"I hope that you will be able to stay with your foster parents, who are so good to you, until we return. It is comforting for us to know that at least you are safe."
Johanna Rosenbaum wrote these words in her last letter from her incarceration in Neede, the Netherlands, to her infant daughter Betty, who was living in hiding in Eibergen. Betty survived. Her parents Johanna and Ephraim, and her baby brother Izaäk Michel Max (Maxje), were murdered during the Shoah.
Ephraim Izaäk Levie (EIL) Rosenbaum and Johanna Frederika Suzanna Zion (Jo) were married in 1940, and lived in Amsterdam. Ephraim was a pharmacist and Johanna – a housewife. In August 1941, their daughter Betty was born, followed by their son Maxje in January 1943. Johanna had five siblings – Julius, Solomon, Zadok, Wilhelmina and Frieda.
After the birth of Izaäk, Johanna managed to leave Amsterdam with her children and get to her birthplace of Eibergen. With the help of the Dutch underground, she found a hiding place for Betty with Albertha and Jan Willem Hageman, the parents of two children. Hageman was a clerk in the local municipality and an underground activist who procured fake documents and food ration cards for Jews, members of the underground, and others in need of refuge. Betty was presented as a distant relative by the name of Elisabeth Cornelia Andriessen, whose father was sent to a camp in Germany and mother was unable to care for her. Ephraim was asked by the Joodse-Raad (Judenrat) to remain at his pharmacy as an essential worker.
Johanna and Maxje were sent into hiding in Neede, not far from Eibergen. Johanna's brother Julius, and Wilhelmina's fiancé, Istvan Balint, were also hiding there. Soon after, Ephraim was arrested and imprisoned in the Vught concentration camp, and from there he was sent for detention in the punishment barracks at Westerbork.
Johanna, Maxje and Istvan were informed upon and sent to Westerbork. On 30 March 1943, Johanna and Maxje were deported to Sobibor, where they were murdered. A few weeks later, on 23 April, Ephraim was also sent to his death in Sobibor. His mother-in-law Betje Zion-Gans was on the same transport. Johanna's siblings survived. Istvan was murdered in Sobibor.
Betty's rescuer, Jan Hageman, was also informed upon and arrested in April 1944. He was interrogated and executed by the Germans. His wife Albertha Hageman remained alone with her two children and looked after Betty until liberation.
After the end of the war, Betty's uncle, Julius Zion, came to Albertha Hageman's home to collect Betty. In 1964, Betty immigrated to Israel.
In 2014, through Yad Vashem's ongoing "Gathering the Fragments" campaign, Betty gave letters and certificates to Yad Vashem, including this farewell letter from her mother, Johanna.
Dear Betty and foster parents [Jan and Alberta Hageman],
This is the most difficult letter I have ever written. We (Istvan* and I) are now sitting with Maxje in the military barracks in Neede. The people here are good and let us do whatever we want. Enclosed you will find ration cards, money and a watch (which
I probably won't be allowed to keep anyway – it is new, but slightly damaged), a brooch that I got as a present from Eil [her husband – Ephraim Izaäk Levi] on the occasion of Maxje's birth, and a toothbrush.
I am happy, darling girl, that you are not with us at the moment, and I only hope that you will be able to stay with your foster parents, who are so good to you, until we return, with God's help. It is comforting for us to know that at least you are safe (because I am now trying to get to Vught [concentration camp] where your father is).
There are still many things with the Baron in Amsterdam that are intended for you (shoes, a coat, dresses, etc.). Maybe your foster parents could go there, once everything has quietened down, and discuss this with them? If it is safe where you are now, I would rather that you stayed there. You can stay over at the Baron's house, of course, after they have moved. Give everyone my regards.
My dear child, I hope that we will find each other again in good health and with optimism for the future. In the meantime, I hope your foster parents and grandparents enjoy your presence. I send you a thousand kisses, my darling girl.
*Istvan Balint was the fiancé of Wilhelmina Zion – the sister of Johanna Rosenbaum, who wrote the letter. Wilhelmina survived. Istvan was murdered in Sobibor.