On the way, July 13, 1943
Previous correspondence all came from the camp, and therefore I had to follow the rules. This time, I am writing to you while unerway because the big journey has begun, and I hope this letter reaches you.
I have already written to you that I won’t say goodbye. We must keep our heads up and hope for a reunion. We have always had a good time together all these years, and that is such a long-lasting and delightful memory. It’s a pity that things turned out this way. If only we had defended ourselves better that Sunday morning, perhaps everything would have been different. But it had to happen that way, and if you and the kittens [his 2 daughters] can stay healthy all this time, that’s already a great victory.
So many families have been torn apart. David and Sally are still here, but Branco and Jopie [Branco Hamme is his sister-in-law, wife of David Hamme. Jopie is Joël Hamme, their son] have been gone for four weeks, even though they had received a special exemption, but no one paid attention to it. And that happened to 50 families.
Now, I will tell you something about the camp. For a man alone, it is easier to get through everything than for a woman with children. Sleeping is reasonably comfortable on beds stacked three high, somewhat like on a ship. Of course, it depends on who your neighbors are, but I can’t complain about that. The meals consist of half a loaf of bread with some butter and a generous spoonful of mashed potatoes or soup once a day. Sometimes there is a second warm meal. We have also had cheese and jam, as well as tomatoes, cucumbers, and raw carrots. In Barrack 72, where I arrived later, Ullman was the leader, and Sientje Niekerk, Ron’s sister, worked in the kitchen. [Sientje Niekerk-Koekoek was the sister of Ro Koekoek, the wife of his brother Manuel] Washing is manageable, and I have even been able to take a shower. The toilets are not pleasant, but it’s all bearable.
We wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning, have roll call at quarter past 7, and then all men up to 60 and women up to 35 have to work until half past six in the evening, with a break. After the first morning, I had enough of it and spent the rest of my days in the camp as best I could, doing as little as possible. I requested a note regarding my foot, stating that I couldn’t perform heavy work, and afterward, I had a few night shifts in the barrack just to keep busy. Guard duty from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. or from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. You wouldn’t have expected that from me, huh? But then you can sleep as much as you want during the day. I also tried to stay in contact with the Jewish Council working here. I was also supposed to receive an exemption, but a new order came in this week, and about half of the camp has to go, so my chance was lost.
Only if an Ausweis (permit) came through for me, for you, would I be allowed to stay. I made every effort to obtain one, but it didn’t work out. People with a Palestine exemption or people with special stamps like David are allowed to stay. The Boers family can still stay, but I don’t know what will happen next.
If you ever come here, which I fervently hope doesn’t happen, try to establish direct contact with people you know here, such as Boers, Ullman, Van Dijk (from Rotterdam), Spanjer, Sister Hartog, Sister van Zuiden, David, or anyone else. In such a case, you should immediately ask to come to the hospital. Mrs. Swaan and Aunt Jetje are still there. However, they often send patients away, so you should quickly seek advice on how to proceed. But all of this is just theory because I hope you stay away from here.
However, if it’s not the case, face everything courageously because why should we mourn? It wouldn’t change anything.
I was only sad when the Koopman family [Helena Koopman is Max’s sister with her husband Hartog and their three children] left here. Hartog was sick again. But it didn’t matter. Lou Bouman and his wife were also there. Of course, it was nice that David, Sally, and A. Levisson came. With people regularly coming here from Amsterdam, you stay well informed. It’s a pity that Jan’s packages didn’t arrive, but no other packages from outside Amsterdam are being delivered except through the Jewish Council.
Now, my darling, we are heading into the unknown like so many before us. And all this while the war is progressing. However, if I may hope that my family will make it through, that is a great comfort to me. As for the rest, what I think and how I think of you, I don’t need to write about that! Thank all those dear people around us who have been so good to you and us! Let’s hope to be reunited once again and that our days may be renewed like before! Goodbye, darling, stay strong and think about the future, which will be beautiful. Goodbye, my love, until we meet again soon. A loving kiss, your Max.
It has become quite long. David, Sally, Millie (…), and Tommie are also coming along.