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Gerrit tenZythoff

Gerrit tenZythoff
Nationality: Dutch
Location: Berlin • Erika Concentration Camp • Germany • Gramsbergen • Holland • Hoog-Keppel • Missouri • Netherlands • Springfield • United States of America • Utrecht
Experience During Holocaust: Family Resisted the Nazi Party • Lived in Multiple Concentration Camps • Resisted the Nazi Party • Sent to Concentration Camp • Was a Forced Laborer

Mapping Gerrit's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Gerrit. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“My dad said: We shall shelter these people because they are the people of God. It is that simple. That’s the essence, we shall stand with them.” - Gerrit tenZythoff

Read Gerrit's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: Reverend tenZythoff, let us begin at the beginning. Could you please tell me when you were born and in what town or city in Holland?
TENZYTHOFF: I was born in a little town in Holland, on the eastern border where the River Vecht, enters from Germany into Holland. The little town is called Gramsbergen. It would be terribly upset if you would call it a village. It has city rights that go back way into history. I was born there in February of 1922. At the time my father was the headmaster of a school and I was the second in what would become a family of six children, five boys, one sister.
PRINCE: And your father and your mother?
PRINCE: O.K. Was there any more – like, did you have grandparents that were there too?
TENZYTHOFF: No, not, well. The grandparents were living at the time on both sides, maternal and paternal, but they did not live in that area. For that you would have to go south to the town of Goor where both of my maternal and paternal grandparents lived. In other words, my father and mother knew each other as kids and as teenagers, and so forth.
PRINCE: Oh, and were childhood sweethearts?
TENZYTHOFF: I’m not entirely sure how that went. I think they were teenager child sweethearts.
PRINCE: (LAUGHTER) O.K. What’s your first memory?
TENZYTHOFF: My first memory of my home is that it is – that it was big, had a wonderful garden with it, had a pond in it, from time to time with ducks in it, and so forth. Not that it was all that luxurious – but it happened to be the way the school board housed its headmaster….And so I have happy memories of that time.
PRINCE: Yes, I was waiting to say you’re smiling. It must have been nice.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that was. The other thing that I remember was we talked about the River Vecht, a moment. It’s really a rain river. It brings the waters that fall by way of rain – which is super abundant in Holland as you know – into Holland and then on to finally what is now the inland lake, used to be the Zuidor Zee and then finally to the North Sea itself. I remember very well how that was closed off. But flooding was one of the things that would happen from time to time. Not that we were in danger in that little town of Gramsbergen, but I mention it because I remember very well that’s where I learned to skate…
PRINCE: Oh, all right.
TENZYTHOFF: …which was not done indoors at the time. That was done in the open and you had to wait for freezing weather…there was a very tough winter of 1929 that I recall, and boy that was the winter in which the pond was frozen and every flooded area in and around town too. There were several. That’s where all kinds of people went to skate.
PRINCE: And did you skate to school?
TENZYTHOFF: No, school was so close that you could walk.
TENZYTHOFF: And I also remember how awfully cold it was. Those are among my first recollections.
PRINCE: Tell me about your family life.
TENZYTHOFF: Family life was, we had a pretty regular standard. It was very much on a school schedule, that is, since all of us grew up having to go to school. My dad was the headmaster of the school, consequently there was breakfast and lunch and dinner were at stated school times. I have happy recollections of that. We were close together, there is at most a span of two years between the six children. So, we kept each other quite honest and were great teasers, but also were great friends.
PRINCE: That’s nice. Let’s see – did you like school?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, very much so. I enjoyed that greatly, except at one time. (LAUGHTER) What happened was I got an infection in the finger that, as you can see, is somewhat deformed. I couldn’t write. At that time you did not write with your left hand. It was really very sad because that made – I read a lot in those early years. For about three months I didn’t write.
PRINCE: You’re saying that they wouldn’t allow you to write with your left hand?
TENZYTHOFF: Yah, but I don’t even think that it dawned on me to try that.
PRINCE: Uh-huh.
TENZYTHOFF: And while my father was a very progressive master in teaching – for instance he didn’t believe in grades – he would assign some grade of course but he said, “You can never express by a number what a person is. You can write an essay about him.” You know, he just didn’t want to give grades.
PRINCE: That is progressive.
TENZYTHOFF: Yah, and especially in that day; and also he didn’t really believe in – you were in grade one, or two, or four, or six, or whatever. He said, “Some people read at grade 10 level and are arithmetically, mathematically speaking, grade two,” he said, “So what?”
PRINCE: You know it’s more than progressive, it’s accepting, it’s taking a person for what he is…
PRINCE: …no matter what which may have a deep bearing on where we’re going.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, yes. It will not surprise you, therefore, that a number of students of my father’s were there at his funeral which was two weeks ago.
PRINCE: Yes. Now, tell me about your friends – what age are we now?
TENZYTHOFF: I’m at age – oh, in the first two grades.
TENZYTHOFF: Make it three.
PRINCE: So this would make you about eight years old?
TENZYTHOFF: Right, thereabouts. Then we moved – then we moved to the other place…
PRINCE: Right.
TENZYTHOFF: …south, called Hoog Keppel.
PRINCE: Before we moved, what kind of a school was this?
TENZYTHOFF: This was a Christian day school.
PRINCE: A Christian day school?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, there is in Holland – I don’t know whether you want to do that for this interview – there was a battle on for people – and it’s not unlike the one in the United States – for people whom prayer was removed from the public school. Now that could or could not be done, depended more or less on a local option. That became a bitter battle. The parents finally, in 1919, got their right to establish their own school at state expense. There was a deal made between the Socialist Party, the SDAP, the Socialist Democratic or Workers’ Party, and the more conservative religious parties, including Protestants and Roman Catholic. Holland has many political parties. And the deal was that the SDAP wanted the right for women to vote and the franchise. And the religious parties wanted their schools paid at state expense. And that deal was consumated in the year 1919, and consequently since 1919 you saw these schools come up. My father chose to go that route although reluctantly so. He was a both very religious but also a – I would have to say – an urbane person who did not consider those who chose differently to be enemies or people so different that he couldn’t live with them, and so forth. In fact it hurt him all his life that there was this division in the house. But I remember that school very much…
PRINCE: In the house or the church?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, and in the nation especially.
PRINCE: Yes. Your church was…
TENZYTHOFF: The Dutch Reformed Church, which is the old church of the Reformation times, with its continuing history.
PRINCE: Alright, now you moved to?
TENZYTHOFF: We moved to Hoog Keppel. There is also a village called Drempt, a small village Hummeloo, and there is a fourth village, Laag-Keppel closer to the little river, Oude Yssel, like the River Vecht, one of those rain rivers that carry water out of our land toward the sea. The four villages together form one municipality. There is a castle by the name of Keppel and there are the two villages, Hoog and Laag-Keppel that, of course were dependencies in earlier times. They’re out of the feudal baronial period. This is an area in Holland where you still have large landholders. At the time that I lived and grew up there they were the owners of the land and farmers that lived there were the renters. The renters were protected so that the son of the renter had the right of succession to the farm so that it was the farmer’s worth his while to take good care of his farm because otherwise, you know, not knowing how long he might be, he simply didn’t want to invest too much of his time and his energy. So for good farming the policy was alright, and these farmers treated their farm as if it were their own because they – it’s like being good caretakers. Those land holdings have been broken up. Those two villages had a – well, they were about – what – two kilometers away from each other, the one indeed a little lower on the land, Laag-Keppel, the other a little higher, Hoog-Keppel, but it’s only a matter of two or three yards or so.
PRINCE: I want to ask you why did you move?
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, my father got into what I take it was a better position. He also wanted to make sure that he was closer to where schooling for his sons would be easier and that was here.
PRINCE: As you got older?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, because the school would be – uh – not – see, you would say – what – K through 12, it would be one through six or seven, depending. And then you would have to move to another school. The more advanced or high school type was not part of my dad’s school.
PRINCE: How did you feel about leaving?
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, I thought it was very exciting. I found it kind of tough to say goodbye to friends, but I was – what – seven years old at the time, seven or eight, and I thought that it was too much of a good adventure. I couldn’t quite understand why my mother cried about it, although, yeah, you know, it was tough to say goodbye to good people. We had at that time a maid in the house who was just a dear friend and whom we regularly visited with afterwards, and so forth, she’s a dienstbode, as she was called – a wonderful woman without whose assistance my mother would have had a tougher time bringing up six kids.
PRINCE: I’m sure. As a family, whether before you moved and when you moved, what part did the church play in your life?
TENZYTHOFF: The church was there. I cannot say that I remember that very consciously because it did really not have as a church a Sunday school. In other words, the education of the young at that particular time was not done in the place of Gramsbergen, by way of junior, and so forth, departments in Sunday school. Consequently, my recollection of the church is that as a small boy I would love to listen to the organ music and sing. I wouldn’t understand a word of what this chap on the pulpit was saying – that was way over my head; and there were too many other interesting things to see and do.
PRINCE: You mean in the church?
PRINCE: Like what?
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, I would look at people and I would see friends. People that I knew I would kind of try to wave at them and my mom would then put down my hands and whisper a warning, and so forth. It was kind of – this is a rather formal era and, of course, this is a rather conservative part of the Netherlands. It still is, although most of what I remember is gone.
PRINCE: Like what?
TENZYTHOFF: The difference between owners and laborers. The owners on the whole had control of all of the important jobs. They would be the deacons and the elders in the church, and the people on the lower scale of the spectrum, such as day-workers, hired people, would simply defer to what they would call their betters – those that were living the better life.
PRINCE: A caste system?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. There was kind of a caste system. Now in present day view that would be bad. In that time, however, it was one of the marks I recall of the – for instance, let me do it by way of an example – In one of the farms in which, (I will come to that after my escape from Germany) I stayed in a farm where the hired man and the son of the farmer shared the same room, do the same work, and to this day are friends. The hired man came also for the funeral of my father, together with the son, and they were sitting together at the same table, as they were then, because this farmer made no distinction of persons. Now, distinction in responsibilities, yes, but not of person. In other words, there was, although a tiered type of society, there was also a strong egalitarian overtone…Yeah, and that was based on religion because in the eyes of God all men are equal. And here, I think, let me bring that right up. We grew up with Bible reading which was done at the table, not three times a day but at least once a day. There was always an opening prayer, there was always a closing prayer at every meal. Six prayers a day – except that my dad at one time said, “I have become a praying machine. I don’t want to do it this time this way anymore, and therefore,” he said, “we had to participate in it.” And we knew some prayers by heart which we would repeat. We were not all that free ourselves to offer voluntary prayers that would express most of our concern. The Bible reading would be systematic. It would include very much what Christians call the Old Testament, the Tanakh and out of that you have, you know, the commandment that you take care of the stranger who is within your gate. There are some very excellent rules in Mosaic law to live by. Would to God that everybody would practice them.
PRINCE: I don’t think we’d have any problems then.
PRINCE: Just the Ten Commandments.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. And that became part – that was part, not only of my family life, that was part of that city life. Somebody who had notions about being better than somebody else was, first of all, the ridicule of the city, and (LAUGHTER) was most always the object of teasing. And somebody’s whose head was in the clouds, as the local saying, “Loopt met zijn hoofd in de wolken,” walks with his head high up in the clouds. You know you never took such a person seriously. Oh, you might defer to him, and so forth, but he was always the butt of all jokes.
And there is that strong type of egalitarianism in the Netherlands. It also – I take it, that if you were to really investigate it, I would also have to credit more liberal minded people who would credit religion less and the geography of the country more because where I was born, that area was kind of isolated, and people did for themselves. They would consider the Hague, where the seat of government is, where the decisions were made, as foreign territory which you could best stay away from. In fact, until Hitler came to power, in ’33, in the Netherlands, at the city of Coevorden, north of Gramsbergen and on market days there, you could trade in German money without any difficulty. It was kind of – also – the local money. These people did for themselves and did not want that from anybody from the Hague or from the provincial capitol, the capitol of the province of Overyssel is located in the city of Zwolle. They didn’t want (LAUGHTER) these officials around to talk to them. They were prone from time to time to beat them up, if they, these officials, were too…interfering. And it is that streak of independence, that streak of regionalism that also makes for egalitarianism which may not at all stem from a religious group. I want to make sure that I say that.
PRINCE: Yes, so there’s not just one…
PRINCE: …factor.
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, no, there isn’t.
PRINCE: It’s a piece of – (OVERTALK)
TENZYTHOFF: No, that would be wrong. And I think that because of the odd assemblage of its odd history, Holland is (before it gets to be the Kindom of the Netherlands, as it is called these days), it is the United Republic, or the United Southern Republic…sorry, the United Seven Provinces, and these provinces are, until Napoleon, so independent that no decision can be made without all of them agreeing. It’s true that the province of Holland, later divided into north and south Holland, dominates. If an American calls me Hollander, that’s alright, but I really am not a Hollander.
PRINCE: Not, right.
TENZYTHOFF: I think of myself as a Netherlander.
PRINCE: I think many people are ignorant of the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. Holland is a part of the Netherlands. (OVERTALK)
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct.
PRINCE: I used it in the introduction and then was reading about it afterwards and left it in because you can use them simultaneously – at the same time.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s right. Yes, you can, for…(OVERTALK) for all postal services it will work very well…
PRINCE: But not really…not for a native.
TENZYTHOFF: It is my recollection – upon being liberated and getting to meet with the Third Army, you know, the memory – I have, I must say, here I marveled at the ability of Texans not to take too much offense when they were welcomed as the Yanks.
TENZYTHOFF: No Dutchman at the time – very few Dutchmen at the time, would understand why that was erroneous, but you would immediately.
PRINCE: Absolutely.
TENZYTHOFF: Now, those provinces had their own history. And that makes for strong local independence, I would say. You provide for yourself. It’s kind of an unruly bunch, these Dutchmen.
PRINCE: Thank God, thank God. No, it’s a good, a good solid basic explanation for us to build on.
PRINCE: Your friends or you – well, alright, you’ve moved and you mentioned Hitler coming to power in 1933 which would make you about 11.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s correct.
PRINCE: O.K. Have we left anything before you were 11 that you would like to…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, I think so. I thought about it and especially in connection with my father’s getting on in age and my efforts to understand once more what their significance, my parents’ significance in my life has been. And, I reflected with my brothers and sister on that as well. Now, I think it’s important to say that my father, especially, was very much aware of migration. The reason for it is that one of his sisters, deceased earlier, Tante Trui, Aunt Gertrude – that would have to be – that’s the way you have to translate it, was married to a banker of the Rotterdam Bank, but he lived – I can show that to you on the map – in Oldenzaal, one of the border crossing towns – in Dutch, grensstation, that goes into Germany and Berlin – where the main railroad from Amsterdam (you see, right here).
PRINCE: Uh-huh.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s where the main railroad, Amsterdam Oldenzaal, into Germany, Berlin. My uncle was the banker there but also the agent for the Holland-American line and so he knew about migrations and it is in that house that my dad at one time stayed while he was a student for teaching before, I think at least a year. In other words, he was familiar with these types who would come from Russia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia, you name it – who would come by way of Oldenzaal and then would go to America. A lot of migration went that route. So, my dad was familiar with migrating but he would always say how the locals would look down upon these poor critters.
PRINCE: At the time, you’re saying, the ones, the people that were trying to get out of Germany at this time?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct. There is a constant movement of peoples…
PRINCE: Beginning around the early 30’s, you’re talking about?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, but also before that time.
PRINCE: Well, there was a depression?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right – and also because of tough policies in these countries toward Jews, among others. For instance, in Russia; for instance, in Poland; for instance, in Lithuania.
PRINCE: Did you know any Jews?
TENZYTHOFF: At the time not consciously. I probably did. In retrospect, I simply met them, but it (LAUGHTER) never dawned on me at that time to consider them any differently. They might go – I knew where a synagogue was, etc. There did not happen to be one in Keppel where I grew up, but there certainly was one in Doetinchem where I went to high school, and there certainly was one in Goor where my father and mother grew up.
PRINCE: And so it was…
TENZYTHOFF: A part of life, you know, like horses and doctors and policemen, an army, and so forth. That was never a point of discussion. I do recall – but then I am not in Gramsbergen, I am in Keppel – I remember that my nephews, or my nephew who died in Indonesia, and two of my nieces – I say that wrong – it’s cousins – I get confused on these two words, my cousins from Oldenzaal at one time came with a friend. She happened to be Jewish. In other words, there was fish for her while we were having pork. “Why do – do we eat fish today, mom?”
“No, our guest from Oldenzaal is Jewish and she eats fish. We have something that it’s better for her not to have.” But, we took that in as a matter of information –
PRINCE: No big deal, to speak of.
PRINCE: So, your parents were beginning to be aware, it sounds as though, because of the migration that there were problems coming.
PRINCE: When was – what did you – when were you aware of anything that concerned your parents?
TENZYTHOFF: On this one?
TENZYTHOFF: I would think ’33 and after when the change came in Germany. That is also, of course, remember it’s then that I’m 11 years old.
PRINCE: Right.
TENZYTHOFF: In other words, my recollections now changes from a child to a teenager. Also, while at Gramsbergen, we did have a radio but that was one of those that you had to put things in and adjust, and so forth. We got a better radio in 19, I think the year was ’32.
PRINCE: Wait a minute. The first place – that’s (OVERTALK)
TENZYTHOFF: Gramsbergen, where I was born.
PRINCE: Yes, but when you moved…
TENZYTHOFF: The old radio stayed – we got us a new one, and it was a better one.
PRINCE: O.K. So that’s where we are now?
TENZYTHOFF: Alright, yes. That’s where you want to be, right?
PRINCE: Right.
TENZYTHOFF: O.K. At that time we began to listen to not only the Dutch broadcasts but we also listened to broadcasts from other countries and in Germany.

Tape 1 - Side 2

That opened up far more the rest of the world. I would also like to say that we would listen on the shortwave to broadcasts from Indonesia. There is a – I say that with some significance because although the broadcast was very poor quality, simply because of equipment, they made the world much larger than the little village in which I grew up because how many people did it have in it? Maybe 4-500? But, the world that I knew was much larger and certainly, part of our scene, and we had all kinds of relatives living in Indonesia who would come with furlough every six years and there were several, so from time to time our house would fill up with people who would talk about the Japanese. And I can very well recall – and then I have to say – our house was quite large. It had a huge kitchen. It had a wonderful family room and it had a (what we would call) a study. That’s where we had to be – where we did our homework. And then there was a downstairs bedroom and then upstairs we had a number of bedrooms but the most wonderful thing was that the house and the school were one building and from the house, the upper floor, you would be able to get to the school attic, which all of that room was available to us. So we could all – we always had a place to play even if it was storming and raining, and so forth.
PRINCE: Your friends must have thought that was wonderful.
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, it was, (LAUGHTER) – that’s correct. Although we had to be very careful as to who we would be sneaking up with. Now, I remember – well, we were not always interested in listening to what the old fogies were saying. You know, there were kids to play with and I was an avid soccer fan. We would continually play that. And, oh in the summer we would go to – well, you know how it is – we would go swimming in that river and there were other things to do. So, but I do remember, very well some of those conversations that I walked into. I was listening to Japanese – What are Japanese? Well, we looked into the encyclopedia and I looked at the country of Japan and we looked at the globe and I remember distinctly one of my cousins, older than I am, the son of my father’s sister, who would – he was in the Dutch Navy – and he would point out that the Japanese one day would attack. I distinctly remember that.
PRINCE: Did he say attack who?
PRINCE: The West.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right. I asked about that but you know how it is with parents. They want their kids to go to sleep. And they said, “Oh, yes, that may happen, but certainly it won’t happen here.” But, you know, these are some of the memories, and then, of course, after ’33, that radio, as we were flipping around for news and so forth, there would be – soon there were what the Germans would call “Wunschkonzerte (Request Concerts).” For the soldiers, these were concerts in which one could request music to be played. That was a Sunday afternoon activity and I think it was The Deutschland Sender Radio Germany; powerful, long range, that would broadcast all kinds of music. And, from time to time you would listen to them. And then, especially as we learned languages in high school, we would begin to understand also what kind of words were used. My parents did not restrict us from listening, but they certainly did not have us listen unrestrictedly. And, on occasion, there would be discussions as “what does this mean” – not daily, but it meant we were aware that a power was being built up which potentially would be very dangerous. I remember that distinctly as one of the – one of the givens of the reality in which I grew up.
PRINCE: Something was coming.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, something would be coming.
PRINCE: How did you feel?
TENZYTHOFF: Probably not too hot because everybody was convinced that Holland had been neutral in World War I and therefore it would be neutral again in World War II. Nobody counted on Holland being invaded. Of course not. Because everybody figured that the Germans would need some neutral country on the continent that had direct connections with Germany, railway, waterways and therefore they would need Holland. They would take Belgium probably and France, of course, because those two were always at war, but certainly not Holland.
PRINCE: And Holland had strong ties with Germany.
TENZYTHOFF: Also, yes. Trading ties…
PRINCE: Marriage…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, marriage of the King and Queen, of course…not King, but Queen, I should have to say – Queen Wilhelmina who had married Hendrick Heinrich of Schlesswig-Holstein.
PRINCE: And Julianna?
TENZYTHOFF: And Julianna married Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. And that was tenuous in the invasion time but, of course, one of the most popular figures in Holland is Prince Bernhard because of his stand with the Dutch against his “own” people. When the Germans finally surrendered in Holland and he was addressed by Blaskowitz, the commanding general of the German troops at that time, in German, Bernhard simply ignored it and answered him in English – had to translate.
PRINCE: In English?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct. But Prince Bernhard refused to talk German to him. That’s one of those little details, that a, well, you know, one can’t write history books about that. That explains in part to you the popularity of the House of Orange – very popular. But the – there were indeed strong ties with Germany too.
PRINCE: O.K. So, but good strong ties.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right.
PRINCE: Not negative.
PRINCE: Alright, so something was going to happen and…
TENZYTHOFF: And there is another area and, that now I need to bring up, out of that period, and that’s another one. We had a Jewish family. A Sephardic Jew by the name of Belinfante, beautiful child – Belinfante – Sephardic Jews out of the Spanish Reconquest and subsequent oppression of the Jews, coming to Holland by 1560-68, leaving – many of them leaving Antwerp where they had found refuge, but when Antwerp got to be Spanish again which it remained with Austria, the Spanish or rather – the Hapsburgs governed both Spain and the Austrian Empire, and for a long time Belgium was a part of the Austrian Empire. After Napoleon that changes. So, Jews that had found shelter in Antwerp had to be on the move again and many of them went to Amsterdam, came to Holland. Belinfante was a – medical doctor, he was just out of the University of Amsterdam – when he took up his practice in Laag-Keppel, and I was one of his patients that had to be treated and he became – he was – a family friend.
Let me run ahead of the story a bit because it will clarify why I have vivid recollections of that family. After the invasion which took place on May 10, 1940, two days later the Belinfantes committed suicide. And that triggered in my mind the discussion that he once had with my dad standing at his car before leaving at our home. He had come by but not because anybody had been sick. But he would drop in from time to time, a wonderful guy. We were talking about Hitler and the invasion of Norway and Denmark which had taken place. And that was very upsetting to me because Denmark – Norway, alright – but Denmark was supposed to be neutral except that no longer it could be because it surrendered to Germany. My father and Dr. Belinfante were discussing the implications of all of this and my dad asked him, “Do you not envision at all going to Palestine?” That is how we would call what is now basically Israel, the former British Mandate. He said, “Of course not.” He said – my dad said, “But suppose,” he said, “I don’t think that will ever really happen, but suppose Hitler would invade.” He said, “There’s only one thing to do and that is to commit suicide.” My dad immediately said, “Suicide, but that is against your religion as it is against mine.” He said, “But you couldn’t live in such a dark empire anymore, where all the values of Western civilization would be sacrificed.”
Boy, do I remember that discussion now because then they went on to other things but it – it is burned into my memory as some things sometimes do because I thought about committing suicide as here and there a teenager would from time to time – not in our school, but I knew of one in another school and that of course is always very upsetting, at least it was then. I’m not a teenager anymore so I don’t know what present day teenagers really think, but I know that very many that I come across at my university here are very upset by this suicide business. It’s – I can understand that I relate to that because I was sometimes tempted to commit suicide.
PRINCE: You mean, as a teenager, when you heard this you wondered how anyone could?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s right.
PRINCE: But you never –
TENZYTHOFF: I never really thought about it myself, no. That came on other occasions.
TENZYTHOFF: But, that was burned in my memory. Why did the doctor come. Of course, first of all because from time to time people were sick. Secondly, however, he was socially very much interested in some of the work that my mother did. My mother would have a circle of ladies…they were small farmers, not of the bigger…for whom life in the 30’s and its depression was awesome, difficult. And, my mom would invite them to her home, would have – she would read with them from literature. They would sing together the psalms or the hymns. They would pray together, but it was not a mushy type of thing. They would also make things for a bazaar so that they could raise some money in order to help the really poor, etc.
PRINCE: How gracious.
TENZYTHOFF: Jah. And Dr. Belinfante who knew of this enterprise would come from time to time and then he would say, “Well my wife did a knitting project and this is the wool that was left.” And there was a bag full of wool. Jah, he was a good doctor – and he was very interested in what was done socially and he supported that very strongly. In other words, he was considered very much by the surrounding area as one of us, not one of them, although he was an Amsterdammer.
PRINCE: I keep thinking that kindness was a way of life of your family.
