Ellis Cohen-Paraira plays the accordian in her home.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 68593
- Scheveningen, [South Holland] The Netherlands
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Netherlands -- Family/Friends/Portraits
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ellis Lehmann
Ellis Cohen-Paraira plays the accordian in her home.
- Ellis Lehman (originally Cohen-Paraira) is the daughter of Suze Nabarro (b. 1898 Amsterdam- d. 1938) and David Cohen-Paraira (b. 1898 Amsterdam- d. 1952). Ellis was born on April 22, 1924 in Amsterdam and her younger brother Bram (Abraham) Ivan was born August 25, 1926, also in Amsterdam. Ellis's father, David, was an artist by profession but could not make enough of a living to support his family and became a sign painter working for Frans van Schuppen, the owner of 'Ritmeester Cigars'. Ellis's mother was a singer; sang solo in a worker's choir; appeared on occasion with a Viennese operetta company. The family had a baby grand piano in their apartment which David also played. Ellis studied piano as well and played the accordion. The family was middle class and assimilated. Ellis's grandfather was very religious and belonged to the Portuguese synagogue.
When Bram (Bob) was born the family moved to Scheveningen, and David became a traveling salesman for the 'Ritmeester' cigar factory. Ellis and Bob attended a Montessori school from the age of kindergarten. Suze died in 1938 at a very young age from cancer, and in 1941 David remarried to Mien Schpektor (b. 1900-1983) who was a good friend of Suze. Shortly after, Ellis' stepmother met an old friend, Lien Spier Cardozo in their neighborhood in Scheveningen. Ellis fell in love with her son Bernie Spier, and the two became inseparable. Their homes were very close to each other and the Jewish youngsters sought out each others company. Ellis had hoped to go to university but Jews were no longer admitted due to the racial laws and she attended a Jewish cooking school. Her brother Bob attended the Jewish school in The Hague which was quite a distance from where they lived.
The night before Ellis went into hiding (7/20/1942) she and Bernie promised one another that they would each write a diary for the other keeping detailed descriptions of life. During high school Ellis had written stories and poems and knew English as well.
The family was able to remain in their apartment in Scheveningen until July 1942 when Ellis and her father received notice that they were to be deported. The next day they went underground. They were helped by aunt Sara Klaren Cohen Paraira, David's sister who was married to Klaas Klaren, a Christian. His sister Dora Klaren helped find the family's first hiding places: The first one was in Arnhem with the Krabbendam family. They owned an electricity store and the Cohen-Paraira family was hidden above the store next to the storage room. Unfortunately, they could not remain there more than a few days but without this arrangement they would have had nowhere else to go. They moved from there to Klaas Klaaren's sister, Dora. They had hoped to stay for a while but after a week she was forced to take in a boarder and they were worried that their whereabouts would become known. Hence, they moved to Dora's summer home near Bennekom where they remained from August 1942 until October 1942. When the weather became cold and the area was searched for Jews who were in hiding.
On October 20, 1942 Ellis went to Utrecht with her mother by train. A member of the underground was supposed to meet them at the railroad station. Both Ellis and her mother had false identity cards, but Ellis' was poorly executed and one could see that her photo had been pasted over the original image. Her mother's card was flawless. As Ellis stood in line for the Dutch NSPD to check her documents, she was moved to another line with a German policeman. Her mother had already passed inspection. The person inspecting her documents realized she was Jewish and even asked her if she realized what her name was (Her false name was Wijnanda Direkje Luchtigheid). She thought all was lost but was mainly concerned that the person who was to meet them at the railroad station would only find one person instead of two. Instead, the inspector took her card from her, folded it up and told her that someone from the underground could do a better job. He sent her along and saved her life. Years later she found out that the person was a German who worked with the Dutch underground and saved many people. His name was Jupp (later Joep) Hennebohl.
From the Utrecht railroad station they were taken to the family of Wop and Heiltje Kooistra where they remained from October 42 to March 43. Ellis and her mother lived in the back room. Later a hiding place was arranged under the floor in case the Nazis searched the home. The Kooistras had three children with whom Ellis remained in close contact after the war and throughout her life.
In March 1943 they moved to the Crum family where Ellis's father and brother were already hiding. During the entire war her father's employer Frans Van Schuppen paid 5 guilders a day for each family member for their keep. After the war he refused to accept reimbursement for his deed, but the Dutch government asked the Van Schuppen's to pay taxes on this money as well as the Cohen Paraira's.
At the end of August 1942 after Ellis had been hiding since July, Ellis managed to send a letter to Bernie through a resistance middleman. Bernie realized she did not know how difficult the situation had become. He was in Scheveningen and was on the Jewish Council there. His job was to assist and pack those people who were being deported and this occupation provided him with a work permit. He had a lot of knowledge regarding the transports and documented it in his diary. When he received Ellis's letter he gave the intermediary the diary that he had been writing from July 20, 1942 to August 31, 1942.
When Ellis sent her diary with her entries from July 23-September she learned that Bernie was no longer in Schveningen; he also had gone into hiding and her diary was returned to her. She continued to write in her diary until March 1943 when she and her stepmother, Mien, went to the Crums for hiding. She may have felt the diary with its content and information was too dangerous to keep or reality was too difficult to endure, but she only wrote fiction while at the Crums escaping to an imaginary world. As a present for the children of her rescuers she wrote a booklet illustrated in watercolor by her father of Gulliver's travels. In September the whole area of the Grebeberg, where the Crums lived, was evacuated and declared a war zone. Ellis's family went to the only address they knew: the Kooistras in Utrecht, who by that time had 5 more Jews hiding in their home. They stayed there until liberation day in May 1945.
Before returning to Scheveningen they lived for a few months in Mien's brother's house in Amsterdam. Ellis travelled every Tuesday from Amsterdam to Scheveningen to the Belgisch Plein where she and Bernie arranged to meet, but Bernie never came. He and his family did not survive the war.
At the end of August Ellis met a soldier from the Jewish Brigade, Elmar (Elmi) Nathan Lehman, (12.1.1921. Berlin) who had been in the British army for five years and during his last year of service joined the Jewish Brigade. He met Ellis in Amsterdam and they married on December 12, 1945 in Scheveningen. On her wedding day, she received a package containing a small green notebook: Bernie's second diary written between September 1 and November 1942. She buried it together with the other diaries deep in the suitcase she took to Palestine, and did not open them until 2007, when with the encouragement of her husband and her daughter she decided to translate both her and Bernie's diaries into Hebrew. A publication entitled "De Dagboeken van Bernie and Ellis" (The diaries of Bernie and Ellis) has been published in Dutch by Balans press in Holland in September 2011. A Hebrew version of the book will be published by Hakibutz Hameuchad publishing house. A documentary film has also been made by Yasmine Novak, produced by 'July-August' for Israeli television 'Yes doco' station concerning the story.
Ellis and Elmi have lived in Israel since 1946 where Ellis worked as a music and drama teacher. They have four children, ten grandchildren and thirteen great grandchildren and have been living in Israel. Her husband, Elmi Nathan died in March 2008.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Ellis Lehmann
Record last modified: 2015-07-01 00:00:00
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