A Hidden Child in War-Torn Holland: Emmy Weisz’s Story

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Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections

Emmy Weisz’s archives (called the Anholt and van Dijk family fonds) can be accessed by visiting The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, located in Mills Library.

Born in a suburb of Brussels at the end of 1930, Emma van Dijk (now Emmy Weisz) moved with her family to a Jewish neighborhood in Amsterdam at the age of 3. Jews were held in high esteem in the Netherlands in the 1930s, and people wanted to have Jewish employers. Emma was a sickly, spoiled, romantic child with few friends. She lived in books. Philp van Dijk, her father, was conservative and religious. Juliette Celine Anholt, her mother, was from a liberal background whose family had been largely assimilated into Dutch society. Unsuited by temperament and values, her parents divorced when Emma was 6. Philip, who had lived in Germany in the 1920s and held German culture in high regard, married Keetje Kalf, an orthodox Jew, in 1941. Juliette had a series of boyfriends and two children out of wedlock. In spite of a dysfunctional family, Emma’s childhood was generally happy−that is to say, until May 1940 when the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis and Jews lost their civil and political rights, endured indignities and deprivation, and were arrested without cause and were taken away to transit or concentration camps such as Westerbork.

In 1941 Emma lost her non-Jewish friends, wore a yellow star, and was forced to attend a Jewish school. People and other children sometimes cursed at her, yelled Jew, and even threw mud at her. Two family members committed suicide in desperation. Her father tried to commit suicide and was admitted into a private psychiatric clinic. When Emma was 12, her home was raided by German soldiers. The soldiers drew their revolvers when she screamed at them, but then they left abruptly. By the middle of 1942 there were fewer and fewer students at her school. Jews were being rounded up systematically. Many family members, including Keetje, her father’s in-laws, and her mother’s common-in-law husband disappeared and never returned. Her father made the fatal mistake of going to Poland to rescue Keetje. Juliette, Emma’s mother, was bold and shrewd. She paid money for her two other children to be raised elsewhere, she arranged for a man to declare his paternity of these children, and she obtained forged, identity papers for herself and Emma. Juliette even rented out rooms to German soldiers in her apartment. Emma went into hiding, moving from place to place in Amsterdam with acquaintances and strangers. She resided in a mental institution for a short period of time, and shared a bed with an incontinent, old lady. She left Amsterdam, went south to Limburg, and then journeyed to Friesland in the north where it was required that she would be fluent in the Frisian language. She had several betrayals and narrow escapes. After the war, she met and married Erich Weisz, another Holocaust survivor.

Emmy Weisz’s archives (called the Anholt and van Dijk family fonds, the names of her parents) are fragmentary in nature: photos of herself, family members, and her fifth-grade class; identity and ration cards; postcards written by her stepmother; school notebooks; and cloth-covered folk dolls of an Orthodox Jewish couple of Polish origin, given to Emma by her father in 1941. This archival material is an indelible link to Emmy Weisz’s struggle and determination as a Holocaust survivor. On many occasions she has given testimony of her arduous and harrowing experiences as a hidden child. She currently lives in Hamilton, has raised a family, and still works as a social worker and psychotherapist.

Image:   1942 - There were four survivors from this class in the Jewish school in Amsterdam. Emma van Dijk (now Emmy Weisz) is the first child on the right, second row from front.



Emmy Weisz from McMaster University Library Digi on Vimeo.