Hartog (Harry) Kalkoene grew up together with his brother Willem, father Bernardus and mother Anna in The Hague at 39 Stille Veerkade in The Netherlands. Over the years, the family lived at different addresses in The Hague and Rotterdam. The Kalkoene family liked to spend their days outside. They liked to visit the beach of Scheveningen. Bernardus' career in the furniture trade had come to nothing and several jobs had followed one another: office clerk, porter and merchant in draperies. Bernardus did not like to sit still, was always on the road and looked for ways to support his family.
When the crisis arose in the 1930's and there was no longer enough work, the Kalkoene family moved to the first floor of the Valckenierstraat 3 in Amsterdam in March 1940. Harry learned the tricks of the trade of the fur business. In early July 1942 Harry and his family still lived in Amsterdam.
When the deportations in The Netherlands started in 1942, Willem reported himself for the Arbeitseinsatz or 'employment in Germany' and was arrested doing so. The family was torn apart after that. On July 27, 1942 Willem was put on transport to Auschwitz and was murdered shortly after. Harry's father and mother (Bernardus and Anna) were put on the train from Westerbork to Auschwitz on August 7, 1942 and where murdered there on August 20, 1942.
Harry was the only one of the family in Amsterdam. He stayed with friends and acquaintances of his parents in Amsterdam. He was eventually round up and arrested, which happened on March 10, 1943. After which he was deported via the 'Hollandsche Schouwburg' to Kamp Vught, where he was detained on March 12, 1943 until March 21, 1944. After that Harry was deported to Westerbork where he spent just two days before being put on transport to Auschwitz.
Immediately after his arrvial in Auschwitz, Harry received a tattoo on his arm with the prisoner number 175399. He managed to survive the camp including the death march from Gleiwitz to Blechhammer. In the subcamp Blechhammer.
The largest of the Auschwitz subcamps was Blechhammer. The camp was located in Sławięcice near Blachownia Śląska (or in German: Blechhammer), and consisted of 25 wooden barracks residential, storage, kitchens, washrooms, crematorium etc. and surrounded by a concret wall with electrified barbed wire fences. Prisoners worked at expanding the plant by digging foundations and building roads and air-raid shelters. When the American bombing started in June 1944, prisoners were sent out to locate and disarm unexploded bombs. Almost 200 prisoners died in the camp, and several hundred more were probably sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau after selection. In January 1945, the prisoner population was almost 4.000 men and 160 women. During the death march to the Gross-Rosen concentration camp, the SS shot about 800 of the prisoners. Shortly before the liberation of Blechhammer by Soviet soldiers, the SS torched and tossed grenades into the camp barracks, in which the prisoners that were too sick to move had been left behind. Some of them survived but the majority lost their lives.
Harry was finally liberated by the Russians on or about January 26, 1945.
A long journey followed until Harry finally returned to the Netherlands at the end of May 1945. After all returnees, including my grandfather Harry Kalkoene, had registered, which was chaotic to say the least, they were loaded into trucks of the Dutch army and taken to the monastery in Oudenbosch. At all reception centers, returnees were deloused, medically examined and questioned. They also had to hand in the money that they had received in France. Because international currencies were not valid, the government promised to pay it back, which of course never happened. After a week they were allowed to leave the monastery. My grandfather went to The Hague. On the way over there, nobody was kind, no help from Red Cross employees, nothing at all. It was as if the Jewish Holocaust survivors did not exist or that they were returned filth that The Netherlands could not use anymore. When Harry arrived in The Hague, he was only concerned with one question: Who survived World War II and who did not? As we know now, my grandfather was the only one left of his deported relatives. Harry survived eight Nazi camps, three of which were concentration camps and then of course the death march.
Thanks to Deborah for sharing her grandfather's story.
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