TENZYTHOFF: Very much so. The – now back to ’33. It is out of that connection with this doctor that we became also very much aware of people movement out of Germany after Hitler takes over, and there is a trickle of the stream that leaves that comes by way of Dr. Belinfante. Hence my father’s question, “Do you not want to go the same route that some of these people have taken?” Not all of them went to Palestine. A number of them went to America, to Indonesia, to Australia, and so forth. I’m not sure that – I don’t know how many – I cannot tell you. But, from time to time we would see these people. Some of them would be in our home.
PRINCE: How come they came to be in your home?
TENZYTHOFF: They would come for a meal. They would be poor and they would have to save all the money they could.
PRINCE: And how would they get to your home?
TENZYTHOFF: Well, by way of the doctor, by way of my father.
PRINCE: I see, they would contact the doctor.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, he was part of that enterprise, and so was my dad. But there was – it was not formalized. It was not so that there was a railroad with definite stations. It went by word of mouth. It was done by way of relatives. It was done by way of relatives and acquaintances in Germany. That’s how that operated. But, it was his – it was the doctor’s, Belinfante, he was the key. But he did it very low key, not to embarrass anyone.
PRINCE: And so that was the beginning?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. There’s no doubt about it. (OVERTALK)
PRINCE: And that, excuse me, but I just want to ascertain the year approximately – somewhere in ’36 maybe?
TENZYTHOFF: ’36 – ’37, jah, jah. There is also in Holland a movement of young Jews who as pioneers wanted to go to Israel and would come to here and there a farm, there to be actively engaged as farmers, which of course in cities like the Hague and Amsterdam and Rotterdam and Utrecht they were unable to do. And, we were familiar with these summer interns who would work on the farm. I never did that. But my younger brother who died early – he was about 50 – that’s probably a heart attack – not really, but we really don’t know what happened. He just collapsed on the street and no autopsy was ever done, but that gets into some detail that isn’t all that important. But my younger brother, the one that followed me, Hans, was one of those. He loved working on a farm, never became a farmer but he certainly was in agriculture.
PRINCE: They were training for the kibbutz.
PRINCE: I’d like to stop you for one moment and go down – the oldest child was?
TENZYTHOFF: My brother, Hank.
PRINCE: And then?
TENZYTHOFF: Gerrit, and then comes my brother, Hans; brother Chris, sister Hanneke, “H A N N E K E,” then brother Gehrard.
PRINCE: Your father’s name?
TENZYTHOFF: Also Hank – Hendrik, Hank. “H E N D R I K,” Jan – the “J” is capitalized.
PRINCE: And your mother?
TENZYTHOFF: Johannah which is really also Hanneke’s name. That’s a diminutive.
Hans would work summers on his vacation with two or three farmers that he knew. And, so it was quite common for people to do that, including by some future Jewish farmers. And that was done on certain farms. And that – my father would be instrumental and tell the doctor, “You ought to ask this farmer.” After his school hours, my father was in the habit of visiting parents at home. Because his theory was that you don’t understand the child unless you see the child at home.
PRINCE: I wish he’d been my teacher.
TENZYTHOFF: You know, rather than counselors who sit in offices and you bring your problems to them, my dad would encounter problems but then he would go to them before taking any action he said, “I first need to see where they are.” He said to me, “Otherwise, I misunderstand.”
PRINCE: An exceptional man.
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, he worked hard, but he knew families very intimately and he could recommend, “You ought to approach this person.”
PRINCE: Oh, I’m just astounded at (OVERTALK)
TENZYTHOFF: And that was done very low key. And there were others that you had to stay away from because they would not have the – my dad would think – would not have the ability to work well with a person, having two left hands, so to speak – trying to understand what farming is about. Some farmers are shorter tempered than others. You have to have one that is a bit long-suffering. But that means that there was this network, that’s the significance of it – there was not a list, but there was a number of people who had the capacity and the willingness to aid. And that became very significant during World War II during the occupation.
PRINCE: So this was at this time it was for people to go to work on the farm…
TENZYTHOFF: And if they wanted to go to Israel. That happened – that was not a very strong movement. You didn’t have scads of them, you had here and there one.
PRINCE: But you all were laying the groundwork without realizing it.
TENZYTHOFF: That it was, that’s right.
PRINCE: It was a natural evolution.
TENZYTHOFF: Jah. Like taking your vitamins and your – what is it that the kids ate – spinach because then you get to be Popeye later who is strong. But you don’t know it at the time.
PRINCE: Right.
TENZYTHOFF: And, of course, it was done simply because that was the need of the hour but certainly not with a thought that that’s what we are going to use when the time comes because that anticipation simply wasn’t there.
PRINCE: And the need was also not desperate.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct.
PRINCE: At that point. It was just a helpful thing.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct. But it is true, I have to say that too, that at that time the Dutch government was not all that kind toward Jews trying to leave Germany. It must be said. I hate to admit it, but it is true. I was not all that conscious of it at the time because I found the sports page and playing soccer, and so forth (LAUGHTER) more important. And I had to do my school work, etc., and then there were sometimes upsetting situations that people had not been permitted access to the Netherlands, and then in Parliament there would be some debate, but these were not on television. They were not even on radio. We would listen to the radio and then you would have a two minute capsule that in Parliament, the Minister of Internal Affairs was asked a question, “Why this train at Venlo or Oldenzaal was stopped and people were not permitted in and had been – were returned back to Germany.” Well, then you had a long spiel about these were not legitimate refugees. There was this effort on the part of the Netherlands government not to insult Hitler any more than they could get away with. They tried to play that down. I must admit that that is so. I think in defense I will say that I don’t excuse them but in defense I will say that any number of people were just as naïve as we were.
PRINCE: Well, who? We’re here, 40 something years later, looking back. Who could dream that anything like that could happen.
TENZYTHOFF: No, that’s the words you say. Even in your worst dreams you would never think that a cultured, well educated, if not the best educated country in Europe would go all out on a binge to kill off Jews.
PRINCE: They were gassing them and…(OVERTALK)
TENZYTHOFF: In the most horrendous fashion. (OVERTALK) You know, that was unthinkable.
PRINCE: When we do these tapes, we think in terms of going back, but you lived it and you brought up an extremely important – I’m glad you did say that, not in defense of but in explanation of – who could dream it?
TENZYTHOFF: Who could believe it? Nobody did. Let me give you two examples. I remember with a great deal of delight, Mr. Van Cauveren. He was a Cohen member of the Jewish synagogue in Doetinchem. He was our teacher for Latin and Greek and from time to time also Hebrew. I learned, among others, these languages. In my school I learned French, German, English, Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Mr. Van Cauveren, at one point, brought up that his son, Jacob, who was not in our school, but attended another one and I’m not entirely sure where, had passed an exam and at the exam he was asked the question, “Tell us about a country that is on the rise in the East.” To which Japie, (that is the diminuitive for Jacob) had replied, “Israel.” And so the examiners, they had wanted him to say Japan, so they asked him further. So, for about five minutes. Mr. Van Cauveren talked about that to us in his class. And I think I was in the fifth grade of the high school at that point – there were six forms which you had to go through – so then, in order to address him we had to stand next to our seat. So, I stood up and because he had made this statement that certainly no well-educated western Jew would think about re-establishing the State of Israel. So I said, “Begging your pardon, are there not in the prophecies of Isaiah statements that shear – yashuv (INTERVIEWEE SPELLS THIS OUT IN HEBREW CHARACTERS), a remnant shall return,” and I was so terribly proud that I could quote that in Hebrew, that “a remnant shall return.” Boy, he said, “tenZythoff, you sit down first.” So, I sat down. And then he lectured very intensely about the prophecies had been fulfilled at one time when people came back from Babylonia, he said, and you ought to know that. I said, “Yes, sir, I do.” He said, “And that’s done and over with.” He – he did it in a kind manner. I didn’t feel that I had been speaking out of turn, but he certainly let the class know that from his perspective, and he was so Orthodox that on Saturday morning when we went to school, he had to be there too, he didn’t write on the board, we had to do it for him because as an Orthodox Jew he would not write on the board. He’d be there all dressed up to go to the Shul again – to the synagogue later in the day, but he certainly made the point that Jews were citizens of Holland and of England and of France, and they were not going to have a state called Israel. That was a Zionist dream that he certainly didn’t share.
Another teacher of mine, Dr. Hoek, who taught us physics, etc., a wonderful guy, he was what the – (I’ll have to use a kind of put down language here) Dutch would call a bacon Jew, that is to say, a Jew who did not keep the law. He was very liberal.
PRINCE: Bacon?
TENZYTHOFF: Bacon, because he would eat bacon. (OVERTALK) The Dutch word for it is a “spek-jood.” Well, the – he, too, was of the same opinion because we asked him. We said, “Sir would you ever go to Israel?”
PRINCE: Palestine?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, sorry, I should have said it – Palestine. “And would you support a State of Israel?” And he said, “No such thing is ever going to happen.” We were that innocent.
PRINCE: Well, that was a dream too, though.
PRINCE: Who could think that that would happen?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right. It’s – I want to make this point because people always seem to be very annoyed that you didn’t anticipate such a clear and obvious danger to come to you. We didn’t. We were civilized. We really were. We lived in a kind world and we had overcome these enmities and we had established freedom and liberty for all. The Pilgrim fathers do not leave England, you know, they leave Holland in order to demonstrate to “good old England” how it ought to be, and they lived there in Holland in great freedom. Dutchmen are very proud of that tradition. It was unthinkable to us that that would – maybe in Russia and in Poland with pogroms, yes, but for God’s sake, not in the west.
PRINCE: So, how did it begin?
TENZYTHOFF: Well, you had to take in the fact there were these people leaving, talking – well, we were shielded at the time. Remember this is a time in which no Playboy is printed. This is a time in which we are not as naked as we are now. I mean, not only physically, but also soul-wise. People didn’t bare every single feeling that they had. That was done by way of the normal. But that was not done by way of talk shows. I’ve been conditioned enough by it that I’m somewhat embarrassed….talking “straight” language…

Tape 2 - Side 1

…namely, that we are not in the era then of, let me say to you, that everything is naked, body and soul. We – that’s done by way of the novel but certainly not by the way of the talk show, I think I said. In fact, I have to admit talking with – in this manner to you about my family, I have to put myself under the discipline to do so because the, you know, you talk with friends about friends and with strangers, which until now until I meet you, you were – you, you would have a polite conversation but you – you did not talk to your neighbors about family affairs. Now, you might know about their family affairs by simply observing, but that was not a point of discussion. And certainly the one thing that I remember vividly at our home, if anybody had a juicy story to tell, my dad would immediately – and my mother – “Is this gossip? And what is it we can do about it, if it’s bad? If it’s hilarious, let’s have a good laugh. If it’s bad, what do you propose to do about it? And if you don’t have any proposal, you shut up about it.” There was no such thing as just reveling in somebody else’s affair. I can’t recall that. It – it – it – there was a gentility, perhaps – that’s the word to use that certainly is far less present now…
PRINCE: Decency and a dignity.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, there was, of a certain kind. Call it somewhat prudish – yes, it was.
PRINCE: No, no. It’s because of today that you say that but it wasn’t prudish.
TENZYTHOFF: No, at that time, certainly not. It was part of what was considered a civil life.
PRINCE: Exactly. Which could still be today.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct. Yes, it can. Yes it can.
PRINCE: And inside each of our homes we maintain a certain standard…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes – privacy.
PRINCE: Standard of our own.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s correct. And that we have to expect as brothers and sisters.
PRINCE: Well, let me thank you for what you are telling me today.
TENZYTHOFF: Well, you are welcome, my friend. I know how difficult it must be to get these stories. A few years ago, I’ll be very frank with you, I would have said, “No – I’ll write that myself.” But, I’m older and wiser these days. I may not get to it. I’m very grateful that I’m still able to move around and so consequently I am also aware of the fact that I may never have the time to write.
PRINCE: Well, what we have is yours and you’ll have copies of it.
PRINCE: Proceeding –
TENZYTHOFF: Well, we were talking about the fact that you did not go to Israel – Palestine. You did not try to revive Israel. We were naïve as far as the imminent danger was concerned. We considered the concerts on Sunday afternoons more as hilarity and more as a entertainment than as a serious engagement.
PRINCE: Are you talking about the ones on the radio?
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, the ones on Sunday afternoon.
PRINCE: German?
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, we would travel from time to time into Germany, and we would see these kids walking as – like Hitler Youths, and so forth. We’d simply say, “These guys are nuts, we’d never do that.” You know, I said – “They wear uniforms – good grief – who in the world would want to do that?” We certainly didn’t want to.
PRINCE: Silly.
