A “cuddly donkey” used by children who were detained in the war in Camp Westerbork, has returned to this camp after 76 years
The cuddly toy was produced in the camp during the war. Yesterday the Polak family, who owns the toy, handed it back to the Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork.
Jet Polak, later Snijders-Polak, was born in Amsterdam in April 1943. A few months later – presumably – her parents received the donkey from a family named Duizend as a birth gift. This is particularly striking because the birth gift came from Camp Westerbork, where the Duizend family was staying.
Guido Abuys, curator of the Camp Westerbork Memorial Center, did not know what happened to him when he was approached by email about the stuffed animal. “A shock came through me. The first thing I did was walk down to the museum to watch the Westerbork movie (made in 1944, ed.).”
The film shows how cuddly toys were put together in World War II. They were produced in Camp Westerbork for export to Germany. According to Abuys, a certain quantity had to be delivered and the workers were also tied to working hours.
“My father put the toy in the cupboard”
If the amount of toys had already been made, but the working day was not over, more could be made for camp commander Gemmeker or as presents. It is likely that Mrs. Duizend worked in that toy factory on the camp site and that way she got one to send on.
The Duizend family did not survive the war and was taken to Sobibor concentration camp. The Polak family stayed behind with the toy. “My father put it in the cupboard, we were not allowed to play with it,” says Snijders-Polak. “I never gave it to my children either. It was put in the cupboard and it never came out again.”
Source and more information: RTV Drenthe
Image: Camp Westerbork, now a remembrance centre. Image via Bert Kaufman on Flickr