Monas (Wijnschenk), Sophia
Amsterdam (Netherlands), Westerbork, Bergen-Belsen, Neuengamme, Beendorf, Ludwigslust, Eidelstedt
Monas was born in Amsterdam, the youngest of four children of a reform Jewish couple. Following her formal education, she trained as a diamond cutter and started to work in that profession. She says she experienced very little anti-Semitism in the prewar years.
Following Germany’s invasion of the Netherlands, the Germans started to pick up Jews for deportation. One after another, her siblings, married by that time, and her parents were sent to the transit camp Westerbork. She herself was forced from her home. She moved in with a cousin, but was subsequently rounded-up and sent to Westerbork.
Based on a document furnished to Monas by the Dutch Red Cross, she was in Westerbork for several months before being sent to Bergen Belsen. From there, she was transported or marched to Neuengamme and the subcamps Beendorf, Ludwigslust, and Eidelstedt. Exact dates are shown on the document. Monas has very faint memories of the entire period but does remember the poor living conditions, sparse food, beatings from supervisory personnel, poor sanitary conditions, and being required to work on small parts. She specifically remembers that, in one camp, she worked in a salt mine. Research revealed that this most likely was Beendorf, also known as Helmstedt-Beendorf, where an underground aircraft parts factory was established in a mine shaft.
Monas also recalls that inmates from Auschwitz were brought to her camp and then it became known to her what was happening to the Jews. Until then she was unaware of the extermination of Jews at other locations. One day all the prisoners were led to the showers, and because of what the Auschwitz inmates had reported, it was a very traumatic experience. However, after the showers they were led to a train. From that point on, she only remembers arriving in Sweden. There she was placed in a hospital and several months later returned to Amsterdam.
Her parents and siblings were killed in Sobibor except for one sister and a brother-in-law, who perished in Auschwitz. Monas married in Amsterdam and came to the United States in 1954. Although Monas does not have physical problems as a result of her Holocaust experiences, she does have some emotional ones, including nightmares.
Date: January 16, 1996
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour
Format: Video recording