TENZYTHOFF: Silly. Except that it wasn’t as silly – later, as we thought then. But of course we were very much aware of the Kristallnacht, we were very much aware of Austria. Dutch troops were there when the Saar territory had to vote. Dutch Marines went down there – 500 of them – to guard the ballot boxes and to keep the peace, etc., and the Saar decided to return to Germany. I recall that. We were very much aware of Mussolini and his attack upon Ethiopia and I remember in our high school that we organized once a collection in order to support the two Dutch ambulances that were sent to Haile Selassie to support him against a Fascist dictator walking into his country. But, I must say I also remember very much that some of my classmates were reading a book called, “Onder de Vaandels van Franco.” “Under the Banners of Franco.” And two of them volunteered for Hitler’s SS and died on the East front, I have to say that too.
PRINCE: That was my next question. Did you have friends that were pro-German?
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, yes, jah – were they. I suppose that you would have to say yes although in each case it came as a total surprise. I would have the feeling that their volunteering had to do with the fact that somehow or other their relationship to their dad – their parents – wasn’t the way it should have been. I refused to blame the parents for that because it may not have been their fault. I didn’t know the situation that well except in the case of one. And, again I must say my dad was able to make – to get the signature of the son undone and get him out of the SS assignment that he had signed up for. It was a major feat.
PRINCE: I would imagine.
TENZYTHOFF: Jah. He was the only son of a farmer with two daughters in which the son, the youngest, had been pampered too much and grew up – in retrospect as I apologize, I don’t know whether this would be true or not…I think he grew up just a little bit too feminine and was impressed by the virility of this conquering German Army.
PRINCE: There were probably so many different reasons why that appealed to people.
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, yes. And still, when the Germans invaded, (I’m anticipating that again) the first year there was no action taken toward Jews really, except the action that we could not see, the paper – the administrative action. Consequently, many people would comment, “Why these wild stories about Jews? Is that really true?” Well, there was enough evidence to remind you of the fact that it was true. I think of our Jewish butcher who was beaten to death during that first year. I already told about the doctor who committed suicide, but that was considered by the villagers, including us, as a mistake. In other words, it is possible to, I hope, to understand that people kind of innocently, in a rather kind society, said, “Well, we are against atheists and Communists” and that, of course, became Hitler’s great appeal – a terrific campaign to join him in his battle for a new, free Europe that would be atheist – and Communist – free and therefore every family person would support it. I remember those signs and those…
PRINCE: Atheist-free?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, to make it free from atheists.
PRINCE: Well, he had a lot of appeal.
TENZYTHOFF: Of course at that time he still had the Friendship Treaty that gave the Russians half of Poland and him the other half. But he – the propaganda machine pretty soon swung into high gear.
PRINCE: If we’re not missing anything, tell me what about the invasion?
TENZYTHOFF: The invasion came, in retrospect I must say not quite unexpectedly. I had to bike to school, about eight kilometers in the morning and in the evening the return trip. This is a rather heavily wooded area of the Netherlands. It still is. But it had more woods then, and around the trees leading from this particular highway, leading toward Germany, there were the explosives that could take these trees down at any given moment. We were in that part of Holland that could not be flooded and therefore would not be defended. The defense would take place only at the River Rhine and the River Yssel, and so on. We were in that territory that certainly would be occupied at first blush, although we never thought about that. There were troops here and they were nice guys and they were young. They were – they had a machine gun here and they had a little cannon there.
PRINCE: You mean they were already in Holland?
TENZYTHOFF: No – I’m talking about the Dutch Army.
PRINCE: Oh, the Dutch, I see.
TENZYTHOFF: We would have these soldiers come to our home on Sunday afternoon. We would fetch them from their barracks and say, “Anybody here in for a cup of tea?” We would sit around the family piano. We would sing songs, we would hear from them where they were from, and so forth. I – jah – they were at bridges, they were at crossroads, but of course there were maybe five at a bridge, maybe ten at a crossroad. That was in the winter of ’39 – uh – a severe one, it was a cold one. That is when Hitler attacked Poland. The Dutch Army mobilized. Now, most of those that had been called up to duty were sent home again because Poland lost the war and then you get into that period of the phony war. Holland is neutral, as are the Scandinavian countries. The – therefore you are not part of the Allied effort and – but, but it is true that the Dutch Army, the Navy, and so forth, is on mobilization terms. So we are aware that something might happen and there is speculation. Yes, they will come, but everybody said, “No, they won’t.” And that’s the reason why on May 10th – this was the time of Pentecost – there are two holidays in Holland at that time when most of the soldiers were sent home to be there for to celebrate that event, were not there when Hitler attacked and that attack came in the middle of the night. We woke up because of an enormous ruckus outside – planes coming over and at first we thought that the Germans had attacked England somehow and that they were now taking the shortcut back over Holland. There was no electricity. Now that was the first alarm. Why was there no electricity? From time to time it would go off. But, we had a radio in the car and that told us that we were at war. (VOICE RISING, SHRILL) Hey, we are at war.
Well, we got instructions from our parents that whatever we did, we were to stay home, to which we gave oral assent, but certainly not mentally because if there were any war we were certainly going to have a good look at it to look out good. Jah, we sneaked out of the house by way of back doors, and so forth, and go into the garden – we had a rather large one.
PRINCE: And you were 17 then?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that is correct. And I made it to the highway where I would normally have biked that day, if it had been a regular weekday, to go to school. There was absolutely no traffic on that road – the main thoroughfare. And, I remember standing there with my bicycle and listening to distant noises. You could hear what I now know was gunfire, to which was unbeknownst to me. You would see here and there a plane. The first wave had left and there were no other waves coming. You would – you would hear especially the birds and the winds and it was a beautiful day. There was an eerie silence and then I heard that rumble in the distance. And that’s when the first German column approached. It was a sound that I had heard and seen on the newsreel in the movie house but that I certainly hadn’t heard before and I put my bike behind some bushes and climbed a tree. And then from the top, I looked down upon these people in their camouflage uniforms, laughing, with their guns, with their helmets, on their motorized – on their vehicles and with tanks. Absolutely nothing you can do about it.
PRINCE: What did you think?
TENZYTHOFF: I cried. What in God’s name is going to happen?
PRINCE: Was that your first fear?
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, I think – I was not unafraid but I wasn’t overcome by fear. I tried to visualize as best I could what it would be to be at war. I certainly think that it was a mistake, that the French and the British would certainly come to our aid and that the Germans certainly would be defeated and they would not be able to take Holland because I knew about what the Dutch called “The Water Linie” or “Water Line.” That part of Holland can flood itself. I knew exactly where that was and they would do it and did, making it impossible for tanks to pass through. However, we had totally underestimated – at least I had – that there was an airforce and paratroopers, and certainly hadn’t counted on the bombardment of Rotterdam. It is at that point that the Dutch government surrendered because next to be bombed would be Amsterdam, the Hague, Utrecht, and there was no way for us to defend it.
PRINCE: Why did they pick Rotterdam?
TENZYTHOFF: Because of its harbor.
PRINCE: Because of its harbor?
TENZYTHOFF: Because of its harbor, making it impossible for the British to use it, if there were such a thing as using it. Besides, that’s the one that they really wanted, closest to The Hague. They wanted to capture – that’s at least the story – Queen Wilhelmina, so that they would have the means by which they could make her sign certain pacts of government. But she got out on time…Jah. She made it but, of course, Julianna and Prince Bernhard also left. Julianna finally left – lived in Canada, in Ottawa where her youngest child was born – sorry, the third one, Margriet. Bernhard stayed with Wilhelmina, with his mother-in-law in London where the Dutch government also was present because the Dutch East Indies and the West Indies – like Curacao, Aruba, etc. are still free. They certainly were free then – and the West Indies were never occupied. And the Germans had designs on those colonies if they could have gotten them by some semblance of legitimacy. Hitler certainly had planned to exercise again that full power press by which he would get what he wanted – possessions in the New World.
Of course, having lost that battle of Holland didn’t mean that I had the notion that now we had lost the war. There was still the Battle of France and there was still the Battle of England to come, and of course by that time the radio was a Godsend. We did not get the managed news from the Germans telling us really what happened. In fact, we thoroughly disbelieved, even if they were factually correct from time to time (LAUGHTER) – on principle you didn’t believe what they said. Now, however, we saw the defeat of France. We saw certainly in the newspapers all kinds of pictures as to how Hitler paraded around in Paris. I must say that I even didn’t want to take that in all that well. The Battle of Britain was soon to come and that is where we got our first glimmer of hope that we were not in for a long dark night, still thoroughly underestimating how long it would take before liberation would come. We were still thinking that this German war machine would soon collapse somehow and – but it didn’t, as you well know.
Alright, what did it mean to be under German control? At first, everybody breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Dr. Belinfante committed his suicide way too early because clearly these people are not changing anything.” But we underestimated that it would take them some time to do so. But, the time came very soon, within a year. The first notion that we had was not – well, of course the very first one was the doctor’s suicide. But the changing climate came when our butcher’s wife came one day to our door and in tears was telling us that her husband had been taken – they were Jewish – and, again I’ll use the word “bacon Jew” here. They butchered sheep, pigs, cows, etc. But, excellent family – young children – two, as I recall. The contact with them was not very intense but they lived in Laag-Keppel, the little village, and they were considered good citizens and friends, etc. But in the night somebody had come – that’s how we got the story together – at least, my father and mother did, and they – my father said, “I’m going to inquire.” He talked to a lawyer friend who said, “Alright, I’ll make inquiry,” and pretty soon came back with the report, “If you know what’s good for your health, you don’t make any inquiries.” And then, as we now know, our butcher was beaten to death. At that time the death notice came that he died of pneumonia. That was – and there were some locals involved.
Now, after the Germans had lost the Battle of Britain, there were two paths of resistance that I think we need to mention at this particular point. As you look at the map of Holland, you will note that the village in which I grew up is part of that area where the access to the Ruhr Valley exists. If I were in Britain and wanted to attack the Ruhr Valley, I would cross into Holland and then I would follow the River Rhine, by way of Arnheim and I would follow that and anything near, like Dusseldorf or Essen, Ruhrort and Solingen, and you name them. That would be part of the coal and steel empire and the manufacturing empire. That’s where Krupp is located. So that’s where you would come in with your bombardments. Now, the Germans had some kind of – well not exactly a radar – we thought that they were listening posts, but at any rate, here all around there were these listening posts – we thought listening posts, and they were certainly where we were located. And what happened was that these cables providing electricity to them were cut at night. Now, I was not part of the cutters, but I surely know who did it. They – these were some boys older than I was because you have to remember that being 17 now is not exactly the same as being 17 then. We were older only at a later age. We were longer young, part of a family much more and it’s only at 19 that you could be drafted for the army and only at 18 that you could drive. If you were not at 18, you were certainly a minor and were considered that way. Therefore, the general tenure was that you were less prone to take independent action, that is at least – I think that is a fair statement to make. I certainly want to make it for me because that is how I recall my growing up part.
PRINCE: That’s what I want to hear. How did you know that those boys…
TENZYTHOFF: Word of mouth. Is there anything in a village that people don’t know? Well, they may not know the exact details, but they were caught, not redhanded; but unfortunately they made the mistake of writing letters to the Germans telling them how despised they were and how much…way of the handwriting, the Germans found out who they were and they were punished, but in consideration for their age – I’m not entirely sure how long they were to serve. One of them did not survive World War II, he was killed later in a bombardment, but unrelated to being imprisoned, as a warning. Well that was one – the punishment that the village got as a whole municipality was that citizens had to stand watch during the night to guard the cables and that was a 24 hour operation. One of the things that I had to do in that summer of 1940 was to take my part in standing watch for cables. And you did that with two. It had to be – it was organized by the local Dutch authorities who had no choice but to do that because not doing that would have simply meant the punishment of an awful lot of innocent people and you had to choose your battles rather carefully because you were battling tanks and guns with bare hands.
PRINCE: So this order came from the Germans?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct, and it was carried out. I remember that as the most hilarious time because (LAUGHTER) nobody took this seriously. You would always say, “Well since we have a total blackout, we don’t have any lanterns. If we are on this side of the cable, we can’t be on the other side of the cable and if somebody is very smart, he can cut it anytime.” So that was the general excuse that everybody had ready, and so we congregated and told stories; and I remember that as a wonderful time, especially at night. During the day was kind of boring because then you had to act as if you were walking around. But that reminded us of what was to come. There was also an order that we had to turn in our radios – you couldn’t listen anymore. So we scared up an old radio – uh, certainly not our new one, and handed it in. That was thought control. Well, our good radio, the one that had the shortwave, etc. on it, remained hidden so that we would have access, especially to London, and here I must credit the British Broadcast Corporation which had Dutch language broadcasts as well as its own in English, but in all kinds of languages, and we would simply listen to that and get the news that way because one thing it excelled in, it would, without any fear, tell you exactly what was happening. I remember at the time, for instance, of the – the attack of the Japanese on Malacca or Singapore as it now is called, that both the Repulse and the Prince of Wales were sunk. And those were the best battle ships they had. And I can recall how crushed we were. But, I am jumping ahead of the story because you are already in the Seventh of December, ’41, I should say.
Now, back to this noose being tightened around our neck. We had to have identification papers on us, a kind of a passport. It was called an identity card, an ausweis.
