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Jacob Abas

Jacob describes a time he and his father had an encounter with the Dutch police.

Jacob (Jakob) Abas was born June 3, 1929, in Rotterdam, Netherlands. His father, Benjamin Abas was a horse butcher, and his mother Theodora Leevwrik was a midwife. His younger sister Anya died before the war from heart problems, and he had two brothers: Willem and Josef.

Jacob’s family had a mix of religion. Theodora converted to Judaism to marry Benjamin, so Jacob’s extended family consisted of Christians, Jews, and atheists. He went to public school and did not attend synagogue frequently but was aware of being Jewish. He remembers attending Jewish camps in the summer, but not being exposed to the religious aspects of Judaism outside of those camps. Along with his mother and brother Josef, Jacob moved in with his grandmother, aunt, and uncle. He remembers not being allowed to leave his house often and being restricted from going certain places because of anti-Jewish laws.

Jacob and his family were able to avoid roundups because of his parents’ mixed marriage. They were allowed to stay together under the conditions that everyone was baptized and attended church, and that the non-Jewish spouse (Theodora) was pure ‘aryan’ for at least three generations. Jacob and his family joined the Dutch Reform Church, and Jacob became a member of the Liberal Christian Youth Centre. His parents joined the Dutch underground and worked creating false papers and distributing them in the youth group Jacob had joined.

Jacob was liberated by Canadian forces in 1945. He returned to school for engineering and met his wife Nelly, who was in a POW camp in Japan during the war. They got married in 1957 and migrated to Toronto the same year. In Toronto, Jacob worked as an engineer for ten years, and then computer programming until he retired. He had two daughters and one son with Nelly.

Jacob Abas died in 2016, and his full testimony is part of the Canadian Collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. It is preserved in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive and accessible through the Ekstein Library.

Jacob Abas

My father tried to signal that I should leave but I didn’t notice him doing that. So, I came in and there were three Dutch policemen.