"Do you still remember the songs? I also sing them."
Leah Jurgrau wrote these words to her 8-year-old daughter Ruth in her last letter from Westerbork. Ruth was in hiding in Groningen, in the north of the Netherlands.
Leah Friedman and Dov Jurgrau met on the deck of a ship en route to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) in 1922. Leah was born in 1905 in Tarnow, Poland, and was one of the Hashomer Hatzair members who founded the settler's group that established Kibbutz Beit Alfa. Dov was born in 1902 in Radautz, Bukovina. He was travelling on the ship alone, and paved the way for his three younger brothers, who followed him to Eretz Israel. Leah and Dov settled in Kibbutz Beit Alfa, and later moved to Tel Aviv. They were married in 1927 in Jerusalem. Leah worked taking care of babies, and Dov was a carpenter.
In 1928, the couple left Eretz Israel. Dov studied architecture and carpentry in Germany, and Leah travelled to her brother Maks and her sister Bepi (Pessia) in Amsterdam. On completing his studies, Dov joined Leah in Amsterdam, and opened a furniture carpentry workshop. The Jurgraus also joined the "Ansky" Yiddish culture society. Their daughter, Ruth, was born in Amsterdam in 1934.
When the war broke out, the Jurgraus tried unsuccessfully to flee the Netherlands. In the summer of 1942, Dov found a hiding place in an apartment in Groningen, where he was joined by his daughter, Ruth. Meanwhile, Leah hid in the home of Dutch friends, the Boersma family, in Amsterdam. Tragically, Leah was caught and sent to the Westerbork transit camp, and deported from there to her death in Sobibor in 1943. The Boersma family refused to be recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, as they felt they had failed to save Leah, who was caught in their home. Ruth was taken from the apartment where she was hiding with her father, and with the assistance of the Dutch underground, she was transferred to a string of Dutch families that took care of her. She survived by moving from place to place. Her father, Dov, was arrested, sent to Westerbork, and in February 1943, was deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in December.
During her sojourn at the various hiding places, Ruth received letters from her parents, some of which are displayed here. The letters were delivered to Ruth through members of the Dutch underground, who wouldn't let her keep the letters for fear that they put her life in danger. Ruth only received all the letters after the war. At least 15 people were involved in Ruth's rescue and the attempt to save her parents.
Most of Ruth's rescuers have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations: Homme Poort; Alina and Jan Vos; Matheus and Jantje van der Laan; Ritske and Immigje Veenstra; Elisabeth Magnin; Adriana Knappert; Dirk, Gerritje, Wiebren and Akke Oppedijk; Henriette Voute; Anna Stork.
After the war, Ruth was taken in by friends of her parents in Amsterdam. In 1947, in accordance with the request of her uncle, her father's brother, Ruth immigrated to Eretz Israel. In 1994, Ruth Jurgrau-Lavi submitted Pages of Testimony in memory of her beloved parents, Leah and Dov, and other relatives murdered in the Holocaust.
How are you? Are you happy there? I miss you very much. Be good and don't read too much. It's not healthy for such a little girl. Mummy is very tired and sick. Beg her to come to you… write her a long letter, one like you've never written before… Maybe Mummy will come and then we – Daddy and you – can be happy again.
Lots of kisses from your Daddy
On the reverse side of the postcard he wrote:
Dear friends, warm regards and the Lord will repay you for all your goodness….
I haven't received a letter from you for ages. How come? Are you no longer drawing? How did you like the books? Or are you still too young? And the bunny? And how was the gentleman [Dov] that came to visit you? Did you give him a kiss for me? I am well, and hope that we will see each other soon. Then we'll celebrate.
And now my darling, regards to the two little ones, and to you of course, from L [Leah]
On the reverse side of the letter is a drawing, and the words:
My room. Do you understand?
It's me – pretty, huh?
The letter and the drawing were wonderful. Everyone loves the drawing. Did you draw it with your left or right hand?
I'm glad that you are in a good place with the two little ones. Are you sure that you are happy? I hope you are behaving like a big girl, and playing nicely with the children.
Lots of kisses to the three of you.
Do you still remember the songs? I also sing them.