"From now on you’re called Lieneke"

"From now on you’re called Lieneke"

15th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

'Forbidden for Jews and dogs'. Seeing this sign in Utrecht's Wilhelmina Park in 1940 made Jacqueline realise that she was Jewish... and unwanted. Under the name 'Lieneke' she survived the Second World War, drawing strength from monthly letters from her father.

Jacqueline van der Hoeden was six years old when the Second World War broke out. To avoid being captured by the Germans, she went to live with a doctor in the east of the Netherlands.

Her father let her know how much he missed her in a series of beautifully drawn letters, which have just been published for the first time.

New name
This week Jacqueline returned to the village where she spent the war. Here she met her old school friends and children from her neighbourhood who still know her as Lieneke, the name she took on when she went into hiding.

"I was very reluctant, as I was afraid I wouldn't recognise anybody anymore, " said Lieneke. "But it exceeded expectations. It was great to see everybody again."

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Lieneke was living in Utrecht. It wasn't until the 'forbidden for Jews and dogs' sign appeared in the Wilhelmina Park that she became aware of her 'special status' as a Jewish girl.

"I knew we were Jewish, but I didn't really know what this meant. We celebrated Hanukkah instead of Christmas. Mum lit candles every Friday. Our meal was a bit more festive than the rest of the week, but other than that I had no idea what being Jewish entailed."

A letter once a month
Her Jewish background became painfully apparent when she was no longer allowed to go to school and her father wasn't allowed to teach at the University of Utrecht. The family van der Hoeden went into hiding. When the situation became too dangerous, Lieneke's father took her to the village of Den Ham in the east of the Netherlands where she went to live with Doctor Kohly.

After some time she received a letter from her father. Resistance organisations made sure the letters were taken to Den Ham every month.

"And that was great. It was even greater still, because it showed that everybody was obviously still alive. In a clever way he showed that everything was ok without actually saying so. That was a great comfort to me. I was yearning for them, but they were also yearning for me."

Hidden in the garden
After she had read them Lieneke gave the letters - which were in fact small drawn booklets - back to the doctor. He was supposed to destroy them, so they couldn't be found by the Nazis. After the war it turned out that the doctor had hidden all the letters in a tin in the garden.

"To my great surprise he took a spade. I had never seen him work in the garden before. He started to dig under an old apple tree and out came a tin with all the letters. I was horror-struck: you were supposed to destroy them! But he said: they were so beautiful, I couldn't destroy them."

Lieneke took the letters with her when she and her father emigrated to Israel in 1948. She kept them to herself until somebody persuaded her to exhibit the letters in a museum. The Israeli writer Tami Shem-Tov visited the museum and decided to write a book about the letters.

 Dutch Jewish school children wearing their yellow stars


Lieneke says: "I didn't want this book published. My father was always very modest and would never have wanted it."

However, in the end she agreed. She thought it would be good that, through the letters, children will get a different take on the war than the horrific stories about concentration camps and gas chambers.

Sebastiaan Gottlieb
Radio Netherlands

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