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The second raid in Amsterdam

On 11 June 1941, Amsterdam saw its second major raid. The Nazis arrested about 300 young Jewish men. Otto Frank was not arrested, but friends and neighbours from the Merwedeplein area, where he had been living for eight years, were.

‘Friends of mine, young people, were among the ones taken away. After eight days, we received news of their deaths, so we knew without a doubt that those people were being murdered.’

Rian Verhoeven

German-Jewish Ludwig Jacob, who had come to the Netherlands at the age of sixteen on a children’s transport, often visited Merwedeplein. His brother Rudolf lived there with his wife Ursula and their son Ralph. Ludwig himself stayed in the Jewish working village of Wieringermeer. Together with some 300 other young Jewish refugees, he underwent agricultural training there in preparation for possible emigration to, for instance, Palestine or South America.

Young German Jews receive shelter on Merwedeplein

When the Nazis suddenly abolished the working village in late March 1941, Ludwig moved in with his brother at Merwedeplein. Like him, other young men from the working village also found shelter in the square and the neighbourhood, often with host families. German-Jewish Adolf Gerson Frohmann (28), for instance, who had been working as a teacher in Wieringermeer, lived next-door to the Frank family with his wife Karola and daughter Eva. The Franks took in a former work village resident as well: Hermann Wilp. They considered him their foster son. The young men from the working village often knew one another and spent time together.

The working village reopens

On 11 June 1941, Ludwig and other male residents of the former working village living in Amsterdam received a message from the Jewish Council. It said that the Wieringermeer working village was re-opening and that German trucks would come to pick them up at home that evening. The board of the working village and the Jewish Council were pleased about the decision of the German authorities, because there was not enough work for young people in Amsterdam.

A few days earlier, SD Officer Klaus Barbie had visited the Jewish Council to ask them to inform the residents of the former working village of the news, in order to make sure that they would not be frightened when they were picked up. And could he get a list of their names and addresses, too? The Jewish Council was fine with that. Willy Lages, head of the SD, had the list broken down by neighbourhood and ordered a number of Amsterdam police officers (in particular the NSB members among them) to pick up the men at seven pm. They received backup from the Ordnungspolizei.

Arrests instead of work

In the early evening, police officers called at the home of the Jacob family at Merwedeplein 43, to pick up Ludwig. When they heard he wasn't in, they arrested his brother Rudolf, who happened to be at home, instead. It turned out that no one would be returning to Wieringermeer; the Jewish Council had been tricked. In reality, the officers had been ordered to arrest 300 Jewish men, not just the residents of former the working village, but any other young Jewish men they found at the addresses.

Adolf Gerson Frohmann, the teacher from the working village, had not believed a word of the message from the Jewish Council. He saw it as his duty to warn as many of his former students in the area as possible. Even though Adolf's wife Karola had told him to hide in their home immediately, he still went out. When he got to the square, he walked straight into the police and was arrested. His neighbour, German-Jewish tailor Fritz Rothstein (19), was taken as well.

Raids in the streets

On the other side of the square, a fifteen-year-old girl stood rigid with fear, holding on to her bicycle. She saw police officers going into homes and taking away the boys. German-Jewish Richard Guggenheim (20), who had been given shelter by a family on the square, was arrested as well. The policemen moved from one street to the next. As many of the men from the former working village were not at their host families’ homes, they started raiding the streets.

The officers combed the neighborhood looking for Jewish young men. Near the Berlage Bridge, not far from Merwedeplein, they picked up twelve members of the Poseidon rowing club. Some Jewish boys were warned at the last minute and were able to get away. German-Jewish Arnold Heilbut (18) was not so lucky. He was arrested at Zuider Amstellaan (today’s Rooseveltlaan)

The Sicherheitsdienst

The arrested Jews were taken to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) building in Euterpestraat, where they were made to line up in the courtyard. Inside the building sat the two unsuspecting presidents of the Jewish Council. Earlier that day, they had been summoned to the SD to discuss several matters and they had been cut off from the outside world since. It wasn’t until that evening that Willy Lages told them that a number of Jewish boys and men had been arrested in retaliation for a bomb attack carried out by the Resistance. Only on leaving the building and seeing the detainees did they understand what had happened to the residents of the former working village. The Jewish boys and men were then taken to the internment camp in Schoorl, in the province of Noord-Holland.

Panic and fear

After the raid, a dark mood fell over the Merwedeplein. Family members, friends, neighbours, and acquaintances had been snatched away from the square and the neighborhood. Where were they? What was going to happen to them? People panicked and feared that the police officers would come back for more arrests. Otto Frank was shocked as well, all the more so because a number of his friends had been among the boys and men who had been arrested.

Pleading for his release

On Merwedeplein, Ursula Jacob-Strelitz was frantically thinking of options to get her husband Rudolf released from the Schoorl internment camp. She wrote a letter to the camp commander asking for a medical examination because Rudolf suffered from kidney problems. As evidence, she sent a statement from Rudolf's physician.