PRINCE: An ausweis?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s it, yes. You had to carry that at all times. It had a photograph on it. It said where you lived, it said all you were and what your profession was. The – in which, of course, mine was student. The – but that also meant the isolation of – the easy isolation – of people. That, we simply didn’t anticipate yet. Only the smartest or the most suspicious among us – there was one acquaintance of my father’s who said, “I think it’s going to be used against us.” And he tried to figure out a way that he didn’t have to have that kind of an identity paper, but you couldn’t get your rationing coupons without it. So, you had to have one. There was no way in which you could avoid it.
The next thing that I remember was that you had to send in a official statement. We were people with telephone. Not everybody had telephone at the time. In our neighborhood we were the only ones to have telephone. Our neighbors would come to use it from time to time. Would ask could they use it and there was no problem with that. My father was asked to submit his telephone numbers…

Tape 2 - Side 2

…The question was, “Are you of Jewish descent?” And then, well of course, you could simply say no and that would be true, and that’s what my dad did, but not without some hesitation because one of the pastors in the neighborhood – we did not regularly go there to church – refused. Whereupon, his telephone was removed, whereupon he had to go to other people to use their telephone.
PRINCE: Always a reprisal?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right. Now, that was all that happened to him. On the whole, the village thought that he should have said that he was not of Jewish descent because what it meant was – but of course this is an afterthought – is that you were not readily accessible. In retrospect, I think that it was not a mistake on my father’s part to keep his telephone. On the other hand, on the other side of that, I had ambivalent feelings about it. If everybody, everybody had returned the statement saying, “Send us another one without that question,” we probably would have won for at least a while. I say that on the strength of what the medical doctors did. At one time the medical doctors protested the genetic, and so forth, Nuremberg Laws that were going to be made valid in Holland as well, and all of them removed their shingles. Only very few didn’t, and the Germans backed down. But it was a postponement rather than a defeat for them. You could not really win. But I do know about the agony through which my parents went, “What do I do with this telephone?” Again, a small matter, perhaps, but nevertheless an important decision.
PRINCE: Were your mother and father on an equal footing as far as decisions and talking?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. They certainly – it wasn’t so that my dad decided and then informed my mom, “This is the way it shall be.” But we were not all that often, as kids, privy to their discussions. In fact, often we were not. But that is, I think that the reason for that is that kids were simply not made for consultation – not six of them – if you have one of age, that’s a little different matter. I think it’s difficult for the present and future generations to understand that they cannot understand this whole period unless they also understand family structures as to – because it may very well be so that 14 year olds in the future become very independent and very many of them are. This latchkey – I’m digressing a moment – this latchkey generation – kids who find no parents at home, and so forth, that’s going to make for a totally different person. It was unheard of in my time. And I am, of course, conditioned by that period.
We were at doing the telephone. We had handed in a radio, so officially we were without radio. It also meant that if you were caught listening to the enemy – that is, Britain, you were in deep trouble. You could – the radio would be confiscated and then it was up to whoever it was who was a Dutch collaborator – was it a German, was he pro or anti-Nazi because that could make a difference. The – not every German soldier was equally a supporter of Hitler. I do have to insist on that, that that is so. And, not that it made all that – any difference in the final outcome because Hitler superimposed his will upon these people, but we have to remember that two million Germans died in concentration camps too, in opposition to Hitler. And, they were there for very good reasons, the same reasons that they would share with us.
Now, the next thing that I think is very important – to me at least it was, is when one day I came to school and here were – I was not all that early that morning. We started at 8:20. They – two of my classmates appeared, “We are having a problem, and the problem is that we are going to go on strike, what do you think?” I said, “Well, why?” “Because our Jewish teachers and our Jewish classmates are no longer permitted to be at school.” That had been on the news – somehow or another, I had not listened to news. I was unaware of it. We did not get a morning paper, and I was not aware of the Order. So, we struck. Here I am in the high school, and – it’s in ’41. And here, my two Jewish classmates, Julius Straus and Maurits Nieweg, are going to be removed, are no longer permitted to be part of our team. Maurits Nieweg was the son of Rabbi Nieweg, and Julius Straus was the son of a merchant by the name of Straus. But also, Dr. Hoek, whom I talked about earlier, our physics, etc. teacher, and Van Cauveren were no longer there, and that’s mentioning only a few – there were others. Were we not going to have them anymore? We struck. I must amend myself here because prior to that we had been ordered to put all our books on our desks. There were scissors and most of us were provided with pocket knives, or had pocket knives to begin with, and if we had pocket knives we were to take certain pages out of our textbooks. They were not out of mathematics, and so forth. But they were out of literature and out of history, and so forth. So we inquired immediately why. “Well, because the order has come from the Ministry of Education that we are no longer needing this, so we are taking the pages out.” “Couldn’t we just skip them?” “No, they have to be taken out.” And again we asked, “Why?” Well, fortunately we had some honest teachers who said, “Because it’s written by Jews.” I remember very well my reaction to that. “My God, is anybody going to tell me what I can read?”
Yah, I took the pages out because it had to be done. You expected – respected authority just a bit too much as yet. Later I would lose all respect for authority. But I did, and I committed those pages to memory because no foreigner, no damned foreigner was going to teach me what I could read and know. But the pages were removed and now my Jewish classmates and our teachers were going to be removed. We loved those people. We had our fights, as classmates would, but we were proud of them. We were not a big high school. We knew each other. Those were great guys. There we stood. Out came what we would call the Rector, the presider, superintendent, or whatever you would call him here, of the school. And, of course, I felt sorry for the guy because we knew what he was going to say. “Please come in because it is necessary that you do so.”
We said, “No, sir. We’re not going to do it. We are not going to go in.” Out walked the Director, the Director VanderHorst and it must have been a very difficult day for him because we didn’t have the feeling of triumph. But you see, they out-psychologized us. Guess whom they got? Dr. Hoek and Mr. Van Cauveren. The two came and said, “Thank you so much for your support, but you know who’s going to be punished – it’s us. And, please, if you have our welfare at heart, then thank you once again for your support, but please go in.”
PRINCE: What a leaden day that must have been.
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, that’s the second time I cried. I went in (SOBBING) but I can still cry over that one – that’s a, that’s a bad one.
I want to tell you a story about Julius Straus because so often people have the feeling that there was on the part of Jews no resistance, which I think is one myth that has to be demolished too.
I once went to Julius Straus and said, “Julius, if ever you need shelter, then you come to us.” He said, “Gerrit, as you well know, my religion forbids to endanger anybody, and I’m not going to.” That’s a very brave statement to make.
PRINCE: On both sides – for you too.
TENZYTHOFF: Well, I just want to honor these guys for – for what they were. Also to – at that time our Jewish friends still believed that now they were going to go to a Jewish school, and that existed. That’s where Hoek and Van Cauveren taught; that where Maurits and Julius would go – on the train with a yellow star. Oh, brother. We should have known better because it was simply the spinning of the web so that the flies would be in it whenever the spider wanted them.
PRINCE: You shouldn’t have known better. You lived a kind life. You could not have known better. Nobody could.
TENZYTHOFF: That is the one thing that I have to say – that we were unwilling to admit that evil was as real as it was. You always had the feeling that evil existed, but certainly not around the corner, and certainly not in your life. It was a factor remote, if ever present. That changed the outlook – it also changed the outlook much more for the – well, what happened in my parental home – because it is now that people begin to look for shelter away from their homes. And it is at that point that we get the instruction from our parents about people we see in our home we shall not address but by the name they give. We shall not even remember those names, and as my dad said, we shall deny their presence. That was an awesome moment because it was for the first time in my life I saw my father preparing to lie.
PRINCE: And teaching you to.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct. That meant, as he said later, an awesome struggle on his part, but he had come to the conclusion that there was no other way.
And there were people – remember the school and the house were one – it was very visible what my parents did. Now, people around us were accustomed to visitors – all kinds of visitors. So that was not the problem. The problem was how long could you keep them and how visible could they be? But those who came would be there perhaps for a night, perhaps for two nights and then that network that my father and Dr. Belinfante knew of would take over.
In the later years, I pressured my dad, “How many?” And he had only one answer, that is, “Not enough.” That’s it. And he forever refused to number them. In fact, he was a very modest man – so was my mother, they simply said, “Now that all is over, we knew, we know that we could have done more.” And they, although they were not pathological about it, I must say this – this was – if you really talked with them about World War II, not superficially, but if you really came to this one, that was one of their heartaches. They had wanted to do more.
I do not know the full story because I was never home from ’43 to ’45, but of course I have pieced it together from what my brothers and sister told – although they, too, were in and out, not always present, have told me, and I know of several of my childhood cohorts – of my parents’ cohorts, I should say, who sheltered Jews for – a day, for a week, for a month, for a year, as you kept on the move. How did you know how to keep on the move? Because, on the whole, the Dutch police, although cooperating with the Germans because simply law and order had to be maintained – otherwise it would have been a jungle of war of everybody against everything. There were always good patriots in that police force, although there were also collaborators in it. The collaborators, as we now know, beat our Jewish butcher to death, as they later did with Mrs. Belinfante, who unfortunately did not die of the morphine injection as Dr. Belinfante did, as she was pregnant with the first child. She should have died at that (SOBBING) time, but there were also good guys. And in the police they would come and alert you. We expect a razzia. A razzia is the circling of a certain area…
PRINCE: A roundup?
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, a systematic search of house to house. “Who is there?” Well, our hiding place was a good one because it involved that school and it was not easy to find people in it, and also we had, as I told you, a large garden. And you could make your way out of a window and then disappear into that garden, and then, behind which, although there was some open territory, there were forests. That still is there.
PRINCE: Wasn’t it easier in the summer because school was not in session?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, but school was – there was only about a three to four week summer vacation.
PRINCE: Oh, you had it hard.
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, but then – but, but remember that when, when – you can never be certain – the, the time to be lonely is not only when you are sailing your boat in the middle of nowhere on a lake where there is no other boat, but you can also be very lonely on Broadway in New York City.
PRINCE: That’s true.
TENZYTHOFF: And some of your best defenses are when there are people around you. When you are alone – literally alone – when nobody else is around you, you become very visible. So that took place at home.
I graduated in ’41, and had to determine what I would do next. I decided to begin studies at the University of Utrecht in theology. I was interested in matters of the Bible. I wanted to know about good and evil and so I inscribed – was inscribed as a – enrolled as a student at the University of Utrecht. I did that for a year, got to know some people there who were sheltering Jews and – never got caught. Then, in ’43, and that’s the key because that’s when I get into Germany.
The Germans wanted, on the part of the students, a – what was called – a “loyaliteitsverklaring,” a “declaration of loyalty” to the occupying power, that you would not undertake anything against their rules and regulations. As students we were not about to do that because this meant that you could be arrested for the wrong reason, that is, they could now punish you for anything that they had ever ordered and you would not do it. That’s what you promised to do. We were not about to do that. But it also meant – “now what?” The information that I got at this time was a rather complicated story. Remember, telephones were tapped. I was home, I was not at Utrecht. There had been an incredible strike all across the country. The spring strike of 1943, in which railroad workers, bus workers, all kinds of laborers, and so forth, had simply – farmers – throwing out their milk – they refused to deliver that, and so forth. A number of hostages had been shot by the Germans. And they were going to shoot some more and of course they would have. By now they mean it.
PRINCE: Were those Jewish hostages or…
TENZYTHOFF: Any type of hostages, and certainly not only Jews because if the Germans had been – I’m going to say – smart enough to do that, they might have broken that strike even earlier.
PRINCE: I put to you, wasn’t that one of the most influential acts against the Nazi regime (OVERTALK) and the entire…
TENZYTHOFF: Occupation. That’s correct…
PRINCE: But of all of Europe.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct, that’s correct, yep. It’s on the same significance, I think, although it’s difficult to compare all apples and oranges, as King Christian of Denmark who, when informed that Jewish Danes would have to wear the yellow star – you know that story, probably, answered…
PRINCE: Yes, yeah.
TENZYTHOFF: He said, “They’re only Danes” and so he said, “If anybody has to wear it, I wear it too.” And he did.
Now the difference between Holland and Denmark is that the government of Denmark, without colonies of Denmark, surrendered to the invading German Army after about four or five hours of battle. This meant that the army occupied it. The same happened in Belgium where King Leopold surrendered. In Holland, nobody really surrendered – only the General of an Army there, gave up. The government was in London and had no inclination at all to surrender, which meant that Holland, like Norway – where King Haakow had removed himself and his government to London – got a civilian administration from the Germans. Terboven, in Norway, who worked with Quisling and in Holland that was Seyss-Inquart who worked with Mussert, the leader of the Dutch Nazis, at least (LAUGHTER) as best they could together. But it meant that in Denmark and in Belgium it was easier because the army wanted to fight. It wasn’t necessarily interested in what the Nazis wanted, namely the elimination of all Jews. Not necessarily. They would cooperate, but that cooperation would vary from very active to very passive, and did.
PRINCE: But this strike…
TENZYTHOFF: That strike is of great significance because it is kind of the, the, the gauntlet is now in the Court. It is out of that one that students were compelled to, to sign, which most of them didn’t. The information that I got from the student organization in my part was that you had to sign. You had three choices: you could sign and that was it; you could also refuse to sign and then you had to be on the run; and the third one was that you would have to report to – and in my case that would be the city of Arnhem – there to turn yourself in. I opted for the latter. I want to tell you that story because it was inconceivable to us that I would sign. We refused to do that although the majority of the students in the area where I lived did so.
PRINCE: Did sign?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, they did. We did not. Then you had two choices.
PRINCE: We, your brothers?
TENZYTHOFF: That is – I was the only student at the time. This was only for university students. The – I had two choices – the family had two choices. Either I would make use of the addresses where I could live underground or I would turn myself in – we reasoned with the information we had that the number of non-signers would be few because in our area most – practically everybody – signed up. That meant that those who had not signed up would be easy prey for the Gestapo – to be hunted down. Where would they find me? Well, I certainly wasn’t going to sit home as a sitting duck and my parents certainly wouldn’t allow that. It meant that I would have to make use of those areas, of those homes and those places where Jews were hidden. At that point we decided that I turn myself in. I insisted, with my parents, that that’s the best thing that we can do because – and I reminded my father and mother – well, they didn’t have to be reminded. I said, “We have younger children and they’re going to take dad if anything – if son is not going to do what they order. If I turn myself in, I’ve done what the law requires and you are safe.” It was an awfully tough decision to take, but they did. So I went to Arnhem.
PRINCE: You must have been so frightened.
TENZYTHOFF: Well, again, I was not without fear but I had – at least I thought – two schemes to get out of there. I knew the place where I was to turn myself in in a hotel. There is not a hotel without a toilet and I had schemes to getting myself out of that toilet.
PRINCE: Toilet?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. After I had signed in, I would then declare an emergency or something. I would want to go to the men’s room. Then I would work my way out of there, and then I would make use of some of my friends elsewhere in the country. I wasn’t exactly sure where to go, but you know the optimism of youth. I hadn’t thought that far. No such luck. Absolutely impossible to get out of that toilet without being seen. It was guarded.
That night we were brought to Westerbork, a camp located here – no, sorry, not Westerbork, but Erika, near Ommen, Westerbork is where – that’s located near Emmen. That is where the Jews were held.
PRINCE: A transit camp?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. I was brought here – it should say Ommen. See that word, Ommen, here.
TENZYTHOFF: I was brought to that camp which had all kinds of people in it.
PRINCE: Did it have a name?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, Erika, which was used mainly for – people in the black trade…
PRINCE: The black market?
TENZYTHOFF: The black market, and so forth. They were there also.
PRINCE: Criminals.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, but we were brought there with hundreds because any number of students were turning themselves in, refusing to sign and not entirely sure that they wanted to increase the pressure on those safe houses.
Well, once there I again thought, it is here that I’m going to get out. However, my effort on that one failed. I was busy inspecting because there was in influx of hundreds and they certainly weren’t able to control all of us at the same time. We walked off and wandered around, inspected where the fences were and were trying to find out where we would make our escape, except that some of the guards spotted us…
PRINCE: The guards – were they Dutch Nazis or were they Germans?
TENZYTHOFF: They were Dutch Nazis under German control and included Hitler Youths – they were there for their exercises in the future. And…
PRINCE: Training.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, they were being trained, that’s correct. I was not willing to commit suicide at that point but decided that there should be some resolution of some kind and I would take my chances any time soon, and that I thought would come when we were all hoarded into a train. I thought, well now this is where we are going to drop out of the train except that it didn’t have the old fashioned wagons, namely one door for every compartment where you could sit with six or eight, but this had only entry on the front and the back, and the rest of the compartments were in line. They were not cattle carriers. There were – they had seats, and so forth. The question was…

Tape 3 - Side 1

TENZYTHOFF: Where were they going. The answer was, by way of Oldenzaal. I knew that part of the country inside out and recognized, even though it was dark, it was moonlit enough for us to – we are talking about May of 1943 – to see where we were and pretty soon it was clear to me that we were being taken into Germany. Again, I tried to find a way to let myself drop off that train but failed on that one.
Now, prior to being boarded on that train at Ommen, we were not interrogated in the sense that each one was given a long interview. We were simply to appear for a number of officials in German uniforms who would check our ausweiss, our identity papers, and so forth. And this one man said, “Ah yes, tenZythoff.” He wanted to know about where my parents lived. What could I say? The address was right on there and he said, “And how are your Jewish friends?” I said, “What Jewish friends?” By this time I had lost my respect for authority, and I had no qualms anymore about telling lies. Before that time, that bothered me. “Oh,” he said, “we will find out.”
PRINCE: This was a German, not a Dutch…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, it was not a Dutchman. We will find out. The – that happened then in Berlin.
PRINCE: You were in Berlin?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s where we were brought – all the way up to Berlin. That’s where we were herded in some camp in which there were an awful lot of people. It was kind of a holding camp in which it was not a concentration camp in the sense that this was your final destination. It was a Arbeits-lager, as the Germans would say, a holding facility from where you were farmed out then here, then there.
PRINCE: Do you remember the name?
TENZYTHOFF: No. I only know that it was located on the Wannsee. That lake was clearly nearby. That’s the only thing that I can recall. Because from there I was brought to what was then the Alexander Platz. And that’s where I was asked the question, “What do you – what can you tell us about your Jewish friends.” And it is there that the interrogation took place and where I denied such connections.
PRINCE: How did you feel?
TENZYTHOFF: Determined not to say anything…
PRINCE: You were so young –
TENZYTHOFF: And scared. But, what is fear and courage. I think that courage is only the management of fear. That’s what I have concluded. If you can manage your fears, you have courage. I didn’t have any kind of bravour because it hurt. And one of the things that happened to me was that two of them took me under the arm and slammed my head against a wall like that. That’s what did the damage to my neck although it didn’t show up until later. They broke some of the cartilage that finally worked its way into the spine. And that showed up in 1969. That is when I had to undergo these delicate operations.
PRINCE: So that’s the physical price?
TENZYTHOFF: That was the physical price I paid, although I did thank the Almighty on many an occasion for letting me come out scot-free and whole. The interrogation didn’t last very long, as I recall, about three days. It is then that I was taken to a work camp. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know. Nobody – I’ve never been able to find that out. In fact, I was not interested in finding out. All I was interested in to – then to escape from this rotten business because where we now were was a camp in the eastern part of Berlin. In ’83 I tried to look it up once more and I surely got to it except there is nothing left of it. These East Germans have built all kinds of apartment houses there. The only thing that I recall as a memento is a church that was there and that stands there as a witness to the battle of Berlin. They left that one standing. Also, we were marched at six in the morning to the Knorr Bremse, which is a factory of railway brakeshoes. It is what Westinghouse did for railroads here making that braking system. But, of course, that is not what they were making only. They were also making U-boats and tank parts, and so forth, and that’s where we were told we would now participate in the production process. And I was given four big machines and I was to attach parts to that and then press a button and then the thing was supposed to work. Well, I certainly wasn’t planning to – with my own hands – fabricate the stuff that would stop my liberation. Therefore, I collected some sand in the camp where I was being held and put that in my pocket, and instead of oiling the machine, as I was told I had to do, and you know, what little understanding did I have of that stuff, I managed to pour that sand into one of those machines which, as long as I was there, never worked again. But, you know that meant that only one was out of commission but three to go.
PRINCE: Didn’t they follow up on…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, they did. But then I doubt that they ever suspected that somebody (LAUGHTER) would really try to do that to them on their home turf, or whatever. And I was bound and determined to say, “Look, I’m here only from six to six; what happens here after six p.m. and before six a.m., how am I supposed to know?” Well, that is part of that spirit of sabotage – there were a lot of Russians there. They were marked with the sign “OST”, East, and the Russians called themselves Organisation Stalin. (LAUGHTER) You know. If we were not treated very well, they were treated like beasts. That was terrible. We were separate although the camp – there was a connection and from time to time we would make our ways in there. We didn’t have much to eat but at least we had more than the Russians and we would share some with them, poor fellows. We would refuse to talk German. The Russians didn’t talk Dutch. I didn’t talk Russian, so we conversed in French. That’s what they understood, but not very often.
My aim remained, “How do I get myself out of here.” And that came as the result of World War II’s R.A.F. bombing raids on Berlin. I survived two of them. The second one hit the camp, but I survived. And that’s when I walked out.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, and made it all the way back to Holland. That was done because, fortunately, I have to go back a minute to the high school – one of my earlier acts of opposition to the Nazis was to flunk German. I was very proud of that until I got home and said to my parents, “Look, I flunked German.” (LAUGHTER) My father said, “Oh, I see. I’ll talk to you later.” It meant – I knew what that meant.
PRINCE: What did it mean?
TENZYTHOFF: It meant that later he talked with me and said, “Son, you need to think about this again.” I was not about to. So, he said, “Son, I need to reason with you.” He said, “Look, as you are, I am convinced that Hitler will lose this war.” Now remember this is ’42. The Americans are not in it yet. “The Germans are going to lose. Once we win,” he said, “we have to rebuild Europe.” He said, “Not knowing the language, how are you going to converse with people who have to be re-educated?”
PRINCE: So you buckled down and…
TENZYTHOFF: I compromised. On a grade of 10, zero to 10; zero to flunk and 10 the highest, I made a six because under that –
PRINCE: But you did know some German.
TENZYTHOFF: And, I must say my dad was right because – only because I knew German could I escape. That’s because – no arms, no identification paper. I had smuggled rubber – rubber sheets tied around my body out of the factory and sold them to the guards to get some money – to get some cigarettes because that was better than anything else. The – I had enough money to buy railroad tickets on the railroad and I traveled together with a camp mate, Aart Blauwendraad, also a student, and Art and I, although I’ve talked with him after the war twice, but he – his life has taken a kind of another turn and we have not really become strong friends. Although when I get to Holland, I make an effort to at least call him and see him. I don’t exactly know why not. But my life took a different turn, as did his. It was mandatory to be together for us, because we knew of the stories that were being told that you could have that terrible letdown and being overcome by fear – which happened once to him and once to me. You are ready then to turn yourself in and to spill everything you know because you get so frightened. It’s what the secret police always wait for because that’s when it is easy for them to get the full story. By being together, it meant that we were able to help each other over that hump.
PRINCE: When one is up the other is down.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct. If it happened at the same time, of course, we would have been a sorry pair. We had figured out that – he and I had talked about that only very briefly – he and I shared the same barrack, not the same bunk. And – but he said, “Gerrit,” he said, “do you want to stay here?” I said, “No.” “Do you ever think about going back home?” I said, “Yes, I do, constantly.” He said, “So do I.” He said, “Maybe there will be an opportunity.” I said, “Yes, maybe, this camp is going to be hit one day.” And, sure enough it was. It was then that everything was in disarray. The guards were no longer interested in you. They had gone home to check how mama was and it was a general mess and nobody thought about trying to escape. But we knew exactly where to go because we had inquired from German supervisors where in Berlin were we, and where was everything located, etc., etc. And, sure enough, they told us about the Anhalter Bahnhof, railway station. I knew that in general, and thank God for geography lessons which I hated at the time and there was this blank map with nothing on it in front of the class and we had to fill in where is Berlin located? Where is Amsterdam? That’s easy, isn’t it? Where is Leipzig, where is Warsaw? I knew that by heart and if you traveled by rail from Moscow to Amsterdam, how do you go? What are the important lines, and so forth. I knew them by heart. I blessed that teacher that I hated so much, (LAUGHTER BY BOTH) at the time, including my own father.
PRINCE: Uncanny!
TENZYTHOFF: And I also thanked my dad and mom many a time although privately because they simply were not around, God, if I hadn’t known German, because this is the way we did it: we walked up to – we knew that fast trains, the D-Zuge, were being checked all the time. We knew that locals were checked far less. And so, Art and I did not travel together in the sense that we would march up together in step, and so forth. We kept our distance from each other but always knew where the other was. We didn’t go to the toilet together, and so forth, so that we never would attract any kind of attention. But we walked up to the ticket office equipped with what we had done at the newsstand. We had bought, God forgive us, such things as Goebbel’s weekly “Das Reich” and including Julius Streicher’s “Der Angriff.”
PRINCE: Sturmer?
TENZYTHOFF: And “Der Sturmer,” and so forth, but the Angriff, that was his rotten antisemitic one, and having that in your arm, putting that down right in front of the window and then asking for, “Fahrkarte” and not even say “Bitte.”
PRINCE: What is it?
