Find a quiet moment, and make sure you have a little time on your hands. Reading this story may take up to 30 minutes. It includes music and sounds, which can be turned off in the menu.

The quotes by Alex, his relatives and other people involved are excerpts of the surviving original letters and documents. To view them in full please visit the Archive page.


On Sunday 1 June 1930, Alex Kan is born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

His parents are Jules and Ella Kan. Jules operates a wholesale business from the family home while Ella, as is usual for the time, runs the household. The family is Jewish by descent yet participates only rarely in religious life. Nonetheless, Alex gets circumcised.

From Alex’s birth onwards, Ella writes a diary — the “Baby Book” — in which she writes down events in his life and her thoughts about them. Thanks to this book, Alex’s early life is well documented. Ella writes her first entry while still being in the hospital.

Our heartfelt wish is that he will remain a Sunday's child for all his life.

Mid July 1930, Ella writes an entry describing her son.

Today he was in an extra good mood and we saw him laugh very unexpectedly. His mouth twisted and his whole face was one sweet smile. He repeated this three or four times, as if he enjoyed it himself! He already clearly follows hand movements with his eyes, and Daddy thinks it's such a fun game that he tries it over and over again. If he's sweet, he calls him “a good little fellow”, but oh, if he's crying, he's a “howler monkey”!

While Alex has just been born in Amsterdam, a few hundred kilometres to the east the German democracy is starting to crumble. In the midst of the Great Depression, Germany is struggling with cuts to social services and high unemployment. In the face of poverty, the population turns increasingly towards extremist parties on the left and right. One of these parties is the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi party, for whom hatred against Jews is a key topic.

Already in 1922, the party leader Adolf Hitler threatened the Jewish people with extreme violence in an interview with a journalist.

“Once I really am in power, my first and foremost task will be the annihilation of the Jews. As soon as I have the power to do so, I will have gallows built in rows — at the Marienplatz in Munich, for example — as many as traffic allows. Then the Jews will be hanged indiscriminately, and they will remain hanging until they stink; they will hang there as long as the principles of hygiene permit.”

During the general elections in September 1930 the Nazi party jumps from a fringe party at 2.8% to 18.3% of the vote by portraying themselves as champions of the working class. This makes them the second largest party in the German parliament.

Alex, however, doesn't notice any of this. The business of his father is going well, despite the Great Depression hitting the Netherlands too, and his parents are living a middle class life. In October, Alex goes on his first trip together with Ella to visit his Grandmother.


Cousin Freddy called in the morning to ask if I wanted to drive with the child to The Hague for a visit to Oma de Haas. It was a beautiful October day and I immediately said that I would like to go. At two o'clock we drove off, Grete, Freddy, Alex and me. The kid immediately slept in the car and behaved well.

In November aunt Selma — Ella's sister — comes for a visit, and takes pictures of Ella, Jules and Alex.

Family foto
Family foto
Family foto


On 24 March, Alex’ grandfather Simon celebrates his 75th birthday. For this occasion a photographer takes a picture of Alex as a gift for Simon.

Family foto

Early on Alex develops a fascination for music, and his parents nurture it. When he is 10 months old, Ella describes this for the first time.

With “Schuitje varen” he sings along and really lets you hear high and low sounds. In the cradle and in the car he often sings, and then suddenly becomes silent and falls asleep. He likes radio music and touches the speaker with his hands.

His first birthday on 1 June 1931 is overwhelming for Alex.

There were so many visitors he no longer knew who to look at first and in the evening he was so excited that he did not want to sleep and burst into a scream. It took him a long time to calm down.

In autumn 1931, Alex takes his first steps.

20 November was the great day Alex dared to take a few steps alone for the first time. I came into his playroom to see what he was doing, and then he walked a few steps from the window to me. It was such a nice sight to see that waddling gosling walk! He tried several times that day, holding on to a chair or his crib now and then, but he was not afraid to fall.

For Christmas 1931, aunt Selma comes for a visit and spends the holidays with the family. “Atie”, as Alex calls her, gifts him two gramophone records, which he loves to listen to.


In spring 1932, Alex gets a new stroller.

Family foto
He now has a little cart, “The Little Baby Buggy” it says on it, as if he’s already so big!

In June, Alex turns two.

