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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.

Postwar Moluccan period Schattenberg 1951 – 1971

Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork
Time period: 1930-present
Number of interviews: 50
Accessibility: Limited public - on-site listening
Transcripts: Partly
Period of interviews: 2000-present

The use of the interviews for research and educational purposes requires prior permission from the Camp Westerbork Memorial Center. Transcripts can be sent to you. The interviews can only be listened to on location.

The main questions for the interviews with former Moluccan residents are: What was daily life like before World War II? How did you experience the migration? How did you experience your time in residential Schattenberg. What was daily life like? How did you experience moving to the neighborhoods? Some of the interviews include ego documents and photographs.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1930s – present.
They mainly discuss Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, migration, reception in the Netherlands, daily life in Schattenberg residential area, upbringing, Moluccan neighborhoods, education, food, religion, Dutch culture.

Abuys, G., Martín, J., & Mulder, D. (2011). Molukkers in kamp Westerbork:
het verhaal van woonoord Schattenberg 1951 – 1971. Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork

Moluccans in Camp Westerbork is a beautiful reading and viewing book with over 300 photographs, documents and drawings. It provides a fascinating picture of a Moluccan world on the Drenthe heath. Numerous former residents, both Moluccans and resident staff, speak out and recount daily life in the camp. Bystanders also talk about their contacts with another culture. For most of those involved, Schattenberg residential camp was an unforgettable experience, which they remember with warmth and often nostalgia. On March 22, 1951, the first Moluccan families arrived at the former Westerbork transit camp. These former KNIL soldiers and their families had come to the Netherlands from the former Dutch East Indies by order of the Dutch government. The name camp Westerbork was changed to Schattenberg residential facility. Over the years, more than 3,000 Moluccans would come to live there. There was a school, a hospital, a theater, a cinema and a bathhouse. Gradually, many contacts with the Dutch population developed. For example, traders offered their merchandise or opened a store in Schattenberg after the introduction of self-care. The stay in the residential resort was to be temporary. But the promised return to their homeland turned out to be an illusion, and so the Moluccan history of habitation became the longest in the camp. The last Moluccan families did not leave until 1971.

Postwar Dutch Indies period Schattenberg 1950 – 1951

Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork
Time period: 1931-present
Number of interviews: 25
Accessibility: Open to the public in 2025
Transcripts: yes
Period of interviews: 1995-present
Medium: Digital audio files, from 2010 video files

Jarenlang lag de nadruk in Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork op de periode 1939 – 1934 en de overgang naar het kamp als interneringskamp.
Eind jaren 1990 vindt er een kentering plaats. Het uitgangspunt wordt de gehele geschiedenis van de plek. Er komt onder andere meer aandacht voor de Indische periode, de jaren 1950 – 1951, waarin het kamp als opvangcentrum of repatriëringskamp voor Indische Nederlanders fungeerden die net waren aangekomen in Nederland. In maart 1951 werd De Schattenberg ontruimd. De bewoners verhuisden naar hotels en pensions.


De interviews gaan in op gebeurtenissen en ervaringen in de jaren 1930 – heden. Er wordt voornamelijk over Indonesië en Nederland gesproken. Thema’s zijn o.a. Tweede Wereldoorlog, dagelijks leven, interneringskamp, opvoeding, bevrijding, Indonesische revolutie, migratie, ontvangst in Nederland, relatie met Indonesië.

Abuys, G., Oomen, M., & Mulder, D. (Eds.). (2001). Welkom in Holland!
Indische Nederlanders in kamp Westerbork, 1950-1951: Vol. 8 van Westerbork cahiers. Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork.

Documentatie over het leven van en interviews met in 1950 naar Nederland gerepatrieerde Indische Nederlanders in het opvangkamp ‘De Schattenberg’, het voormalige doorgangskamp ‘Westerbork’.


Een vergeten periode in de geschiedenis van kamp Westerbork en een onderbelichte tijd uit het verleden van ons land is die van de gerepatrieerde Indische Nederlanders. Vanaf 1950 kwamen zij naar Nederland, eerst gehuisvest in contractpensions en  opvangkampen. Een van deze kampen was het voormalig Judendurchgangslager Westerbork dat toen de naam ‘De Schattenberg’ kreeg.
In dit achtste Westerbork Cahier wordt een beeld gegeven van de Indische wereld, de overtocht en de opvang van gerepatrieerden in Nederland. Tal van oud-bewoners van De Schattenberg komen aan het woord en vertellen over het leven in het kamp maar ook van hun latere geschiedenis. Het is een verhaal ‘van sambal goreng tot frikandel, van zonnesteek tot kippevel’.”

