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Finding a Place to Hide

An estimated 25,000-26,000 Jews in the Netherlands were hidden by non-Jews during the Holocaust; about 8,000 of them were nevertheless caught by the Germans. The “diving” (Onderduiken) movement, as it was called in colloquial Dutch, started during the summer of 1942, at the beginning of the deportations. Many non-Jews were helpful in finding appropriate hiding places and providing “divers” with food, clothing, and other needs. However, as the war did not end quickly, finding appropriate places became more and more difficult. The following excerpts from the diary of Arnold Douwes, a non-Jewish rescue activist and the only one who is known to have written a diary, illustrate the difficulties involved in finding a place in the countryside.

They don't have any goods, because they already had to flee suddenly several times. “That makes it easy,” they said. “Now we don't have to carry anything.”

I have to go now from one house to another in order to try to find a place for them.

First of all [I go] to Jantje Dekker: they could not house anyone, because as a result of [the Germans] finding a radio in their home, all the bedclothes were taken. [...]

Afterwards [I went] to some others who were still awake, but nobody was willing to hide [somebody], not even for one night.

The Evangelist Mr. Kramer had all kinds of problems and excuses. After a serious quarrel I left him, telling him that my high esteem for him was unfounded, and that I had no choice but to go again to the teacher Otten to ask for assistance. He always makes everything possible.

Immediately after they had fallen asleep, Mrs. Otten asked me why I had not come directly [to them]: “You know you always can come to us and rely on us.”

[A day later:]

In the late hours of the evening we brought the couple who stayed with the Ottens [from now on we called them “Aunt Marie” and “the rescuer”] to Berkhof, a farmer who lives in a remote place. Before this, we, the teacher Otten and I, went to him in order to persuade him. “No, they did not want to have divers; it makes trouble for the girls and it is dangerous.” We reminded him of the saying which was engraved at the top of his doorcase: “Faith in God is a secure staff of support.” Alas, that evening we did not succeed. Afterwards we—Nico and I—tried again, and after long discussions they promised us vaguely to take in one person. And now we had two! Nico and I agreed between ourselves beforehand that we would not take “no” for an answer.

When we arrived there, we told “the rescuer” and “Aunt Marie” to wait for a moment outside, on the pretext that we had to check if everything concerning their security was all right. Nico and I entered the house, and there was the family sitting in the kitchen around the stove. We were welcomed very cordially, but when we told them that we brought them a couple who was waiting outside, their faces changed all of a sudden. They had all kinds of problems, the same we heard everywhere—but it meant that we had to take those types with us. So where to? To Otten is impossible, it is packed there. “The Ottens even have people in the gutter,” we said. “Besides, it is already so late, it is impossible to go now to anybody; everyone's asleep.”

At the end they were allowed to stay, but only for one night. We made two weeks out of this. They got from them 100 guilders for the maintenance.

The couple, which was allowed to enter after we had told them that they were waiting outside, listened quietly to the whole affair. The woman cried.

[Two days later]

We went, both of us, to Berkhof, and we talked for five hours; at the end we succeeded in convincing them to take the couple permanently for 100 guilders per month. They have a room for themselves. Now we have to find clothes for them.

Source: "Diary of Arnold Douwes," pp. 105-108 [February 25-28, 1944], the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, Amsterdam.

Yad Vashem