the barn, they would smell the waste and find them immediately. Agnes would put food on the bottom of a bucket covered by food for the chickens that lived on the farm. The barn had rats, lice, and no heating. The Garbens also hid a Jewish American airman who had been shot down. Every day, Agnes brought them food, water, and other necessities hidden in a basket covered with chicken feed. When Harry and Betty were seriously ill, Johannes and Agnes arranged for a doctor to treat them. Harry, Dini, and Betty remained hidden in the barn for 15 months, until the liberation on April 15 1945.
After the war, Betty married Rudi Cohen, another Dutch Jewish survivor. They immigrated to the United States in 1956. They took a boat from Rotterdam to New York, and then eventually moved to California. When the first arrived in California, Betty got a job making custom dresses in Beverly Hills. The couple together took classes and graduated from Los Angeles High School. Betty later worked at Bank of America and the D&E Corporation. She and her siblings kept in touch with their rescuers and arranged for Tieme and Alie Beuving and Johannes and Agnes Garben to be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Betty CohenSource Record ID: Collections: 1995.A.0514
Record last modified: 2013-05-06 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1177658