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1. Index Number : P.III.f. (Holland) No. 808.

2. Title of Document : Saving of Jewish Children.

3. Date : 1938 - 1940.

4. Number of pages : 31.

Language : German.

5. Author or Source : Gertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, Amsterdam.

6. Recorded by : Elli Kamm, London.

7. Received from : as above, November, 1957.

8. Form and Contents : Mrs Wijsmuller, a Dutch Christian woman, took a prominent part in organising the emigration of Jewish children from Germany. In December 1938 she even went to see Eichmann in Vienna and got his permission for the emigration of 10,000 Jewish children to England. As a first instalment he ordered a transport of 600 children to be sent across the Dutch frontier within a few days to see if Mrs Wijsmuller would really get them into England. After Mrs Wijsmuller had succeeded - 100 children were accepted by Holland - she organised transports of 150 children twice a week from various parts of Germany to Britain as well as the emigration of Youth Aliyah and other groups from Germany, Holland, Denmark and Riga. She accompanied the children up to Marseille on their way to Palestine.

Mrs Wijsmuller also tried to find asylum for grown-up Jewish refugees. In 1939 she arranged for the acceptance by Holland of 200 refugees from the 1200 passengers of the ship St. Louis, who had not been allowed to land in Cuba because their visas had been forged. Also in 1939 she helped with the departure of the Greek ship Dora, which sailed from Holland with illegal immigrants for Palestine. As late as 15 May 1940 Mrs Wijsmuller tried to get 80 refugees released who were kept in bad conditions in a disused market hall in Gravenzond. But the Dutch Aliens' Police refused her request and send the refugees back to Germany. Only one survived.

During her journeys Mrs Wijsmuller was repeatedly taken as a spy and arrested. She was asked by the Germans to work as their agent and refused. She had her passport stolen (which was later found on a German spy in a French camp). She was told by German frontier police about the impending invasion of Holland, but neither she, nor the Dutch Foreign Ministry believed it.

9. Further References : Baron Artsen, Dutch Consul in Hamburg (p.1), Kramarski, Loeb, Frau van Tyn, Prof. Cohen, Asscher, Norman Bentwich (Jewish personalities concerned with emigration of children) (p.2), Friedmann (Jued. Kultusgemeinde, Wien) (p.4), Lola Hahn-Warburg (p.4), Kapitaen Schroeder (von der St. Louis - p.8), Troper, Direktor des “Joint” in Paris (p.8), Dr. Paul Eppstein (Reichsvertretung d. deutschen Juden) (p.10), Frau Oppenheimer (Jugend-Aliyah, Kopenhagen (p.11), De Jong (Vertreter der KLM in Daenemark - p.11), Pechard jun (p.11), L’Homme (French Foreign Office - p.12), Sperling, chief of German Travel Bureau “Salzkammer” in Amsterdam - p.15), Flescher (German Banker in Amsterdam - p.16), Ursula Etscheid (German girl living in England - p.17), Rabbiner Ehrenpreis (p.19), Fritz Warburg (p.19), Quasett van Uchele (of the Dutch Foreign Office - p.26), Lager Hook (p.9), Gravenzonden (p.9), “Simon Bolivar” (Dampfer - p.14)

Note : This report has not yet been submitted to Mrs W. for her signature.


Saving of Jewish Children

Frau Gertruida Wijsmuller – Meijer is Dutch and a Christian. In 1933 she was asked by Jewish acquaintances if she would help if necessary.

Quite soon she had the opportunity to put her acceptance into action. She performed the task which, at that time, could not be rendered officially by the committees, of helping people to cross the border illegally. This she did from 1933 – 1938.

On 11th October 1938 , Frau Asscher and Frau Andriesen (wife of the director of the Pierson Bank) opened an office in Ostend to help the children, and they asked Frau Wijsmuller to assist them. Later this turned into a Children’s Committee which was founded exclusively by non-Jews. Frau Wijsmuller’s work began immediately. In Frau Kramarsky’s car she travelled to the South of Holland to Limburg. The Dutch police was sending children back who came across the border at that point. Frau Wijsmuler induced the border police office to call the Aliens’ Police in the Hague first before rejecting the children, and in this way she obtained permission to keep the children in the country. This also led to the reformation of the Children’s Committee as their work had to allow for new demands.

On 17th November the committee received a letter from Hamburg informing them that 2 children aged three months were being terribly maltreated by the Gestapo. Frau Wijsmuller was asked to travel to Hamburg to put things right. She took the night train in order to get there at 6 a.m. When she reached the family, it turned out that the letter was based on a lie. She remonstrated with the woman who had written the letter about her duplicity but nevertheless she helped to send the children to Switzerland. She telephoned the Dutch consul, Baron Artsen, who asked her to come to the consulate in order to see with her own eyes how many women and children were sitting at the consulate with their children in the hope of being allowed to go to Holland, but he was unable to help them officially. This was the help he expected from her. He asked her to travel back to Holland on the same day, accompanied by 5 girls and a boy. When Frau Wijsmuller objected that she was not able to do this, the Baron replied: “ If it were easy, I would not need your help.” The Baron notified the parents that their children would be departing at 3 p.m.; at 1 p.m. he had 6 passports ready and had made reservations for the train to Osnabrueck as well as from there -after changing trains- to Holland. Frau Wijsmuller departed with her 6 proteges , changed trains in Osnabrueck and arrived at the border at Bentheim. Each child was permitted to have 10 DM. In Bentheim Frau Wijsmuller went to the Foreign Exchange office. When asked where the money came from she replied truthfully, from Jewish children. “Jews do not need money; you will leave the money here!” She refused to leave the money and instead bought


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a ticket to Berlin which she knew she would be able to sell.

In Bentheim, the Dutch officials got on the train and remained as the train did not stop at the border. Frau W. was asked to show the immigration permit for the 6 children. As she had no such permits, she was told that she would have to get off at the next station , take the children back on the first available train and leave them at the German border. The final remark was:” We will then get evens with you.” --- It was then that Frau W. understood why the consul had chosen this particular train and this reserved space for them: She found out that the then Princess Juliana and Princess Beatrix were sitting in the adjacent compartment. Frau W. ordered her 6 proteges to tidy themselves and comb their hair, then they would all go to see Princess Juliana. The officials refused their permission. Frau W. said:” We will go anyway.” Now the officials relented a bit and asked: “Should we not first discuss the matter calmly? What are you actually intending to do with the children?” “I do not know yet!” Then she told the officials the truth. She explained that the children were very orthodox, that she was taking them to the Jewish Hospital , then she and the Jewish Committee would consider the next step, and on Monday – the next weekday- she would go to the Ministry of Justice in the Hague to request the immigration permit from Mr. Temkin. Here were the children’s passports. If Mr. Temkin would not give them the permits, then the children would have to be sent back. The officials no longer interfered with their journey after this explanation. She did achieve the consent of the government, and the children were allowed to remain in the country

In Hamburg, Frau Wijsmuller had heard, that on 10th November the children of the Koenigsberg orphanage had been thrown out into the street in the cold and the snow. She now obtained permission to let 30 of these children come to Holland. On 29th November in the evening, she , together with Frau van Langen, travelled to Bentheim where they were to meet up with the children’s transport in the morning of 30th November. The Dutch Jewish relief committee did not have permission to cross the border. The two ladies booked into Hotel Kaiserkrone. A huge SS celebration was in full swing. The commander came over to them to invite them to his table to participate as his guests. Although the ladies refused his invitation, he returned a short while after and said to Frau W. “ Mother, may I dance with your daughter?” “No.” Shortly afterwards the hotel manager came over to Frau W. whom he knew and warned her: “ Leave immediately, they are planning to imprison you.” The two ladies went to their room straightaway and locked the door, and the hotel manager made sure that they were not molested. In the morning, punctually at 5 a.m. , they were at the railway station to receive the children.

She conducted many more small transports across the border.

On 2nd December 1938 Frau Wijsmuller was asked to come to the office of Herr Loeb ( before 1933 Minister in the Ministry of Finance). There, the great bankers of Amsterdam were assembled, Herr and Frau Kremarsky, Herr Loeb, Frau van Tyn, Prof. Cohen, Herr Asscher and Prof. Bentwich. The session began at 4 p.m. Prof. Bentwich had been to Germany


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and had negotiated with the English Government to achieve immigration permission for children’s transports. Bloomsbury House had given him assurances that 10,000 Jewish children could be brought to England. “We beg you, Frau Wijsmuller, to travel to Vienna as soon as possible to organise the transports of these 10,000 children with Eichmann. When can you go?” Frau W. contacted her husband who agreed to her immediate departure, and at 6 p.m. she was sitting on the KLM plane on the way to Berlin. From there she had a connection to Vienna on the following day. There was no daily flight from Holland to Vienna. (After the war, Frau W. was asked in Nuremberg to identify Eichmann on photographs. She was unable to do so from those pictures. It is thought that he is still alive, but one does not know where.)

On Saturday at noon, Frau W. arrived in Vienna. Her hotel reservation was at Hotel Bristol on the Ring. There she was immediately requested to donate some money for the winter aid. “What is the purpose of this donation?” “The money will be used to help children.” “ Oh, that is splendid, you can help me straightaway, I am here to save Jewish children.” “ No, this money is not for Jewish children.” So she naturally refused to give a donation.

