Remembering the Holocaust

MONMOUTH -- Anneke Bloomfield said hers was a comfortable neighborhood in the Hague, Netherlands, in the late 1930s.


Students walk on the Western Oregon University campus Thursday amid thousands of colored flags, each representing 500 people who died in the holocaust.

MONMOUTH -- Anneke Bloomfield said hers was a comfortable neighborhood in the Hague, Netherlands, in the late 1930s.

There were people on her block who had their own cars and telephones. Anything you needed was a little further down the street -- shops, a fine transit system -- "everything was good," she said.

In May of 1940, the German army invaded the country and spread west to her community after Rotterdam was sacked. It was common to see Nazis outside the windows of the Siebel household, trying to shoot down Dutch planes from a nearby airport for several weeks.

Photo by Pete Strong

Anneke Bloomfield speaks to a room full of WOU students Thursday.

The initial occupation, "from the point of view of a little girl, didn't seem so bad," she said.

Through 1945, however, the Siebels endured hard living conditions, random searches of their household by German troops and fear of their faith being revealed.

Bloomfield said she still hasn't shaken the effects.

"I never mentioned what happened until I was 59," Bloomfield told students at Western Oregon University on Thursday. "I didn't want to talk about it."

The 77-year-old, who now lives in Tigard, is a survivor and speaker for the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center. She visited campus to talk about her experience on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

"Just like World War II veterans, we're losing Holocaust survivors everyday," said Joseph Stevens, president of the WOU German Club and organizer for the event. "If somebody is available to talk to us, that's an important resource we can't let go away."

Bloomfield said her father began obscuring her family's identity prior to the start of the war because of tension toward Jews, altering records and having his three children go to a Christian Bible school. Bloomfield said she was mostly unaware of the concept of anti-semitism.

After German sympathizers moved into her neighborhood, her brothers were sent to other parts of the country, and she to Belgium.

Things deteriorated when she returned home as a 7-year-old. The Nazi regime had instituted food, electricity and fuel quotas for the Dutch and subjected them to random searches.

She recalled one incident where troops closed off her block and ransacked homes looking for Jews and able-bodied men for labor. A soldier went from room to room in the Siebel household, going through closets and drawers. In the kitchen, the man fired shots down through a trap door in the floor.

"He looked at my mother and said, `if you are hiding something in there, it sure isn't alive anymore,'" she said.

Bloomfield's father was part of the Dutch underground; she occasionally acted as a courier and delivered messages and newspaper articles on the war hidden in her stockings to neighbors.

Later on, Bloomfield wore shoes made out of wooden blocks and leather. For a time, she was eating tulip bulbs for food.

"Between 8 and 10, I don't think I gained an inch or a pound," she said.

When the war ended, the family adopted a Protestant lifestyle. When Bloomfield reached the age of 20, she followed her brother to Canada and then the United States. She since has reconnected with her Jewish roots.

Jerry Paster, Bloomfield's partner, said Bloomfield still shows residual effects from the experience. She doesn't throw food away, for example.

"You don't take an eraser and just say `it's over with,'" Paster said.


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