Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Hasenberg Butter - September 22, 1986

Outbreak of War

How, how did things start to change? During the... When the war began, do you remember what the conditions were?

Well, the invasion itself was very frightening because there were bombers and, and airplanes and shooting and um, those were the first few days and then the Dutch surrendered and then things began to happen very gradually. The first thing was you had to um, uh, um, protect... You had to install all kinds of curtains so the light wouldn't show at night out of your windows and um, that had, there were all kinds of inspection standards, so that happened. There were bombings one night and I don't know when this happened, how early it... after the invasion, but Amsterdam was bombed and we had a uh, bomb fell right in our neighborhood and my brother and I found glass in our bed, the windows were completely shattered and then they began to build shelters and there were all kinds of attacks. So, the, the very beginning was the fear, the anxiety of shooting and bombing, and uh, the threat on people's lives. But that affected everybody, that wasn't particularly directed at the Jews, of course. That was the beginning of the war. Then the second phenomenon I remember was shortages, food shortages, and coupons where um, it was less and less possible to buy things. You had to go queue in the stores, you had to have coupons and uh, there were times when Jews weren't allowed to shop and neighbors shopped for you. Or Jews could only go very late when there wasn't much left, and all the other people went earlier. Um...

Is this when your neighbors helped?

Yes, we always had a lot of support and help from our neighbors. Then um, the, the restrictions began after, you know, the food shortages and Jews weren't allowed to do things. They were, they were forbidden to go into cafes, they were for... forbidden to go to the theater, they were forbidden to ride the tram or the trains, they had to... There was a curfew, you had to be in at a certain time. Uh, then you couldn't visit your non-Jewish people anymore. You were not allowed to be, to be in a house with Gentiles. Gentiles weren't allowed to be in your house. Um, then came the star; wearing the, the uh, Star of David. So, very gradually there was more and more infringement on our lives and um, after we all wore the star and, and of course we had to have identification uh, which um, indicated that we were Jewish... Had a big "J" in your identity card. Then the deportation began.

When the first steps began um, up to the Star say, what were your reactions, what were you thinking about, do you remember uh, as a ten year old, when someone said you couldn't take a tram anymore?

Well, it's hard to remember, what I felt. Um, I don't remember the tram being such a, such a restriction because Amsterdam was a small town and everyone used bicycles, and um, or you walked, and I didn't take the tram very often but I remember that my father used to go to work on the tram everyday. I mean, we wouldn't take a tram to school because the school was very close, or to visit your friends, they all lived within walking distance or biking distance, but my father took the tram to work every day and then he couldn't anymore, he had to walk. It was quite a distance. And I remember one day he um, he applied for a permit 'cause, 'cause even Jews could get a permit to use the tram under certain circumstances and um, well, that was a disaster. He should never had done that but I guess he got the wrong advice. So then we were arrested because he applied for a, a tram permit.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn