A Holocaust Memoir
Between the ages of 8 and 11, I was on the run from the Nazis.  “I Live in a Chickenhouse” describes how my parents and I had to run away from our old apartment in Amsterdam.  At first, we had to move from place to place and town to town because no one wanted us to hide with them for more than a few days.  Finally, we found shelter on the farm of  Harry Janssen and his family, who gave us the chickenhouse to live in.

I put the Chickenhouse book together based on drawings I made as a child, helped by two talented amateur artists:   My  father, Albert Heppner, and his friend Heinz Graumann.  I use both my art and theirs to help explain what life was like for us at that time.  For example, the excerpt below shows how I use a drawing to tell in a child’s voice what I was thinking about at the time.  

The “Chickenhouse” book was translated into Dutch as “Ik Woon in een Kippenhok” and into German as “Ich Wohne in Einem Hühnerhaus.” (Ordering information appears below.)

A video (DVD) of the story also is available, titled:  “Rediscovering My Childhood—Memories of a Child Survivor.”  For details and ordering information, click here.

The Virtual Radio 
December 31, 1943. 
It’s still cold outside, so I’m sitting at the living room table again, drawing the things hanging on the wall next to the bedroom door.  
You may wonder why there’s only a clock on the shelf, with a wire running from nowhere to the floor.  I could tell you that the wire is the ground for our radio, but that would leave you asking, where’s the radio?
Well, I originally wanted to draw the radio also, but Father wouldn’t let me.  He took a look at what I was drawing, and he immediately got worried.
“Good heavens!” he said.  “I didn’t know I had left the radio standing out.  I’ll bet you are going to draw the radio next.”
I nodded, yes.
“Well, don’t do it,” Father said.  “I should have put that radio away.  If the police ever raid this place again, they shouldn’t see this radio--they shouldn’t even see a picture with a radio in it.  Either way, Harry could get into big trouble.”
I knew what Father meant.  Nobody is allowed to have a regular radio.  Non-Jewish people can get a flat, ugly-looking radio, fixed to receive just two local radio stations that the Nazis control.  But we are Jewish and we aren’t allowed to have any radio at all.
But we do!  Our ugly old radio is one that hasn’t been fixed, so that we can get all the stations.  Double risk!
That’s why Father wouldn’t let me draw it.  He put it into its hiding place, which was built into the ceiling of the chickenhouse.  And I took our alarm clock out of the bedroom and put it on the shelf to finish my picture.
We have hiding places for all our personal stuff, but except for the radio, we hide our things only when we expect a raid.  The police have made several raids in the neighborhood to search for Jews and Resistance members.
We go into our emergency act when Harry gets word that a raid is being planned.  He gets warnings from the local Veldwachter, or “Constable,” Gerrit van der Heurik, who is a friend of his.  The regular police, of course, don’t know that we get these warnings.
The first raid to really scare us came unexpected on December 5 a year ago.  I remember the exact day, because we were just getting ready for a big Saint Nicolas Eve party when Harry’s friend, Marinus Gevens, came rushing in with a warning from Constable van der Heurik that a raid was scheduled on the Janssen farm.
That news was particularly worrisome because other raids had involved the whole neighborhood.  This one was scheduled specifically for the Janssen farm, apparently because someone had spread the word that Jews were hiding here.
At that bad news, we went into our emergency act fast, because we only had a few hours’ warning.  Very quickly, everything that looked like it came from the city, like toothpaste and toothbrushes, had to disappear.
I remember the drill.  My tooth-brushing things went behind a loose brick in the stable at the Main House.  My bed, the old crib, was taken apart, and the parts were mixed into a trash pile.
We had no special hiding place prepared for ourselves.  When night came, Harry walked us deep into De Peel along trails that are hardly used, now that peat harvesting no longer is a big business.
He left us in the hay mow of an abandoned barn.  It has never been colder around here than it was that night.  A frigid wind blew through the openings, and we huddled together against the cold.  And we worried whether we’d ever see Harry again.Rediscovering_My_Childhood.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0

     TITLE                                     HOW TO ORDER                   COST

“I Live in a Chickenhouse”               Click to Purchase              $25 (€15) plus postage

“Ik woon in een kippenhok”              Click to Purchase             €14.90 plus postage

“Ich wohne in einem Hühnerhaus”    Click to Purchase             €14.90 plus postage

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