Thursday, 12 July 2018

A memorial and a name

“Que vivra verra” - "Time will tell." 
French proverb

"To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name 
better than sons and daughters; 
I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever" 
Isaiah 56:5

Charlotte Mina and her twin sister Lilly Johanna Samuel were born on March 18, 1909 in Antwerp, Belgium. During the First World war the family moved to Hamburg, Germany. In 1929 they settled in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Lot studied drawing and painting and Lilly studied photography in Berlin.

Then WWII broke out and also the Netherlands were occupied by the Nazis. In 1941, Lilly lived on Prinsengracht 824 III in the center of Amsterdam until in 1942 the razzias and deportations forced the sisters to go into hiding.

Lilly had been the photographer of pastor Bastiaan (Bas) and Johanna (Jo) Ader’s wedding. 

The couple  had moved to a small village in the eastern part of Groningen province, not far from the German border.

“One person of integrity can make a difference.” 
Elie Wiesel

“Take the last train from Amsterdam and come as quickly as possible,” Mrs. Ader answered Lilly who had asked them if she could hide with them. Under cover of darkness she arrived in the summer of 1942. 

Calling herself ‘Lily Salomon’ she was also nicknamed ‘little mouse’.
Lilly’s friend Elly van Gelder, Johanna Ruth Dobshiner and another Jewish person also found a hiding place in the parsonage. The following winter two students joined them.  Refusing to work for the Nazis, Dik 1 and Dik 3, cousins from Pastor Ader, had no other option than to go into hiding.

Being a professional photographer, Lilly had taken her camera and a few precious rolls of film with her to Groningen. However, the pictures taken while they were in hiding could of course not be developed during the war. Together with Jo Ader’s diary, the rolls of film were hidden in a milk can and buried near a friend’s farm and beehives placed on top to conceal the hiding place. 
Lilly: second right

After the war, Jo’s diary was published, first in Dutch and later translated into different languages; Lily’s 81 pictures now give us a unique glimpse of daily life in hiding.

Throughout de day, the pastor and his wife could always expect visitors, so the people in hiding had to keep quiet and stay put in a few square meters. You never knew whom to trust, for the danger of betrayal always lurked around the corner.

In 1944, a villager (who never confessed nor denied his deed) betrayed pastor Ader. Forced to find a hiding place for himself, he was captured a month later and thrown into prison. Those hiding in the parsonage also had to find a new hiding place. Lilly and her friend declined the resistance’s offer to help them to travel to the recently liberated southern part of the Netherlands. Instead, they returned to Amsterdam, were caught and sent to the Westerbork transit camp. Lilly’s name is on the Auschwitz transport list of September 30, 1944.

On November 20, 1944, the Nazis executed pastor Ader and five resistance fighters in a forest in central Netherlands. Bas Ader and his team of resistance workers had saved between 200 and 300 Jewish people; he also sheltered English pilots and resistance workers.

“If life is not a celebration, why remember it? 
If life - mine or that of my fellow man - is not an offering to the other, 
what are we doing on this earth?”  
Elie Wiesel

Charlotte (Lot) survived the war by hiding in eight different places, only to learn that her twin sister had been murdered by the Nazis. When she made Aliyah, among her possessions was a cardboard box with some of Lily’s photos, which nobody was allowed to see during her life time. 

Lot Samuel, who in Israel worked as a physiotherapist, became a good friend of Hannah Yachin. When they named their newborn daughter Ora, Lot asked them to add her name as well. From then on, it was “Oralot”.

While growing up, Oralot loved the book by Erich Kästner (1899 - 1974) “The Double Lotte” – the English title is “Lisa and Lottie”. This book inspired the movie “The Parent Trap”. Surprisingly, the Hebrew book is titled, “The Double Ora”. 

After ‘Grande Lot’ (as she was called by the Yachin family)  passed away at the age of 97, the cardboard box went to her friend Hannah, who stored it on the highest shelf in their book case.

Later, when 'Petite Lot' went through an emotionally very difficult time, Hannah gave her the cardboard box.
Sifting through the pictures, Oralot also found Lilly’s last letter. It was written while she was imprisoned in the Westerbork transist camp, exactly 70 years earlier, on May 3, 1944!

“We don’t know what will happen to us,” she wrote to her sister. “Who will live, will see.”

Those words became Oralot’s lifeline and the starting point of a special exhibition.
“I felt that it was me who lives and must see, me who has to collect and rebuild myself though the will of the hidden twin sister inside me,” Oralot wrote in the exhibition’s  introduction leaflet.

After having immersed herself for four years in the lives of Lot and Lilly Samuel, she decided to share their art - Lilly’s pictures and Lot’s etchings - and their lives with the public.

Lilly's picture and the book about the Groningen parsonage where she was in hiding

And by doing so, not only did Oralot find her way to live and hope again, but through this exhibition bore witness, for the dead and the living.

“Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, 
must tell the story. That is his duty.”
Elie Wiesel

Oralot with Lot and Lilly Samuel


“Selected to Live “ by Ruth Dobshiner
“A Groningen Parsonage in the Storm”- Johanna Ader
„Lisa and Lottie“ by  Erich Kastner


Yad Vashem: Ader family: