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19 th century stories
The first Jews of Dorsten
Dorsten 1820: "Violence in
the synagogue itself"
Eisendrath Family in Dorsten
The family name
Julia Eisendrath - portrait of
a Jewish Mama
Eulogy at the grave of
Julia Eisendrath
Jewish real property in Dorsten
Nathan Eisendrath emigrates
David Samson Eisendrath
Establishing in the USA
Migration of Jews from Europe
to North America
20 th century stories
Simeon B. Eisendrath, architect
Nathan Wolff and the Eisendrath family
Strouss, Eisendrath & Company
Visits to Europe since the 1920s
1933: A Protest Letter to
President Hindenburg (1933)
The Letter in full text
The Eisendrath branch in Zaandam/Netherlands
The last jewish place in Dorsten
Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath
Charles R. Eisendrath: An
identity and family history that
are inextricably linked (1999)
21 st century stories
Adam Eisendrath: The German Heritage Quest - February 2000
Dorsten contacts and
visits 2001-2007
Family Reunion 2010
The journey of two prayer books
Stolperstein memorials for the Eisendrath family
Who and why?
The Dorsten research group
and the Jewish Museum
of Westphalia
* The signature in the header above
is that of Samson Nathan Eisendrath
(from the year 1840)
The Eisendrath branch in Zaandam/The Netherlands
»God knows what is still awaiting you.«
The Dutch branch of the Eisendrath family did not survive the war.

In 1942 the German occupiers, helped by the Dutch police, expelled all Jews from the Netherlands, thus making it “free of Jews” (“judenrein”). The city of Zaandam was the first Dutch community where Jews were forced to leave their homes as the first step in the “Final Solution”. One of the many dozens of households that did not survive the Holocaust in that town was the Eisendrath family.

In 1914 the 32-year-old doctor Bernard Eisendrath moved together with his wife Sortine Selma to a well-appointed residence at 108 Botenmarkersstraat in Zaandam. Their children were born there, too: Iris (1915), Maja (1917), Leonie (1921) and Rudolf (1923). Sortine´s mother Emma Juchenheim, who came from the German town of Vlotho, also lived in the Eisendraths’ house. Berhard started a family doctor´s practice; his children attended the local grammar school (Gemeentelijk Lyceum).

Sortine Selma Eisendrath, Lore Juchenheim (a niece from Vlotho/Westfalen who stayed with the Eisendraths in Zaandam and went back to Germany in december 1941. She was killed shortly after), Emma Juchenheim, Bernard Eisendrath (1939 or 1940) (Photo mw. Mulder Zaandam)

On 10th May 1940, the day the German troops invaded the Netherlands, Dr Eisendrath helped with the typhus vaccinations that were being carried out in Zaandam at that time – as though nothing were going on. During the first months, the German invasion still had relatively few consequences for the Dutch Jews. Anti-semitic measures were introduced nearly imperceptibly. When it turned out in November 1940 that Jewish teachers were being dismissed, members of the Board of Governors of the Zaanlandse Lyceum (Zaanlandse Lyceum Vereniging = ZLV) were prepared to organize a protest strike. Rudolf Eisendrath was one of the organizers.

The members of the Board were summoned by the headmaster J. Oosterhuis, who begged them to refrain from any activities whatsoever. Obeying him, the Board did not take action. Klaas Woudt, who was president of the ZLV at that time, briefly mentions this event in his autobiographical sketch From the beginning to the end : “With a little bit more tact the headmaster could have regarded our protest as a helpless attempt at showing our concern and sympathy. Instead of that, our boss Oosterhuis was only afraid, afraid of the consequences of our protest. Now, sixty years later, this still hurts. One of the members of our little delegation was Rudolf Eisendrath, a Jewish classmate of ours. Why did our headmaster not embrace Rolf´s shoulders and ours?”

From 1st September 1941 the children of the Eisendrath family were no longer welcome at their school. From 1st May 1941 Doctor Eisendrath was allowed to treat only Jewish patients. He had to sell his practice, but in spite of that still worked as a doctor. For example, he visited his patient Mrs Peterson-Stock, who lived in a nearby street. She was Jewish and because of that, as a precaution, Eisendrath climbed through a window of her house to get in.

When it was ordained on 14th January 1942 that the Jewish inhabitants of Zaandam had to leave the town within three days and were expected to gather in the Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, Bernhard Eisendrath tried to sell several properties or to give them to someone for safe-keeping. On 17th January a police-officer checked whether the Jewish inhabitants had left their homes. In the Botenmarkerstraat he met the doctor’s family. As a foreigner, Emma Juchenheim was allowed to leave for the concentration camp Westerbork two days later. The duty-officer, however, came to the conclusion that she was seriously ill and so was allowed to stay in Zaandam for the time being. Concerning her daughter, Officer Jongepier wrote in his report: “Mrs Eisendrath was so distraught that shortly before leaving her house she broke down and was unconscious for some time.” This situation did not, of course, prevent the family from having to leave. The house was sealed, the door-keys collected. Shortly afterwards the occupying forces had the furniture that had been left in the house taken away.

Sortine´s 87-year-old mother was the oldest Jewish inhabitant forced to leave Zaandam. Due to her illness she got permission to go to Amsterdam instead of Westerbork. The Eisendrath family was able to find a flat in Amsterdam. Bernard became a member of the Jewish Commission and through that got some insight into the lot of the Jewish population that was to be deported. On 4th October 1942, he committed suicide by taking poison. Shortly after the death of her husband, Sortine went underground together with her children and Grandmother Juchenheim. A friend of hers who lived in Zaandam rented a flat for them in Dintelstraat in Amsterdam at the beginning of the year 1943. Two months later Lidy Eisendrath met Rudolf´s classmate Klaas Woudt. He attended the nearby Graphical School. She took him to her cover-address. There Rudolf lived with his other sisters and an aged lady. The room was bare and sparsely furnished: there were only some mattresses on the floor. Klaas came back several times, but Rudolf had disappeared. Finally the room was empty. Rudolf had fled to Switzerland.

