Authors: Jan Vivian
|Together in Another Place|
|Jan Vivian Books (2012)|
Imagine a camp not so very far from your own home, where you are taken because of your faith and customs. Imagine the elaborate deception, and coercion of some inmates, by the occupying authorities to conceal the true purpose of gathering families, gypsies and others in one over-crowded place where they are cared for, their children educated and where the men are often given work. Imagine being entertained by some of Europe’s finest cabaret stars, men and women who are prisoners just like you. Imagine an almost weekly roll call that determines who stays and who will leave in dingy freight wagons for an unknown destination – but you cling to hope, your family and fellows. Imagine being kept in ignorance of many days in unspeakable conditions until you reach…Auschwitz and Sobibor, in particular.
The author has sought to do so following a close look at a photograph that appears on a leaflet of the Hollandsche Schouwburg that he visited in Amsterdam – for a second time.
He failed in his efforts not to be overcome by emotions; nor could he keep from writing out a love story. People would still live and be together, in another place…
IN ANOTHER PLACE
Copyright © Jan Vivian 2012
rights reserved. No part of the text in this
publication, electronic or in print forms, may be reproduced by whatever
means and in any form, stored in any other retrieval system than that for which
it is created or transmitted or by any other means without the prior written
approval of the copyright owner.
ISBN : 978-0-9571026-4-4
First published in August 2012, by Jan Vivian
story is a work of fiction but the
setting and the weekly events described, even in these pages, are recorded fact.
All the characters and conversations are the product of the author’s
imagination and are in no sense to be taken as real or reproduced. The chosen names
for the characters featured in this story are not based upon actual persons,
living or dead. The locations referred to within these pages have been informed
by research or by the author visiting them (The ‘Hollandsche Schouwburg,
Amsterdam). Where appropriate, references are acknowledged of sources that
served to tell the story, set the scene as far as that was possible, and that
inspired the author to do so. These include but are not limited to:
– visitor’s leaflet and cover image
sites on the history and events at Kamp Westerbork, The Netherlands.
– to learn of the currency used in Westerbork camp
– paviljoen/deportatie/Westerbork : 1942-1944.
sites referring to the
and the songs of the
Wenn Ein Paketchen Kommt’
- Willy Rosen
(1943) – adapted by JV to set the scene.
visit to the Hollandsche Schouwburg, Amsterdam, this year and the cover image
on the simple guide offered to visitors, inspired me to write this story. Dedications
to those who suffered in The Holocaust (Shoah) seem to be wholly inadequate
given the magnitude of all that happened to my parent’s countrymen. My father
was a member of the Dutch Underground movement; his role was never made clear
to me during his lifetime. However, the legacy in his mind of all that happened,
and that he and his first wife (not my mother) took part in to save
‘onderduikers’, has affected my life too. I was born in Venezuela and have
never lived in The Netherlands. I became a British citizen in the early 1960’s
but retain strong links to my late parent’s homeland.
my chosen way I dedicate this story to:
Henri Van Dijk - alias Frans Hagenaer - my father.
England – August 2012
TOGETHER IN ANOTHER PLACE
couldn’t quite stem the tears.
spite of his best efforts to control the swell of emotion that the photo had
aroused within him, his sight became blurred; the image of a young man capering
in front of the camera became unrecognisable in the mist. So too did the
snaking line of people, old and youthful, men and women, who had been portrayed.
It was as if the photographer had been looking through a keyhole at a group
posing for him in a sunny courtyard. The narrow field of view made the observer
look closely at the faces; in Jan it had aroused mixed emotions that had
momentarily overwhelmed him.
that simple, almost innocent, image he had seen pathos and heart-breaking
naivety, or, perhaps, a sublime acceptance that a different world and changed
circumstances, somewhere, awaited a carefully chosen multitude who espoused a
faith that the authorities had deemed inappropriate and declared worthy of
recording…for a last time.
