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From destruction to hope: a parting letter from a cousin

On January 27, 2014 Ghetto Fighters’ House will hold a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day. During the ceremony, which will be dedicated to the Jews of Holland, Beit Joles will donate the last letter written by a Jew in the Westerbork camp on the day before his deportation to Auschwitz to the archives . Jansje [Jannie] Pool, to whom the letter was addressed, guarded the letter throughout her life. When she moved to Beit Joles, the Dutch senior citizens home in Haifa, she took it with her. Jansje passed away in 2000 and the letter was discovered in 2013 at Beit Joles.  After it was translated into Hebrew and research was conducted, the writer was identified as Joachim Sanders, Jansje’s cousin on her mother’s side.

In September 1943, Jansje Pool, then aged thirty three, fell sick with diphtheria and was placed in an isolation ward in the Westerbork camp in Holland. Six months beforehand, Jansje, her husband and their little son Matthijs, arrived at the Westerbork transit camp after their hiding place in Amsterdam had been discovered (due to informers). Her parents, Henoch and Rosa de Jong-Sanders, were also sent to Westerbork and were deported to the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland at the end of March 1943. In July 1943, Philip, Jansje’s husband and father of her children, was murdered in Sobibor. In mid July, 1943, her son, three year-old Matthijs, died in Westerbork from pneumonia. Because of her own illness, Jansje could not look after her son and ultimately had to part from him. She was, at this time, in an advanced stage of pregnancy and she and her baby were in mortal danger.

Jannie with her first son, Matthijs

Jannie's parents,  Henoch and Rosa de Jong

During this difficult period, between the series of losses she experienced and the birth of her second child, her cousin Joachim-Hans Sanders (born in 1919) wrote to her. He wrote the letter on 20.9.1943 from the camp’s punitive block, located not far from the clinic in which Jansje lay and managed to transmit it to her:

Dear Jannie,
I have just been informed that I am leaving tomorrow. Even though I am on the Barneveld list (a camp in the center of Holland where conditions were considered relatively good) they refuse to let me go there.

[….] It was good to speak with you yesterday, as the last member of my family. If ever I can repay you for everything you have done for me, please let me know. The war will not last for much longer so, perhaps, we will meet again quite soon.

[….] The package you gave me yesterday was great, thanks so much.

The conditions here are OK and the mood is good. Some play bridge, others are bored and lie around on their beds, others fool around, and so on.  I am sure you know what it’s like. Today, they shaved my head, now I am bald and marked with a ribbon.  But I don’t care. Most are packing. I am glad that I hardly have anything. They would steal it anyways. I am very curious to know what Poland is really like and what is going to happen to me. Tomorrow, I will throw some more letters out of the windows of the train.

Jannie […..] my sweet […..] it is very important for me that you survive. Thysje's death (nickname for Matthijs) is one of the most horrible things that happened in this war. I hope that your new child will help you forget a little this grief. I don’t know what else to tell you… again thank you. We will meet again soon in Amsterdam. God bless you.
Joachim

Joachim Sanders last letter to his cousin, Jannie Pool

Joachim Pool, Jansje’s second son, was born at the beginning of October 1943. One year later he and his mother were sent to the Teresienstadt Ghetto in Czechoslovakia, where they remained incarcerated until the end of the war. They then spent some time in Switzerland and later in Holland. They immigrated to Israel in 1952 and settled in Nahariya. The hoped-for-meeting in Amsterdam between the two cousins, Joachim and Jansje, never took place. Joachim was sent to Auschwitz and died on July 1944 in Buna-Monowice, an Auschwitz sub-camp. His letter became a parting letter. Even if he had succeeded in throwing out more letters from the deportation train, it is unknown if they ever reached their destination. 

  

Jannie and Philip's second son,
Joachim Pool

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