Monday, February 6, 2012

Flory: A miraculous story of survival by Flory A. Van Beek 2008; a version was originally published as Flory: Survival in the Valley of Death in 1998

 "The book paints a vivid portrait of life for the Jews in the Netherlands under Nazi occupation." from a review by Dennis McLellan in the L.A. Times, 2/28/1999

This interesting memoir, written by a Jewish Holocaust survivor from the Netherlands who was in hiding during the war, gives us an inside look at the situation of Dutch Jews immediately before and during World War II. Flory Van Beek was in her teens when the war broke out. She and her future husband, a German Jew living in Holland, tried to flee Holland by booking passage to Chile on the Simon Bolivar but on the second day out, on November 18, 1939, the ship hit German mines and exploded. She and Felix, badly wounded, recovered in England for many months, but because Felix was a German national, he was not allowed to stay, so they returned to Holland and went into hiding.

Because the author’s family had lived in the Netherlands for many generations, it is clear she felt very attached to her country and her fellow countrymen. She talks at length about the Dutch character and their general resistance to the Germans. The partisans went on many dangerous missions to find safe housing for homeless Jews, to make inquiries, to pass information along, to forge false identity papers and food coupons. Van Beek and her husband’s fear is palpable while being hidden away and equipped with false papers. Because they were worried about having been detected, they had to move more than once. There were many close calls when they thought they would be caught for sure.

It’s very interesting and unsettling to experience the progress of the war through the eyes of the author, her family and their protectors because we now have the larger picture. Despite the Nazi rules against owning radios, the partisans hid crystal radio sets in their attics and they gathered around to listen to the BBC and follow in an atlas the Allies’ progress. When America entered the war they were sure it would be over soon. But as it dragged on for years, the tension became unbearable and they were often in despair.  When the Germans finally did surrender, the author describes the jubilation in the streets, but then came the hard task of taking stock and seeing who had made it through the war and who hadn’t. She makes the point that out of approximately 140,000 Dutch Jews, only about 6,000 survived.

Throughout this whole period the author clipped articles and her husband kept a diary that stretched into three volumes.Their collection, buried during the war, came with them to America, but she couldn't bear to look at it for many years. In 1984 when she did start reading it, the material helped her to write this book. The the collection is now part of the archives of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

Last names are confusing in this memoir. It is clear that Flory’s maiden name was Cohen. From a document included, it’s clear that her mother’s maiden name was van Beek. She dedicates this book to her Cohen brothers and sister and to her mother-in-law Jette Aufhauser. It’s likely that to avoid having the German last name of Aufhauser, or the Jewish last name of Cohen, Felix and Flory at some point (probably during the war, when they got married) adopted her mother’s maiden name of van Beek.

To read an obituary of Flory van Beek who died in 2010, click here.
To read "400 Years of Dutch Jewry" on the website of the Jewish Historical Museum in the Netherlands, click here.

Saam Cohen – author’s father’s oldest brother; married Sophie
    Lenie – daughter of Saam
? Cohen – married Aleida van Beek
    Jes (Ies) Cohen – son of Aleida; married to Elisabeth
    Ben Cohen – son of Aleida
    Elisabeth Cohen – daughter of Aleida; married to Abraham Coster
    Flory Cohen – daughter of Aleida; Felix Aufhauser (see note above); author
        Ralph van Beek (see note above)

Aleida van Beek – married ? Cohen (see above)
Sien van Beek – sister of Aleida; married Ephraim de Haas
    Jacob, Maurits and Simon de Haas; sons of Sien and Ephraim
Flora van Beek – sister of Aleida; married Jules Frank

Felix (Aufhauser) van Beek – married to Flory Cohen (see above)
Hugo Aufhauser – brother of Felix
Sam Aufhauser – brother of Felix
Theo Aufhauser – brother of Felix
Nellie Aufhauser – sister of Felix; married Kurt
    Eric – son of Nellie and Kurt

Isse and Sierien van Zuiden – uncle and aunt of author; exact relationship unclear

Below are relatives of the author whose relationship to her is not clear:
Carolina Salzer- Erle
Bernhard Salzer
Trude Hofman-Blum
Gunther Hoffmann
Hertha Mannheimer

Amersfoort, Holland
Amsterdam, Holland
Rotterdam, Holland
Blijdorp, Holland
Newport Beach, California
New York City, NY

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