Alex’s second birthday was another day of emotions. There were a lot of visitors and he is again overwhelmed with gifts. The first days he did not know what to play with first, after a week he preferred the cars, of which he got no less than six in all shapes and sizes. He loves music very much. He keeps asking about the radio of Grandpa and Grandma and dances to the music. He can already hear whether it is cheerful or serious tunes, and then runs fast or slow in the room.

Meanwhile, the political situation in Germany worsens. On 31 July, shortly after Alex's second birthday, a federal election takes place in Germany. The Nazi party achieves major gains with 37.7%, making it the largest party. After almost three turbulent years, democracy in Germany is in an existential crisis. The political system is structured increasingly authoritarian, and the democratic parties are not able to form a majority government.

In Amsterdam, these events probably caused worry, but so far leave the family unaffected. Alex is developing well and already starts talking. Ella writes in the Baby Book:

Everyone in the neighbourhood knows him when he goes out for a walk with Grandpa in the morning, and he greets the baker, milkman, herring man, etc. To the painter he says: “Hello paint!”. Everyone shouts back “Hello Alex!”. He gets a treat in all the shops, and he knows that very well.
Family foto

In December Ella, Jules and Alex celebrate their first Sinterklaas together.

The first Sinterklaas afternoon in his life! He was allowed to help unwrapping, and there were a few simple games, books and a gramophone player. He likes the latter a lot and likes to listen to the songs. We had to make it clear that Sinterklaas was returning to Spain by steamboat and that nothing was gonna be put in his shoe anymore. That was very disappointing to him, it was going so well he thought. The day before yesterday he said to me, “Oh, don't let Santa go back to Spain!”


The new year starts with a political landslide in Germany. On 30 January, the German president appoints Adolf Hitler as Reich Chancellor as part of a national-conservative government. The nazi party holds only two of eight posts in the government. The conservative members plan to soften the party’s extremist agenda and utilize the popular support it has for their own goals. This intention proves dangerously naive.

Already when moving into his official residence, Hitler reportedly said “Nothing on earth will ever make me leave this place alive”

Within the next three months Germany becomes a dictatorship.

In Summer, Alex turns three. Ella writes about his development.

One is amazed at all the progress that his mind and growth have made. He is a little rascal and is loved and pampered by everyone. It is very difficult to be consistent with penalties imposed or promises given. He doesn't have much understanding of music yet, because he can't keep a tune when I play songs for him on the piano. Still, he likes to hear them play. On the tram we now have to pay for him, and I kept his first tram ticket!
Family foto

In December, the Family celebrates Sinterklaas. Ella describes a little anecdote.

He always saw Sinterklaas depicted on a white horse, and now has seen him pass by in a car or carriage on a few occasions. He did not understand that very well and when I said that it was too dirty here with mud and rain to sit on a white horse, the horse got so dirty, he said: “Well, then he must now buy a black rain horse, then he can come here with a white horse in summer!”. I thought that was a good point.


In May, his grandma in The Hague dies.

Family foto
Grandma Haag passed away in May. We haven't told the kid about it, he doesn't understand anyway. He stopped asking about her, and will eventually forget about his visits to The Hague.

In June Alex turns four years old.

In August, the family stays in Apeldoorn at the family of Jules' sister Henriëtte.

Family foto

In September, a new period starts in Alex's life — he starts going to the Montessori pre-school in Amsterdam.

On 4 September school starts, and he is really excited about that. He said “When I get tired of playing with the kids, I'll just come back home!”, but he will come to realize that’s not possible.
Family foto


For the occasion of Grandfather Simon’s birthday the family gifts him a portrait of Alex.

Family foto

In 1935, Ella focuses on how Alex is doing at school. Although he has a difficult start, he quickly starts enjoying all the new things to learn.

I cannot write very enthusiastically about the first days of school. When I took him to school, he was very angry. He cried so terribly when he had to stay with all those strange children and the teacher that I had to keep myself together to win through. His progress is surprisingly fast. Lex writes all numbers and block letters and makes sums up to ten with pencil on paper. He also puts words together and starts reading simple books without difficulty.

In June Alex turns five.

In Summer Ella tells about how Alex stayed at his aunt’s family in Apeldoorn by himself.