Ursula also argued the case with other German authorities and expressed the hope that her son would not be left without a father. On the postcard she sent by express delivery to her husband in late June, she wrote:

‘Take care to eat and drink well, I'll do the same, so I can always be there for you and help you. Our child is well. I always tell him that daddy is on a trip. So please have yourself examined, stay healthy, with many greetings and kisses, Your faithful Ursul.’

A few days later, the postcard was returned to Ursula. ‘HAS LEFT, RETURN TO SENDER' it said in red pencil. Rudolf and the other men had been transferred to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Ursula immediately hired a lawyer to plead for Rudolf's release with the German authorities in The Hague.

Death notice

Arnold Heilbut's parents and two brothers were at a loss after his arrest. Arnold's mother was devastated. On 2 July, they received notice that their son and brother had died in Mauthausen at the age of eighteen. Week in, week out, the death notices flooded into Amsterdam, sometimes as many as seventeen in a single day.

As long as the families of the arrested Jewish boys and men did not hear anything, they remained hopeful. ‘I need to get through this,’ Karola Frohmann kept reminding herself, ‘for if I lose heart, my little girl and I will be lost.’

Messages from Mauthausen

Three months after the raid, on 20 September, Ursula Jacob-Strelitz turned twenty-four. Her family and friends were very helpful and kind to her. During the Jewish holidays, Ursula often sought solace in the Liberal Jewish synagogue in Tolstraat. She was very happy to have received two letters that Rudolf had sent from Mauthausen by then. He had written, among other things, ‘Erziehe ihn [Ralph] zu einem tüchtigen Menschen' ['Raise him to become a capable man'] and 'Lebe dein Leben wie es deiner Jugend zukommt' ['Live your life as your youth deserves']. On 1 October, Ursula wrote Rudolf a four-page letter, filled with encouraging words.

In mid-November 1941, Ursula found a light brown envelope on her doormat. Next to her name and address, she noticed a purple stamp with an eagle and swastika surrounded by the text WAFFEN-SS, KOMMANDANTUR K.L. MAUTHAUSEN in the lower left corner. A moment later, she was holding the notice of Rudolf’s death. She read that he had died two months earlier, on 16 September, at seven o'clock in the morning. Her last letter had never reached him.

No support from non-Jews

There was a marked contrast with the raids that had taken place in Amsterdam in February 1941. At that time, the population of Amsterdam had gone on a massive strike in protest against the persecution of the Jews, but in June 1941, the city stayed silent. The Nazis had violently suppressed the February strike, instilling fear in the population. The Amsterdam resistance newspaper Het Parool and other illegal newspapers expressed their abhorrence of the raids of 11 June. They called on people to not cooperate with the Germans and to sabotage them whenever they could. For the larger part, though, the Amsterdam population did not heed this call.

Otto Frank’s plans to go into hiding

Although there were no more raids in 1941 after 11 June, there were constant rumours about imminent Nazi actions, which caused a great deal of panic. As a precaution, Otto Frank and other men from the square frequently spent the night at the homes of non-Jewish friends or colleagues. In all likelihood, these events prompted Otto Frank to start thinking about a proper hiding place. After attempts to emigrate to the US had failed, he started working on plans to take his family into hiding in the Secret Annex in earnest in the spring of 1942.

None of them came back

None of the Jewish men who had been deported to Mauthausen came back. Ursula Jacob-Strelitz and her son Ralph survived the war in hiding. Ludwig Jacob first went into hiding in Amsterdam and later fled to France where he witnessed the liberation.


About the author

Rian Verhoeven is a historian and the author of Anne Frank was niet alleen. Het Merwedeplein 1933-1945. She gives guided tours on and around Merwedeplein, from the perspective of Anne Frank and her neighbours. See www.annefrankwalkingtour.com for more information.

Noten
  1. Interview with Mr R. Jacob, by the author, 2016., 1
  2. Hermann Wilp was able to avoid the raid of 11 June 1941. In 1943, he and his family were arrested in Germany and deported to Auschwitz. Hermann and his father Adolf survived the camp; unfortunately, his mother Frieda and his brother Herbert did not., 2
  3. Interview with Mrs M. Ohringer, by the author, 2015., 3
  4. Archive of the presidents of the Jewish Council, 9 June 1941, NIOD.
  5. Dr J. Presser, Ondergang. De vervolging en verdelging van het Nederlandse Jodendom 1940-1945, Vol. 1 (The Hague: Staatsdrukkerij-Martinus Nijhoff, 1965), pp. 123-125, and L. de Jong, Het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in de Tweede Wereldoorlog, deel 5, Vol. 1, (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974), pp. 548-550 and 560.
  6. Interview with Mrs E.C. Peer-Frohmann, by the author, 2018.
  7. Interview with Mrs J. Plantenga-Jansse, by the author, 2017.
  8. Dr J. Presser, Ondergang, Vol. I (The Hague, 1965), p. 124.
  9. Postcard from U. Jacob-Strelizt, 23 June 1941, from the private collection of R. Jacob.
  10. Interview with Mrs E.C. Peer-Frohmann, by the author, 2018.
  11. Private collection R. Jacob.
  12. Ernst Schnabel, Anne Frank, Spur eines Kindes, (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Bücherei, 1958), p. 65.