Friday , March 24 2023

More names of Antillean WW II victims discovered

The Daily Herald writes that Dutch author and researcher Jos Rozenburg has discovered the names of 37 more people of Dutch Caribbean origin who got killed during World War II.

One of those victims was Saba-born Thelma Esther Polak, who died in Nazi concentration camp Sobibor. War monuments in the Dutch Caribbean mention the names of 129 people from the islands who got killed during WWII in Europe or at sea somewhere in the world, but apparently, there are more victims. Rozenburg found out after years of research that the names of 37 persons were missing. The reason for this lacking information was that many war archives remained closed for decades. Rozenburg, who works as a member of the Dutch naval forces and has been stationed on Curaçao for several years, researched Dutch Caribbean war victims for eight years. His book, The Antilles in WWII (De Antillen in de Tweede Wereldoorlog), will be available in book stores in the Netherlands this Monday and on the islands after May 20.

Much was unknown about Dutch Caribbean war victims. The researcher/author wanted to give these people a face in their honour. The stories of these persons are described in his book, which also gives broad details of the attacks by German submarines on the refinery on Aruba and Curaçao. These refineries were of paramount importance to the allied forces. According to the author, the importance of the islands for the allied forces was great, but the personal sacrifices should not be forgotten.

One example was 23-year-old Saban student nurse Thelma Esther Polak, who worked at the Central Israeli asylum for the insane “Het Apeldoornse Bos.” Together, with more than 1,000 patients, Polak and her colleagues were deported to Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz and Sobibor in Poland during the night of January 21 to 22, 1943. Polak died in Sobibor on March 5 of that same year.

The book also tells the story of reserve-sergeant Charles Marius Debrot from Curaçao who was killed in the line of fire with the Germans at the Ockenburg airport in May 1940. He was buried at honorary military cemetery Grebbeberg in Rhenen.

Rozenburg’s book contains many stories of war victims from Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba. The author presented his book to the Consultative Body for Dutch Caribbean Persons in the Netherlands OCaN on April 30. Rozenburg will present his book to the governors of Aruba and Curaçao next week.

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