TENZYTHOFF: A fahrkarte is a ticket on the train. And then we wouldn’t buy that to a far destination. We would buy it to somewhere like to Magdeburg. (OVERTALK) And we would travel on slow trains and we would say “Heil Hitler.” That’s how we bluffed our way through.
PRINCE: That’s amazing.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. We didn’t eat anywhere.
PRINCE: You were so young.
TENZYTHOFF: But we were infected by the war and we had figured out – Aart on his own and I on my own – that certain compromises risked former standards, such as always telling the truth, had to be abandoned if you were going to make it. And we did. In other words, one address to which it was safe for us to go – I’ll show you on the map where it is. It’s a German farmer who lived here. See where it says Meppen? We took the train as far as Meppen….
PRINCE: In Germany?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. Then walked the last, I would say about 15 to 20 miles to this part of the border because here is a small village of Fehnsdorf where there lived a Dutch farmer who was a Nazi of record but through whose farm many a Jew and others reached Holland.
PRINCE: Oh, so he just said he was a Nazi.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes. He emigrated after the war. I tried to look him up. When the villagers found out who he really was, it was better for him to leave. He went to Canada, but there he died.
TENZYTHOFF: Yep. But we – I’d never been there before…
PRINCE: Before I forget, I have to ask you this – This was – this resistance was underground that your father was part of (OVERTALK) the family, the doctor.
TENZYTHOFF: Belinfante.
PRINCE: Yes, you always – you never forget him.
PRINCE: Did it have a name?
PRINCE: You were not part of a…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, there is a Landelyke Organisatie, National Organization to Help Those In Hiding, yes that’s it, The KP or Knockploegen (Hit Squads) for armed resistance. Onderduikers are those who live underground. That’s the most general statement that you can have.
PRINCE: Alright.
TENZYTHOFF: There is a committee. That’s that’s – we were closest to them.
PRINCE: Closest to them in what way? In what you did?
TENZYTHOFF: Jah, and similar.
PRINCE: But not part of them.
TENZYTHOFF: No, no, not officially.
TENZYTHOFF: Because my dad studiously avoided any official leadership role. That is, he had his own network and he worked it on his own. He never had anybody order him what to do, because that’s the one thing that he could not carry out, no matter how much he had wanted that, because he had to keep that school going, he felt. His only other choice would have been “I go hook, line and sinker,” at which point he would have had to abandon his family and risk that.
PRINCE: I didn’t want to get you off the track…
TENZYTHOFF: I’m so glad you do.
PRINCE: …but I wanted to ask it, because on the map you’re way up here…
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct.
PRINCE: And I wondered – obviously this has widened out now and spread…
TENZYTHOFF: Oh yes, oh yes.
PRINCE: …so that’s why I wondered if it had become more of a – obviously it was larger – but organ…it was organized but…
TENZYTHOFF: It was organized…
PRINCE: …in its own way.
TENZYTHOFF: In its own way. It was organized in this fashion that you hardly knew what the next fellow did. We knew of the existence of this man but we…
PRINCE: But he may have not known your father.
TENZYTHOFF: I’d never been there.
PRINCE: But he didn’t know your father – it was just a network.
TENZYTHOFF: You try to know as little as possible because they couldn’t make you talk if you didn’t know. You see, that is the one de – we had learned that, that the more you knew, the more dangerous it became, not only for you – that was one thing – but it became dangerous for others because there were methods by which they made you talk. The – it is he who brought us, not across the border, but to the border. And it was not only the same German occupation as it was, but boy the Germans certainly knew the difference between Germany and Holland. It was a wide strip, a no man’s land. It was guarded by watch towers with searchlights on it which they flipped on from time to time and it was guarded by police dogs that they would run from time to time. So, it wasn’t just a picnic to walk out of there, although I’m going to make it sound like it because literally nothing happened. This is peat country. They were still digging peat there for burning, heating purposes. All that is now gone because all the peat has been dug and the good earth has been so reconditioned that you see prosperous farms there. At that time they didn’t. But it was ideal for people like us who needed some shelter. This peat would come out very wet and it would be dried in the wind. Peat is that vegetation which turns into coal after thousands of years under the pressure of the soil.
PRINCE: I don’t want this question to sound trite…
TENZYTHOFF: No, go ahead.
PRINCE: …but you went through all of this for a moral…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s correct.
PRINCE: …act of not wanting to sign the paper.
TENZYTHOFF: Exactly. And, because I didn’t want to endanger my – to save my own life at the expense of somebody else. And my parents agreed. But, they full well knew, my father wrote every week a letter to the German commander of the area in which we lived right here at Arnheim and he would say, “According to the Geneva Convention, an occupying power is obliged, after they arrest one of the citizens to inform them where they are held.” Alright?
We got across the border and then we knew where we had to go – there was a pastor living in the midst of nowhere in this peat land on the Dutch side and by name of De Weert. I knew of him and I knew that that would be a safe address. That was the next station, and so we went to the first farm house that we saw in Holland. Now, there was a curfew on, from dawn to dusk. It was no longer daylight, it was now night, and the Dutch Nazi in Germany had alerted us that you better be aware of that and be very careful. He said, “And I count on it that you will never reveal my name,” which of course we didn’t, but we weren’t pressured either because neither one of us was ever caught again. The first farm that we came to, we knocked at the door because we really had to get our bearings. I didn’t quite know where we were and neither did Aart. So, we had said, “If he is going to turn us in, we’re going to beat him up and we’ll kill him.” Alright. When the door opened, the man said, the first thing he said is, “You fellows escaped from Germany, huh?” And we said, we said to him, “Well, what’s that to you?” He said, “Well then you need some help.” I said, “What kind of help?”
PRINCE: Could he tell by the way you were dressed…
TENZYTHOFF: No, he saw it in our eyes, and so forth.
PRINCE: ‘Cause you didn’t have to wear any kind of uniforms in the camps?
TENZYTHOFF: No, that’s right. The clothing was now brown, I was not walking on shoes – my shoes were gone so I had some sandals on, etc.
PRINCE: So, he knew.
TENZYTHOFF: But, he knew. Besides who would, at night, if he didn’t live there, travel around under curfew? Strangers in a – you know – in a not too densely populated area are always identified. And he said, “Well, do you need some help?” He said, “I’ll call my wife, she’s upstairs.” She came down and he said, “Good fellows, what do you need? Money? Food?” Neither one of us was hungry, we were thirsty. He said, “We will get you some milk.” We got a glass of milk, I could hardly drink it because I was very uptight. Remember, we were ready to kill the guy, if he turned out to be a Nazi. And if there was any indication of it, because having come so far, we were not about to give up. We asked him – I think Aart was the one who asked, “Sir, why are you helping us?” He said, “I want you to know that when the Germans invaded Holland, my son died in the defense of his country and I’m bound and determined to do as much harm to the bastards as I can.” He said, “And therefore, whatever it is, you just ask.” I said all we needed to have was the directions toward a church. He said, “A church?” “Yes, I think Pastor De Weert is its pastor,” Aart said, “if I’m there near that church then I know where to go.” He said, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “I would prefer not to tell you.” There was no way that I could avoid having to mention that Pastor De Weert, I wish that I wouldn’t have to, but then, he said, “Well that’s not all that difficult,” he said. “It’s quite a walk that takes you over an hour.” In fact, it took three. He said, “Be careful.” And then he gave us some expert directions and slowly but surely we made our way to Paster De Weert who took us in immediately. The first bath and the first bed to sleep in. The next day…
PRINCE: Dr. T., did you cry?
TENZYTHOFF: Not any more. I can say that I said for the first time since a long time another prayer. I’d become kind of an atheist at that point. But this I thought was rather miraculous.
Now what? We couldn’t stay there and didn’t want to. I thought, I can call my mother. There is a telephone and I know when to call and it’s about 10 o’clock, that’s when she has all her work done and sits down for coffee or whatever the substitute is. I’ll call. I did. I said, “Mother, this is your son, Gerrit, I’m at De Weert’s and I hope to see you.” Then I hung up. The next day my parents came. First thing my mother said was, “Son, you can’t come home.” I said, “Mom, I know.” So, we figured out a strategy and right there at Gramsbergen.
PRINCE: Where?
TENZYTHOFF: Gramsbergen where I was born. Remember how my father – that’s out of the way, right here, where the Vecht comes in to Holland. There was one family in contact with my parents. My father did them a good turn once, a very good turn. He discovered that one of their kids couldn’t read but was so smart that he could do anything from memory. That’s how no teacher had never discovered that he couldn’t read. He would make mistakes but he was certainly a “B” reader. My dad figured that he was too smart to just be a “B” reader and gave him the first turn and the boy said, “I don’t know how to say it.” Dad said, “That’s alright, son, I’ll talk to you after school.” And then he found out that the boy literally couldn’t read and resolved that for him which created on the part of the parents an enormous degree of gratitude – that was one of those. They became lifetime friends. Dad said, “Gerrit, the only place that I know which is not being used by others, Jews and other onderduikers (underground people) are the Wilpshaar family, and that’s where we’ll have to go. I didn’t consult them because there was no time for it. We will just go there and ask for advice.”
We got there, my dad and I, and when my father began to ask, “Could I ask a favor,” the farmer said to him, “Vraag maar niets.” The old man, I still see him standing there – he said, with tears in his voice, “You don’t have to tell me anything, I know what you want.” He said, “You’ve got it, he’s safe. You go home.” I’ll never forget that. And we have remained friends ever since. God Almighty, these people – there had been a razzia just a month before. The Germans had rounded up about 30 people, they had shot a few. The family had officially vowed, “We will never get involved again.” I only found out that story a half year later. These people were absolutely without fear. Their very neighbors never knew that I was there. This was the base. That’s where weapons were, that’s where the leader of this organization…
PRINCE: The one we were trying…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s right. The one – the organizer of the L.O, the Reverend Slomp, the leader was sprung from prison. That’s where they brought him, and so forth. Frits de Zwerver he was called. He was a Pastor who had dedicated his life to the hunted, and my father was deeply in awe of this man because he had risked his family for it, something that my father said, “I was at first not willing or able to do.”
PRINCE: But your whole family was part of this…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, my sister would carry messages, my youngest brother would be kept in short pants so that nobody would suspect that he was already 15 or 16, and so forth, and he was small. It took him longer, by year 17 or 18, he grew up to be much taller. And, thank God for the people who don’t grow up all at once. And, he did a number of things at home that I am not entirely aware of because, again, I can not talk about ’43, ’44, and ’45 at home because there were…

Tape 3 - Side 2

Just as much as my parents tried to do what they could, there were many others. And this Wilpshaar family where I got were part and parcel of that resistance as well, and it is there that many people were sheltered because this part of Holland – rather of Germany – is kind of Dutch-speaking. When I say kind of, they use an old Saxony language and prior to the war there was very easy traffic between those parts. In fact, there are some Dutch-speaking congregations located here.
PRINCE: Say the names here.
TENZYTHOFF: (LOOKING AT MAP) Emlichheim, Uelsen, you see that. I can’t see it from here, but I can certainly identify it for you, Nordhorn, is that on there, Neuenhausen, right here. Georgsdorf is one, but the other one I mentioned, Uelsen, is not here and I see that Meppen and Lingen are not here, but they certainly are farmer villages and several people, when it got too hot in Holland, were sheltered right there, right in Germany. And, from time to time we would cross the border when we got notice of razzias coming and would find ourselves some sleeping accommodations and knew what to do.
PRINCE: So, you told me, you never went back home again.
PRINCE: You stayed?
TENZYTHOFF: I stayed there and, well the arrangement was pretty fair. Is Ryssen on here and, no, not really, that’s another place. This is where the Germans were shooting the V-2 to London. And, at one time, I took a pretty close view of that, so that in my layman’s language I could report on that. In addition to that I was the one with the languages and I listened to BBC broadcasts for secret messages which I never got. I knew what to look for – apple two and so forth, that kind of stuff. But, we got the general news from them and I would then write that up and that was distributed, and so forth.
PRINCE: Where did the Jews go that were hidden?
TENZYTHOFF: They would stay in these farmhouses, mainly in farms. There were not too many that – although from time to time there were places especially here in that peat country where you would be able to shelter a person for more than a few days. That would be possible.
PRINCE: Were they just sort of kept moving around?
TENZYTHOFF: You kept them on the move – unless the farms were very isolated, and that you could from far see anybody come.
PRINCE: So it wasn’t a matter of them escaping anywhere from there, it was just a matter of…
TENZYTHOFF: Keeping them alive. Keeping them alive because there was no place where you could bring them. It is here also that you have to split up families. You wanted to know about the families. It is here also that you have to split up the family because the larger the household became the more suspicious it became, especially when you would have among blond peoples in a family, have black haired people. You see, that integration exists, for instance, in Amsterdam but certainly not in all areas of Holland. It is different now. But, at that time that complexion was very well known. So you had to, you had to be very careful about that. And then, of course, you had to make sure that kids would have a safe home as well as their parents. It was the hardest thing to do, because to separate a Jewish parent from his kid, that is almost like murdering them. Sometimes it’s probably worse. Then the Germans alert to this would have those kids say their prayers. When they had these razzias they would try to identify everybody. And some of the children got caught that way, by saying their prayers. Therefore, you had this precaution, that’s why organizations like the L.O. would send messages by word of mouth, you would get that always by courier. That was never done by letter, that was always – and here you have to give credit to women because man, I tell you, there were some awfully brave women – done by women who carried those messages around on their bikes because cars were pretty well non existent toward the latter part of the war. And, you would then get the word, “Be sure that you teach these kids Christian prayers because they are going to get caught if they say them in Hebrew.”