He was very comfortable there and entertained the whole family. There, too, they said he is very smart for his age. He read the newspaper and he thinks the weather report is only a very short story! He also read that former king Alfonse of Spain had visited Amsterdam. Lex said: “What a pity that I am not in Amsterdam now, Aunt Jet, then I could send him greetings for Sinterklaas!”

Alex is getting along very well with cousin Freddy, the son of his aunt in Apeldoorn.

Family foto

During his time in Apeldoorn, Alex is getting a lot of cards — and he also writes back!

Family foto

Across the border in Germany, the situation drastically worsens for Jewish people. In September 1935, the Nazi Party announces the Nuremberg laws. They are a set of laws that strip the German Jews of their citizenship, and forbid them to marry or have sex with “people of German blood”. This means that Jews are banned from voting and holding public office, which further segregates them from German society. From now on these laws serve as the legal ground for the Nazi Party’s hatred and discrimmination against Jews.

These events do not go unnoticed in the Netherlands, and they are likely to have caused great worry in the Kan family.

In September, Alex switches from the Montessori preschool to a regular preschool. At the end of December, the Baby Book runs out of pages, and Ella chooses to use the last entry to describe Alex’s development.

30 December. This year I will close with a word about our son. He's getting big, and he's looking good. He had to get used to the new school at first. Luckily there was another girl from the previous school with whom he was friends. The teacher said he was slow, but now that he is used to it, she says he is a very nice, cheerful boy.


From this point onwards, Alex's life is documented in less detail.

In June Alex is in The Hague for a trip, and his Grandfather writes him a letter.

Dear Alex The lady from the shop asked me why I stopped buying raisin buns from her and whether that sweet grandson doesn't like them anymore. I told her of course he does, but my little boy is going to The Hague with his Mother for fun, and they will come back the following week. The lady almost danced with pleasure, because each day she saved two raisin buns for you. They got stale, and nobody wanted to buy them, so the lady had to eat them herself.

In 1936, Alex changes from preschool to a public school, the Nicolaas Maesschool in Amsterdam. His first school report shows that he is a good student.

Family foto

In December, Alex writes a short letter to Sinterklaas.

dear sinterklaas. did you have a nice sunday, i did. many greetings from lex
Family foto


Shortly after his 7th Birthday, Ella and Alex have this picture taken.

Family foto


On 13 March, Austria is annexed by Germany. There is no armed resistance and Hitler is welcomed by crowds of cheering people. The consequences for the Austrian Jews are severe. Harassments start immediately, and in Vienna Jewish people are forced to scrub the streets clean of pro-independence slogans.

In April, Alex is once again on a visit to Apeldoorn, and from there he writes a letter to his parents.

Dear Dad and Mum We are doing well and I hope you are too. I learned chess from Freddy and I only played 2 games and won both of them. I took a trip with Sallie (Salomon) yesterday and we picked flowers. And I also saw Freddy in a soldier's uniform, and he looked splendid. Now I don't know anything more. Greetings and kisses from Alex Kan

In July 1938 the Évian Conference takes place. Representatives of 32 countries — among which the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and Switzerland — meet to discuss what to do with the high number of Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany and Austria. The conference finds no resolution.

Golda Meir, who attended the conference and later will become prime minister of Israel, commented on the conference.

“Sitting in that wonderful hall listening to the representatives of 32 countries standing up one after another and explaining how terribly glad they would be to receive a larger number of refugees and how terribly sorry they were that they unfortunately could not — it was a shattering experience.”

Four months later, on 9 November, the “Kristallnacht” takes place. All over Germany and Austria, Nazi paramilitaries as well as civilians harras, beat, arrest and murder Jews, pillage their shops and homes, and set fire to synagogues. 30.000 Jews are sent to concentration camps, 267 synagogues are destroyed, and over 7000 shops are damaged.

These events likely caused alarm for the family, but no documents survived to tell how they felt.


In April the family Kan is on holiday in Nunspeet together with Henriëtte and Mark Sluis. On 7th April they send a card to Jules parents in Amsterdam.