Camp of hope and despair

Time period: 1939-1941


Willy Lindwer, AVA Productions BV


Timeframe: 1939-1945

Location: Westerbork

Number interviews: 14




Is part of: Thematische collectie: Erfgoed van de Oorlog, Het Willy Lindwer Holocaust Video Archief

The material is not yet available through DANS. However, you can contact Willy Lindwer himself, contact details can be found on his website.

Camp Westerbork in the eastern part of the Netherlands was the last station for more than 100,000 Dutch Jews to be deported to the Nazi death camps. Over 80% of Dutch Jews were deported, the highest percentage in Western Europe. The emotion and tragedy of the story is enhanced by the remarkable photographs and films of Rudolf Breslauer, camp photographer and filmmaker. This is the first documentary film ever made about this Nazi transit camp in the Netherlands, with a large series of interviews with survivors who played an important and prominent role in the camp, such as youth leaders, about the hospital, religious life, entertainment and other elements of life in the camp. Among the interviewees is the non-Jewish Dutchman Adrianus van As, head of the distribution office in Camp Westerbork.


Chanoekaviering in een barak in Westerbork, december 1943

Witnesses of Theresienstadt

Realisation: Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Religious Studies
Time period: 1943-1945
Number of interviews: 25
Accessibility: Restricted access
Transcripts: Unknown

With a dozen filmed interviews, this project contributes to the knowledge and image of the Jews deported from the Netherlands and their memories of the German concentration camp Theresienstadt in the present Czech Republic. Theresienstadt was mainly a transit camp for Jews, who were mostly sent to the extermination camps. The interviewees are Jews who were deported from the Netherlands to the camp in 1943 and 1944 and stayed in the camp for short or long periods of time (or even twice) during the last two years of the Second World War. The following questions are central to the interviews: How did the eyewitnesses experience Theresienstadt and which elements played a decisive role in their survival strategies? How did the prisoners cope and what gave them their strength?


The approximately 5000 Jews from the Netherlands in Theresienstadt were a very heterogeneous group. About half of them were German-speaking and as Austrian or German emigrants or refugees they had a completely different history than the Jews born in the Netherlands. There were also several groups of privileged Jews (such as the ‘Barneveld group’ and the ‘Mussert Jews’), while other categories (such as the Jews on the ‘Puttkammer list’) had a much less protected status.


It is often said about the Dutch group that they were conspicuous in Theresienstadt for their unwillingness to work, their maladjustment and their passive resistance. These characteristics, attributed mainly to Dutch prisoners, were mentioned indirectly in the interviews with survivors, but were not automatically confirmed by the respondents.


NSB men in Westerbork

Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork
Time period: 1940-1948
Number of interviews: 21
Accessibility: restricted public

Thematische colectie: Erfgoed van de Oorlog





After the liberation, between 24 April 1945 and 1 December 1948 to be precise, the former German transit camp Westerbork functioned as an internment camp for NSB members, Waffen-SS members, land guards and other people in the Netherlands suspected of collaboration with the German occupier. In the summer of 1945, the health and safety of these thousands of men and women was of little concern to anyone. Poor daily living conditions, insufficient medical facilities and both mental and physical abuse were the order of the day.

Jewish children in camp Vught

Huffener, M.C.C.
Time period: 1938-1946
Number of interviews: 8
Accessibility: restricted public



Huffener, kand. M.C.C. (2003): Thematische collectie: Kindertransporten ‘Joodse kinderen in kamp Vught’ – Interviews (2003) en documentaires (2007). 

One of the most tragic events in the history of World War II in the Netherlands. On 6 and 7 June 1943, two trains with Jewish children left camp Vught. All children under 16 had to leave, their mothers were allowed to go with them. They were told they would be going to a special children’s camp nearby. But the trains went to the Westerbork transit camp. And then to Sobibor in Poland. The almost 1,300 Jewish children were killed here almost immediately upon arrival.