Maud Dahme, a hidden child of the Holocaust and a champion of human rights around the world, told her story of triumphing over the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany at the NCJW Diversity Contest Awards Ceremony at Morris Knolls High School in Rockaway.
Born in Holland in 1936, the speaker told the honorees that after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and took control in 1940, military bases were established all around her town. “Gradually, life for the Jewish community became more and more restricted,” she recalled. “We were forced to wear a yellow star, with the word ‘Jood’ (Dutch for ‘Jew’) on it in black letters. We weren’t allowed to go to parks or restaurants or movies.”
When her family was warned about upcoming arrests of Jews by the Nazis, who had began deporting Jews to concentration camps in 1942, Maud was sent into hiding at age six. She and her four-year-old sister Rita were separated from their parents, who were helped by Righteous Rescuers in another town. “My parents told us we were ‘going on vacation,’ so at first we were very excited,” she notes. “Then someone came to our house at 3 a.m. and told us we were ‘leaving right now.’”
Maud Dahme, center, the special guest speaker at our NCJW Diversity Contest Awards Ceremony, congratulates the contest grand prize winners (from left) Valentina Squizziato, Patrycja Sosniak, Maria Papera, and Mary Kate Vowells.
Photo Credit: Stella Hart Public Relations/Jen Costa
Once she and her sister were placed with a farm family they did not know, they had to answer to different names and they could never reveal that they were Jewish, even though they had come from an Orthodox Jewish family. “It was very scary and hard for us to understand. But if we had ever revealed our religion, that would have put the family who was sheltering us in tremendous danger,” she said. “They risked their lives for us.”
Altogether, she and her sister spent three years in hiding. They were shuttled to another family when word reached the farm where they were living that someone in the neighborhood had told the Nazis that Jewish children were living there. “There was a price on our heads,” she said. “But we survived because people cared.” She urged members of the audience to stand up for what was right to make a difference in the world, as those who sheltered her family did during the dark days of World War II. Continue reading