The Children Hidden at Driebergen
“This is where I lived during the war” my dad, Frits Evenbly began in a trembling voice. “Look here,” he pointed in a window at the back of the red brick building called the "De Viersprong". “The table is still in the same place under the window. That’s where it happened.” It was about 15 years ago. My parents took me to the Netherlands to show me where Mom was born, and they grew up, met, and dated. This very poignant memory stands out as if it had happened yesterday. Dad, flanked by my mother and me, stood staring.
“I can still see them the Nazi officers sitting behind that table, or one that looked just like it. The sisters who were in charge lined us children up along the other wall—the far one.” He hesitated, evidently trying to get his emotions under control. “Well, we knew that it wouldn’t be good. The Jewish children hadn’t been allowed to go to school for quite some time by then. And the sisters always told them to stay away from the windows. And now the officers were looking right at them!”
Dad drew in a deep breath. I took his hand. “Dad, you don’t have to tell me about this if you’d rather not.” Edith and Meriam Wallig with their father, Henri Wallig “No, it’s time. I have to for the sake of my cousins, Meriam, Edith, and Hansje and Keetje They deserve to be remembered. You see, the officers told all the Jewish children to stand to the right side of the wall. The other children, my brother and me included, had to stand on the left. When they were done with their sorting, we were sent out, but the Jewish children had to remain.
My friend, Keetje van Zanten, escaped them and ran after me, flinging her arms around my waist, saying, ‘Fritsje, hide me.’ What could I do? I was a child! The sister took her back into the room.” Dad drew in a trembling breath. “Two weeks later we were told that Hansje had died. I later found out that my pregnant Aunt Esther, Uncle Henri, and their children all ended up at Auschwitz, even if they weren’t transported together. My cousins, who were only 11 and 9 years and 18 months old, were killed immediately upon arrival. My aunt gave birth at the camp, but they killed her baby. She died soon afterwards.” I felt the blood drain from my face.
“What about your uncle?” “Well, my mother always said he was crazy, but who wouldn’t be after that? He survived, eventually remarried, and had another family.” We sat down together on the curb as I struggled to take in the story. “Dad, why weren’t the sisters, who’d been hiding Jewish children, arrested?” Dad shrugged, “No idea and I’m sure we won’t find out now.” As we got up to leave that tear-stained place, Dad’s eyes turned red. “I can still hear her voice: ‘Fritsje, hide me.’ I’ll never forget.” Keetje’s entire family perished in 1944, but Dad kept his promise. He never forgot.
Near the corner of Arnhemsebovenweg and De Traay in Driebergen the house "De Viersprong" was used as a children's home both before and during World War 2. Many Jewish children, mainly from Amsterdam, were accommodated in the home. The management of the house was in the hands of the Sisters Mien Deenik and Suus Dermout. They ruled with a strict hand. Going to the toilet at night for instance, was out of the question. During the dat on the way to school, ringing door bells to go to the toilet was stictly forbidden. In the evenings, however, they read before going to sleep. Sometimes Lena Ridderhof came to sing. The Sisters shared a room with Jan, a then 15-year-old autistic boy, who also screamed loudly. This boy was the apple of their eye. They made sure he didn't lack anything.
The Sister Suus Dermout had contact with the NSB mayor and was able to obtain extra food for the children. How that could happen is still a mystery.
On January 6, 1944, various Jews were arrested supposedly connected to robberies in various homes in Driebergen. Fifteen children from the children's home "De Viersprong" were put into a cart pulled by a bycicle and taken away. It is shocking to know that Jan, the the autistic boy, was not arrested but killed. That left but a few children in the home.
It is unclear why a raid was not carried out much earlier. The transport of the children on January 12, 1944 from Amsterdam to Westerbork was one of the last. As far as we know, all 15 children were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland and murdered upon arrival.
Story of Frits Evenbly was provided by Dr. Caroline Crocker, Frit's daughter
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