Lotus and Mischa Lemaire talk about visiting the 77th Anniversay of the Liberation of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp
On May 1, we visited the commemoration of the 77th Liberation Day of Sachsenhausen.
The visit made a deep impression on us, very different from our participation in the voices of the next generations symposium in October, when Sachsenhausen was virtually empty.
Now among the visitors and dignitaries we occasionally saw the familiar white blue stripes and red triangle of a survivor. The presence of survivors in this place which our Grandfather described in his book Men in Zebra, referring to the clothing of the prisoners; the hell of betrayal, terror and death made a deep impression on us.
At different places in the camp, different nationalities held intimate commemorations, which were sometimes mixed. From a distance we listened to the Polish commemoration and we paused to consider the unveiling of the Italian commemoration plaque.
We talked about all the different nationalities who had been imprisoned here, and we thought of a sentence in our Grandfather’s book;
“Sorrowfully I remember the fallen comrades, Germans, French, Poles, Dutch, Belgians, Norwegians, Jews, Czechs, Hungarians, Spaniards, Italians and Danes who were tortured to death, gassed, beaten, burned, tortured and starved! They all stood in the fight against this devastating National Socialism, a smoking plague, a deadly bacillus, a hideous system of terror, hatred, betrayal, sadism and contempt for human worth!” – Jan Lemaire
At the site of the mass grave next to the revier we paused for a moment for Theo Fleere, our grandfather’s brother-in-law and his good friend Jan Bierman. Both were courageous resistance fighters who died in Sachsenhausen.
Marjolein Snep, representative of the Netherlands in the International Sachsenhausen Comitee, pointed us to an new exhibition with an invitation. We had never seen this one before. The invitation was for a meeting named Jan Lemaire. Our Grandfather writes of the meeting in his book;
“We had a great Saint Nicholas feast. We were surprised ourselves that we had succeeded in this way. But that was also due to our Älteste, Heinz Bartsch, who created these possibilities. He even gave us the Entlausungslokal, which was specially decorated for that evening. We sang, played, received Saint Nicholas in person with his servant; we were able to hand out fifty beautiful prizes for the non-package recipients; we poured beer, we played Jan Klaassen, the Old Dutch Puppet Show and we forgot our lives for hours here in the Lager and have been real Dutch people, living in the real Dutch atmosphere. Yes, it was fully achieved. And our comrades talk about it for days. The whole Lager is talking about it. “Die Holländer… die Holländer… die machen feine Sachen.” – Jan Lemaire
It’s a strange feeling to see your family name in this place. For us, because of the presence of survivors and all different nationalities, our Grandfather’s camp and book came very close.
It was an impressive day and although everyone at the memorial was very busy, it was nice that Katja Anders and Marlene Jatsch, who we know from the organization of the symposium, found a moment to talk to us. Unfortunately we missed Christine Meibeck but we will see her again in September.
Lotus and Mischa Lemaire