Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Alfred Lessing - January 26, 1993

Leaving the Hospital/Reunited with Father

Let's go back to the hospital now, so you were taken to the hospital.

Okay, meanwhile I'm in the hospital, my mother has now been caught, my father is still in hiding with that Dutch couple, I believe that hid them, uh, and he only slowly finds out that she ain't coming back, this must have been his worst moment. That evening when she didn't return and the next day, and the next day and the next day. Um, I was dying of pneumonia, I was saved by a Red Cross shipment of American sulfa. I'm sure it was sulfa, although people have told me, sulfa for pneumonia? Didn't make sense, but that's what I remember anyway. I remembered it made me very sick, I was always vomiting. I was eventually uh, picked up at the hospital by my, by Leah, Leah is the daughter of my grandfather and Aunt Agatha, Tata Tha, my father's half sister, quite a bit younger than he. She picked me up, I don't think... I was not told anything about my mother being caught, uh, the story that I was eventually told was that she had broken a leg and she was in a hospital in Amsterdam.

Now how did your grandfather know where you were?

Probably from my father. Possibly my mother got word to him. My mother managed to bribe policeman to send messages at various times, she got a message to my father that she had been caught, and that still exists, it is a tiny piece of paper with little messages, I will come back and take care, and rolled up and stuffed inside a little wooden tube that held needles for a tiny little sewing kit, you know, a thimble and some thread and inside was a place, in there she has stuffed this little letter and it got to him, it's possible that she got word to my grandfather where I was, I don't know. But somehow, word got to my grandfather and his daughter, she came and got me and she took me from Tilburg, when I finally got out of the hospital, to Voorthuizen. Uh, which is where the cottage in the country was where I spent the last year of the war with my brothers and my father. My mother and father in the early '44 were saying, sooner or later we will be caught, the war seems to be going on forever, we cannot escape forever, we might as well try to be together some of the time. My mother followed up a memory of an old friend of somebody she used to work for who used to rent his cottage out in the country, she managed to get hold of that person and said, do you think that cottage is still there, sure here is the address, write them or phone them, she went there and found this Mr. Hamburg in Voorthuizen, a rather well-to-do cultured gentlemen from the Hague who liked classical music and organic gardening and who had this tiny little cottage that he rented out to people during the summer. And so my parents, my mother had set it up for us to rent it for some time in late May and so she was caught just before we were all gonna be there. Well, my father took over at this point.

Your father has been a rather shadowy figure up until now?

My father was in hiding, my father was an artist, my father was a very gentle soul uh, easily confused, now I'm giving you a picture of the role that he played in our family, the aesthetic sensitive artist, philosopher, but not too worldly, not too practical, you know the joke was you give him a hammer, he would hold it and he would drop it, that sort of kind of thing, um. But, let it be part of the record that for the year that my mother was gone, my father rose to truly heroic heights, especially in my perception of him. He never faltered, he we steadfast, he was loving, he was kind, he was effective, he took incredible risks, he was courageous, he totally took over the survival of his family that last year. And that was a glorious year for me, because my wandering had come to an end and I was with my family, except for my mother. So, we ended up in this cottage, except for my mother. All four of us in probably in May or early June of 1944, and we stayed there until we were liberated by the Canadian army in late April, 1945.

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