Anneke Bloomfield tells her story of courage at Tualatin Library
When Anneke Bloomfield tells audiences about her experience as a survivor of World War II and the Holocaust, like she did at the Tualatin Public Library on Saturday, she dedicates her presentation to her father, Thomas Siebel.
Bloomfield, who now lives in Tualatin, was 5 years old when Adolf Hitler's Germany invaded her home country of the Netherlands. Her family was Jewish, and her educated parents — she described her mother as a "fanatic" about politics and her father as "a reader and a thinker" — knew they would be in grave danger if the Nazi occupiers or their Dutch collaborators found that out.
The family moved to a new home, began going to church and sent the children to a Bible school. Even still, they had to contend with wartime food shortages, sweeps and roundups conducted by German soldiers, and eventually bombings as the tide turned against Hitler.
Three times, Bloomfield was sent away from her home in The Hague to live elsewhere, with her parents fearing the situation in The Hague was too dangerous for her and her siblings to stay there.
They had good reason. Bloomfield recalled horrors she witnessed in The Hague, including when a German soldier banged on the windows of their house and demanded he be let in to search it.
The soldier searched the Siebels' home, including Anneke's room, looking for anyone who might be hiding. The event traumatized the young girl.
"I was so scared when he came to my bedroom," Bloomfield said. "I had nightmares for a couple years after that."
Bloomfield was sent away for the third and final time to Heerenveen, in the north of the country, where she would ultimately witness the retreat of German forces and the liberation of the Netherlands, after a near miss while running an errand for her father in the Dutch resistance.
As she made her way through the streets of The Hague, she saw two men try to evade detention by German soldiers beneath an underpass.
"It didn't work," she said. "They got pushed up on the wall, and they got shot."
Bloomfield made it back home without being caught, but she was badly frightened and her father decided she was no longer safe in The Hague.
But even after the occupation ended and Bloomfield returned home from Heerenveen, nothing was the same.
"It took Anneke three years to reestablish a relationship with her father, which she was never able to do with her mother," said her partner, Jerry Paster, who accompanies her to her speaking events.
He added, "People think that just because the war's over, everything comes back to normal. It doesn't."
Bloomfield's older brother became permanently estranged from their parents. He moved to Canada, and eventually Bloomfield followed him before meeting a man, getting married and moving to the United States.
Bloomfield is an outreach speaker for the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education, and she and Paster travel together to speak at places like the Tualatin Library.
Six million Jews died in the Holocaust, systematically exterminated by the Nazis and fascist puppet regimes across continental Europe. Millions more died in Nazi death camps as well — Slavs, Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, the physically and mentally disabled, political prisoners, and others.
By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times