Sortine Eisendrath had left Amsterdam some time before. At the end of 1942 she was staying in the Israelite Old People´s Home in Arnhem. On 10th December 1942, 75 aged people were deported from that home to Westerbork. Sortine is mentioned on the list, which comprises 97 old people and nurses. The great majority of the elderly residents was murdered in the period between November 1942 and February 1943. Sortine´s date of death is the last of all those included in the list. Doctor Eisendrath´s wife had chosen not to stay in hiding, but to enrol as a member of staff in Arnhem.

On 24th May 1943 daughter Iris was arrested. She did not wear a star of David and had false papers. She was arrested by policeman Hendrik van der Kraan from Zaandam who recognized her on the street. He was a member of the Kolonne Henneicke that had been specially set up to search out Jews. He also worked for the Sicherheitsdienst (“security service”). Van der Kraan was to be condemned to death for his collaboration with the Nazis after the war; the judgement was in 1949 commuted to lifelong imprisonment. Iris´s younger sister Leonie (`Lidy`) was also arrested. Both sisters were taken to a prison in Amsterdam and subsequently deported to Westerbork. On 30th August 1943, while in that camp, Iris wrote a letter of farewell to some friends. “By the way, Lidy and I have discovered during the past months that you can always and everywhere make something out of anything, that you are always able to derive some – however small – pleasure from something,” Iris remarked. “In the cell in Amsterdam we had some pleasure, in the theatre (schouwburg) as well; you cannot imagine how much fun we still had even there. The ´little sisters` (´zuusjens`), as we were called by the wardresses in prison, were definitely popular in the Schouwburg (theatre) as the ´Lysol-élite`.” In Westerbork they were taken to the `Strafbaracke` - ´2.25 square metres `. In her farewell letter Iris says: “This is probably the last opportunity of sending a sign of life to the outside world.”

Grandmother Juchenheim-Steinberg had already died when this letter left the camp. She had already been deported to Westerbork. On 16th April 1943 – after a 72 hour journey in a closed cattle wagon – she was gassed in Sobibor almost immediately after arriving there.

Maja Eisendrath (26) also went to Sobibor by train on 6th July 1943 – separated from her mother and sisters. Iris and Lidy knew of her deportation and hoped to see her ´there`. Maja died on 9th July 1943. She was one of the last of the 71 inhabitants of Zaandam to be transported to Sobibor in 1943.

Sortine Eisendrath (56) was transported to Auschwitz on Tuesday, 24th August. Iris wrote: “ Anyway, I am glad that Mother has not been in prison. I think Father was right, after all. (...) It was terrible, however, that she was sent to Auschwitz just one day after our arrival. [“before” seems more logical here, but the text says “before” – though some lines further on it says: .. we arrived one day after this transport”] Now we only hope to see her and Maja over there, but there is only very little hope.” It seems likely that after leaving Apeldoorn Sortine cared for older people in Westerbork, too. She died in Auschwitz on 27th August 1943. Iris and Leonie (27 and 22 years) arrived in Westerbork one day after this transport. Leonie wrote about the lack of warm clothes for “Riga, or wherever we will go to`. She asked to say sorry to Mrs Van Meurs where she obviously had found refuge. “Of course I have said to the police that these people did not know anything about my identity. I hope this was sufficient and that they will not have any trouble about it.” And later: “Will all of you enjoy your lives with all your might as long as you are able to do so? God knows what is still awaiting you.”

In the meantime the two sisters were sure ´to be taken to the cattle wagon tomorrow, together with the other prisoners, to be locked up there again – under these circumstances I do not see any chance at all of escaping our destiny once more. Now, if there is no other way, we will go with a cheerful heart.` They were well aware that their future would be dark: “ Working is not at all bad, you know, on the contrary, (...) but that you are not even granted the most simple human rights – that you are treated as nothing but cattle, or no, a proper farmer will care much more about his cattle than our ´protectors` do for us – that makes everything so wretched (...) It is nearly impossible for me to imagine that it was me who lived in Botenmakersstraat and enjoyed all the comfort and cosiness there.”

Leonie: “ When you cannot keep yourself decent, the world stops going round. (...) Furthermore, I see things quite soberly. We do not really stand a chance of surviving - but as fate will have it, so let it be (...) I am sure that lots of good and loving wishes will accompany us – and that will give us comfort.” Iris and Leonie were sent to Auschwitz on 31st August 1943. They died three days after their departure in the gas chamber.


The youngest member of the Eisendrath family, Rudolf, had escaped from Amsterdam on his own. He was, however, arrested in France, on his way to Switzerland, on 22nd June 1943, and was taken to Dora-Mittelbau in Germany which was an auxiliary reserve camp of the concentration camp Buchenwald. A great many of the prisoners there had to stay under the ground day and night and to work in the production of weapons. The mine galleries were called ´tunnels of death` (´Todesstollen`). Rudolf Eisendrath (20) died in Dora-Mittelbau on 7th March 1944, six months after his sisters and his mother were murdered.

Rudolf Eisendrath -1940 (foto mw. Mulder Zaandam)

Author: Erik Schaap
(Translation by Ludwig Drüing)


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