As you might have noticed, I was in the Netherlands 2 months ago to escort my mother returning to the Netherlands.
As her neighbor is a very well known woman (90+ years of age) in Hengelo city, spouse of a house-broker in Hengelo, who knows many people in and around the city, I asked her for an interview to find out some details I need for a blog post about my father, which I am planning to write soon.
It turned out that she was also familiar with the family (history) of one of my friends at elementary school in Hengelo in the 1950's.
Gina was one of my best friends, and I visited her home frequently, as she lived close to our school, the Hengelose School Vereniging (HSV) in the center of Hengelo, whilst I lived far away from school, in a new neighborhood near to the Berflo Es a neighborhood in the south of the city.
Her father Izak, a Jewish men who I met of course, had a wholesale fruit and vegetable business, with the warehouse connected to their home. Her mother Mary was originally from England, so Gina mastered fluent Dutch and English. That time I had no single clue of their background and I doubt Gina did.
I remember that sometimes we played in the warehouse. And even sometimes they found a snake in the banana bunches, which she then brought to school to show to all pupils.
What happened with her after we left elementary school, I didn't really know, except that I heard that she emigrated to New Zealand and worked there as a flight hostess. The interview revealed a lot of details and made it clear that she returned to the Netherlands and she is living now somewhere in the north of the country with her husband.
She also lent me a book that was published in 2010, as a remembrance of 65 years after the liberation of Hengelo in May 1945. The book describes the adventures of a couple of people from Hengelo who escaped to England early in WWII, to fight from there the war against Germany.
One of the stories was about the brothers Levie and Izak Cohen, the latter was the father of Gina. Unbelievable what they did and experienced, luck and bad luck, but finally they made it to England. Izak met a young girl Mary in England and married her after the war, she was the mother of Gina. The father of Izak and Levi, Simon Cohen, was captured by the Germans and killed in extermination camp Auschwitz in 1944.
The two brothers were already before the war in contact with Jules Haeck, who was also trading vegetables. He was of French origin and settled in Hengelo in WWI (Great War) to help French people to escape from the war and bring them to the Netherlands.
In the WWII he did again the same, but in the other direction, especially allied pilots who were shot down in the Hengelo area. He had of course already his contacts, he knew the routes and he helped many people to escape, including the brothers Cohen.
Jules lived in a house at 115 Berfloweg (Berflo road), not far from where I lived a couple of years later. His nick-name was Piet Hendriks. He was captured by the Germans and shot dead at the airport Twente, not far from Hengelo.
The remains of Jules were found in 1947 on the airport and reburied in Hengelo, the same year that I was born.
After WWII Jules Haeck received posthumously several medals of honor, from the Queen of the Netherlands the Bronze Lion (Bronzen Leeuw) in 1952, the Resistance Cross (Verzetsherdenkingskruis), and from the American government the Medal of Freedom with the Silver Palm as well in 1952.
I am planning to translate the story of Levie and Izak in one of my next blog posts, if I get permission of the author of the story. The title of the book is: Naar Engeland (Towards England), ISBN: 978-90-73850-18-7.
If you want to read the Dutch book, you can probably order the book from the Historisch Museum Hengelo or Gemeente Archief Hengelo. As far as I know there is no English version available.