She set off immediately towards the Jewish Quarter in order to find the Community Office. This quarter was sealed off with ropes as Jews were not permitted to leave and not even to cross the road. On her way to the Palestine Office, she was stopped and locked up in the police station next to the Community Office in the belief that she was Jewish. She knocked on the door of her cell to explain that she was not Jewish. The reaction to her knocking was : “Shut up!” When, at last, the door was opened she declared that as soon as she was released she would post in all the newspapers of the world how Aryans were treated in Vienna. The error was deeply regretted , and she was asked what could be done for her. She asked for an interview with Eichmann to be arranged. She was released with the promise that she would be notified as soon as the arrangement had been made. The policeman kept his promise and called her at the hotel to inform her of the time of the meeting: Monday, 5th December, 9.30 a.m.

She used the Sunday to explore Vienna. The houses of the Jews were in ruins. For the Winter Aid, a particularly big campaign had been organised. Great actors from Berlin and Rome had arrived for this very event , and all sorts of ministers – everyone in uniform – took part in the collection.

At the appointed time, on Monday morning, she appeared at the house of Baron Rothschild, in Prinz-Eugen- Street. This was Eichmann’s headquarters. Upon arrival, she had the greatest shock of her life. In front of the building was a queue of Jews who had to line up at the wall. Frau W. witnessed the SS arriving in their cars and simply driving into the people. Those who were not yet dead were beaten with cudgels.


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Frau W. was taken to a huge room at the end of which was a dais. This is where Eichmann sat with a large dog and a bright lamp. Frau Wijsmuller approached him with outstretched hand : “ I am Frau Wijsmuller and I would like to talk to you.” In response he shouted at her:” We are not used to talk to women.” “ What a pity. May I sit down?” Eichmann was so taken aback that she did not shake with fear as he had expected, that he did not stop her. She then explained to him that the British Government in London had given its permission for 10,000 Jewish children to come to England. She had been asked to discuss with him how this was to be organised. “Do you have a letter from the British Government?” “No.” “ I would like to see your hands. Move up a bit. Lift your skirt up a little.” Then he said:” So completely Aryan and so crazy.” She was allowed to sit down again. Then he rang a bell to summon the Jew Friedmann. He asked Herr Friedmann:”Do you know Frau Wijsmuller?” “No.” “Do you know Herr Friedmann?” “No.” Now E. turned again to Herr Friedmann. “This will be the biggest joke of our lives. This woman does not have a letter from the English Government which would confirm her claim that she has permission to bring children into the country. We shall organise a transport of 600 children , and Saturday lunchtime they will cross the border; that’s when Frau Wijsmuller can show us how she is going to get the children into the country.” Frau W. thanked him and said she hoped to meet him again. If he should ever find himself in Amsterdam, he should visit her, just as she would come to see him if she ever came to Vienna again.

In the street, she asked Herr Friedmann: “ Who are you actually?” “ I am in charge of the affairs of the Community Office.” “Will you accompany me to the hotel so that I can phone England?” Her call to England reached Mrs. Lola Hahn-Warburg whom she told that there would be 600 children at Hook of Holland on Sunday evening. Mrs. Hahn-Warburg was of the opinion that Frau W. had to organise this transport. Frau W. explained the situation and that she could not do this under the circumstances. After 1 ½ hours Mrs. Hahn-Warburg phoned back with the promise that on 11th December the boat “Die Praag” would lie in port at Hook of Holland; “but 100 children have to be accommodated in Holland”.

The next step was to contact Amsterdam and to ask the Children’s Committee to gain the permission from the Dutch Government for the immigration of those 100 children. Then she went with Herr Friedmann to the Jewish Community Office and the Palestine Office. These two offices had to collect the children. A Miss Schwarz had to instruct the children such as teaching them how to eat and other rules of behaviour. The Jews had to pay for the transport themselves.

On the following day Frau W. travelled to Berlin. She addressed herself to the Jewish Aid Committee in Kantstreet ( Reichsvertretung der Juden in Deutschland). The members were angry that a transport from Vienna had already been organised, but not yet from Berlin. She promised to collect transports from Berlin very shortly. Berlin was, of course, also under Eichmann’s jurisdiction.

In Vienna, she had arranged with the Jewish Community to try and get the German border officials to come to Cologne to prevent too much of a hold-up at the border. Frau W. travelled to Holland at short notice to talk to the Jewish Committee and then went on to Cleves where she told the border officials that she had an agreement with Eichmann


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that a transport was going to leave Vienna on Saturday and arrive in Cologne South on Sunday at noon. The customs officials were to go with her to Cologne at this point. ( This was not part of her arrangement with Eichmann.) In Holland , the Committee had considered that they would pay the customs officers ‘s expenses. The border officials agreed to this.

On Sunday 11th December Frau Wijsmuller and her husband travelled to Cologne. At the South railway station, the German officials were waiting as arranged. The Jewish escorts from Vienna could only accompany them up to the German border, but were not allowed to cross it. A physician, Dr. Engel, was one of the escorts. On taking leave, he asked Frau Wijsmuller if she knew that in Jewish cemeteries people laid stones instead of flowers. Here was a small tin containing a stone, she should always carry it with her, it would bring her luck. She took the little package and , upon arrival, showed it to Loeb and Kramarsky who both said that this was nonsense and that she should throw away the package. Frau W. could not forget how movingly the man had asked her, and so she always kept the tin in her handbag which she took with her on all her journeys, especially on her travels abroad. Four times a week she crossed the border in this way. In July 1939 she received a letter from Brussels from the relatives of this Dr.

Engel asking her to send the “diamonds” immediately. Frau W. had never opened the tin which was secured with sticky tape and had therefore no idea that the address of the Brussels relatives was written in the margin of the tin and even less so that she was carrying such a “dangerous” lucky stone. It contained two large diamonds.

The actual transport went well. The officials came along but only checked a few children. 100 children were accommodated in Holland.

The Jewish committee had made an arrangement with England that every week a transport of 130 – 150 children from the areas of Vienna , Frankfort, Cologne, Berlin and Hamburg would leave for England , two transports a week via Cologne and one via Osnabrueck. The border officials who travelled from Bentheim to Osnabrueck for the clearance would not take money for their expenses. The journey of the officials from Emmerich to Cleves had to be paid for. At first, Frau W. had assistance with the transports from other Christian ladies: Frau Mees, van der Mandele, van Plate, van de Zeen , all ladies from Rotterdam. Later Frau W. did everything on her own. The Dutch Railway Managers presented her with a First Class Season Ticket valid until July 1940. The transports did not only contain Jewish children; there were also mixed transports of Catholic, Protestant and half-Jewish children.

Before the Germans marched into Czechoslovakia in March 1939, many Germans had fled into Czechoslovakia. These were mainly Social Democrats and farmers. When the Germans invaded, many of the men in these families fled to a Polish port city; the women and children were taken to Concentration Camps. At this period, there was an American Jewish lady in Prague – her name may be found at the Charity Committee in London – who did a lot for the Sudeten Germans and the Children’s Transports. She was working with the London Charity Committee


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and they managed to get children released from the camps for the transports. Often there were large families of 12 – 14 children . Before the children were able to be transported after leaving the camp they often had to be nourished for some weeks. Families were also liberated.

At Whitsun 1939 Frau Wijsmuller and her husband stayed in London. Some of those she had saved recognised her and reported that they would be able to move to Canada as farmers. This emigration took place until 29th August 1939.

In August 39 , a major raid took place in Danzig when all the Jews who lived there were collected and Danzig became free of Jews. On 24th August the last transport of Jews escaped to England with the help of the Committee.

On 30th August 39 Frau W. received a call from the Youth Aliyah Berlin that a transport was ready to go but that the border at Bentheim was closed. She advised them to come to Cleves where she would meet them on the 31st. She arrived in Cleves with two tourist buses, having passed soldiers with their rifles at the ready on her way from the border to the railway station. She got the children onto the buses , took them to Hook, and on the 31st at 12 o’clock they boarded the boat for England. This was the last boat that was able to travel from Hook to England.

The next day there was another call from Berlin that there were still 150 boys to be collected from ORT (an organisation founded in 1880 in St. Petersburg). Again they met up in Cleves. On the 2nd they crossed the border in a train that only had a dining car. The train in direction of Holland fortunately had many Dutch carriages all of which had to cross the border. Apart from the 150 boys there were also many passengers who wanted to get out of Germany , mainly Englishmen who wanted to go home, but also 300 men from Galicia. The Authorities gave permission for the 150 boys and the Englishmen to leave. They sent the 300 men back. When the ORT leader reported this to her, Frau W. went to see the official and asked:” Where are my 300 old boys?” She really managed to get the 300 men out.

Upon arrival in Nymwegen they were questioned by the police as to how they were to proceed. Frau W. telephoned Vlissingen and explained that approximately 700 to 800 people still had to take a boat to England. At 4 o’clock a representative of the shipping company arrived and told her that the people could leave on the last boat out of Vlissingen , but that everybody, including those with First Class tickets, would travel in 3rd class and should be glad to be taken at all. However, none of them was prepared to tell the travellers and thus they would not be available when they arrived in Vlissingen during the night; it was up to Frau W. to tell the people. Usually when transports arrived in Holland there were Jewish ladies around to give the children chocolate etc. Frau W. telephoned Amsterdam to ask how they should deal with the distribution on this occasion as there were also adults included. She was advised that the adults should help themselves to something. The 300 men took advantage of this and grabbed large packets of all sorts of things.