Family foto
Dear Mom and Dad, After a pleasant trip we arrived here at half past one after we had a cup of coffee at Hotel Gooiland in Hilversum. This afternoon we have already enjoyed the outdoors! Hopefully Mum is in less pain! I wish you the best with it! I hear that things are a bit rumbling in Albania now and I fear that things are getting worse again. See you soon. Your Jules Greetings from Lex Kind regards from M. Sluis and H. Sluis

This card marks the only surviving document where the family comments on the expansion of fascism in Europe. Jules mentioning Albania refers to the invasion of the country by fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini — which took place on the very day the card was written.

Besides this card only two school reports of Alex from 1939/40 still exist — one from the Nicolaas Maesschool and one for French lessons he had attended. The first says: “A great report! Keep it up, Alex!

Despite diplomatic efforts and concessions by the United Kingdom and France to tame and satisfy Germany, Hitler decides for war. On 1 September 1939, Germany attacks Poland. World War Two has started.


The Netherlands hopes to remain neutral during the war, and sides neither with Germany nor with the United Kingdom and France. These hopes are shattered on 10 May: the German Army attacks the Netherlands. The Dutch Army is badly equipped, so the German troops can advance quickly. On 13 May Queen Wilhemina and the Dutch government are evacuated to England onboard British ships. On 15 May the Dutch Army surrenders. After five days the fighting is over. Germany begins its occupation of the Netherlands, and Arthur Seyss-Inquart is appointed governor.

This is terrible news for most Dutch people. For the Jewish population and refugees from Germany it is an absolute catastrophe. In the days and weeks after the surrender, hundreds of Jewish people commit suicide.

At first, there are no measures against the Jewish community. Both the mayor of Amsterdam and of The Hague is assured by the German military that the Dutch Jews will not be harassed.

This turns out to be a false sense of security. On 31 July, just about three months into the occupation, the first in a long list of anti-Jewish laws is put in place. It has the unsuspicious name “Avoidance of Cruel Practices in Slaughter”, and outlaws kosher slaughtering of animals.

And so it begins.

In August, the Germans order that from now on no Jew can be hired for or promoted in public service.

Then, on 18 October, the Aryan declaration form is sent out. It asks all teachers, professors and government workers to state if they themselves, their partner, their parents or their grandparents have ever been part of the Jewish community. If any of these apply, one is classified as Jewish. The forms have to be filled out, signed and sent back by 26 October. Although there is some resistance, particularly within the Dutch universities and religious communities, most civil servants sign it.

Based on this form, all Jewish civil servants are suspended from their jobs less than two months later.

On 22 October, the first law directly naming the Jews is put into place. It requires all Jewish or partially Jewish businesses to register themselves. In cases of resistance heavy fines are issued.

How the Kan family is dealing with these events is unknown. The only surviving document is Alex's school report of 1940/41. His grades are slightly worse compared to the year before.


On 10 January, little over half a year since the start of the occupation, the Germans issue decree 6/41, which states that all Jews have to register themselves, be it “full Jew”, “half Jew” or “quarter Jew”. One Jewish grandparent is sufficient. Failure to register is punishable with five years in prison and/or confiscation of property. The Dutch Census Office is tasked with the registration, and is fully complicit in carrying it out. By the end of August, 160.820 people register, of which 140.552 declare themselves “full Jews”. The Germans are very satisfied with the Dutch organisation, calling it “exemplary”.

Later that year, the German representative in Amsterdam, Hans Böhmcker, will write the following about the decree to governor Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

“Thanks to decree 6/41, we now have all Dutch Jews in our pocket.”

Still in January, the German authorities demand the formation of a “Jewish Council” representing the Jews of Amsterdam. Its purpose should be to preserve order in the Jewish Quarter. Abraham Asscher and professor David Cohen are named the chairs of this Jewish Council. In the first meeting, the members agree that the council will have a “mainly executive and mediatory task, but could bear no responsibility for the orders it had to transmit, nor could it accept orders that were dishonourable to the Jews”

On 25 February the Dutch people rise up in the so-called February Strike to protest the treatment of the Jews. Organized by the communist party, it brings public life to a complete stop in Amsterdam and other cities. The strike marks the first collective action in solidarity with the Jewish people during World War II. The German authorities quickly suppress it, and overall it makes little difference in helping the Jewish population of the Netherlands.

On 12 March, governor Arthur Seyss-Inquart gives a speech at the concert hall in Amsterdam.

“And I would like to take this opportunity to say something about the Jewish question. We do not consider the Jews to be members of the Dutch nation. To us, the Jews are not Dutch. The Jews are the enemy with whom no armistice or peace can be made. Do not expect me to lay this down in a regulation other than police measures. We will smite the Jews where we meet them and whoever goes along with them must take the consequences.”

In August, the Germans push for separation of Jewish and non-Jewish kids in schools. The Jewish Council sets out to find a way of doing this. They decide to set up separate Jewish schools with Jewish teachers and staff.

It is unkown how Jules, Ella and Alex are dealing with the increasing discrimination by the German authorities.

From autumn onwards Alex is forced to attend a segregated Jewish school in the Jan van Eykstraat 21. His school report from this school is the only surviving document of this year.


In November, Jeanne, the wife of grandfather Simon, dies from natural causes. Her death is announced in the Jewish weekly newspaper.


This leaves Alex with Simon as his sole grandparent.



From summer 1941 onwards, the German authorities discuss with the Jewish Council opening up labour camps in the Netherlands for unemployed Jews. Most of these unemployed Jews are jobless exactly because of the antisemitic laws the Germans put into place. On 5 January, the Jewish Council is informed that they are expected to supply 1.402 Jews for transport to labour camps within five days. The Jewish Council protests, but nonetheless passes the order on to the Amsterdam Labour Office, who selects the Jews based on their age and ability to work.

The Jewish Council informs the selected people that “serious measures against you will be taken in the event of non-compliance” and “we strongly advise you to cooperate in your own interest.”

905 Jews respond to the call, and are transported to a labour camp in Drenthe. This marks the first of a number of transports to labour camps. Throughout this process, the Jewish Council becomes increasingly complicit to the German demands.

Around the same time, Alex's father Jules starts trying to find a way to leave the Netherlands. On Alex’s school report his teacher writes that he is missing a lot, possibly because of Jules' plans to leave with his family.

While Jules tries to find an escape route, a fatal and far-reaching event takes place in Berlin. On 20 January, a group of highranking Nazi officials meet in a Villa at the Wannsee. They discuss the procedures and details of the final solution, the mass murder of all Jews within Nazi Germany’s reach. This event will become known as the Wannsee Conference. Meanwhile, three extermination camps capable of killing thousands of people per day are constructed in absolute secrecy in eastern Poland: Treblinka, Bełżec and Sobibór. By mid 1942, they are operational.

Meanwhile, leaving proves impossible for the Kan Family. Jules starts building a network of helpers and possible places to hide. His profession turns out to be very useful, because through his business operations he knows a lot of people.

At the end of April, the German authorities order another humiliating measure. To further separate the Jews from regular society all Jews from the age of six have to carry the yellow star. The Jewish Council is tasked with distributing the stars within three days, and does so under protest. The Jews have to pay for the stars.

On 22 June, the Germans order the Jews to hand in their Bicycles within 48 hours, adding that they should “not forget their spare tyres and tubes”.

Then, in mid July, the deportations start. At first more or less orderly with lists supplied by the Jewish Council, but then increasingly forceful. German soldiers as well as Dutch police drag Jews from their homes, round them up in the streets, and take them away — sometimes by car, sometimes on foot. Most of them will never return.

It is in these weeks that the Kan family manages to go into hiding. They split up, and Ella, Jules and Alex are all hiding at different places. From the start, multiple people are involved in helping them. They provide hiding places, so-called “guesthouses”, and take care of passing on letters between them. Everyone involved starts using aliases and abbreviations to conceal locations and identities.


The most prominent helpers:

Johanna “Tante Jo” van der Woerd-Moll

She is the owner of the “Van Der Woerd Kettingkast” factory in Barneveld. Jules supplied her with the cloth needed to manufacture the traditional Dutch chain guards. She knows that the Kan family is Jewish, and offers her help. During the wartime, she is active in the resistance, and her house and factory become a hub and safe space for resistance fighters and Jews alike.

Deborah “Bob” Lorjé-del Valle

Jules knows her through her husband Ernest, who is a business contact of his. The couple owned a bookshop in Haarlem, but sold it shortly before the Germans would have seized it. They move to Garderen into a house which belongs to Johanna. Both are Jewish, but Deborah was previously married to a non-Jewish man, which keeps her safe for a while.

