Daughter of Dutch rescuers, Ingrid shares the story of her family's bravery to hid 40 Jewish people during the Holocaust.
Ingrid Kanis Steppic was born in Holland in 1943. Her father, mother and older sisters hid 40 Jews in Holland during the Holocaust. She is now telling her story of this family of rescuers.
Ingrid’s family moved to Amersfoort only one day before the Germans invaded Holland on May 10th, 1940. Her father, Jan, was to be the manager of the town post office. His position allowed him to see returned mail and death notices. He realized that the Nazis were killing Jews long before many others found out, and he encouraged many Jews to go into hiding rather than register.
Jan helped Jews hide in Amersfoort or nearby Oldebroek, where he had grown up. The ‘hiders’ would first come to Ingrid’s house, and then her father would find a place for them. Her mother, Nel, was unfailingly vigilant to keep the Germans from discovering them. Her older siblings helped. Jan and Nel kept in touch with the people they had hidden.
Jan was also involved in the Dutch Underground. On one occasion, a raid had been planned on a distribution center to acquire the stamps for ration cards. Jan was forced to flee the scene and go underground. He was arrested and sent to Dachau in 1944.
Shortly after, Ingrid’s older sister Ali, was found with incriminating receipts from striking railroad workers, and was also arrested. Ali spent the rest of the war in a women’s prison, forced to mend clothing for German soldiers.
Without the pay from Jan’s job, or Ali’s help at home, Nel was hard-pressed to make ends meet during the infamous “Hunger Winter” of 1944-45, especially with a young child. The Kanis family continued to live in Amersfoort after the war was over. Ingrid married an American soldier and moved to the United States. In 1971, Ingrid’s parents were honored by Yad Vashem in Israel as "Righteous Among the Nations."
Between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews were hidden in Holland during the war. This included the Frank family. Of this number, about 2/3 survived.
Ingrid is a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Speakers Bureau, and presents her family’s story to local students and community groups.
Daughter of Dutch survivor of Auschwitz, Ine-Marie van Dam shares her mother's story.
Ada van Esso was born in Meppel, Holland to a Jewish family. When she was a young girl, the family moved to Amsterdam because they wanted to be in an area with a larger Jewish population, and to be farther from the German border.
After World War II began, Ada’s father planned for the family to escape Holland. He bribed officials who were to assist them in their escape, but the family was betrayed. They were sent to a prison in Berlin, and then deported to Auschwitz in 1943. While there, Ada was assigned to a building that housed a laundry for the Nazis. She worked with a group of women who lived in the building – not housed in Auschwitz barracks. Ada left Auschwitz in 1945 on a death march. She was liberated at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp and taken to Sweden to recover.
After the war, Ada returned to Holland and married Hans van Dam. Ine-Marie van Dam was born in Holland several years after, and grew up on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. Ine and her family moved to the Pacific Northwest at age 9. Fascinated by language and cultural diversity, Ine says she dreamed of living, studying, and working abroad.
Ine is fluent in a number of languages. She works as a conference interpreter, and has taught translation and interpretation at various colleges. In 2019, Ine bgean presenting the story of her mother’s Holocaust survival as a Legacy Speaker with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, utilizing video testimony, photos, maps, and other primary source documents.
Ada lives in Seattle in an assisted living facility. Ine visits her often from her home in Centralia, WA, and still speaks to her mother in Dutch.
Photo: Ine-Marie van Dam with her mother Ada.
Daughter of Tom Lenda, a child survivor of Theresienstadt, Hana Kern shares her father's experiences.
Tom Lenda was born Tomas Lustig in 1936 in Plzen, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). Tom’s father, Pavel (Paul) Lustig, was born in Domazlice, Czechoslovakia in 1904. The Lustig family moved to Plzen shortly after Paul was born. Tom’s mother, Irene Spitz, was born in Austria in 1909. Her family later moved to Decin, a city north of Prague.
The Lustig family was warm, loving, and hard working. Tom’s father Paul was educated in commerce and also attended a textile college in England. He was fluent in several languages and was an established textile manufacturers’ representative when Tom was born. Tom’s mother worked as a certified nurse in a hospital until her marriage. The Lustig family was part of a close-knit clan that was well established within the Czech community; they considered themselves proud Czechoslovak citizens of the Jewish religion.
The Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia became a reality for the Lustig family on March 15, 1939. Little Tommy was almost three years old. Three years later, the family was sent to Terezin (Theresienstadt), a concentration camp 40 miles north of Prague.
The Lustig family was separated after their arrival at Terezin. Tom was placed in a heim (home) with other children. Irene started work as a nurse in the camp hospital, also her living quarters. Paul was assigned to a transportleitung (transportation) group and was deported to Auschwitz in fall 1944. Toward the end of the war, when the Soviet Army approached the camp, Paul escaped from Auschwitz with a small group and joined the Czechoslovak army. After liberation, Paul came back to Terezin to retrieve his family on May 25th, 1945, and the three were reunited.
Hana was born to Rose and Tom Lenda in 1966 in Czechoslovakia. The Lendas escaped from communist Czechoslovakia to Germany in 1968 and then moved to Australia before arriving in the United States in 1975. Tom's book, Children on Death Row, was published under his birth name, Tommy Lustig.
Today, Hana is an attorney in Seattle and has two children. For years, Hana helped her father with his presentations in schools. She is proud to carry on her father’s story, and officially became a member of the Speakers Bureau in 2019.
Photo: Tom Lenda with his daughter, Hana Kern, 2019.
Clarice Wilsey, daughter of Army physician Captain David Wilsey, M.D. who was one of 27 doctors who entered Dachau concentration camp at liberation, shares her father's story.
Dr. Wilsey was born in Wisconsin in 1914. After receiving his medical degree, he joined the military during World War II to serve as an Army physician. After serving in France and Germany, Dr. Wilsey arrived at Dachau in late April 1945. Prisoners were quarantined inside Dachau to wait for the allied commanders to see the atrocities, and to prevent the spread of deadly disease. The American physicians and medical staff risked their lives to bring healing to the 30,000 Dachau survivors.
Dr. Wilsey’s family knew very little about his wartime experience. In 2009, when his children were cleaning out the family home, they found for the first time a box of letters Dr. Wilsey had written to his wife Emily while serving in the military, including the Battle of the Bulge and Dachau. The letters had survived several moves and even a house fire. Dr. Wilsey asked his wife in several letters “to tell thousands so that millions will know what Dachau is and never forget the name of Dachau.” His daughter, Clarice, was deeply affected by the discovery of the letters. She believes that her calling is to speak the words he was unable to voice after the war.
Clarice Wilsey, M.A., was a university faculty member and administrator for 45 years. She is now retired to spend more time reminding audiences to “never forget,” and is a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity Speakers Bureau. The collection of Dr. Wilsey’s 280+ letters and other materials are preserved at the Holocaust Center, and will be used in future exhibitions and for educational purposes.