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In addition, the police asked Frau W. to get to the platform immediately as the people were staging a “carnival”. Frau W. understood the situation straightaway and explained to the police that they were wearing skullcaps and phylacteries in order to say their daily prayers.

When everyone had been sent on their voyage, Frau W. had to order a car from home to collect her from Vlissingen as there was no longer any train connection. On 3rd September she arrived home at noon.

In the first days of the war nobody knew whether it would be at all possible to do any further aid work. On 11th or 12th September Frau W. and Frau van Tyn received a call from the Jewish Committee in Berlin asking them to come to a meeting in Berlin , Frau van Tyn concerning the problems of adults, Frau Wijsmuller for the young people. Both obtained a Visa , however they had to take a cab from Oldenzaal to Bentheim as there were no trains between these two stations. They spent the night at Hotel Kaiserkrone and arrived in Berlin the following day at 4 o’clock. The meetings concerning the old and the young were held separately. It was hoped to persuade America to allow people in without an affidavit as was the case with England. The next day they returned to Holland.

A large delegation was sent from America to Holland. At the end of the meeting the American leader of the delegation opined that what England had done, i.e. allowing 10,000 children into the country, was not a very great achievement. As Frau W. suspected that his promises were just “hot air”, she suggested that they might at least take one child with them across the border. Whereupon the delegation was annoyed with Frau W. In fact, they later took only transports with affidavit, none without. Holland took the children without. The total was 3,000.

Amsterdam had a municipal orphanage headed by Frau Kramarsky and Frau Wijsmuller. The committee for this orphanage had existed for a long time and had nothing to do with refugees. However they immediately made 150 places available for refugee children which was approved by the Government. In Holland a great collection of money had taken place , and the Government had decided that this would pay for the Jewish children where they were taken in. When she arrived at the orphanage to speak with the director about the financial settlement, she found not only him but also a small hump-backed lady there who was introduced to her as the director of the children’s division. She had been engaged by the Government. When Frau W. questioned her as to her qualifications for the job, she had none. She was a friend of the daughter of the Minister for the Interior. She would spend 14 days in the kitchens with social workers , and then she planned to ensure that German would no longer be spoken in the house. Her salary would be 3000 Guilders. At this time, a qualified nurse received 85 guilders per month. Frau W. immediately protested against this engagement , and her objections convinced the Government , and she was given the task of finding someone suitable. A huge row with the angry minister could not be avoided. Frau W. engaged


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a qualified nurse , and Herr Wijsmuller acted as the honorary accountant.

Before 31st August 1939 German and Austrian Jewish immigrant children who had come to Holland, often travelled on to their relatives in Belgium and France, and then remained in those countries. The respective governments demanded that Holland should take in the same number of children from their countries. Frau W. avoided this requirement by taking children of such families with her on her travels who had to come to Holland anyway. On one of these journeys a Dutch Nazi arrested her as a swindler and took her to the Central Police Headquarters in Rotterdam where she was kept for 3 hours until the people there realised that she was in fact acting in the interests of the Dutch State and released her. This must have happened around 25th – 28th August 1939.

On another occasion she was stopped at the Belgian border and her passport confiscated. The Dutch police confirmed to the Belgian authorities that they knew that Frau W. still had her passport in the morning and that they had noted which officials had taken her passport. At this time there existed a busy trade in passports , and these officials had intended to sell the passport in Antwerp. Two days later, the police returned the passport to her in person.

On 1st June or July 1939 a lady from Cuba negotiated with the Gestapo in Hamburg for 1,200 people to come to Cuba if foreign countries were to pay 500 Dollars per person as well as the travel costs. The boat of the Hamburg-America Company would return empty in this case. The money was paid and the people departed on the St. Louis. When the ship arrived in Cuba, the people were not permitted to set foot on land because their passports were false. Captain Schroeder tried everything in his power to achieve disembarkation for these people. For several weeks he travelled back and forth with the people. He tried to find other countries to take them but all in vain. Even America would not take them. Then he was notified by Hamburg that he had to return and that the people had to go into KZs ( concentration camps). He travelled back but made a new effort to save the people by contacting the Jewish committees in England, France , Antwerp, Brussels, Amsterdam. The Amsterdam committee received permission from the Dutch government to take 200 passengers off the boat. Frau Wijsmuller, Herr Kramarsky, Herr Deintz and Herr Moser travelled to Antwerp. The Director of the Joint was Herr Troper – now accountant, office 5th Avenue, New York, Loeb&Troper. A meeting which took place between 6 and 2 o’clock to organise the distribution brought no result.

At 5 a.m. the next day the entire committee travelled to Vlissingen by car and then in small boats to the St. Louis. They went on board at 7.30. As there had been provisions only for the journey out but not for the return, there was neither food nor drink on board when the delegation arrived. The children had been assembled on deck to thank them. Herr Kramarsky asked the purser for a passenger list and began the distribution of the people.


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Mme. Weiss from France only wished to take stateless people who would then be able to join the Foreign Legion. The most difficult task was to find accommodation for the old and sick. In this respect, England proved to be exemplary. Holland took 198 people.

Meanwhile it was 3.30 and the boat docked in the port of Antwerp. Just at this moment, the distribution was completed. The people destined for Antwerp and Brussels were able to leave the ship first.

Frau Wijsmuller gave all her proteges an orange flower as a distinguishing badge. This showed the stranded people where they belonged. The Dutch General Consul visited Frau W. that afternoon to see how he could be helpful. She asked him to contact her husband and get him to come to Antwerp as she had been away much longer than expected. The Consul’s kindness was such that he drove in person from Antwerp to Rosendaal to collect her husband so that he reached her at 8.30.

They had sent for a steamboat so that the 198 people could now be taken from Antwerp to Rotterdam. She recognised a child that she had seen in Bochum in January and that she herself had taken to the St. Louis.

On Sunday they arrived in Holland at Hans Wharf. The mayor appeared in his best outfit to welcome them. He asked the captain who the leader of the transport was. “Frau Wijsmuller”. The mayor’s indignation that the leader was a woman seemed extreme. “I specially did not attend church , I made a proper effort to appear here in a distinguished manner because I thought that a man from the Ministry was coming , and now it’s a woman!”

A luggage check would have meant a further delay of the journey. Frau W. had managed to get the check-up done during the voyage. The passengers were disembarked on Heiplaat and had to stay there in quarantine. The gratitude of these people on taking leave of Frau W. was great.

At the end of November and in December 1938 many Jewish men from Germany crossed the border into Holland illegally. They were taken to Hook of Holland where an old abattoir had been turned into an internment camp. Every time Frau W. brought Kindertransports to Hook , she noticed under what dreadful conditions the internees lived there. She discussed this with Frau Kramarsky and brought money collected by Jews to the camp commander to buy a stove and introduce some improvements, as well as bringing some delicacies for the internees. From September 39 – 10th May 40 , many deserters arrived in the Hook camp. On 11th May, the Dutch Government had brought 80 Jews and deserters to Gravenzonden. They were put into a large market hall. On 15th May, Frau W. went to the foreign office to ask for the release of these people. This was refused. The following day all these people


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were sent to Germany. Of these 80 Jews only one returned alive. When Frau W. came to the Jewish Committee on 14th October 1939, she was received with the request to take a train to Berlin in 10 minutes’ time in order to arrive in time for a meeting taking place there. From the Committee she went straight to the station and had to get others to inform her husband of her sudden departure. The Committee also notified the railway station that Frau W. was on her way and that the train should be delayed until her arrival. The conductor who knew her welcomed her with the words: ” Good that you are coming, maybe you will bring some Jewish children back with you again.”

In Amsterdam a gentleman entered her compartment who also did so after they changed trains at Amersfoort. Near the border at Hengelo he asked her whether she might be Frau Wijsmuller of the Jewish transports. “Yes”. “What are you doing tonight?” “I am travelling to Bentheim and booking into my hotel, Kaiserkrone.” “Why don’t you come with me to Oldenzaal ; we could spend the time happily together.” “No, thank you.”

The next morning this man was standing at the platform barrier and declared: “This is Frau W. , she does not have any papers, I know the woman.” Although she had paid for First Class, she was forced to travel in Fourth Class. In Osnabrueck, a young man asked her if she would help him with his bag; on the platform he warned her quietly: “Be careful, the gentleman in your compartment is the German Consul in Paris , he is bound to make difficulties for you.” The young man gave her his card, his name was Pechard.

When she was having lunch with the stranger from her compartment in the dining car later on, he gave her the following explanation: “ You really do have a meeting in Berlin, but we arranged that you had to take this train because I need to talk to you. I was the General Consul in Paris, and my suits are still there. The former French General Consul has his in Berlin. Naturally we both want to get our property back and exchange the suits. We thought that you might make this exchange for us.” Frau W. replied : “ I only work with children, not with suits.” This reply was her good fortune because they had wanted to trap her with this transaction. He seemed to be an influential man in the movement. She overheard a conversation between officers that he was at that time General Consul in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. These gentlemen also related that on 28th August Germans crossed the Polish border and stole huge amounts. When they found that the countries were not yet at war, they realised their mistake and returned after two days.