PRINCE: And, finish what you told me on the phone.
TENZYTHOFF: Well, my friend, that is – that is, I think for me the toughest memory I have, that you had to compel them to say prayers their parents had not selected for them and there I was engaged in that on two or three occasions and I said a prayer to God, I said, “God, I hardly believe you exist, but if you do,” I said, “please forgive me for this one.”
PRINCE: But you were saving their lives.
PRINCE: Dr. T., what – you did talk about it before, but what made you all so different? The whole world was crazy.
TENZYTHOFF: I shall – I think that the best way to put that is, as I told you, around mealtime at our home we would read Bible and I recall that my – I can’t pinpoint date anymore on that, but that was fairly early in the game when people began to show up in our home whose names we were not to remember. And my dad read the story of Rahab and Jericho and Joshua. Rahab was the lady innkeeper, as I was told in Sunday School. Later on I found out that it also meant that she was the whore who had to have the red Scarlett. She was the one who sheltered the two Jewish spies who were fixing to take Jericho. And when the walls fell, Rahab’s house remained standing. And my dad said to us, “I do not like to talk about prostitutes, certainly not in the presence of your mother and sister,” he said, “but we are like Rahab, we shall shelter these people because they are the people of God. It is that simple, (SOBBING) that’s it. That’s the essence, we shall stand with them.”
PRINCE: I’m sure that many people read the Bible around the dinner table.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s true.
PRINCE: But there weren’t…
TENZYTHOFF: No, unfortunately – there should have been…
PRINCE: …many people like you.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right. What that does – I think that the mystery of that one, I think that my dad now knows. If there is a life after death, which I am unable to fathom, then the answers are in. Call it “the grace of God,” call it the “yoke that God puts on your shoulders to bear,” call it one of your particular callings that you have to have. Why must Amos be upsetting to the rest of the priests? Why is it that Jeremiah walks around in the nude in Jerusalem? You know, and he is not crazy. But there is something to be said and something to be done if you – it’s like poetry. If you’re supposed to be a poet, it’s going to come out, no matter where you are being kept. And if there is a certain task for you to do, you will do it. I think that…that is ultimately the secret. Pastors had in their time in church – it was difficult – they had two roles. They had to provide for the upper ground. You cannot have an underground without an upper ground. There had to be an ongoing orderly life because without that we destroy everything. It’s the same problem that Jewish elders found themselves in any of the destruction camps. They were always put in charge of such. The Germans made them do it – what could the elders do? Had they not done so, the mass execution would have taken place right there. Now, in retrospect you think, “Perhaps not.” But what – what did we know?
PRINCE: No. People choose at the moment what they think.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right.
PRINCE: How have other Christians reacted to you?
TENZYTHOFF: I must say that I am disappointed in the aftermath that – and I’ll put that in personal terms – I thought in ’45 when liberation finally came, that now it was over, we would be able to forget about this and we would never talk about it again. How naïve I was. I thought that everybody had learned his lesson, never to forget it, but it’s not true. Not talking about it means that people do not know about it. Silence doesn’t give the Holocaust any interpretation and a student who reads that in World War II six million Jews were murdered, 20 million Russians died, eight million Germans died – so many Americans, so many British – takes it as a statistic. Well, if nobody explains to him what the Jewish problem was, rather Hitler’s problem was because it’s not a Jewish problem, it’s Hitler’s problem, and it’s a Christian problem as well. And, not all that many Christians are willing to admit that the Holocaust is a Christian problem. Isn’t it the problem that so many Christians, in a moment of benign attitudes, will say, “Boy, it must be terrible to be a Jew and live after the Holocaust.” But, what really is the point is that it is terrible to be a Christian and live after the Holocaust, once you know that story. A lot of people prefer now to know about it. That’s why I have decided to speak up, to work at this, to be involved with it.
PRINCE: Could you explain what impact it has had on your teaching?
TENZYTHOFF: The impact that it has on my teaching is that I compel myself to be generous towards students because they don’t know any better than their teachers teach them and their parents tell them, and their pastors tell them. However, once they get through a course – Introduction to Religion, which I teach, or History of Christianity, and so forth, they know about this one. It is not that I am driven to talk about it incessantly. I don’t do that. But, I bring up the problem of evil and I compel them to think about it because it is necessary to ask yourself the question, “How is this possible at the hands of so-called civilized people, including me? Why did it take us so long to know about this?”
PRINCE: What must Christians do today in light of the Holocaust?
TENZYTHOFF: Restudy their Bible. Admit that Jesus was a Jew, always was, died like one. And that there is no such thing as being able to separate old and new customs. The Apostle, Paul, in the letter to the Romans which is in the New Testament, reminds you that there are two covenants: there is the old covenant that has not been abrogated, that’s the first covenant, and there is also a second, under which we come in, but never separate from the first. That covenant with Abraham stands, states the letter Romans chapters nine through 11. But I tell you many of the fundamentalists become exceedingly liberal when they come to that part, trying to explain the text away. I have become more orthodox.
PRINCE: (LAUGHTER) Do you have hope?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, I do. I have the same hope that I had in the war: “These bastards cannot win.” I have now the hope that evil cannot triumph. But I am also convinced that the Almighty is not going to hand it to us on a platter. There are miracles, yes. I consider it a miracle that I survived, that all of us survived. I am exceedingly grateful for the miracle that my father lived such a long life, as did my mom. And I want to repay the Almighty for His kindness by doing the best I can to have as many people as possible know about this in the sense that this disaster happened once, it ought never to happen again. In our back door we have the CSA – the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord. That mentality is around here and it’s – the sad thing is that it is around among people who love God, who love their Bible but whose instruction lacks any kind of historical accounting, any kind of critical thinking. And, it’s simply out of ignorance. I catch a number of my students – I call them, not Nazis, I call them “prefascists” who can easily be led by a radical organization, like the CSA to take up and believe that Jews, like Rockefeller, who is not even a Jew, are controlling all the money. It is – they’re just absolutely insane.
PRINCE: I want to get ahead a little bit. Well, first – I’m not ending the tape by thanking you because we’re not ending right now – we still have more time, I want to thank you for doing this so soon after the death of your father, and I appreciate that. But I would like you, if it’s alright, for you to tell me about your recent trip back.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, I’m glad that you’re asking that because while I had my trepidations about going to his funeral, I must say that when I saw his earthly remains with that faint smile on the face, and the pajamas on that (CRYING) that my Elizabeth had bought (CRYING) for him…
PRINCE: Elizabeth is your wife?
TENZYTHOFF: My wife, yes. I was overcome by gratitude, period. My sister was there with me and so was Hank who had married my cousin.
PRINCE: Just your sister and you left?
TENZYTHOFF: No, no. But my brothers were not present at the point that I wanted to say goodbye to my dad, not everybody wanted to do that. He was near the church in one of the newer side-buildings constructed by the church where dad was baptized, where he married, and where mom had been – her funeral took place there and so now his turn has come. I felt that we needed to hold hands there and say a prayer which I was very happy to offer to thank God for the blessing of knowing such a person. He was (SOBBING) fearless when it came to tough decisions. He put himself under very strict discipline, almost unfair. In all his dealings he would always ask, “Am I taking unfair advantage of anybody?” And was in the family, the extended family, a beacon of hope simply because of his – he was a humble man who refused to be recognized for, for – you know, no medals for him. It simply didn’t occur to him that that should be.
PRINCE: Do you think he knew that he had been honored?
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, yes, he did.
PRINCE: And can you tell me about that?
TENZYTHOFF: Oh, he was overcome by it because he and I, you know, had been in Jerusalem. Did you know that? My father and I traveled in Jerusalem. It was the most wonderful thing that we could do. I took a tour of students there and my dad joined us in Amsterdam, and the second time he joined us in Zurich, flying in. He was then 86. One of our guides took us in to the Judean Desert while the rest of the people went to parties, and so forth. We took the tour of the Judean Desert.
PRINCE: Was this when he was honored?
TENZYTHOFF: No, the honor came later and he was never anymore in the condition to travel, to see that for himself. The – however, we saw Yad Vashem, we…
PRINCE: Before he knew he was going to be honored?
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right. But in the Judean Desert, I want you to know about that, he – we looked at the stars which are so close and then he began to repeat the promises to Abraham, “That your seeds shall be like the everlasting sand of sea and the stars of the heavens.” He said, “Son, that is what we believe.” (SOBBING) I still hear his voice ringing. Yes. But that tells you the secret of what made for him the order of the day.
PRINCE: Yes, it was easy for him – it was just his way of life. He didn’t even have to think about it.
PRINCE: And, I believe, from being able to spend this time with you, for which I’m so grateful, that it was the same for all of you. It was just a way of life.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s right.
PRINCE: It evolved that way, you were just that kind of people. You don’t wake up one morning and say, “I’m going to save a Jew today.” It’s just the way you lived…
TENZYTHOFF: Yes and is part of that package. (OVERTALK) And I hope that I got that across.
PRINCE: You got that across.
TENZYTHOFF: I want you to know that the last thing that I told you about my dad – that, I would say, is the beacon on which he set sail, and whether he had a back wind that would fill his sails to go straight or whether he had a head wind that compelled him to go back and forth – because when you have a head wind it doesn’t mean that you can’t get there. All you have to do is – you know how sailboats do that – they sail up against the wind and get nevertheless at the other side. He often used that image. He said, “Son, we cannot give up.” He would take Moses and look at the map, “Where did Moses go? To the Promised Land, surely not by the short way. Why?” Of course there are all kinds of answers. He said, “Son, it doesn’t matter what the answer is. The point is that you learn that God may have his own way for you to go.” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, the father of Zippora, did not know what his daughter would get into. You know, I grew up with this stuff. I knew about Israeli geography before I knew about Dutch geography, so to speak. We would never have known about the God of Israel, had it not been for Moses. Then always ask yourself that question, “Do people recognize the one Lord of the universe because they met you?”
PRINCE: Do you know who gave your name, your family’s name to Yad Vashem?
TENZYTHOFF: Not really. I’ve never found out.
PRINCE: Would you like us to try?
TENZYTHOFF: I think it comes by way of the Jewish Chautauqua Society.
PRINCE: You were honored by the Jewish Chautauqua Society.
TENZYTHOFF: That’s correct.
PRINCE: Warren Green – I don’t know if you remember when you spoke at our Yom Hashoah, Jefferson City, in 1981, and he told me that you were honored.
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, that’s right. That’s where I think it comes from. I talked to my dad about it. He said, “Son, it really doesn’t matter who knew about that.” He said, “We are not in this for the glory. If people recognize it, fine but it is more important that they love God and serve him.” He, he was a puritan, very much a puritan.
PRINCE: What have I not asked you?
TENZYTHOFF: Well, fortunately you asked the most important thing and that is, do I still have hope? Yes, I have a degree of bitterness because I think the perpetrators of evil have not been punished adequately, but I’m glad that I’m not in a court of law because I’m now old enough to listen to other sides of the story, but for years I knew only one side of the story, namely mine.
PRINCE: Liberation.
TENZYTHOFF: At the hands of the Canadians, but liberation also in the sense of return to freedom with all its openings toward the future and also its dangers to become callous again. I say again, I will never be as naïve again as I was and I hope that this generation will never become as naïve as we were. There is personal evil but there is also structural evil. I think that that’s underestimated by what now goes down into history as the most popular president. I assure you that I am not anti-Reagan in the sense that I think that the man goes to sleep presiding over his cabinet. I think that that’s for humorists to poke fun at. I think that the danger of this administration, or of any administration like it, is that it refuses to recognize that it is in institutions too that evil lodges. I think that all you have to do is read Amos again and to remind these priests who are doing the work of God and do it well that the issue is not how many calves can you butcher – to say that is how much we contributed – but the issue is, “Shall justice and mercy come forth (SOBBING) as a river. That river must be you!
PRINCE: Thank you.
PRINCE: And it’s been such a privilege. I’m so grateful to you, as we all are, and I’m going to say this as best I can, and it’s the Hebrew for the Righteous Among The Nations Of The World and it’s Hasidei Umot Ha Olam. Can you say it?
TENZYTHOFF: Yes, Hasidei Umot Ha Olam, yes yes.
PRINCE: But it’s from our deepest hearts. Thank you.
TENZYTHOFF: Thank you, my friend.

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