Forewarning to those reading this post – it is going to be edited and some information may change, however I wanted to get this out a soon as I could. SJ 5/3
Today was the day of the ceremony for Bertram Polak, my grandmother’s 1st cousin on her father’s side, who was murdered in Auschwitz. We started the day by walking to Prof. Donderstraat from the hotel. On the way of course stories were told and pictures were taken of my grandmother’s home town. The first house we arrived at was the house of his father, Max Henri or more affectionally known as Hans, where Bertram and his sisters lived for their childhoods. Hans was the younger brother of my great grandfather whose family lived two doors down and were in business together up until (unsure of date). Before the ceremony the family walked around the outside of both houses taking pictures and telling more stories. As the time of the ceremony approached neighbors and other members of the community drew near and watched as continued setting up, taking pictures and telling stories. The ceremony began at 11am in front of the house of uncle Hans, Bertram’s father. Arnoud-Jan began by telling why we were all here and how (see previous blog posts.) Next my great aunt Adah went up to speak. She also spoke about how we all got here, how it all started with an e-mail I sent her in August of 2010 about how on the joodsmonument.nl website I got in contact with someone who was looking for information on the family that used to live in his house. Next Adah spoke about her’s and Bertram’s life in Tilburg being only one year apart along with their sisters. After Adah spoke, Fred, the son of Bertram’s older sister Florentine and Thomas and Lydia, Bertram’s half sister Connie’s two of six grandchildren laid the stone in front of the house.
Connie, Bertram’s half sister, then went up and spoke about not knowing her brother because he died before he was born and not knowing her father because he died when she was about a year old. She went on to talk about how meaningful this all was to her because it gave her more of a sense of who they were outside of what her mother and half-sisters told her. After Connie, Edith went up to speak but was unable so her daughter Lena read the speech she had prepared. After this Psalm 23 was read in by Adah’s son Nataneel/Nathaniel. Various family members read aloud names of relatives and neighbors murdered during the Holocaust which brought some tears to my eyes. Lastly we read the mourners kaddish led by Connie’s son Ed. After the ceremony and all the neighbors left we went into the house for lunch, where we would end up staying the entire afternoon, which included even more stories as well as pictures being shown around. I eventually brought out the giant family tree I had printed out at work as well as reports I printed out to show off what I have been working on as well as to get any corrections or additions that needed to be made. About halfway through the afternoon we went over to what used to be my great grandfather’s home 2 doors down for a tour which of course included more stories and more pictures. We then went back to the other house for taped interviews and more socializing. Around 5:30 we made our way back to the hotel so that those who wanted to could change for dinner at ‘t Pakhuys. So what is ‘t Pakhuys you ask. The name of the restaurant means the warehouse which is significant because for a long time it was just that. However it wasn’t just any warehouse but where my family’s hide tanning business was. Before going in to eat we went to where the office and residence of Max and Alfred’s parents Barend Polak and Albertina Levy were. Unfortunately it needs some major fixing up and while it will be renovated in the future, it will be modernized and not made to look as it once did. After we took a tour, heard more stories, and took pictures we went over to have dinner. During the 3 to 4 hour dinner more stories were swapped, Adah took out some pictures I had never seen which hopefully one of her grandchildren will be able to scan and I laid out the giant family tree. After dinner was over I got the waitress to take a group photo for us to commemorate the occasion.