I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

West Family and the Holocaust: The Suffering of a Dutch Jewish Family

 My fourth cousin Jozef West and his wife Roossie Tof who both died in Sobibor. He looks alot like my mother's grandfather and his brothers when they were younger who were the sons of Matilda West.

My grandmother's paternal grandmother was an English Jewess called Matilda West who came to Australia from England in 1875 with her husband James Lewis and children. Her parents Simeon Levi West and Mary Ann Payne had arrived in New South Wales in 1869 as well as her brother Simeon Levi West (Uncle Levi) who served as a crypto-Jewish Rabbi or Hazzan like his father. My mother told me that her West ancestor's were descended from Jews from Amsterdam including Rabbi Moses Uri ha Levi (1544-1628) who was connected with the Marranoes and crypto-Jews and from the Witzenhausen family.

The older Simeon Levi West (1802-1881) had been trained as a crypto-Jewish Rabbi or Hazzan (worship leader) by his maternal great uncle Thomas West who had been trained as a rabbi in Amsterdam. Simeon's father Reuben West was born in Amsterdam in 1764 and he married his English relative and first wife Elizabeth West (1765-1806) of Sulby the daughter of Joseph West the gamekeeper of Sulby Hall in Welford (on the border of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire) for the Payne family. Reuben's brothers Levi and Nathan of Amsterdam married the sisters of Elizabeth West. Reuben moved to England to train as a gamekeeper with his relative and future father-in-law Joseph West (b.1740) son of Reuben West of England (b.1720).

Reuben West of England had a brother Solomon West (b.1724) who settled in Amsterdam who was the father of Nathan (b.1760 Amsterdam), Reuben (b.1764 Amsterdam) and Levi (b.1771 Amsterdam) as well as Isaiah, Moses, Simeon and Sarah. Their mother was Susanna Solomon of London whose Solomon family had come originally from Amsterdam. I had known that Nathan West had a son Salomon Nathan West who was born in 1785 in Amsterdam. I had also known that the crypto -Jewish English branch of the West family had often sent certain sons to the Netherlands to stay with their West relatives in order to train as rabbis. However I had never traced until recently the descendants of the West branch who remained as open Jews in the Netherlands.

Recently I discovered these descendants and was shocked to find that so many of them had died in the Nazi Holocaust. I was shocked to read of my West relatives being gassed in Sobibor and Auschwitz as well as dying in other camps. As my family in Australia had been untouched by the Holocaust I was surprised at the depth and sadness of my reaction to finding out that I had numerous third and fourth cousins who had died in the Holocaust. It became much more personal to me in a manner that is hard to describe even though I had never known these cousins of mine.

The first of my relatives I discovered was Jozef West of Wildervank who with his wife and Saartje West one of his daughters died in Sobibor on May 7 1943. I then noticed that their other daughter Roosjen West had died November 7 1942 at Auschwitz. Jozef was a butcher in Wildervank as was his cousin Salomon West. Josef was nicknamed 'Black West' and his cousin 'Red West' (Salomon had red hair). During the Second World War, Jozef West went into hiding in Drenthe.  However he was not happy with it. During a walk he was picked up by the Landwacht and then sent east to Sobibor with his family to the gas chambers.

I then went on to find more and more with the majority of them being killed at Auschwitz. Whole branches of my West family exterminated. I also felt great shame as at one stage of my life when I was a teenager I had been influenced by anti-semites and had actually believed that the Holocaust was a hoax or at least exaggerated. I sincerely apologize to all my martyred cousins and to all those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. I was shocked to learn on Jewishgen that "As a percentage, Dutch Jews probably perished at a higher rate than any other West European country."

Then I found  that Jozef West's brother Benjamin West with his wife and two children Salomon and Sophia West died in Auschwitz in 1943. I was almost relieved to see that another of Jozef and Benjamin West's brothers Nathan had died in 1939 but was saddened when I saw that his son Salomon West had died in Auschwitz and that his son David and daughter Roosien West had died in Sobibor. I was pleased to see that they also had a sister Saar West who died in Tel Aviv in 1993. Jozef's sister Rachel West also died in 1942 in Auschwitz and her husband Jacob Nijveen died in Konigshutte a Nazi work camp in 1942. They were all the descendants of Salomon West (b.1854).

