every second of every day of my life is influenced by those events.

- Martin Stern in “We Remember” (AJR 2011).


Martin Stern was born in Hilversum in Holland in September 1938. Martin’s father, Rudolph, was a Jewish architect from Berlin and his mother was a non-Jewish woman. Together in 1938 they fled to Belgium and were married. They then moved to Hilversum in the Netherlands, where Martin was soon to be born. Martin remembers playing in the street with other children and having a pleasant childhood before the war. Although, he recalls his mother being cautious and worried about people noticing him and began to keep him inside.

After the Nazi’s invaded Holland, Martin’s father, being a Jew, was no longer able to pursue his career as an architect and began to make and sell wooden toys. Martin’s father eventually joined the Dutch resistance and went into hiding at a farm near Amsterdam. During this time Martin’s mother had fallen pregnant and on November 20th, 1942, Martin’s father returned to his family for the birth of his daughter, Erica. Unfortunately, Martin’s mother became ill after the birth and died. Martin and Erica were then looked after by separate families and his father went back into hiding.

As Martin’s father was a Jew, Nazi law proclaimed that Martin was also a Jew and the couple looking after Martin were doing so illegally. One day when Martin was at school two Dutch men entered the classroom and took Martin to an interrogation centre. At the interrogation centre Martin saw the man who had been looking after him and upon his recognition verified that the couple had indeed been concealing a Jew. This innocent mistake led to Martin being taken away and the arrest of the couple looking after him.

Martin was put on a train to Westerbork transit camp. The family looking after his sister were also ordered to hand her over, and she too was sent to Westerbork and placed in a section of the barracks for babies.

Eventually Martin and Erica were sent to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia. It was here that they came under the care of Mrs. de Jong. When the day came that Martin and Erica’s names were listed to be deported from the camp, Mrs. de Jong volunteered to accompany them, knowing the chances of survival would be slim. When seated in a hall waiting to board a train, Mrs. de Jong, Martin and Erica waited to hear their names be called. However, for reason unknown, their names were never called, and the train left without them.

Martin, Erica and Mrs. de Jong were liberated from Theresienstadt in May 1945 by the Russian Army. Martin was just 6 years old. Martin and his sister were returned to foster families in Holland. Martin stayed with few families before moving to be fostered in England in 1950. Martin remained in England and despite spending years apart managed to reunite with Mrs. de Jong in later life.  

Martin is a long-standing friend and supporter of the National Holocaust Museum. He continues to give his testimony and remembers in detail his experiences during the holocaust when he was a child.

The Collection

The museum houses items donated by Martin. It is our privilege to care for these artefacts and ensure they are available for future generations. The museum's collection provides vital, tangible, evidence of the Holocaust. We are committed to ensuring we have everything we need to continue to tell our speaker's stories into the future.