Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Irene Hasenberg Butter - September 22, 1986


Do you remember the, the razzias?

Oh, yes.

And the first one in February, do you remember that?

Not distinctly.

What do your remember about the razzias?

Well, the razzias were very frightening because what they would do is um, block off a part of the town, you know, maybe a, a neighborhood or a series of blocks, and then the Nazis came with their big trucks and uh, you know, the uniforms of the Wehrmacht--I don't know if it was Wehrmacht or SS or, or the um, NSB, which was the, the Dutch version of the Nazi--and all in their uniforms and their boots and they would just um, uh, go from door to door, they would ring the bell, and if no one opened, then they would uh, uh, somehow break the door or break in or dash in or whatever way and get upstairs and there was always a lot of screaming and a lot of yelling and people were forced to leave on the spot with uh, whatever they could carry. So this was um, always very traumatic and um, if you, if you were walking in a part of the town where they started a Razzia, you, you'd try to get away as quickly as possible, just not to be caught there. But um, it was very loud, and they had their loud speakers and um, uh, if you were close enough to see it, you know, you would see tragic scenes of families um, just being disrupted and uh, having to leave ever... all of their possessions behind, just what they could carry. But we were all prepared for that, you know, because um, the writing was on the wall. Sooner or later, unless the war ended, this would happen and so we were always packed and uh, in the summertime we had all our winter clothes. We had these big rucksacks and, and everything was always prepared. In the summertime, the winter clothes were in that rucksack and in the winter, the summer clothes were in there and it was all... We were living in, in such a way that we could get out of the house in, within minutes and still have something with us. So, our life was affected by the razzias and even maybe a year or year and a half before it happened. Now of course the beginning they didn't have razzias. They called people. They told them to report at a certain place and there was one family, good friends of my parents who, who were called and uh, they had an elderly mother live with them, so she lived with us for a while and then she was called.

How were they called?

Now let me see. They um, they were deported. You know, they... I don't know why she wasn't, she wasn't... They received a letter and they had to report at a certain day and time to a certain place and she wasn't on that letter, the grandmother, so um, why should she go if she wasn't called? So, she lived with us for a while, but then she was also called later on. So, you know, you were affected by this from the very beginning because there was always somebody you knew who had left.

Did you wonder where they were going? Did you know where they were going?

Well, we knew, we knew where they were going immediately. They went to... Most of them went to Westerbork, which was the main assembly camp in the uh, Netherlands. And they were allowed to write. You were allowed to write um, I don't know, two postcards per week or something like that. And I even remember that um, there was a boy in my class, and I was very fond of him, and then one day his family um, was deported, and then one day I got a card from him. From Westerbork. So um, you could keep in touch with people in that way. I, I was very impressed that he... of the two cards he had that he, he was sending it to me rather than a relative, but then by the time we came um, that family wasn't there any more. So, you knew where they went immediately but um, most people didn't stay very long in Westerbork and that depended on... How long you stayed in Westerbork depended on what kind of category you were in. There were all kinds of lists and all kinds of categories depending on who you were and, and um, priv... what kind of privileges you bought yourself and some... There were lists I remember people, the Jews, paid thousands and thousands of guilders to get on a list and were promised that they would not be deported. They could stay in Westerbork, and of course, eventually everyone was deported, practically everyone. So it was... You bought time. If you had money, you could buy time. If you had some other characteristic that, that um, uh, allowed you to be in a group that was not deported yet, then you could buy time.

Had you heard of Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen?

Yes, we um, we did when we were in Westerbork. Now I don't remember hearing about Auschwitz before we came to Westerbork. But... And that may just be because, you know, I was, I was a child and I didn't know as much as adults did or maybe others did. But some people claimed that nobody knew about Auschwitz and I remember distinctly that um, when the trains came back from Auschwitz in, in... Westerbork was a camp where almost every week a train came and was filled with people and went to Auschwitz. Almost every week. And um, that's another story. Life in Westerbork really revolved around that train. But when the trains came back and people cleaned, cleaned up the trains, they found letters and notes and so we knew about Auschwitz.

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