Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Hasenberg Butter - September 22, 1986


The whole family was arrested?


Who arrested you?

Uh, a Nazi came one morning and my father was at work, my mother was home alone. So, he, he uh, took her to... There was a Jewish theater in Amsterdam, they used that to collect the Jews until they had enough of them to put them on a train and uh, dispatch them to whatever camp they were supposed to go to. So, my mother was taken to the Jewish theater by one of these guys. Then he went and got my father from work and then he... They got the kids from school. So I, I will never forget the day when I was in class and the principal came and called my name and usually it was a bad thing when the principal came and called your name. So um, I, I had to go outside and I found out that we were, my family was arrested and my brother and I had to go to the Jewish theater to, to be with my parents under arrest. That time... Oh, I forgot to mention, we also were in Jewish schools. The Jewish children were no longer allowed to be in a regular school. So, I had to change schools and I was separated from my friends.

Before we finish this story about the arrest, how did, how did you feel about that?

Well, that was a very frightening experience, because first of all, we didn't think we would ever get out again and we did. And um, it, it was at a time--dates I don't remember--when many people had already been arrested in Amsterdam and everyone was living in constant anxiety and fear of uh, of being deported. So, when this happened, it um, it, it was a terribly frightening experience. We went to this theater, it was like a great big movie theater with the seats taken out in the... from the center and the red carpeting and there were just people sitting on the floor all over the theater, hundreds of people, and then they would bring meals from some outside source. And we were there a couple of days. You couldn't get out in the fresh air, you couldn't walk, and people were miserable and they were moaning and groaning and some people were sick. The babies were taken into a crèche across the street and taken care of there and the mothers could go and feed their babies but the rest of the time they had to be, stay in the theater. And I remember one time I was a... allowed to go with one of the mothers to the crèche to play with the children there and that's how I got out but my parents and my brother didn't get out and I can't remember we were there maybe three days and then we were let free again. And uh, I don't know why. I mean nobody ever explained anything. They did tell my, my father that we were being arrested because he applied for a tram permit. And then uh, I don't know who got us released again, but we did and um, I remember that very clearly because um, we went back to our apartment and it was all sealed. And we were allowed to break the seal and re-enter. And then um, the next few days, I remember that everybody in Amsterdam, all our friends and relatives sent us flowers and um, our apartment had this great big dining room and all the flowers and plants were put there and it was like a botanical garden.

These are all non-Jewish friends then?

Some Jews. And, mixed, you know, whoever was still there. Just... I mean it was such a rare occasion, you know, to be freed again, so it was, it was quite a celebration.

When you were um, excluded from your school, how did you react to that, did you talk to your friends, did, did your neighbors say anything, what, what do you remember about that?

I don't remember too well the, the transition, but um, um, I also... Then in the Jewish school, I knew a lot of the kids, the Jewish kids who weren't in the school, my neighborhood school that I attended, so in that sense it was also quite nice to be with all the Jewish kids. But um, it was a transition and uh, I suppose it was just one of those one in a whole series of chronological experiences that there was nothing we could do about it.

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