Then I discovered that Salomon had a brother Jozef West (b.1856) whose sons Helman, Levie Jozef, Mozes and Lazarus West and their sister Hillechiene West all died in Auschwitz as well as their brother Nathan Salomon West who died in Central Europe in 1944. Salomon also had a brother Mozes West (b.1859 Wildervank) a Jewish merchant who had four children that died in Auschwitz in 1942. And so it went on moving from branch to branch of these descendants of my ancestral uncle Salomon Nathan West (b.1785). Many of them lived in the villages of Veendam and Wildervank. 

The villages of Veendam and Wildervank had a large number of Jewish residents until 1942. Common family names were: Cohen, Van Delft, Valk and West. Our West family intermarried with these other Jewish families who also died in the Shoah (Holocaust). There was a synagogue for the Jewish community in Veendam. The first Jewish inhabitants in this area arrived about 1700, and the first synagogue was built in 1745. By 1880 there were about 645 Jews living in Veendam, Wildervank and nearby villages. When World War II broke out, there were a total of 215 Jewish residents in Veendam and Wildervank. Only 5 Jews from Veendam and Wildvank survived the death camps.

Another branch of the West family descended from Salomon Nathan West (b.1785) was that of his son Joseph Salomon West of Wildevank (b.1815 Wildervank d.1888 Wildervank) who was a Jewish butcher or Shochet. Joseph's son Nathan West settled in Winschoten about 20 kilometres from Wildervank where he was a shochet and cattle dealer as was his son Jozeph West of Winschoten. Jozeph West of Winschoten's mother Anna Stoppelman was murdered in Sobibor in 1943 and his sister Heika was gassed in Auschwitz in 1943 and Jozeph and his wife and 12 year old daughter Josephina West were gassed in Auschwitz in 1942 and his son Nathan West was killed in 1944. The older Nathan West of Winschoten's sisters Mrs Roosien Beem, Mrs Mozina van Stedum and Mrs Betje de Lange descendants also were murdered in the concentration camps. Winschoten had a Jewish population in 1942 of around 500 and only about 20 of them survived the Holocaust.



 Levie van West who died in Mauthausen in 1942
It has made me wonder if I have other cousins descended from the Levie and Leon family of Holland from whom my grandmother also descends on her direct maternal line that were likewise exterminated. I have also not researched thoroughly other branches of the West family in the Netherlands such as those known as "van West" who descend from Reuben's brother Levi West (b.1771). Levi (or Levie) had at least two sons born in Amsterdam Salomon and Abraham van West. One of his descendants from his son Abraham Levie van West was Jacob van West (son of Levie Abraham van West) whose son Barend van West (b.1882) with Barend's wife Sara Segal and their six daughters in 1942 were gassed in Auschwitz and his grandson Levie van West (Barend's son) died in Mauthausen Nazi camp. Many others of the Jewish van West family were also to die in the Nazi death camps.

I also discovered another branch of the West family in the Netherlands using the van West surname who had become Frankist or Catholic Jews. One would hope that by the time of the Holocaust others would have forgotten their Jewish origins and they may have been spared the gas chambers. The Nazi's also sent all those Jews who were Catholics or Catholics of recent Jewish ancestry to the death camps. Such was the fate of St Edith Stein and 1,000 other Catholic Jews from Holland who were gassed together on August 9 1942 at Auschwitz. The very next day on August 10 1942 my 50 year old Dutch Jewish 4th cousin Jozef West son of Mozes West was gassed in Auschwitz. Of the 107,000 Jews transported from the Netherlands only 5,000 survived the Holocaust.

2 comments:

Deryn_Donnell said...

Great post. Great research on your relatives who died in the holocaust, So sad. I have recently discovered am a descendant of Simeon Levis West born 1802. I live in NZ.

Anonymous said...

I would be very interested to know how you traced the WEST family in the Netherlands . Did you have to know how to speak Dutch to do this research ?