Nederlands Exposition in Auschwitz Sinti and Roma

In hiding – Hannes Weiss

My father was a great circus performer, an acrobat of the highest level. His jumps were spectacular and the circus always concluded the show with his performance. He and my aunt Anna, his sister, were a phenomenon in the circus world. The circus is where mamma met tatta (father) when she tried to sell her merchandise to the circus people.
I had four sisters and two brothers. We didn't go to school. We learned from our parents. Whatever they knew was passed down from their parents, and likewise to us. From parents to child, to grandchild...that's the way it was then and often still is today.
Tatta died in 1942 during the war when I was 14. Because he was ill, we went to live in The Hague. I then became the head of the family. During the razzia we were able to escape through a hole that we made to the adjacent house and via the roof of our neighbour.
We moved from place to place, and during one of the times that I was out searching for food, I was picked up by the police and taken to a police station in Zutphen. I was beaten continuously while they kept asking where my family was. But I didn't betray them. I held out for two days and then mamma and the little ones were brought to my cell. She gave herself up because she saw no other option. She said that if one of us goes, the rest have to follow. We had to go to Assen to get on a train to Westenbork. The train was chock-a-block full already and then we jumped off because the same older man who brought me bread to the cell said to me: "when I take off my cap, you all jump to the other train". As soon as I saw the chance, I pushed mamma and the little ones to the other train. One stop before Vorden we got off the train and went to our caravan, which fortunately was still standing. We took some possessions and split up. Mamma went with the two girls to Amsterdam and I went with the little ones to The Hague. We planned to meet up again in the Hague. We found a house there, but we were raided again by the Germans. My brother and I hid under the floor and mamma and the others hid somewhere outside. After two days we emerged and were of course very hungry. My sister went to get some food. She smashed the first shop window she saw and stole two whole cheeses; we were of course elated. We then went into hiding at a sister of mamma and were safe there. In the evening I did go outdoors, but I put on women's clothing. One evening, after such a stroll, someone came to our door and said that my uncle and aunt were at the movies and that the police had cordoned that entire neighbourhood. I put on a long coat so that I looked like a plainclothes police officer. I pinned an NSB (National Socialist Movement) button with a swastika, which I once had found and kept, and I went to the movie theatre. I went inside, made a Heil Hitler salute and ordered the theatre to close. I walked into the theatre hall and my uncle and aunt could not believe their eyes. Their nephew, a member of the party. They were really dismayed. I ordered them to stand up. One of the boys started to curse me and call me a dog and traitor. I yelled at him to shut up and gave him a few cuffs on the ear. I'm arresting all of you; stand up and come along. I hear my aunt wailing behind me. Outside I told the soldiers that these people are arrested and that I want to interrogate them myself. Twenty metres further I said to my uncle and aunt to pretend that they are two lovers embracing and to slowly make their way home. To the boys I said, every man for himself now, start walking. Yes, you had to know how to act according to the situation you found yourself in. Now, we can laugh about it.


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Glossary
floorplan
introduction
jew in the netherlands
refugees
german invasion
persecution
resistance
going into hiding
sinti and roma
deportation
dutch people in auschwitz
guest book
sinti and roma
in hiding – hannes weiss
auschwitz - augusta
rescued – zoni weisz
transports on 19 may 1944
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