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Personal stories

Personal stories of people for whom music played a meaningful role during the war.

Hans van Collem (1920-2010), The Hidden Power of a Note
Musician Hans van Collem found himself in the penal barracks at Westerbork a year before liberation. There he put together a Jewish male choir. “I thought, ‘We can’t let them destroy us. We’re going to sing,’” said Hans. During recreational hours in the afternoon and early evening, hundreds of convicts would come and listen to Jewish liturgical hymns and songs. 
 
Pieter Dolk (1916-2010), Making Friends for Life at Vught
After his arrest, trumpeter Pieter Dolk found himself at the Vught Concentration Camp in March 1943, along with other Dutch musicians such as Nico Richter, Marius Flothuis, Everard van Royen, and Piet van den Hurk. Giving concerts together for their fellow inmates, they forged lifelong friendships with each other. 
 
Jan van Dijk (b. 1918), Winner through Music
During the war, the composer Jan van Dijk wrote over forty compositions. But because he refused to join the Dutch Kultuurkamer, they remained unperformed. In the war years, he had a private music school, gave lessons at another music school, and conducted a choir. He says, “Music was intangible to the enemy; it was impossible for them to grasp.” 
 
Hans van Leeuwen (1911-2010), Giving Everything for the Musicians in the Orchestra
When Hans van Leeuwen was appointed as administrator of the Arnhemsche Orkest Vereeniging [AOV, “Arnhem Orchestral Society”] in January 1942, the orchestra’s board had just resigned following an escalating conflict with the Departement van Volksvoorlichting en Kunsten [“Department of Public Information and the Arts”]. Consequently, it was up to Hans as administrator to lead the orchestra single-handedly through the war. 
 
Helge Loewenberg-Domp (b. 1915), Passing on Opportunities to Others
Helge Domp was a talented singer with excellent prospects for a successful singing career. Yet she was forced to discontinue her vocal studies in Germany after Hitler came to power. She fled to the Netherlands in 1933. She says, "Right up to the beginning of the war, I thought, ‘Maybe sometime I’ll manage to pick up my singing career again. Maybe Hitler will just disappear one day.'"
 
Annie de Reuver (1917), amusement in bezettingstijd
Annie de Reuver (b. 1917), Amusement in War Time
Even as a child, Annie, a girl from Rotterdam, had music running through her veins. She was always singing. In the thirties she sang wit The Ramblers, conducted by Theo Uden Masman, the beginning of her glorious career. During the war, she kept on singing, there was still a need for music. Often with mocking Dutch lyrics, without the Germans seeing through it.
 
Flora Schrijver (1923-2013), Music in Subhuman Conditions
"I played the accordion in a women’s orchestra in Birkenau, was Camp Commander Kramer’s nursemaid, and worked for Margareth Montgomery after the liberation. At the age of twenty-two, I returned to the Netherlands penniless, the only survivor of a large family. There I had to try to put my life back together. I married my murdered sister’s fiancé and had children."
 
Gisela Wieberdink-Söhnlein (b. 1921), Singing to Give Courage
Satirical texts quickly flowed from Gisela Söhnlein’s pen during her incarceration in the concentration camps of Vught, the Netherlands and Ravensbrück, Germany. She and her inseparable friend Hetty Voûte wrote and sang countless cabaret songs. “It was a task we gave ourselves. It was expected of us.”