Henriëtte was born just before the start of WWI in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in February of 1914.
She was raised by nuns in an all-girls convent until she was 15, and then she went home to live with her mother. A mother she barely knew. In a world she barely knew.
She slowly got to know her brothers and sister and was sent to work in a factory to support her family.
She met Hendrik at a Boatman's Fair. He courted her and then proposed. Luckily she said yes.
They got married in 1939 and she became Henriëtte Roerade.
Important to know is that Henriëtte's maiden name was Cohen.
In 1940 the Germans invaded Rotterdam, bombarded and occupied the city and started rounding up Jews nationwide.
She lived in fear and uncertainty until the Dutch were liberated in 1945 by the Canadians.
So how did she survive WWII in Nazi Occupied Rotterdam?
Hendrik was older by 8 years and a lot taller than her, as you can see in the picture.
When they were stopped in the streets and their documents checked, the Nazi's assumed she was his daughter and not his wife. They would check his papers, and wave them along.
She would stay quiet, heart thumping in her throat....
(This picture was taken around 1954)
Why am I sharing this story?
Because Henriëtte was my grandmother. If she hadn't survived WWII I wouldn't be sitting here writing this blog right now.
And because there are people living in fear today. People who shouldn't have to live in a constant state of stress merely for their skin-colour or heritage.
People are being bullied, pestered, shouted and spat at, abused, discriminated, hollered at, intimidated...and it is only getting worse...
My grandparents had found a way of hiding her heritage and keep her off the radar. Despite that, it was stressful.
What it must feel like for someone who can't hide who they are...who shouldn't have to, I can't imagine. What I can still feel is the angst of my gran, the rare moments she would speak of WWII...
The hatred and aggression towards black people is palpable and it is scary.
If reading about Henriëtte made you cringe and rejoice at the fact that she survived (she lived to be 97!) then figure out what you can do in the current climate to support BLM, no action is too small!
Debby is a BodyMind Coach with a background in Myofascial Release Therapy.
Her gift is guiding people back onto their path, no matter how much they seem to have veered off it! She loves going on that journey with people and is the perfect co-pilot!
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