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Grietje Polak

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Grietje was born to a large religious Jewish family in Amsterdam. When she was in her mid-20's, she married Frederik Polak, an accountant. The Polaks had a son, Jacob, and three daughters, Julia, Betty and Liesje. They lived in simple quarters on the second floor of a house.

1933-39: Creating an atmosphere of Jewish observance in the home was important to Grietje and her husband. They loved to celebrate the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays with their four children. Grietje taught shorthand and needlepoint at a Jewish elementary school, and enjoyed working with children.

1940-43: After the Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940, Grietje's husband's accounting firm worked overtime to "register" Amsterdam's Jews--the Germans had ordered all Jews to be listed. The deportation of Dutch Jews began in 1942, but Grietje and her husband were not deported until June 1943 because his business was used for various purposes by the Germans. After one month at the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands, they were informed that they were to be sent to Poland to work. In preparation, they packed their nicest clothes.

On July 23, 1943, Grietje and her husband, Frederick, were deported from Westerbork to the Sobibor extermination camp where two days later, they were killed.

Frederik was raised in a religious Jewish home. His father was a scribe ...
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