"Oma and Opa, I send you all good wishes on the occasion of the birthday of your only son. Please congratulate him for me."
Ten-year-old Jacob Hijman Marcus wrote these words in his last letter to his maternal grandparents, Hijman and Brantje Matteman, from his hiding place in Amsterdam. Jacob was murdered in Auschwitz.
Philip and Diufje Marcus lived in Amsterdam with their son, Jacob-Jaap Hijman (b. 1934). After the occupation of the Netherlands, the family went into hiding with the assistance of Diofje's brother, Salomon Matteman. Philip and Diufje lived in Amsterdam with false identity papers in the names of Philip Koch and Dora Weiss. Their son Jacob was sent into hiding together with his aunt, Rosa-Roosje, his mother's sister, and he sent letters to his family from there. Salomon was caught and imprisoned in Westerbork, after which he was deported to the East.
On 8 June 1944, Jacob Hijman and his aunt were caught in their hiding place in Amsterdam, and incarcerated in the Westerbork concentration camp. On 4 September, they were both deported to the Terezin ghetto. This was the largest deportation from Holland, and the last to leave Westerbork for Terezin. In Terezin, Rosa was assigned to work sorting metals, a job that provided her with immunity from deportation. When Jacob Hijman's name appeared on the list of upcoming deportees from the ghetto, Rosa decided to accompany him, and switched her name with another person on the same list. On 23 October, Rosa and Jacob were deported to Auschwitz. Jacob Hijman was murdered in the gas chambers on arrival. Rosa passed the selection and survived until the liberation of the camp. Two months later, in March 1945, she died of food poisoning after buying and eating what she was told was kosher food.
Salomon Matteman was caught in hiding in Amsterdam on 15 August 1944, and was taken from the offices of the SD to the local prison. He was transferred to Westerbork, and on 3 September, he was deported to Auschwitz, on the same transport as Anne Frank and some of her family members. On 18 January 1945, Salomon was evacuated from Auschwitz to Gross Rosen, and from there to Sachsenhausen. Three weeks later, he was moved to Mauthausen, where he was liberated on 30 April. Salomon spent time in rehabilitation facilities in Switzerland and France, and returned to Holland in February 1946.
The family members who had remained in Holland survived.
Philip and Duifje immigrated to the United States, where their daughter Leni was born in 1949.
In 2016, Leni Marcus-Davidson donated documents and family photographs, including Jacob's last letter, to Yad Vashem as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" project. No one submitted a Page of Testimony in memory of Jacob Hijman Marcus. His name and photograph appear in Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.
16 May 1944
Dear Oma and Opa,
Heartfelt thanks for the guilders, Oma. How are you actually doing? Here, everything is going well.
These animals will be in the terrarium: a frog, a snake, a tortoise and a lizard. Opa, I planted brown beans and peas. I'm allowed to have caterpillars because they are going to become butterflies.
Please congratulate him for me.
Lots of kisses and regards,
Jhm [Jacob Hijman Marcus]