Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alfred Lessing - January 26, 1993


Could you tell me your name please, and where you were born?

My name is Fred Lessing, I was born in the Hague, the Netherlands.

What was the town in which you lived during most of the war?

Well, I think of my home town which as Delft which is a few miles, it's not really a suburb, but it's only a few miles from the Hague. We didn't really live there most of the years of the war, its where we lived until we went into hiding in 1942.

Tell me a little bit about your family before the war, you were just a child.

I was born in 1936, my parents had three other sons, one of whom had died, my oldest brother is 10 years older than I am and the next brother that remained alive was about two years older than I am. My, at the time that I was born, we were still living in the Hague, but shortly after that my parents moved to Delft. So, I don't really remember the Hague at all and my very first memories are from Delft and that's where we were living when the war broke out in May of 1940. So my immediate family was my father, mother, and my two brothers.

Tell me their names.

Ed, born Eliazar, always known as Ed or Eddie, and in this country known as Edward, and my other brother born Arthur, Artuer, always known as Attie in our family, and in this country currently, his name is Abba. He changed his name to the Hebrew.

What were your parents name?

My father's name was born Nathan, Natan, always known as Nardus, the name I have never heard anywhere else in the whole world, and nobody knows where it came from, apparently, my mother's nick name for my father, Nardus, or maybe it predates her. My mother's name was Angeline Elizabeth VanLeer, was her maiden name. Always known as Lien.

Was it a religious family?

No. No. It certainly was not a religious family. It was a I would say a highly secularized, humanistically oriented, philosophically oriented perhaps, assimilated Jewish family... I was not raised with any knowledge or any experience of Jewish religion, of course there was only four years in which that could have happened before the Germans invaded Holland... but nonetheless there wasn't... even though my mother was raised in a... orthodox Jewish tradition apparently, which is something I only found out in recent years.

Do you remember grandparents?

Yes, uh, the only one of my grandparents that I have much memory of is my grandfather who remained alive throughout all the war years and I even spent time with him during the war years.... but his wife, my grandmother, I think died either before I was born or shortly thereafter... and by the time I can remember him he was married to a lady that I called Tanta Ahat, which means Aunt Agatha, or something like that... who, as it turns out, who had really been his mistress, a lady that worked... he was in clothing... and he had met her, or she worked at the factory and brought her home to live sort of ménage a trois with his wife. My father I think was always very angry about this, his mother was apparently, a weak lady and I don't remember her... but by the time I came into the picture, Aunt Agatha and my grandfather were married, lived Amsterdam and there was also an uncle, there were two uncles... one was Uncle Marwitz and his wife, Uncle Marwitz was my grandfather's brother, and he lived in Utrecht and I think was married to a non-Jewish lady and was not deported during the war... and also survived after the war... and then there was my Uncle Yo, Joseph, who was my father's youngest brother... my father had had two brothers, yeah, I think there were three of them, maybe four, but one had already died by the time the war started, or two had died, if there were four, and only Uncle Yo was alive. Uncle Yo I remember very vaguely, very sweet man who lived I think also in Amsterdam. Possible Utrecht. Um... and his wife, who I believe was Heena, and their son, Jacques, Jacqui, and I do have memories of Jacqui who must have been I don't know maybe four or five years older than me, six years older something, but he was still a kid, and I remember playing with him. They were deported [pause, voice lowers] and gassed in Auschwitz, all three of them. It's funny how you can confuse pain or sadness about people so long gone that you hardly knew, but they were family, [pause] and that's the closest loss, closest family loss in the Holocaust that we suffered because miraculously my own immediate family, the one I have just described, my father, mother, two brothers and I all survived.

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