Bep “Mrs. M” and Bert “Mr. M” Meeusen

The couple were neighbors of the Kan family in the Milletstraat in Amsterdam. During the war, Bep is the contact person in Amsterdam and helps with a variety of dealings in the city.

Wolf “W. de B.” de Beer

He is a family friend and lawyer in Amsterdam who helps with legal assistance.


Her real identity is unknown. She is a mother of 4 children, and provides shelter to Alex for a long period.

All helpers are taking a huge personal risk in their support for the family Kan. Hiding and aiding Jewish people is strictly forbidden, and if caught one was at risk to be deported too.

Ella, who now goes by “Jo”, finds shelter in the Gooi area east of Amsterdam. “Gart”, as Jules is now called, at first hides at Herengracht 168 in Amsterdam, and later at Johanna’s house in Barneveld. Alex does not have an alias yet and is just called “L.”. He is probably hiding on a farm in the Veluwe area. Given the circumstances things are going well.

In the last week of September Ella sends a letter that is passed via Debora and Johanna to Alex.

Dear Lex You'll be glad to hear from me. I am doing well and I am confident we will see each other healthy again! I hereby send you the sweater I finished in these weeks, making it was a good way to pass the time. I also read a lot, do crossword puzzles and solve riddles. Can you also hear music where you are? I’m sure you keep yourself busy, but don't go out on the street too much. I send you a strong hug and an extra kiss for 3 October, also for Father if you write to him. I wish you only the best. Lots of love Mum

Then disaster strikes.

Ella is arrested shortly before her 41st birthday.

How and why is not exactly known, but it happens at the end of September. It is said that she was betrayed. She is transferred to the prison at Amstelveenseweg and held there for a few weeks. A lawyer close to the family, Mr. Wolf de Beer, is asked for help. He gets a request from Ella for clean clothing, and manages to figure out the details of Ella’s deportation. He informs Bep about this.

On 13 October, Bep meets Ella at the train station just before her deportation. She hands a farewell letter to Bep.

Dear all Today we leave from the Amstelveense Weg in a transport. Hopefully we stay in Holland. For now I am hopeful and wish the others strength and confidence. Also many thanks for the clothes, that was a surprise. They fit well. I still have all my clothes. We had enough food. And we were seven young people together, all in good spirits. So don't worry about me. Greetings and kiss the family from me. Ella Kan PS: I've thought so much about you. Do you still keep in touch with the others? Bye!!!
Last letter

A few days later Bep writes a letter to Jules, in which she describes the situation.

When I arrived, a transport was just waiting to leave and I quickly discovered E. She was happily surprised to see me and I was able to speak to her for a while. I told her that L. was well taken care of, for which she is so grateful that she can carry any burden. She told me three times that you should stay hopeful. She looked good, and was very strong, especially with regard to L.

Debora writes to Jules as well. In the meantime Alex left the farm and is staying with her.

Dear Gart, The dire news has also reached me and I cannot comfort you in this. Perhaps the only hope is that she overcomes the struggles strong and healthy, and that as a woman she will suffer less. I went to Amsterdam for two days with a travel permit. What is happening there cannot be described, but I am disgusted by it all. I myself fall under mixed marriages, and Ernie, who already received a summons for the camp, might be getting a Christian Jew stamp, because he is not circumcised and had three years of christian religious education, so we will remain out of harm's way for the time being. The best thing I can tell you is that a little boy you know very well is reading next to me. I give him a hug every now and then. I wish you strength and courage Bob


On 19 October, just six days after her deportation from Amsterdam, Ella arrives by train in Auschwitz.

She is murdered upon arrival.

Family and friends of Ella are not aware of her death, because at the time the mass murder of the Jewish people is a well kept secret. For them she has simply disappeared. They do not tell Alex about this to avoid devastating him.

On the day of Ella’s death, Debora writes another letter to Jules. She and the lawyer Wolf de Beer are continuing the search for her.