At 4 o’clock Dr. Paul Eppstein awaited her at the Zoo Station. When he inquired after her luggage, she told him that she had only brought a handbag with a toothbrush and a nightshirt. He escorted her to the hotel, but had to remain outside as he was forbidden to enter. Frau W. was the first guest who stayed there on account of the Jews. The receptionist welcomed her by name, asked when she wished to have a massage or have her hair done and where her luggage


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was. “At the railway station, but I do not want it collected as yet because I do not know how long I will be staying.” She was given a large suite with bathroom.

In the street she met up with Herr Eppstein again . He warned her to watch what she was saying and not to telephone. At the meeting, a Gestapo official would be present, she should however not show that she had been warned.

Frau W. bought cigarettes for Herr Eppstein because, as a Jew, he was no longer permitted to do so.

The meeting began. The Danish Government had sent a letter to the German Government that Denmark wanted to take Jewish children. However, children who had been selected for a Youth-Aliyah-Transport had to be brought out first. It was requested that Frau W. took on the Youth-Aliyah-Transport. A Gestapo official was present and declared that Frau W. would not receive permission to cross German soil with Jewish children. At this discussion a Miss Springer was also present. Because of these new problems, Frau W. demanded to fly to Copenhagen . She needed a plane ticket immediately. This could be arranged for the following day. As she had no money, she got the hotel porter to order the ticket , the Jews would pay for it. She then went to have dinner in a Chinese restaurant with Herr Eppstein as this was the only place where he could still eat with a foreigner.

The following day Miss Springer collected her from the hotel; when she arrived at the office of the airline company, Frau W. was handed a beautiful orchid. On leaving the office she was filmed. They were making a propaganda film. Now she went to the Tempelhof airport. The flight was terrible. Because of the technicalities of war, they had to fly very low.

Frau Oppenheimer of the Youth Aliyah in Copenhagen collected her from the airport. On the way to the passport control she learnt that the Dutch now required a visa for landing. They wanted to send her back to Berlin. Thanks to the objection by Herr De Jong, the representative of KLM in Denmark, she was allowed to enter the country after all. Herr De Jong vouched for her, and she was given a visa for 3 months. Frau Oppenheim had reserved a room for her at the Hotel Angleterre. “Where is your luggage?” “I don’t have any.” Frau O. advised her not to say so at the hotel but to pretend that she had left it at Frau O’s flat, otherwise she would not be given a room.

In her coat pocket, Frau W. found the card of young Mr. Pechard. It turned out that he was the son of the General Consul of a South American country. She called him, but this created unprecedented problems for her. On the train she had told him that she was travelling to Berlin, and now she had arrived in Denmark almost at the same moment as he. The General Consul thought that she was an agent and informed the Foreign Police. With the help of Frau Oppenheimer, this incident could also be solved and everything ran smoothly again. She met up with young Mr. Pechard who would help her often and extensively and who would later visit her in Holland.


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She now discussed with the committee that she wanted to try and bring 56 Danish children to Amsterdam on KLM, from there by train via Paris to Marseilles and there put them on a boat. If this transport succeeded, Denmark would have room for the next group of children.

Frau Wijsmuller flew back to Berlin, explained how she would try to organise the project , stayed the night in Berlin and travelled back to Amsterdam the following day. She knew that it would be difficult to get the Visas for the German children as they had to cross Belgium and France by train.

In November 1939 , after learning what Frau W. had suggested for the Youth Aliyah in Denmark, the Amsterdam contingent asked her to do a Youth Aliyah transport from Holland first. Here, too, German Jewish children were concerned, although there were also a few Dutch ones.

Now Mr. Pechard helped her. He arranged a contact with the Foreign Office in Paris for her. She negotiated successfully with a Mr. L’Homme and returned to Amsterdam. A man came from Palestine to bring the necessary certificates for the children . Together they undertook this first transport for the Dutch Youth Aliyah. Frau W. had arranged for them to stay overnight in Paris at Hotel Terminus and intended to make the same arrangement for Marseilles where she knew another Hotel Terminus. However the Amsterdam office had already booked a hotel for them and told her not to trouble herself further about the accommodation in Marseilles. Everything went well in Paris.

On arrival in Marseilles she was received by a young Arab who was the owner of the “hotel”. It turned out that the hotel was no such thing but a homeless shelter which charged only 10 francs per night. Frau W. and the man from Palestine were shocked when they inspected the premises. There were many Arabs in the shelter. She was worried about the safety of the children entrusted to her and decided that the boys should share the girls’ dormitories. Frau W. then asked the owner where her own room was . He replied coldly: “ You are sleeping in my room!” Needless to say that Frau W. asked her Palestinian colleague to book a room in a proper hotel for her. She took the money and the children’s passport with her for safekeeping over night. The next morning she collected the children and took them to the boat without any problems.

On the way back to Holland, she took the opportunity in Paris to arrange a travel permit and also permission for the Danish group. At the same time she ensured that on future visits they would stay at Hotel Terminus in Marseilles.


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The second transport took place in November 39, around the 10th. This time Frau W. had no adult companion. She had 25 children for Palestine, one for Shanghai and one for Naples. She prepared the travel arrangements with Cooks. Saturday night they arrived in Marseilles where they were collected by a representative of Cooks Ltd. He informed her that ships to Shanghai were no longer permitted to go from Marseilles but from Genoa. She considered that it would be best to leave the children on their own in Hotel Terminus on Sunday so that she could take the two single cases personally to the Italian border. As she herself had no visa for Italy, she had to ask the 16 year old boy from Naples to deliver the Shanghai child to the Jewish Committee in Genoa who had been alerted by her to the situation. She asked the boy to send her a telegram when he had accomplished the mission. Monday evening she received the following telegram: Erika tres bon, Elizabeth autre route , ERIKA DANS TRIESTE PAR ISABELLE.

Erika was the name of the little girl who was travelling to Shanghai. At 6 a.m. the following morning Frau W. took the 25 children to the boat and got ready to fly straight to Paris. As her train departed at 11 pm, she would be able to take the night train to Holland.

The airport of Marseilles is situated approximately 30 km from the city. On the journey from the airport she was seized with a feeling of anxiety. On arrival, she was arrested by two men and imprisoned in a small cell. Two armed soldiers were with her inside the cell and several more stood guard outside. She did not learn the reason for her arrest. By 1 o’clock she had not eaten anything and asked if she might get some food. Two armed soldiers accompanied her to the airport restaurant. As they opened the door to the restaurant, they shouted loudly: “Ladies and gentlemen, this woman is highly dangerous!” Frau W. thought it wise to eat and drink copiously as she did not know when she would have another opportunity. Then she was returned to her cell. She noticed a handcart in her cell and asked , as the weather was fine, if she could take it outside and sleep in it. This is how she slept until 3.30, then she went back into the cell. Two French sailors now entered her cell, addressed her in German and kept repeating: “At last we have Erika!” They threw Frau W. from one side to the other side of the room , broke her glasses and tore her handbag. She asked them:”Why are you speaking German to me?” “Ha, that’s your mother tongue.” They ordered a police car which took her via Marseilles to a small island where the infamous prison of Marseilles is located. Again she was locked in a cell and told : “ Once you are in here, you never get out.”

After an hour she was collected for an interrogation with two gentlemen. This interrogation was again in German. Her protestations that she was Dutch were rebuffed with the accusation that she was lying. Her passport must be a forgery and Feigne where she crossed the border between Belgium and Holland was German.


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A gentleman appeared who spoke French. He declared that he believed that a mistake had been made. He had talked to Cook’s, he had instigated a search of Frau W.’s suitcase at Hotel Terminus, and in his opinion the wrong woman had been arrested. Frau W. apparently only organised children’s transports , her name was not Erika and she was no German spy. He thought that, as he spoke in French, Frau W. would not be able to follow the conversation. She was now shown a copy of the telegram and asked what it meant. Frau W. replied that, if she could have her papers back, she would be able to show them the list containing both the name Erika and that of the boy from Naples. At that she was set free.

During the interrogation, Frau Wijsmuller had been constantly threatened that the “Admiral” was in the building and that he had a lot of evidence against her. She now demanded that the Admiral came to her and apologised to her in person. She also wanted to know how she was to get back into town. If the Admiral did not wish to see her, she would make the whole story public. She was told that a police car would take her back into town. Frau W. demanded to be driven back in the Admiral’s car in the company of his adjutant who should then come into the hotel and there clarify the error. The Admiral did come, apologised and begged her to keep quiet about the matter. One of his officers who had participated in the interrogation would accompany her in the Admiral’s car. On the journey she told him : “ If you have to do something for your country, it would be advisable for you to learn the stations and borders first. Feigne is not German. I am sorry for you that that I am not this Erika, otherwise you might be promoted to admiral now. This way your chances are small.” The officer was so incensed that he jumped out of the car and ordered the chauffeur to go into the hotel to deliver the Admiral’s apology.

Again, as so often, she had to telegraph home to say that she was arriving a day later. The hotel porter told her that, during the investigations, her work for the children had been discussed. He also advised her to take the night train to Paris which was leaving in 10 minutes’ time in order to get some peace at last.

When she entered the Danish restaurant in Paris to have some lunch, she coincidentally met Mister Pechard there. She asked him to notify Marseilles and explain once more who she was.

