It is from the horrors of the past that we must learn what not to do in the future.

- Hanneke Dye

Hanneke was born in February 1943, in Holland, during the Nazi occupation. The circumstances of Hanneke’s birth and her time as a baby was wrought with the constant threat of her family’s discovery. Hanneke’s mother had only revealed a small fraction of what happened at this time throughout her life, and it wasn’t until after her death in 2006 that Hanneke began to learn about the terrifying circumstances she and her family faced during the war. Much of what Hanneke has learned has come from her uncle Japp, who wrote a book about his experiences during the Holocaust.

When the Nazi’s occupied Holland in May 1940, the persecution of Jews began immediately, and Hanneke’s entire family decided to go into hiding. Soon after Hanneke’s mother and father, along with her maternal grandparents, arrived at their first hiding place in the attic of some close friends, the owner of the house was arrested, and Hanneke’s uncle Japp received an urgent message that he needed to rescue his family.

Japp collected his family one by one, travelling during the night. He collected Hanneke’s mother last, who at this point was seven months pregnant. They managed to stop over night in a hotel in Utrecht but had to pretend they were married in order to get a room, even though they were brother and sister. All through the night they heard the voices and footsteps of German soldiers and were terrified they would be discovered. Japp learnt after the war that the lady of the house was the girlfriend of a high-ranking German officer, and the house would often see a multitude of German soldiers present at one time.

Finally, Hanneke’s mother and uncle arrived separately in Breda where they were reunited with the rest of the family with the addition of two of Hanneke’s aunts, one her uncle’s wife and the other his younger sister. Japp had also used his connections to procure false papers for the family.

The family made arrangements for Hanneke’s mother to give birth and when the time arrived, she was forced to remain completely silent to prevent anyone from hearing them, and had to deliver Hanneke without any medication. Hanneke’s first bed was a vacuum cleaner case, and after ten days her mother had to give her away to Hanneke’s uncle, not knowing if she would see her again. Uncle Japp carried Hanneke away on the back of his bike in the vacuum cleaner case and brought her to his house. Hanneke was to assume the identity of an illegitimate child of an unmarried mother, something that was extremely controversial and would hide Hanneke’s Jewish status.

One day a raid happened at uncle Japp’s house, fortunately he and his wife were not there, but his 16-year-old sister, Lena answered the door. Lena lied quickly to the soldiers explaining to them that she had been orphaned in the bombing of Rotterdam and she was now staying with her aunt and uncle. She told them that she knew a Jewish family used to live next door, but they had left. Despite her story, they demanded to search the house and Lena became terrified that Hanneke, who was sleeping in the attic, would begin to cry. The soldiers searched the premises, but fortunately she did not cry, and they were both saved due to her aunts quick thinking and false papers.

Soon after this raid it was clear that Hanneke was not safe in the house, and she was moved once more. Hanneke was taken to stay with a nurse called Sister Pop, a woman who would foster her and other Jewish children until the end of the war.

Due to the courage and incredibly resourcefulness of her uncle Japp, the entire maternal side of Hanneke’s family survived the war. Unfortunately, Hanneke’s paternal grandparents, her aunt Bartje and many other distant relatives were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where it is likely they were murdered or died due to the terrible conditions.

It took Hanneke a many number of years to process what had happened to her and her family during the war. In later life she started to tell the story of her birth in hiding from the Nazis. Her long-standing friendship with the National Holocaust Centre and Museum has been greatly appreciated and the incredible testimony of her and her family will continue to educate people for many years to come.