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January 3, 1923 | Amsterdam, Netherlands
Catharina, called "Ina" by her family and friends, grew up in a religious Jewish household in Amsterdam. Ina's father, a successful diamond manufacturer, was president of the Amsterdam Jewish community. Ina had one brother, Benno, and a sister, Josette.
1933-39: On Sunday mornings and on Wednesdays after my classes at an Amsterdam Montessori school, I went to a private Jewish school where I studied Jewish history and Hebrew. My friends and I loved to meet in the evenings after we'd finished our homework to play records and chat. Then, when we went back home, we'd call each other up as if we'd been apart for months. Or we'd write letters to give to each other at school the next morning.
1940-44: The Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. A few weeks later, I graduated from high school. My family was rounded up in 1943. We were taken to the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands, and eight months later to the Bergen-Belsenconcentration camp. In 1944 the Nazis decided to build a diamond industry there, using the connections of Jews who knew the business. Since my father manufactured diamonds, we weren't sent to death camps and we stayed together as a family. When German defeat was apparent, the diamond plan was abandoned.
As the Soviets advanced, Ina and other prisoners were loaded onto trains heading west. Liberated en route by U.S. troops on April 13, 1945, Ina emigrated to the United States in 1951.