The day after her return to Holland Frau W. had to embark on a new journey. The destination was Frankfort. A little girl, Ilse Bauer, was to be adopted in Aruba on the Dutch West Indies, and to this purpose the child had to be collected and taken to the boat in Holland. For two days, little Ilse would stay in her own house in Amsterdam. Then Frau W. and her husband went with the child to the steamer “Simon Bolivar”. Frau W. had severe premonitions that usually came to pass. On stepping on board, she felt that something would happen to the boat. She approached the purser, told him of her premonition and wanted the child to


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be taken off the passenger list. Herr Leid of the shipping company, who happened to be present, and the purser asked Herr Wijsmuller to please come into the small parlour with his wife and to eat and drink something. His wife seemed to them a little stressed and perhaps she would calm down after having a snack. Also they would urge them not to let the staff hear such talk. Frau W. allowed herself to be persuaded to let the child continue the journey. The family of Engineer Westermann , who also travelled on this ship with their own child, was asked by Frau W. to look after little Ilse and for one of the parents to remain with her should anything untoward happen on the way. She did not confide her fears to them. In the very first night after departure , the boat was torpedoed , Ilse Bauer spent a long time in the water and was taken to a hospital in London where she had to remain for 6 months. The child was only 2 ½. Nothing happened to the Westermann child. When Ilse was released from hospital, Frau W. unexpectedly received a call from the K.L.M. to be at the airport at such and such a time because that was when Ilse Bauer would be arriving in Holland, and would Frau W. please accommodate her. Again Frau W. took Ilse into her own home . It was arranged that Ilse would join a B.P.M. transport of 75 people to Aruba. One had to take the train to Lisbon. Friends of distant acquaintances were going on this journey, so Frau W. asked them to take Ilse with them to Lisbon. They agreed on condition that they would have the fare for their entire family paid in exchange. Of course, Frau W. refused this deal. The family’s reaction was: Not everybody is as crazy as to do everything for the Jews without compensation whilst living on the third floor. (Frau W. lived on the third floor). After discussion with the tour guide, Frau W. took the child herself across the Spanish border where other people took charge of her. On 8th May 1940 Ilse Bauer finally managed to start her emigration.

Frau Wijsmuller also took many children to Herr Troper in Paris (Joint).

Early in January 1940, she travelled to Denmark with 56 transit visas for children. (As soon as the children left, Denmark would be able to take more children from Berlin to fill the 56 vacated places.) She chartered 2 airplanes and flew from Copenhagen on 6th January. She travelled via Amsterdam, Paris, Marseilles. There she put the children on the steamer. She also led several Belgian transports.

She often had to travel to Germany for the Holland-America-Line. The official of the Holland-America-Line could not cope on his own if the people emigrating to America had problems with customs. This is why Frau W. travelled to Bentheim at the border and accompanied these people to Rotterdam to help them with any occurring difficulties. For all this work she never got paid.

In November 1939 Frau Wijsmuller received a letter from Herr Sperling , the manager of the travel agency “Salzkammer” in Kalverstr. 101,


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Amsterdam, with the request to visit him in his office. Frau W. knew that he was the leader of the Fifth Column. For this reason, she notified the police of her envisaged visit and asked them to watch out if she left safely. A short time before, she had seen a film in Paris in which people had been kidnapped in America and taken away on German steamers. Although this film was not based on a true story, she knew that reality was not that far from it. The agreed time was 6.30 ( when nobody else was in the office)and that was when she went to see Herr Sperling. The conversation ran as follows: “ Take a seat. Are you the lady of the Jewish transports? Why are you doing this?” “ If I look at you closely, it seems to me entirely possible that during or after WW1 you came to Holland on a Kindertransport. My father and my mother were on this committee.” “I know that you have two passports.” “That is correct. One of them is needed for Holland, the other for the other countries, England, France, etc.” “We are convinced that you do not take money or gifts ; we have tried often enough. (The Gestapo had tried repeatedly.) I want to make a proposition. You are the only woman in the whole world who is persona grata with us as well as in England and France. Next time you come back from England or France, you could tell us what you observed there. We will, of course, not expect you to do so for nothing.” While he was speaking, he opened a drawer , took out a most beautiful piece of jewellery which he placed in front of him and played with as if absentmindedly, moving it back and forth in her direction – but carefully so that one could not have accused him of anything. “Herr Sperling, if I were to do this for you, it would be entirely possible that I was doing it also for England and France. What use would that be for the world?” At this, Herr Sperling became furious and asked :”You are so well-dressed. Who pays for your clothes?” Frau Wijsmuller just left.

The next day she went to a friend, the German banker Koenig. His partner was Herr Flescher. She told them about the incident with Herr Sperling. Herr Flescher responded to this:”Frau W., you speak so little German, I am sure that you misunderstood the situation. I know that Herr Sperling wanted to have discussions with you. This concerned German children whom we want to bring back to Germany from England. “ He promised to find out the truth from Herr Sperling and to let her know the result of this conversation.

A few days later she received a letter from the German consulate that her visa had nearly expired, but before a new one could be issued she would have to document her ancestry. She sent in the required documents and received a new visa.

Herr Flescher then telephoned her and asked her to see him. When she got there, he declared that everything was exactly as he had thought. She had misunderstood Herr Sperling. Herr Sperling had been completely puzzled by her reaction, having asked her most kindly to collect the children. He had now obtained the names of 2 children whom he begged her to collect from England. One of the names was Ursula Etscheid, 18 years, daughter of an SS Major in Berlin. This girl was at a school in London when war broke out and was now unable


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to return home. The other child was not even one year old and was the child of an employee at the travel agency. The return of Ursula Etscheid was of the highest importance to him. He dismissed her with the words: “ Now you can start your work.”

Firstly Frau Wijsmuller approached the French and English Military Attaches after discussions with the respective consulates that had directed her there. She told them exactly what had occurred. They were both grateful for her honesty and they both promised to do everything in their power to help her transport the children.

Through corresponding with the Quakers in London, she received the message that Ursula Etscheid did not wish to return to Germany. In February Frau W. travelled to London to talk to the young girl. Ursula explained that she was engaged to a Jew and therefore did not want to leave London. Frau W. made it crystal clear to her that she had to go home as her refusal could endanger the entire rescue operation of the Jews. “If you don’t, I will make sure that you will be expelled from England.” In response, Ursula promised to return but did not do so straightaway.

In April Frau Wijsmuller received a telegram from Ursula asking her to please collect her from the airport at Amsterdam. In the meantime she had had a letter from Herr Flescher saying how ineffectual she was as the child had still not arrived. Now Herr Flescher accompanied her to the airport saying she should leave the child to him, he would organise her onward journey. When Ursula arrived, she took one look at Herr Flescher and whispered to Frau W.:” Leave the man to me.” Ursula was badly dressed. She immediately asked Herr Flescher to buy her some clothes, she could not run around like this. Also, she was hungry and needed to eat something decent. In response, Herr Flescher took her to the “Bonnetrie”, the most expensive store in Amsterdam, and obtained clothes for her there. In addition he looked after all her needs. Sunday morning at 10, Frau Wijsmuller received a phone call from Herr Flescher, he had to speak to her urgently. When she appeared, Flescher told her that Ursula had to cross the border the next day. She had gone to his wife and had told her that he had bought her nice clothes and had slept with her. It was now up to Frau W. to get the child out immediately , or else she herself would never be allowed to step on German soil. First of all she had to find Ursula as she had left the hotel. Frau W. found her at the home of Jewish acquaintances who were related to Ursula’s fiance. With the help of the Dutch police she really succeeded in getting Ursula across the border. Now Frau W. got her German visa back and was able to continue her aid work for the Jews. As the English Quakers had paid for Ursula’s ticket, she had to send £8 to England, but was not compensated by Herr Flescher until 8th May.


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The Viennese transports went via Frankfort by express train. In 1939 the Germans insisted that the children were only permitted to travel on ordinary trains. Frau W. approached the Gestapo in Frankfort and applied for permission to use the express trains. The relevant official would only grant this permission if she were to take gold from Germany to Holland for him and to store it for him. Frau Wijsmuller naturally refused this offer. After spending the evening with a Higher Gestapo Officer having dinner and attending the opera, she succeeded in getting the permission to use the express trains.

In Vienna there were three committees in charge of Kindertransports, the Jewish Community, the Quakers and the Guild-Masters. Members of the Guild-Masters tried repeatedly to give Frau W. items to keep safe for them in Holland. During one of her transports Vienna-Berlin-Holland, the control in Berlin was particularly exacting and they would not believe that she had nothing with her. Customs officials insisted that they had been informed that she was carrying forbidden goods. Fortunately this was not the case, but in future Frau W. would not talk to these members of the Guild-Masters again.