Dear Jules, After my last letter, a lot has happened everywhere. Mainly in regard to the Jews; all over the country they came to pick up the families who already had a man in the labour camps and took them to Westerbork. The men in the labour camps were also taken there. All this happened Friday night 2 October. On this very Friday I had gone to Amsterdam to find out what had happened to Ella and where she had gone. Mr. W. de B. now said he had a colleague who might be able to do something for her. I told him that neither money nor effort should be spared. I made sure that he received 200 guilders to start with. As soon as I hear something I will let you know.

In the same letter, Debora tells Jules that she organized a different guesthouse for Alex and that he has a new alias. She gives Alex the identity papers of her oldest son, Frank Lodeizen, who was born during her first marriage and is only half-Jewish. The real Frank is hidden elsewhere. She also manages to organize an opportunity for Alex to go to school.

Now about Lex, who is sitting comfortably next to me and reads. Last week here in the neighborhood no less than 12 Jews were caught and now those people where L. was hiding no longer wanted to shelter him. Fortunately there are still people to be found who have more integrity than the farmers in the area, so he will go to his new home tomorrow, Tuesday. We made him undergo a name change, and he will continue as my son Frank with the name of the aryan father, with all the ancestry papers of his family from until 1817 in his pocket.

Alex sends a letter to his father along with Debora’s. He describes his experience on the farm and asks about his mother.

Dear uncle, I have not written for a long time, I was very busy harvesting potatoes, that’s why I couldn’t write. This afternoon we picked apples; we have to sing all the time, they said, otherwise we might be eating way too many apples. I am now with Aunt Bob and can stay somewhere else for a while. I hope it will be just as nice there as it has been so far. Do you ever hear from Jo at the moment? I only received one letter from her. Warm greetings for everyone, also for Jo if you write to her Frank


A week later, 26 October, Alex sends another letter to Jules telling him about the new guesthouse. He has received the sweater his mother knitted for him.

Dear uncle At the moment I'm housed somewhere else. This week or next I might go to school, but for now I'm often bored, although there are nice books here. My suitcase only arrived this morning, so I couldn't play chess or write yet. The sweater that Jo knitted suits me well, I put it on Sunday for the first time and wore it for the whole week. Saturday I went swimming with 2 of the 3 daughters of the house. I also often play outside, but the last 2 days it has been raining, so I am even more bored. But now I have something to read and puzzle again. And if I go to school now, it will be better again. Greetings, also to Jo Frank

On the 28 October, a bureaucratic procedure is put in motion, which will have major consequences for Debora, her family and also Alex, who is disguised as Frank Lodeizen. The town clerk of Barneveld asks the police to investigate the religious affiliation of Debora, her husband Ernest, their daughters Riwka and Marijke, as well that of her son Frank Lodeizen. It is suspected that they are Jewish.

At the start of November, Alex sends a letter to the Meeusen family in Amsterdam.

Dear Mrs. and Mr. Meeusen, Here are my potato stamps, you will certainly be able to use them. Aunt did not need them, because we have potatoes from the country which are very tasty. They are better than the crap you get in the cities. I still hope they are of help to you. Yesterday I went to school for the first time; I liked it and I can keep up well. First I was supposed to be in 6th grade, but the head teacher said I should try it with him in 7th grade. Would you greet everyone and let Grandpa read the letter? Warm greetings Frank
Potato stamps

A week later, he sends a letter to Jules telling how things are going for him.

Dear uncle, My work is doing fine; I've been at school for over a week now. They deal with things that I've kind of already had. Thanks for the money, I can use it well, because there are 3 birthdays and Sinterklaas on the way. If I fall short I’ll yell. On paper, of course, otherwise you don't hear it, and I would achieve nothing except shouting my head off. The swimming is getting better every time, last time I jumped off the edge a few times. I can also float a bit, and with a cork belt on I can swim a few back strokes.

Debora writes to Jules in the same week. There are discussions going on if it might be possible to buy Ella out of custody. The people involved in the search for Ella have heard of someone who successfully did this. The money is meant to be transferred by Mark Sluis, a friend and business contact of Jules who emigrated to the United States. Bep continues to help with the search. These attempts are doomed to fail for obvious reasons.

On 4 December Debora visits Alex in his guesthouse. To reassure him she tells him that she is in contact with his mother, but that Alex is not allowed to write to her. Debora’s visit at the guesthouse of Alex is her last appearance in the letters. What happens to her and the family from this point on is unclear. It is assumed that the police investigation classified them as Jewish, and to avoid deportation they go into hiding. With Debora’s disappearance, Alex is losing contact to Jules and the rest of the network. This may cause the ensuing three month gap in the surviving letters.


