Miriam Denneboom Rosenbloom
My grandfather, Yitzhak Denneboom, was the director of a home for Jewish orphan children with special needs located in Hilversum, a community not far from Amsterdam, Holland. He lived there with my grandmother, my father Menno and my two uncles, Ezra and Isadore. My mother worked as a nurse at the orphanage, and this is how my parents met. When the Nazis invaded Holland in 1942, my parents were separated until they found each other again after the War. During the War the orphanage became a headquarters for the German Wehrmacht.
In April 1943 the Nazis rounded up my father's family and all the resident children of the orphanage to transport them to a concentration camp. My grandmother Johanna told my father he had to run away. Furious, Menno ran away thinking his mother disowned him. When he returned the police asked him if he belonged to the family that lived there. He replied “No!” That saved his life. He then fled into the woods. My father later learned that his entire family was taken to the Sobibor Death camp in Poland. From then on Menno was on the run, hiding from one address to another. With the help of a resistance fighter, and using an assumed identity and false passport, Menno Denneboom became Nicolaas de Jongh. He was 19. It was March 1942.
My father’s final hiding place was with a righteous gentile family of Roeli and Henk Meyer. Upon his arrival Roelie, served him a cup of tea. He told her that it was his 26th cup of tea. Menno had by then tried to hide in 26 different homes! Each time he had been turned away.
Menno was in hiding with the Meyers for about 3 years. He lived in a secret back room which he entered through a hole in a wall which was hidden behind a coal bin. Although he was allowed to walk around the house while the Meyers were home, he had to walk extra softly and not flush the toilet when they were away. None of the neighbors ever knew he was there and luckily there was never a search by the Germans. My father’s “Tante Jo” was the only family member ever able to visit him. “Jo” was really my grandmother Johanna’s sister Sien. She was able to get around as she was using a false identity, had dyed her hair blond, and was working with the resistance.
While with the Meyers, my father was able to learn the electrical trade. Using his new found skill he was able to conceal a radio in the bottom of a chair. This made it possible for them to clandestinely keep up with news of the War.
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My mother, Meta Vomberg, lived with her family in a town called Zutphen, close to the German border in Holland. By 1942, the Nazis had invaded Holland. All Jews were issued Identification cards stamped with J (for Jew), with their required fingerprints.
The local authorities began publishing a list of missing Jews, but many had started seeking safety and had gone into hiding. Lists appeared in the newspapers looking for those missing Jews, offering rewards for those that turned them in, or who might provide any information.
Although the Vomberg family was on those lists, they were already in hiding. But my mother, who was using false identity papers as Johanna Hendrika Sabbe, without the telltale “J”, was not. Thanks to the kindness of friends and customers of my grandfather Emanuel Vomberg’s dry goods store, each member of the Vomberg family found separate hiding places during the War; none knowing the fate of the others at the time.
My mother escaped in February of 1943 to a farm owned by a young couple who she paid in money, clothes, jewelry and work. She lived in an unheated attic, had no radio and lived with the fear of bombardments from the sound of planes flying to and from Germany overhead. She was not allowed to stand near a window or door, or even move if visitors arrived downstairs. She knit, peeled potatoes and stringed beans to keep busy. And she lived through her memories …on Shabbos she would dress in her best clothes and sit in the attic dreaming of her family Shabbos table and meals.
My mother’s youngest sister, Esther, was hidden in the north of Holland with the family of a pastor. When the Nazis found out that Esther was hidden there she ran away and it was the priest who was taken to a concentration camp. He survived 2 years in the camp, and returned home a broken man.
My uncle lived in the woods and other places for nearly three years. He hid in underground shelters when possible. His food came from a resistance organization which hid many Jews. In 1944, on a tip the Nazis received, he and some friends were gathered in a roundup. They were sent by train to Westerbork concentration camp. Thanks to a rail strike, he was never deported to Auschwitz.
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Prior to the War there were approximately 140,000 Jews in all of Holland. As the result of the Holocaust more than 100,000 of those Jews lost their lives. All of my mother’s immediate family members miraculously survived and were reunited after the War. It took years for my father to learn the sad fate of his parents, brothers and many of his uncles and aunts who were murdered at Sobibor. Of the 2000 Jews of his community only a handful returned.
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After the Holocaust my parents reunited, married and had three children. I am the youngest.
We lived on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, Holland.
August 27, 1953 - we immigrated to Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
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My mother once said:
“Life is perfect until danger strikes. …"