Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handcrafted Toys in a Hidden Workshop

Jakob and Jeanette de Jonge lived with their three children – Ruth, Heinrich and Joachim-Max, in the town of Weener, Germany, near the Dutch border. Already at the beginning of the Nazi rise to power, Jakob was arrested under false pretenses, the result of a complaint lodged against him by a local Nazi sympathizer, a disgruntled former customer of Jakob. When released, Jakob was forbidden to return to his hometown and the family wandered about, finally crossing the Dutch border following Kristallnacht.

The workshop in the attic. From the left: Jakob.
Behind his left shoulder is the edge of the workbench.
 Joachim-Max is holding the model plane

In August 1942, the family was ordered to report for deportation. The family immediately took action. Ruth, the eldest daughter, joined the Dutch underground as a scout. Jakob, Jeanette and the two younger boys went into hiding. A member of the underground assisted the de Jonges, finding them a hiding place in the attic of Mrs. Nooitgedagt. Her late husband had been the manager of a carpentry factory, and Mrs. Nooitgedagt brought tools and a workbench to the attic for the family to use. The de Jonges, all of whom had some technical ability, began to create various items from wood – toys, model airplanes and household goods. They gave the toys to the underground who distributed them to children that were hidden in the area. 
Wooden toy that 17-year-old Joachim-Max de Jonge
 crafted while in hiding with his family.  It is now on
display in the "No Child's Play" exhibition at
Yad Vashem 

The de Jonge family survived the Holocaust and donated to Yad Vashem some of the toys that they had crafted while in hiding, as well as the workbench at which the items were made. "These artifacts, and the moving stories that accompany them, serve as the survivor's personal testimony, and in many cases a vital lasting link to the memories of loved ones murdered during the Holocaust," said Haviva Peled-Carmeli, Director of Yad Vashem's Artifacts Department. Created during the upheaval of the Shoah, these handcrafted items are part of Yad Vashem's unique Artifacts Collections which now numbers more than 10,200 items and 14,000 museological pieces. To learn more about these special items, visit the online exhibition "Bearing Witness, Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum collection."

The workbench and other wooden items were the gift of Rosina de Jonge-Nathans and Den Haag of the Netherlands & Jakob de Jonge of Solihull, UK.


  1. What an amazing part of history you shared here! This is truly a remarkable story! :)

  2. very good story. Thanks for sharing this post.