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Living with war experiences

Smolinski Foundation
Time period: 1940-1945
Number of interviews: 192
Accessibility: restricted public
Period of interviews: 2019-present

Herman Teerhöfer managed to interview a large number of survivors, starting from their life stories, about their personal experience and perception of the events and circumstances before, during and after World War II.

The poignant stories have been recorded in people’s homes, in image and sound. All interviewees also give a message for future generations in the interview.


Central questions in the interviews are:

  • How were they able to survive and what did they draw strength from?
  • Where did they draw mental support from? What was their footing?

  • How did they make sense of their lives after the war despite many experiences of loss and trauma?

  • How did they experience anti-Semitism prior to and after World War II?

  • What message do they have for future generations regarding tolerance and forbearance?



From the testimonies and stories goes the warning “Never again war” and at the same time they call for cherishing and celebrating the freedom we now enjoy.


Wide-ranging interviews
Over the years, a large collection of interviews has been produced. The topics cover a wide range of aspects of World War II, due to the diverse background and environment the interviewees were in.


Smolinski Foundation aims to unlock a large collection of interviews in a way suitable for use during lessons in schools and presentations for cultural and civil society organisations. Digital, interactive teaching materials are also being developed. Interview fragments can also be used in museum presentations.


Overview of available interviews

  • 84 life stories of Auschwitz survivors:
    • 20 interviewees were deported from Camp Vught to Auschwitz
    • 28 interviewees were deported to Auschwitz from Camp Westerbork
    • 36 interviewees were deported to Auschwitz from other camps and ghettos outside the Netherlands
  • 25 life stories of Jewish people who managed to survive in hiding during World War II
  • 11 life stories of people who participated in the Jewish resistance during World War II
  • 8 life stories of survivors of Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen
  • 3 life stories of survivors of Westerbork only
  • 1 life story of a survivor of e.g. Camp Amersfoort
  • 10 life stories of survivors of Japanese camps in the former Dutch East Indies
  • 2 life stories of people who were children of NSB parents during World War II
  • 8 life stories of resistance fighters and former political prisoners from Camp Vught
  • 20 life stories of people who survived the Second World War and who, for example, witnessed a bombing (Nijmegen, Tilburg or Rotterdam), or experienced the hunger winter, or joined the Allies at liberation, or other testimonies of the Second World War in the Netherlands
  • 10 life stories of people who witnessed the persecution of Jews in, for example, Amsterdam, Leiden and Tilburg, people who witnessed prisoners being put to work outside the camp in Camp Amersfoort or Camp Vught during World War II. These people lived in the immediate vicinity of Camp Amersfoort or Camp Vught at the time of the war.
  • 10 life stories of people who experienced Anne Frank before and/or during the war in Amsterdam and/or in Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau and/or Bergen-Belsen. They were classmates or close friends of Anne Frank in Amsterdam, or they were fellow prisoners in Westerbork, Auschwitz-Birkenau and/or Bergen-Belsen.

Anna’s silent struggle: deaf in war

Time period: 1925-2008

Project realisation:

Willy Lindwer, AVA Productions BV


Time frame: 1925-2008


Location: Auschwitz


Number of interviews: 10




Little has been published about the history of the deaf. Almost nothing is known about the experiences of deaf Jewish Dutch people during the years of German occupation. In this oral history project, deaf people who barely survived the war are interviewed. Because the deaf are also verbally handicapped, an interpreter for Dutch Sign Language was used to record their special and previously unrecorded wartime experiences. The interviews reveal, among other things, that for the deaf in the concentration camps it was of vital importance that they managed to keep their handicap hidden from the Germans. 


Director Willy Lindwer interviewed the deaf woman ‘Anna’, who survived Auschwitz in an extraordinary way and with the help of others, about her experiences. Of course, the help of a sign language interpreter was called in.


The Stichting DovenShoa from Amsterdam is closely involved in the project.

Witnesses to the history of Anne Frank

Getuigenverhalen / Anne Frank Stichting
Time period: 1940-1945
Number of interviews: 18
Accessibility: Unknown
Transcripts: Unknown
Period of interviews: Unknown

Project realisation:


number of interviews: 18


Thematical collection: Erfgoed van de Oorlog



Anne Frank’s diary and the letters she wrote to her family and friends before she went into hiding contain people and events about whom there are hardly any written sources and about whom little is known. There are also many gaps in our knowledge of the other people in hiding and their helpers. Thanks to the testimony of 18 people who knew these hitherto unknown figures in Anne Frank’s environment, our understanding of her social environment is enhanced.


Like the Frank family, a number of the witnesses interviewed in this oral history project came from Germany. Their children also went to the Montessori school, the Municipal Lyceum for Girls or the Jewish Lyceum and were in Anne and Margot’s class. One of the ‘witnesses’, a girl next door to the Frank family who lived at Merwedeplein at the time, tells her story about Anne. Another interviewee is a woman who was transported in the same train carriage as the Frank family from Westerbork to Auschwitz. In the camp she stayed with Anne, Edith, Margot and Augusta van Pels in the same barracks.

Annes vriendin, Hannah Pick-Goslar, bij een klassenfoto van de Montessorischool (2015) Fotocollectie: Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam / foto: Cris Toala Olivares