'I Remember Kristallnacht. Later, Mother Told Us We're All Going to Be Killed'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: A Holocaust survivor recalls life in the war

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Marianne Huisman.
Marianne Huisman.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Marianne Huisman, 86; lives in Ra’anana, flying to Amsterdam

Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in Holland?

I’m going to an engagement party for one of my grandsons, in Amsterdam. I myself grew up in Rotterdam. When I was 10, there was the war.

What do you remember from the war?

I remember the start, Kristallnacht. My mother took a German-Jewish boy home to protect him. She then smuggled him into Belgium to relatives, even though it was no longer legal, and she had a police record as it was. When she returned from Belgium, she told us that we were all going to be killed.


My father was hospitalized at that time in Leiden. They wanted to send us all on a transport. My mother came to the hospital and said to him, “Let’s get out of here, now. Get dressed and be ready to leave.” He asked her if they were going home, and she told him, “You can’t go home anymore.” When he was dressed, she removed the yellow star from his jacket. He couldn’t believe she was doing that. He told her, “But we have to go on a transport.”

Where were all of you in this story?

She met a lady who told her she would help, and she gave us to different people. My brother hid with one family, but I moved around between people, between 17 different families that hid me, and I didn’t always know where I was going. Sometimes two weeks would go by and I would have already moved on to a different family.

Did you always get along with your hosts?

When my mother handed me over, she told me, “Behave nicely, be a good, polite girl, otherwise you won’t survive and the Germans will kill you.” That had a great impact on my life, and for years I had dreams that the Germans were coming and I had to hide.

It all sounds so traumatic, and you’re so calm.

It wasn’t a normal time. People didn’t understand what was happening, they only understood afterward, after we survived and found out who was living and who was dead. It was a disturbing period.

“Disturbing” is quite an understatement.

My mother didn’t want to talk about it, and neither did my husband. People didn’t want to talk, and it only began slowly.

Did you talk about the Holocaust with your children?

For years I thought I hadn’t passed on all my worries to my children because I didn’t talk about the Holocaust, but afterward I discovered that it wasn’t exactly like that. Things got through. They felt it. They had nightmares, too. Today I think it’s important to talk about it. But to this day, when people my age meet, we talk about what went on before the war and what went on after the war.

What went on after the war?

In August 1945, we all returned to Rotterdam. There were people who were happy we had survived, and people who weren’t so happy.

Who survived?

My father, mother, brother and I found each other; I don’t even know how it happened, and we lived in the house of my grandmother, who had been killed in the gas chambers with four of my mother’s sisters. After that my father died; he was sick even before the war, as I said. I got married in 1953 when I was just 20.

A youngster.

It’s good to be a young parent, to have fun with the children when you’re young. Maybe you have no money, but you don’t worry so much. I named my son Itzhak. Actually his name was originally Arik, after the son of a very nice family that I hid with.

Whom did you marry?

My husband was the son of a friend of my mother’s, her regular bridge partner. My mother knew him from before the war and thought he was a nice boy. In 1980 we moved to Vancouver.

Did you want to work in Canada?

The truth is, I was afraid of another war in Europe, but in Israel I’m never afraid. We moved here in 1996. My daughter lives here, and we came to visit a lot. When we retired, we said we would try.

Tomer (the photographer): You’re a very brave woman.

I don’t feel special or brave, but I’m grateful that I’m healthy at my age, standing on my own two feet, living alone. I travel, clean, volunteer at an old-age home, and I can always go to visit my grandchildren, some here and some elsewhere in the world. I have two grandsons in New York and two in Holland, 10 grandchildren altogether. And very important to mention – also 25 great-grandchildren.

Judith and Yishai Shachor.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Judith Shachor, 42, and Yishai Shachor, 44; live in Sde Yaakov; arriving from Venice

Hello, can I ask what you were doing abroad?

Yishai: We went skiing and then two days in Venice.

First time there?

Judith: I’d never been, Yishai was there 20 years ago.

How was it?

Yishai: There are a million tourists a year there, the city is aging and there’s a fear that it will be flooded or sink.

Judith: They’re trying to teach the tourists to be nicer to the city.

Yishai: It looks like they’re fed up with tourists.

What’s it like in Sde Yaakov? In fact, what is Sde Yaakov?

Judith: It’s a religious moshav, the first religious-Zionist moshav in the Jezreel Valley. When the moshav was established, only a third or a quarter of the residents were religious. Today there are more.

Do you know why?

Judith: There was a migration out by secular people.

Yishai: At first they didn’t want to give land to religious people – they said it would be wasted land. They thought that if people didn’t work the land for one day, they wouldn’t succeed. They were tough, the people of the valley.

Judith: I think of Sde Yaakov as a mini-cosmos; there are older people and younger people, some who are renting for a certain period and others who were born there.

Are you both from there originally?

Judith: We were both born in Ra’anana. We grew up in religiously observant homes, we met in the army and we got to the moshav.

Yishai: We went there in search of fulfilling dreams.

Judith: We wanted to move and we were looking for something simpler, good people.

Tomer (the photographer): Hey! I was also born in Ra’anana, and there are good people there, too.

Judith: Definitely, if you’re going to live in a city, then Ra’anana. It’s a terrific city. But where we are, there’s a calmer mood, pleasant people, a large community and open spaces for the children to run around in. Above all, things are simpler, you don’t need to be organized, or to be quiet between two and four in the afternoon.

Is it a moshav of farmers?

Yishai: There are farmers, we too are farmers. We grow grapevines, we have a vineyard, and as a hobby we have a winery.

Judith: The vineyard runs around the house’s perimeter, we operate it with the children and make the wine ourselves. Every year we sell 600 bottles to people who come to us by word of mouth.

What type of wine?

Yishai: Cabernet blend and Muscat Canelli.

I know Cabernet and Muscat, but what’s Canelli?

Yishai: It’s a sweet Muscat. Canelli is the name of a region in Italy where this type of vine comes from – even though we bought it at a plant nursery in Israel, of course.

Why this type?

Judith: We got a recommendation from a friend. The thinking was what would grow successfully. We wanted a type of grape that would be easy to grow in the valley, because it’s not easy to grow grapes in the Jezreel Valley. Grapes grow well high up, they need cold, and the humidity in the valley brings pests.

Do you do the harvesting yourselves?

Judith: We do it early: the Cabernet around the middle or end of August, and the Muscat sometimes even earlier, at the beginning of July.

How do you do it?

Yishai: We just get up early.

Is it really that important when the harvest takes place?

Judith: The earlier the harvest, the less sweet the grape will be, because it will contain less sugar.

Why a winery? Are you wine connoisseurs?

Yishai: My father’s dream was to have a winery. And we wanted to live on a moshav – horses, chickens. And think of yourself riding a horse in vineyards. I love it when the boy says, “Let’s go for a hike” and the almond trees are in bloom.

Sounds very romantic, but farming is hard work, from what I’ve heard.

Judith: It’s not romantic at all. When we harvest, it’s at three in the morning and we have to force the children to wake up, but it’s a different feeling when the sun is shining and the grapefruits are sliced open.

What do you do when you’re not growing grapes?

Yishai: I’m a pediatrician.

Judith: And I’m a veterinarian.

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