looks upon the faces held emotional contrasts; wariness and hope, curiosity and
a mis-placed sense of optimism that they would survive the tumult that
prevailed all around them. Could they really be living out a nightmare in their
home city of Amsterdam? Friends and colleagues, associates, loved ones and
members of their extended families…they were all being gathered in, a diverse
human harvest that would be gauged and winnowed before they were transported.
invader had not been alone in that task.
the one hand he had been assisted by collaborators; on the other by those where
emotions prevailed upon them to offer equivocal help to fellow citizens. They
could not bear to observe displacement and heartbreak, the loosening of
historical and familial ties to places of birth and the rendering asunder of a
community that had always sustained those less fortunate amongst them. Stark
choices had to be made. They had to find the means to save themselves, one and
all, as far as that was ever within their gift.
Every living soul
in the image might have clung to the hope that a love of life and their faith
would prevail over changed circumstances. The reality was to be outrageously
and unimaginably different. A sense of self and a generosity of spirit could
not withstand the duplicitous, and ruinous, might deployed by an occupier and
of some fellow countrymen engaged in their service.
Harriette was startled
as a shrill whistle shattered a moment’s fragile peace.
travellers,’ Simon said choosing to make light of a meaningful event.
train had announced its arrival at the Westerbork transit camp. They stopped on
the path and watched from afar as the train slowed to a stop. There was no
platform, no shelter, or calls of welcome to those that looked out of the
carriage windows. Orderlies, with Stars of David stitched to their work suits,
waited on them under the indifferent gaze of läger officers. The new arrivals
would be administered by their fellow inmates and countrymen. They were to be
encouraged in the belief that everything, although new, was quite normal.
comes in…and soon, another will leave. Who will be selected to go on the next
still,’ Simon consoled. For her he would be the optimist; the regime in the
camp had changed after overall control had passed to the SS.
will be difficult…there’s so much uncertainty and rumour.’
in what can be proved…’
can I do that?’ she said in dismay. ‘It’s not possible for any of us. Even the
orderlies…supposedly our fellows, don’t know everything or dare to tell of it
if they do. It’s more than their life’s worth to disobey. Do that and they too
are transported. The true evil is that it is beyond our imagining.’
allowed her to finish. He already knew that many around them closed their minds
to the reality of what might await them when they too stepped onto a train and
left the camp. Everything was being done to discourage such thoughts – work,
concerts, even a shop to buy some goods that hadn’t been seen for some time near
their homes in Amsterdam.
can trust me…’
admonishing tone, moderated by fear, was punishment enough for him.
brushed wispy strands of hair from her slender high cheeked face. How could her
family have been swept up by the authorities and brought here? The family’s tenuous
Jewish bloodline had made them guilty, by association. Your ancestry was even
counted in fractions;
’one and a half’
set the line.
watched in silence as the orderlies gathered along the new trackside, waiting
to muster the family groups that began to alight from the carriages of a train
allowed entry to the ring-fenced encampment. From afar, everything looked perfectly
to, the men met fearful enquiring stares of the many newcomers. Where would
they be taken to? Would they remain together and be of comfort to each other in
the over-crowded barrack blocks? The countryside they had passed through had
been so peaceful and unremarkable.
were met by looks that lacked any fulsome reassurance.
must find my parents…and, be with my sister, Betty,’ Harriette whispered as the
sight of the displaced provoked the fear of kin being lost to her. People would
be assembled and leave, for the east; that was the weekly solution the
authorities were soon called upon to make, the orders handed down from the
Reich’s Marshall himself. The names of the ‘chosen’ were called out by their countrymen.
too ghastly to contemplate.’ Harriette spoke out an intrusive thought.
can I be with you, again?’ Simon asked it, unwilling to concede to the girl’s
will see me at the concert, tomorrow.’ Harriette chose to reassure him.
were special…for entertainment of the highest quality, performed by renowned
artists who were captives just like their humbler brethren. Membership of a talented
élite bought time, deferred the moment when they too were transported to another
place and an uncertain future. She had merely offered to take part in a chorus
line or to paint stage props, anything to occupy her mind and pursue an
interest that she loved. She had made some progress; she had been asked to
rehearse a song chosen for her and felt that to be a singular honour.