Sorensen, Louise (Stein)
Rotterdam (Netherlands), Amsterdam, Lisse, Haarlem, Apeldoorn
Mrs. Louise Sorensen was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 1929. She spent her childhood years living in the suburb town of Naarden-Bussum, twenty minutes outside of Amsterdam, with her parents and older sister. She enjoyed attending school and playing with the neighborhood children. These daily activities slowly began to change in the spring of 1940. The catalyst for this change was the German Army that invaded Holland that May. Mrs. Sorensen remembers this well because her father’s fur business was confiscated and in turn, he was at home more. It was not until the following year in the summer of 1941 that the war began to personally affect Mrs. Sorensen. She and all other Jewish children were forced out of public schools and were not allowed to enjoy the public parks and swimming pool. These two measures were just the beginning of the restrictions to be enforced on the Jewish families in Holland.
In 1942, all Jewish Dutch families had to purchase and sew a yellow star on the left side of their outer jacket. If anyone over the age of three was caught in public without this yellow star, he or she could be arrested and face severe consequences. After these stars were issued, the Germans began to do house checks and take inventory of every item of value in each home. Certain items, like precious metals, were confiscated at the initial house check, whereas other things were taken at later dates. A few weeks after these inventories were completed, all Jews were instructed to pack a personal suitcase and were told they must leave everything else behind. The Germans evicted each Jewish family from their home and moved them to tenement apartments via bus to nearby Amsterdam to live in a ghetto like setting. On the journey, she remembers stopping at an army barrack to be examined by Nazi doctors. Every person had to be checked and considered healthy to continue. She remembers that it was embarrassing but felt relieved that she and her family all passed the exams.
Once in the ghetto, each person fifteen and older was issued an identification card. Mrs. Sorensen was not issued a card because she was only thirteen at the time, but she remembers her families’ identification cards having a star stamped on them. She was told that this marked them as Jewish. There was also another special stamp on her families’ cards that was called an exemption. They received this exemption stamp because Mrs. Sorensen’s father was previously in the fur trade, and when the Germans took over his business, he was considered a supplier for the German Army. This extra mark exempted her father, mother, and older sister from the work duties required of other Jews.
About September or October of 1942, the Sorensen family received a letter secretly from Mrs. Sorensen’s mother’s relatives in Rotterdam. They all had been arrested and deported. It wasn’t until after liberation, through the International Red Cross, that the Sorensen’s found out that their Rotterdam relatives had been sent and perished in Sobibor and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Of the entire family, only one aunt returned from the camps.
Mrs. Sorensen was attending a school formed by the Jewish community and taught by Jewish teachers who had been thrown out of the public schools. The school was a forty five minute walk outside of the ghetto. She very much enjoyed going to school and remembers that it brought some normalcy to her ever changing life. It offered her a break from the ugliness of the ghettos. This darkness showed itself in many forms but the worst for Mrs. Sorensen was the raids. These raids, which usually took place at night, were being implemented by German soldiers and used to move Jews from the ghettos to concentration camps. The raids soon took place any time of day and were frightening. She hated the feeling of walking home from school never knowing who would still be in the neighborhood when she returned. Mrs. Sorensen remembers soldiers coming to her house on multiple occasions threatening a raid. She remembers many times her father showing the soldiers his exemption stamp and offering them money. This placated them and they would leave; but her father soon realized that this tactic would not continue to be effective.
It was at this point in 1943 that Mrs. Sorensen’s parents decided they must go into hiding. One day, the family packed a couple of suitcases and put on many layers of clothes to make packing as light as possible. They took off their stars and traveled to her father’s friend’s home, which was located near the canals of Amsterdam. Through the help of her father’s friend and various resistance groups, they were able to have forged identification cards made and traveled one by one via train out of Amsterdam. Since they traveled individually, each of the family members ended up at a different hiding place.
During her time in hiding, Mrs. Sorensen stayed with many different hosts at six or seven different addresses. Some of her stays were long and others lasted only a short period of time. The brevity of these stays usually was the result of anxiety felt by the persons hiding her. The first hiding place assigned to Mrs. Sorensen was with a family who had five children, all of which were boys. She remembers it being difficult to adjust her lifestyle to fit those she was staying with and hated not being able play outside. She stayed with this family for a short time, but eventually it became too dangerous for her to stay. She was only thirteen at the time, and because of her young age, the host families would contact a resistance worker who would transport her to a new location if they felt their situation was becoming unsafe.
The next place Mrs. Sorensen stayed was with a farmer and his wife in Lisse, Netherlands. She remembers that the family harvested wheat, and she was given the job of sorting through wheat to separate it from mouse droppings. Mrs. Sorensen did not mind the job because it gave her something to do; however, this placement did not last very long and she was moved again. The next place she was hidden was her favorite out of everywhere she stayed. She has many fond memories of the couple she lived with, and she even got hired to work at a tulip bulb farm. Mrs. Sorensen loved getting to earn her own money and remembers hating to leave. The next hiding place she was sent to was similar to an earlier experience. Mrs. Sorensen was sent to live with an elderly woman in Haarlem, Netherlands who hardly let her do anything except sit around. She lived with her for few months until she was eventually sent to another location.
It was at this hiding place that Mrs. Sorensen and her family were reunited; and it was such a relief for her to be around people she knew. They were hidden by a farmer and his wife in Apeldoorn, Netherlands. She remembers the farmhouse being one large room where the family would cook, eat, and sleep in. If the farmer’s family was going to have a visitor, the Sorensen family were hidden in the large attic of the house. Although there was much space in this attic, she and her family were very limited in what they could do in fear of making too much noise. Mrs. Sorensen remembers that having to cough was a chore during this time, and she had to do so into a pillow to muffle the sound. She also remembers staying with this family through many seasons, and one hard winter she recalls eating sugar beets for six weeks.
In April, 1945 the Canadian Army liberated Holland and Mrs. Sorensen was at last free from hiding.
Date: October 17, 1998
Interviewer: Rene Lichtman