I would like to give an example of her detailed work. The director of Lever Brothers in Holland asked Frau W. to collect a child for him from Vienna whose father, a physician, was already in America. The child was living with her mother in Vienna. At the airport in Vienna the child was handed over. This 3 year old girl looked inside Frau W.’s handbag and remarked:” You are a lady and you don’t have a lipstick?” On arrival in Berlin they passed through Customs, and Frau W. stated she had nothing to declare. The child carried the empty case of a camera. “Don’t you have a camera?” “No.” Whereupon the child interjected:”But I do have one.” That was totally untrue, but it led to a lengthy examination. Frau W. had not been able to obtain an entrance visa for Holland for the child . All the time she had to overcome problems of this nature. With the help of another passenger, Herr Mille, she succeeded in smuggling the child in. She took the child to her own apartment where she had to battle with renewed fads, be it the food, a migraine or similar matters. This continued at Frau Hartog’s who sent for the little girl on the following day. Of course, the motivation for her behaviour lay much deeper than the usual naughtiness of a three year old child e.g. she was sent shopping with the maid and declared : “Jewish children are not allowed into shops.” In response she was given her own money in a purse and allowed to buy something for herself. Soon the child was ruling the entire Hartog house , owners and staff, and Frau Hartog begged Frau W. to help immediately. The father in America was contacted who instigated that Frau Hartog organised the travel documents for the onward journey to America as soon as possible. Until her departure, the child was accommodated at the gardener’s home. This


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was a suggestion by Frau Wijsmuller and proved to be the best solution. In November 1945, Frau W. met Frau Hartog again in London where she had been able to flee to safety in May 40, and she was delighted not only to see photographs of the child but to hear that she had developed into a wonderful human being.

The Dutch Jewish Committee received 200 visas for immigration into Chile in November 39. It was hoped that Frau W., together with Herr Deutz, would take 200 children to Spain and there put them on Italian boats. It was impossible for Frau W. to go away for so long , but she undertook the organisation as far as Rotterdam.

Also in the year 39 , Frau W. prepared an illegal ship for the journey to Palestine. The Greek steamer “Dora” was to take 500 passengers . The harbour police did not want to give permission for departure as the ship had not been built for such a large number of people. Frau W. went to the steamer with the harbour police and demonstrated that one could create sufficient space for 500 people and so she achieved their permission. Together with her husband she brought the people on board at night. The Socialist newspaper “Het Volk” printed a photograph the next morning, entitled: This is how people are dragged aboard. By chance, Herr Wijsmuller was recognisable in the picture as he was supporting a woman with a heavy rucksack. Sufficient evidence for the untruth of the accusation. In Antwerp a few more people came on board, and the ship arrived safely – despite illegality – in Palestine.

In March 1940, Frau Wijsmuller was notified that there were in Stockholm 56 children from Riga , Estonia, who had certificates and who were to be taken to Palestine for the Youth Aliyah. Would Frau W. please come and organise the transport? The KLM donated her flight to Riga. On arrival there, she found another 100 people who had valid papers for Palestine but no permits for the passage. She travelled to Stockholm and had a discussion with Fritz Warburg in the Grand Hotel. He explained to her that there were still families in Riga , about 100 people, who needed to be transported. She was not entirely trusted. For this reason, Frau W. phoned Paris and spoke to Mr. L’Homme . He called the Ambassador in Stockholm who then got everything organised , including the permission to take the extra 100 people. She now arranged with KLM to fly 7 planes from Malmoe, where she travelled by train. In Amsterdam, a few more children boarded. The local French Ambassador gave her as much assistance as he could. Now Herr Warburg asked her to look after some more children from Riga for whom he could obtain certificates. Frau W. was well aware of the danger of this situation and first of all sought the advice of Rabbi Ehrenpreis. After consultations with both gentlemen , she ordered planes for the transports from the Swedish airline , but had to pay for the journeys out and back.

At the beginning of 1940 Frau W. was called to Brussels to Herr Troper of the Joint in Paris. Two members of the Joint staff had been attacked and taken by a German U-boat whilst travelling on a Swedish steamer.


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Frau W. was to try and get them freed. After discussions with the Germans she succeeded in this undertaking. It was a real joy for Frau W. to meet one of the gentlemen again in 1955 when he appeared at a claims conference in Holland.

Despite all her great successes Frau W. heard in Amsterdam that the local committee still had its doubts about her trustworthiness, whether she was really taking these people to Marseilles.

She went to the airline office in Stockholm and spoke to Director Dr. Bergmann. Herr Warburg was waiting for her outside the office. She explained to Dr. Bergmann that the 7 planes were purely for the children from Riga and that she wanted to hire more planes from him in future in order to transport more children from there. The director asked her if she was from the travel agency Holland and what % she was getting. She answered in the negative. Meanwhile a gentleman from a travel agency had joined them and had listened to their conversation. Now he started to ask extra questions. “How much does it cost for 7 planes? What kind of children are these?” “Jewish ones”. “Our Hermann does not permit this.” “Who is our Herrmann?” “Our Herrmann is Goering.” “He is a German. Is this a German company – I thought it was Swedish?” “No, no, we are a Swedish business. But let us discuss the business aspects. We cannot give you planes to collect the children.” Frau W. succeeded in hiring 7 planes for a specific sum. The personnel had to be paid extra , but she could not get petrol from them. So she asked how much petrol was needed and the cost of that. “You require 80,000 litres.” “When can I have the planes?” “Tomorrow at 9.30.” It was by now 4.30 p.m. She asked for all the promises to be given in writing. She immediately informed Herr Warburg of her discussions and they considered together how to proceed. Herr Warburg advised her to go to Prince Karl, the director of the Swedish Red Cross, but first she would have to approach his secretary, a Baron ... Herr Warburg drove her to this Baron and again waited for her outside. The Baron listened to her wishes and asked her to return at 5.30. On her return, he gave her a certified note that she was to receive 80,000 litres of petrol from the Swedish Red Cross. With this note she happily went back to Herr Warburg . He gave a big reception in her honour that evening to which Prof. Ehrenpreis and many prominent Jews were invited.

The following morning Frau W. went back to the airline officials with her note for the petrol. They were not exactly enthusiastic that she had achieved this and asked her how she had done it. “Oh, I have connections to the King,” was her only reply. At last the planes went off to Riga. This was the last transport that collected children from Riga. Altogether there were about 150 people, of whom approximately 56 children. On the night train, they travelled


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to Malmoe. Frau W. was tired out, took a sleeping compartment for herself and soon sank into a deep sleep. When she was woken up in the morning, all her papers had disappeared, passport, permit, money etc. There she stood with her 150 proteges. The Swedish police refused to let her continue her journey without her papers. The planes were standing there waiting. The man in charge of these planes, a Dutchman, Herr Evert van Dyk, told the police:” “This is our Frau Wijsmuller; you can rest assured that anything she says is trustworthy.” Upon this, the police telephoned Holland to ask if she could be believed. The Dutch police ensured the continuation of her journey. Her passport contained a permanent visa for England, France, Sweden and Denmark.

Her passport contained a permanent visa for England, France, Sweden and Denmark. The only thing she can add today to this strange tale is that at the end of November 1940 when she was in the camp at Gurs and , as usual, sat with the permanently drunk camp director, he uttered the following words:” I can’t understand how we came to have a German spy in the camp who had the same name as you and a passport with all the necessary papers in your name.” That is all Frau W. knows about the theft until this day.

The planes at that time were relatively small. They took off, but after a short while, at 12.30, they landed again in Malmoe. Herr van Dyk came to her with the news that the airport Schiphol in Amsterdam was closed because of a snowstorm and that it was advisable to wait until tomorrow, but as the leader, she had to make this decision. Frau W. put the question what would happen if the flight was to go ahead. “Very dangerous”. She decided to allow the flights to go ahead , but with her in the plane that was to land first. They landed at 3.30, and all the landings took place without any difficulties. The Dutch police awaited Frau W. at the airport with a new passport. Of the Jewish Committee, Herr Frank was present in order to assist her. He had buses waiting that would take the new arrivals to their reserved hotels. The 56 children were taken to Elem (Salvation Army). All the other travellers were destined for a hotel near the central railway station. The Aliens Police collected all the passports and promised to return them to Frau W. the following day when all the people had arrived at the train to Paris they were due to take. The Aliens Police accompanied her to confirm at the hotel that they had the passports of all the guests. At this point, the buses left. Suddenly the police discovered that 11 people were missing. How was it possible? When all the people had been boarded onto the buses, these 11 passengers had boarded a bus from the Amstelhotel which happened to stand at the airport. The Amstelhotel is the most expensive hotel in


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Amsterdam. Frau W. had to go there with the Aliens Police, but the people were allowed to stay there as they had sufficient money to pay their bill. The Aliens Police impressed upon them the need to be at the train punctually at 10 the next day. It turned out that these people were the chairmen of the Community in Warsaw.

Frau Wijsmuller went to Elem to eat supper with the children. Suddenly she received a call from the Aliens Police. The 11 passengers at the Amstelhotel had lodged a complaint against her with the President of the Police that she had taken away their passports. As a consequence, the President of the police had asked the Aliens Police what was to be done with Frau W. if she was capable of such conduct. Of course, the Aliens Police had explained the true situation to the President of the Police and that they had the passports. So this reinstated their trust in Frau W. , and she was given permission to add some Dutch families to the transport , amongst them the Tietz Family who had lived “underground” in Holland, and others in prison who had certificates for Palestine. For herself, Frau W. also received the necessary visas in her passport.