In March, Jules and Alex are in contact again. Jules is about to move to the house of the Koster family in Deventer, where he is living from April onwards. Alex writes to Jules.

Too bad you have to move to another guesthouse, right? You liked it so much there. We can only hope that your new home will be just as nice.

Mid April, Alex writes to Jules again. He tells about school, playing chess, and asks about his mother.

Dear uncle, Thank you for your letter; It's nice to hear from you again. Are you doing well at your new guesthouse? The weather has been lovely the last few days, I sit with a book in the sun all the time because I have nothing to do; but yesterday afternoon I finished reading all the books again, so I started playing chess again. Do you ever hear from Jo?

In May, Debora, her husband Ernest and their seven-year-old daughter Riwka are discovered and arrested. Their three-year-old daughter Marijke is hidden with the housekeeper of Johanna, so she evades capture. They are taken to Westerbork, and from there they are deported on 25 May. Three days later they arrive in Sobibór, where they are murdered right away.

On 1 June Alex turns thirteen.

On 12 June Alex leaves his hideout to travel to nearby Deventer. The occasion of his trip is to visit his father who is hiding there.

And then it happens — Alex gets arrested at the station in Apeldoorn.


Jules describes the arrest of his son in a letter to an unknown person.

Lex was arrested on 12 June 1943. He lived under the name of Frank Lodeizen. On his second visit he is arrested at the station in Apeldoorn. He must have been a little nervous, because they detained him after all.

From Apeldoorn Alex is transferred to Euterpestraat in Amsterdam, which is known as the headquarters of the SS “Sicherheitsdienst” security police. There he is thoroughly checked. His fake identity Frank states that he is half-Jewish with an aryan father. He is forced to strip naked, which reveals that he is circumcised. In combination with his seemingly half-Jewish descent this is seen as proof that Alex is, in fact, Jewish. He is deported to Westerbork.

Around the same time, on 20 June, the German authorities hold a big raid in Amsterdam. Jewish neighbourhoods are closed off in the east and south of Amsterdam by German and Dutch police. Jews are told to report at assembly points, and those who do not come voluntarily are dragged from their homes. In this raid Freddy is arrested, and so are the parents of his fiancé, Mr. and Mrs. Joëls. They are all taken to Westerbork.

Soon after, people in Amsterdam start searching for Alex and Freddy. Bep and Bert Meeusen are helping again, and so is Wolf de Beert. An unknown person with the alias “Co” describes the situation in a letter to Jules a few days later.

Dear Gart, The first thing I did this morning was going to W. de Be. That did not achieve much, because as you will see in my note, his advice is “do nothing”. The family M. has had no rest and, despite the situation, went out to do everything and anything for the guys. They too have asked everyone to find out where the boy is, but so far we both have the same negative result.

In another letter “Co” describes the deportations.

Now our dreadful Sunday. The number who were taken away is estimated at 5900. It is not possible to describe what happened that day, I will tell you at some point, but it was a very difficult day. Freddy is also gone. I talked to him for an hour, but I didn't dare to say anything about what happened, because that boy was so incredibly optimistic.


On Tuesday 29 June, a train with 2.397 people leaves Westerbork. Among them are Alex, Freddy and the parents of his fiancé.

The train is heading to Sobibór, where they arrive after four days on 2 July.

After unboarding they are separated by gender. Everyone has to give up their belongings and strip naked. Thereafter they are forced to walk down a path the SS guards cynically named “Himmelstraße”, literally meaning road to heaven. At its end they enter the gas chambers, and are killed with exhaust fumes from a tank engine.

There are no survivors.

Jules manages to stay undetected for the duration of the occupation and survives. After the war he remarries and has another son.

During the German occupation 107.000 Jewish people were deported. 102.000 of them, which amounts to three quarters of the Dutch Jewish population, did not survive.

“I had no feelings. ... It just became another job. In the evening we never discussed our work, but just drank and played cards.”

— SS Oberscharführer Gustav Wagner, deputy commander of Sobibór, in an interview by the BBC 1979 in Brazil

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