The next morning, everybody was at the station as requested. Unfortunately, the Polish group again caused problems. The train had two new reserved carriages for them in third class. The Poles did not want to travel together with the others and wanted to be in first class. But that was not permitted. They tried to get on at the front and then get off at the back. In the meantime, the transport consisted of about 180 people, and Frau W. was the only accompanying person. For this reason, the police and the Aliens police told Frau W. that they would telephone the police in the Hague and in Rotterdam to alert them as they had the feeling that the Amstelhotel group would run away on the journey. On their orders, the Aliens police accompanied Frau W. whilst the police arranged that the part of the train in which they were travelling would be cordoned off by the police in the Hague and in Rotterdam. They crossed the border in Rosendaal and got to Esschen in Belgium where the Aliens police left Frau W. They took a roll call of all their passengers which was correct and announced that there would be another count in Quavie , the last station before the French border. Herr Tietz asked her to keep all the passports. The whole Tietz Family did a lot to help her during the journey. Shortly after Esschen a gentleman came to Frau W. and introduced himself as the Polish Ambassador in Brussels. He requested the passports of the Polish officers of the Jewish Community as these people were to remain with him at the Embassy in Brussels. Frau W. refused this request as she had promised in Esschen to take as many people out of the country


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as she had brought in. However, she was willing to call the Brussels police from Antwerp and to ask them to receive these people in Brussels. Upon this the man became furious and she never saw him again. The roll call in Quavie was again correct. Frau W. had organised the passport control in such a way that at each border every participant was to show their own passport which was carried in a special pouch. After the control, they all had to return this pouch with the passport to Frau W.

The next border and control was in Fesignie. The “ Commissaire-Speciale” pointed to the director of the Warsaw Community and asked: “So who is this?” Frau W. explained. New question: “ What did you arrange for him?” “Everything. I got him his immigration visa, transit visa etc.” The only reply was “Hm”. After passport control had finished with everyone, Frau W. wanted to lock the passports again into her suitcase, when the director sneaked up to her and tried to get his passport back.

The Commissaire told Frau W. that the director had come to him and had claimed that Frau W. was a dangerous woman , that she should be arrested in Paris. He asked for them all to be arrested in Paris, but Frau W. should rest assured that there was nothing against her.

The Hotel Terminus in Paris which was situated directly opposite the railway station and where they were staying was difficult to reach. Police were lined up to the left and right, and they had to pass through them. At the hotel everything was surrounded by police and nobody was allowed in or out. Frau W. had the task of allocating the rooms. Again there were problems. For example, she gave a room to a married couple called Hering. They protested loudly and did not want to share a room. Frau W. did not respond to these arguments and insisted on her allocation. At 1a.m. she sat with the police to discuss the rest of the journey. The hotel was most upset about the police guard. The police in Marseilles had to be notified of their imminent arrival, also Cook’s Ltd. In addition she reserved rooms in the various hotels. For herself and the 56 children she booked into Hotel Terminus Marseilles.

The next morning at 6.30 they passed through the police line-up to the railway station; from here the police accompanied them to another station.

In Marseilles, the same procedure took place; where the Poles were staying, everything was closed off by police. They arrived


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on a Saturday night which meant that Frau W. could not go to the travel agency before Monday where she organised all the ship’s tickets. On Monday evening the military police came to her because there was again an accusation against her; accuser: the Poles. Police:” Why are you so crazy as to help these people?”

It was two days before Easter 1940 when she took the first group of this transport on board ship. (It was not a very good ship.) She allocated the cabins to the people . Then she intended to have lunch with the captain. At this moment the “Commissaire Speciale” appeared and informed her that she had travellers with false passports amongst her group. Frau W. was appalled. Three or four women (including Frau Hering) were not married and had pretended to be spouses in their passports. The men had immigration permits and were able to each take a woman with them. Hence the protests at the allocation. The Commissaire wanted to retain the people in France but with the help of some money, Frau Wijsmuller was able to sort out the matter.

On the last evening, the Tietz Family handed Frau W. an envelope with 14,000 Guilders in recognition by all of them, they had made a collection and begged her to buy herself something nice. Frau W. accepted it gratefully, but not so she could buy something for herself , instead she gave it to the Jewish Committee in Amsterdam.

One group of people was destined for Italy , and it was Frau W.’s task to take them to the Italian border. Hardly had the first boat left for Palestine, when the Commissaire wanted to check the Italian passports with Frau W. “Do you know that you have a Sarah with you?” “Yes, quite a few of these women are called Sarah.” “No, I am referring to a woman who has a 17 year old daughter with her, as well as a baby of 9 months. The 17 year old is never 17 years old!” The matter was examined and the following emerged: A director with a married daughter – the daughter was much older than 17 – wanted to take the grandchild with them, but had no permit for the grandchild, so pretended it was their own child. Again money had to change hands, again this was the means to solve the matter. The following day she was able to take the group to the Italian border.

Before their departure for Palestine, the Poles again made difficulties for Frau W. At the Customs in Marseilles, a lot of gold was suddenly discovered with the Poles. Frau W. saved the situation by saying that she had forgotten


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to declare the gold on their arrival. As they were merely passing through, she was given permission to take the gold out again. Only one of these Poles called Kruk was not amongst those who behaved badly. Later on he expressed his gratitude to Frau W. in a letter.

This onerous task was now completed, and Frau W. travelled to Paris. It was Good Friday. But Frau W. did not want to return to Amsterdam until she had waited for the last children’s transport which was on its way from Riga. The children flew to Brussels and travelled on the last boat from Marseilles to Palestine. A few of the children came to England by boat, but only those who were going on to America. A scheduled boat service no longer existed since September 39. On 4th May, one single child got to Palestine via Lisbon. His parents were already in Palestine. A few children managed to get to Sao Paulo. America never took anybody without an affidavit.

On 6th May 1940 Frau Wijsmuller travelled to Emmerich to collect a blind old woman , 86 years old, to take her to Holland. On her arrival something unprecedented happened: The border police asked her to come into a room. They pointed to a man outside the window. “Frau W., what is this?” “I don’t know.” “That is a tank soldier. And what is this?” “I don’t know.” “That is a tank.” They believed her that she had never seen anything like that. “If these things are standing at the border, what does that mean?” “I don’t know.” Then Frau W. and five other men were asked to sit down. “Today is Monday. We would like to ask you to come to Emmerich on Thursday on the last train . During the night, between 2 and 3 a.m. we are going to cross the border. We have always helped you to bring out the Jews. Now we need to ask for your help. We would like you to take part in the entry procession into Holland on the second car, holding flowers. You need not have any fears. Everything is well prepared. We will be driving straight through to the Hague, and at 8 p.m. we will arrest Queen Wilhelmina. The following day we will travel on to England, and for that, too, all the preparations have been made in the Dutch ports.”

Frau W. laughed out loudly. “ You are joking with me. You know that I am a friend of the Jews and ,being police, you would never seriously tell me such a story. You probably agreed when you were having a jolly evening in a cafe to pull the leg of the old lady when she next comes here. But you should not play such tricks on me. Rather choose the pretty blond lady from the Hague. You know who I mean? The Blond from the fur shop who is always smuggling cocaine. “ “Did you not see our boss on the platform? He no longer wears black


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but has a new green uniform. When we were invading other countries, the black uniform caused us too many problems.” Frau W. replied: “ Here comes the train. I would like to invite you for breakfast on Saturday morning at my house. I must give you my address so that you do not enter the wrong place by mistake.” The blind lady was brought to the room by a nurse. Frau W. took over from the nurse and got the papers. She jokingly said:” Hope to see you again soon.” Then she got on the train with the blind lady.

Recently, whenever she returned from Germany, an official stood there in Zevenaar who asked her and other good acquaintances whether anything had happened to them or if they had seen anything noteworthy. On this occasion, Frau W. told him that in the last week German telephone wires had been extended right to the borders, that everywhere near the border haystacks (weapons) were piled up , and then she told him the story of what happened to her with the German border police and what she had replied. “You are not the first who told me this story today; we have already notified the Hague but they don’t want to believe us. Please go to the Hague tomorrow and tell them the story again.” “No, you are a paid civil servant ; they should believe you much rather than me. Go to the Foreign Office and report it. I am supposed to take Ilse Bauer to the Spanish border on 8th May and I will go to the Foreign Office to see Herr Carriere and Herr Boer and tell them that I will not go.” The train was fairly empty. At the Dutch Customs Control there were only a man and a woman apart from her with the official. The man had a German uniform in his case. He said that he had to go to Rotterdam and needed the uniform for the performance of a play within the family. In Arnheim, Herr Deutz collected her by car as the old lady was a relative of his.

The next morning at 7.30 she received a phone call asking her, before going to the Foreign Office in the Hague , to come to the offices of the Dutch government in Koenigsgracht in the Hague. There she was received by Herr Quasett van Uchele. He asked her to repeat what she had told the Dutch official in Zevenaar yesterday. After her report , Herr Quasett van Uchele said: “ This is not true. Don’t you know that it is very dangerous to tell such tales?” Frau W. left and went to see Herr Carriere and Herr Boer at the Foreign Office, saying laughingly: “ At last Frau Wijsmuller is frightened. I shall not deal with Ilse Bauer.” “Don’t be so scared. We shall send a telegram to the Dutch General Consulate


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in Paris to ask them, in case of emergency, to give you any necessary assistance. You can be present when we send the telegram.”

She left the office and walked across the “Plein”. A short man approached her and asked: “ Are you Frau Wijsmuller?” “Yes.” “Would you please take a cup of coffee with me? I am the secretary of the French Military Attache. I was present in the room when you were having the discussion with the two gentlemen and I heard everything.” Frau W. went with him to the Hotel Central where the man showed her his ID. “Everything you said is true. The Dutch are crazy . I don’t know why they won’t believe the truth. If you travel to Paris tomorrow morning at 1.30, you will arrive at 10 p.m. Please call this number immediately; you must tell these people everything and they will help you further. On no condition should you travel to Spain. You will not be able to return.”

In 1941 Frau W. met this Military Attache in Toulouse and ,in gratitude, smuggled some clothes for him from the Hague to Toulouse. She followed his advice. She arranged with the people whom she had called that the child should travel to Irum at 8 a.m. the following morning and that Frau W. would accompany her up to the first station after Paris where someone from the B.P.M. would receive the child. In the evening she returned to Paris completely exhausted. After a good meal she drank a whole bottle of Burgundy and went to bed. At 3 a.m. she was woken up by the porter of the Hotel Terminus ; she needed to go down immediately because of air raid alarm , and in any case, the Germans had invaded Holland. Because of the time difference of 40 minutes between France and Holland, he had been able to receive the news. She did not go down to the cellar.

In a hotel on the Champs Elysee were acquaintances of Frau W., Herr and Frau Pollack. Frau Pollack worked on the Jewish Committee. Accompanied by two children, they all went to the Dutch consulate for advice. The Dutch consulate received Frau W. very frostily. Perhaps she was a spy. How come she knew everything in advance? And why was she able to travel back and forth between the borders, after all it was wartime. They concluded their remarks with the words: “ I always heard that the Foreign Office only sends trustworthy people abroad. You are not such a person. The Radio Station Hilversum is broadcasting such lovely music, there


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simply can’t be a problem in Holland. Just listen yourself how jolly it sounds. Today is Friday. Sunday is the first day of Whitsun, Monday is the second. Are you from Northern Holland? Then you will have a third day off. Not us, though. Come back on Tuesday. Do you need money from us to survive?” “No, thanks.” “ Take care, you are now under the control of this consulate , so do not go away, but wait until you hear from us.”

After this visit, Frau W. set off to Herr Troper of the Joint Distribution Committee and told him everything. She explained to him that he had to understand that she needed to go back. Afterwards she went to the Belgian consulate, showed her papers and asked for advice as to how she could return. “Do I need a Belgian visa?” “Yes, from today this is the law. But we will give you a visa.”

She went back to the hotel. She had to stay in her room, and her meals were also served in her room. She gave the porter 1,000F and asked him to notify her if there was any possibility to travel to the Belgian border. The porter promised to do whatever he could. Only she should not leave the hotel. Either stay in the room or go to the restaurant. At 9.15 p.m. he called her in her room to tell her to get ready immediately as a train was leaving for the border and she should try to get on it. It was an army train , but there were also Belgian civilians who needed to get to the army. On arrival at the platform, she had to pass several high-ranking French officers. No, she could not board. When she showed them her papers, they gave their permission. She wanted to travel in First Class, but that was refused , she could not travel with the officers, only with common soldiers. She agreed to that. At 7 in the morning they arrived in Fenge. Here everything had been destroyed by bombs. Over her head it was discussed how one could get the army contingent to Antwerp. One wagon was destined for Brussels Midi. On the platform there was an argument with a pastor (the soldiers were all drunk). In Quwie they had to get out of the carriage, it was hit by bombs. The journey continued to Mons in Belgium. There, too, everything had been hit by bombs. One of the boys found a lady’s hat with a wig which had to have slid off the woman’s head. He put the wig on , everyone laughed. The tracks had also been hit by bombs, one could not continue. More discussions followed. They had to walk a certain distance. A new carriage came for them.


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At 12 o’clock they arrived in Brussels Midi. Just at that moment there was a huge bombardment, and a deep crater was formed. She took a taxi to the Gare du Nord, took all the young soldiers with her , and they all travelled together to Antwerp. The train departed at 1 o’clock. In Mecheln they had to get off as the carriage was needed for the inmates of a lunatic asylum. The stream of refugees in the opposite direction was enormous. They were able to continue. Before Antwerp there was a particularly severe bombardment. The “boys” became fewer and fewer as they alighted at their destinations.

On arrival in Antwerp, Frau Wijsmuller wanted to take a taxi to Puetten in Holland. The driver would only be prepared to take her if she paid him in French money so that he could flee with it. They started off. Because of air raids they had to interrupt the journey again and again. The border officials knew Frau W. well and said: “ You look as though you have not slept for days.” In a cafe she met the driver of a beer lorry who gave her a lift to Bergen of Zoom and from there to Dinteloord. It was 7 o’clock when they arrived there. She wanted to get to Nuemandsdorp which meant taking a ferry. One official did not want to let them go, it was far too dangerous, everything was full of electrically charged mines. She should go to Cochensplaat. Frau W.: “ I would not dream of it ; I can only get on from Nuemandsdorp.” 30 Dutch people joined her. They came from a circus in Belgium where they had performed. Together they took a small ferry across.

On arrival in Nuemandsdorp they were immediately locked into the depot of the tram lines. The island was occupied by the Dutch military. One could see that a petrol dock in Antwerp was in flames. In Holland, the village of Zevenbergen was on fire. Sailors gave them some straw to sleep on. There were also a young man and a young girl with her, not the people from the circus.

At first light they escaped to get to Nuemandsdorp. A bomb had just been dropped. “Philipspeople” – of the Philips factory – were moving in columns towards the West ; the bridge at Moerdyk was in German hands. So everybody was heading for Nuemandsdorp. The Germans dropped bombs because they thought these were army columns. The three of them hired a cart and horse which took them to the edge of the island. Only for a lot of money did a man take them across. Via another island they reached Pont op Maassluis. Every hundred metres they met Dutch soldiers who


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checked them out to see if they were not men in disguise. On the first day of Whitsun they were taken to the police station. They were given a Philips car. They travelled through to the Hague. There the chaos and noise were huge. In front of the bridge towards Leiden lay many dead bodies. In Wassenaar they had to return the car to the police. They had to help them further. In another car they arrived in Leiden at 9 o’clock. Again Frau Wijsmuller was taken to be a spy. At this point she was so shattered from all the hardships that she could not even speak. She was taken to a lady who had to guard her until the morning. She slept deeply. The following morning she was picked up by soldiers . A gentleman in uniform , a Dr. Zeehandeler, had been fetched ; they might have a man in disguise who was a spy who had to be examined. By chance he was a Jew and a close acquaintance of Frau W.’s. Of course, he recognised her immediately, brought her to the General who apologised profusely and said that they would take her to Amsterdam.

This is how she got to Amsterdam and her home. But – at home there was nobody. She went to the Jewish orphanage in the hope to meet her husband there. He was not there. The porter saw her driving off in an open car, accompanied by an officer and two armed soldiers and asked: “ Where have you come from?” Frau W. said jokingly: “ Can’t you see what marvellous company I have; I am under close guard.” Of course this was the escort that the general in Leiden had given her. Frau W. also could not find her housekeeper, Frau Hackmann. She went to her husband’s office, he was not there either. In the meantime she had phoned her father who was terribly worried about her and whom she had to go and see first of all. Then she went to the Jewish Committee. There she was received with the message that the police were looking for her. She immediately went to the Police Headquarters. There she was arrested as a spy. She was placed in front of a large committee who interrogated her with severity and in a most unpleasant manner. Almost all the members of the committee were known to her. Except one man, who distinguished himself through particular rudeness. Frau W. told them: “ Gentlemen, if everyone is like you, then the war will be over tomorrow , and the Germans will be here in Amsterdam. Then I would welcome being in prison , I would not have to explain why I was in Paris ; I can simply say that I was here the whole time.” She turned to the particularly unfriendly gentleman with the words: “ My mother always said I should not talk to people who have not introduced themselves. You have no manners, and I shall not answer you anymore. I hope you will lock me up quickly.” Now she was told that they


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would telephone the Hague and find out more about her. Then she was taken across the street to the police station. They still claimed that she must have had German help to get through the mines.

At the police station, the officers knew her well and tried to calm her. They knew perfectly that she had been working in Paris. Everything would come out alright, but she should not respond to those people in such a provocative manner. An hour and a half later she was recalled to the Police Headquarters. They said: “ You are free to go. We have spoken to the Hague and to Puetten, and your report is correct.”

As she was still searching for her husband, she went back to the Jewish orphanage. The porter who had taken her joke seriously called the police station to inform them of Frau W.’s presence. At the police station they did not know that the headquarters had released her and came to pick her up again. Frau W. asked what was to be done with her. They used a terrible insult and added that women like her should be taken to Calverstraat on the second day of Whitsun so that people could through dirt at her. Frau W. asked the policemen to phone headquarters, the situation was explained, and she was allowed to go home amidst many apologies. Now she went straight to her apartment where the neighbours told her that the police had been looking for her to pick her up by car.

The next morning she was asked by the army to come to the garrison and help them with one of their cases. Her reply was: “ No, yesterday at the interrogation you did not know me , so you can do your own thing now.” Later that day she received a call from England if she still wanted to send orphans to England. That very day she brought 150 people in 5 large coaches to the ship. This was the last ship to leave Holland. It departed at 7.50. At 8 o’clock, Holland capitulated. Later on , English radio reported that Frau Wijsmuller’s ship had arrived safely. Any boat that tried to sail after that was sunk by the Germans.

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