On 15 September 1941 Julius ten Brink and two other Jewish residents were taken away from Denekamp. Just over a month later the news came that he had died in Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. A year later, his wife Hennie, his daughters Hannie and Lida, his father Isaäk, his brother Mauritz and his family were all taken from their homes in Denekamp and not long after murdered in Auschwitz. As to how and why the 43 year-old Julius had to die … after 1942 none of the family was left in Denekamp to pose the question.
Julius was the youngest brother of my grandmother Julia Löwenhardt-ten Brink. How I wish that, as a boy, I could have known her, her two brothers and three sisters – all born in Denekamp between 1890 and 1902. Now I am older than they ever would be and I feel it my duty to find out what happened to them.
Julius ten Brink had the doubtful honour of being one the first three Denekamp Jews to be murdered during the war. For a description of the events leading up to his death in October 1941 I recommend the words of schoolmaster/local historian Dingeldein. 1 He speaks to us directly from his wartime journal:
‘Sept. 16. Tuesday. At 12 midday I heard: 1st. That Isaäk Suskind and Julius ten Brink were arrested and taken away yesterday evening – this being accompanied by heartbreaking scenes. 2nd. Also, that Lutze Elkus, who was already under arrest, was taken away…’ ‘…Terrible scenes unfolded when Suskind and Ten Brink were taken away. This difficult task was given to the marechaussees (gendarmes) and rural constables – very much against their will. The farewells were heartbreaking …’ ‘…It was said that the Jews who had been arrested would be sent to a lead and zinc factory in Germany – others say a mercury mine in Austria.’
‘October 12. The families of the abducted Denekamp Jews I. Suskind, Julius ten Brink and L. Elkus have received printed message cards saying that they are healthy and in a concentration camp near Linz. The cards were signed by each of the three concerned.
October 20. Monday. Maurits ten Brink has received news that his brother Julius is already dead. He dared not tell his sister-in-law: the doctor had to do it. None of the Jews will come back alive.
October 21. Tuesday. Maurits ten Brink has received notification that his brother Julius died on the 10th of this month. His father or widow must report to the local commandant in Enschede tomorrow to sign a declaration that he died a natural death and to collect his clothes. Neither of them could manage anything like that!’
The notification Mauritz held in his hands on 21 October is one of the few documents that have survived. This Todfallsaufnahme number H B330/”41” dated 14 October 1941 K.L.Mauthausen, is printed in Jewish Life in Denekamp. 2 Julius, ‘Viehhändler (Häftling), is listed as dying on ‘10 Okt. geg. 7.15 Uhr’. The form has been properly completed, everything is in order … but no cause of death is given.
Why were Julius and his two fellow villagers killed so soon after being made prisoner? Why in Mauthausen? Jacques Presser’s Ondergang sketches the context of ‘Round-ups in the east’. 3 Involved here was a third wave of reprisal arrests. The first was in the Amsterdam Jewish quarter in February – the direct cause of the February strike. The second round was in June. The third wave came in the night of 13/14 September in the Gelderland and Twente areas. The reason cited in Twente was the cutting of two telephone wires (still above ground on poles at that time) by parties unknown. As a reprisal, just over a hundred men aged between 17 and 60 were taken in as hostages and sent off to a concentration camp. In November the figure of 105 deportees from Twente was mentioned – of whom 65 had already ‘died’ of dysentery, influenza, sun-stroke, cardiac valve failure and other concocted causes.
Julius was arrested on the evening of Monday 15 September as part of the ‘third wave’. On the night of 13/14 September a group of 68 men had been arrested in Enschede. Three men from Denekamp and Jewish men from other municipalities were added to the party. Hans de Vries gives a likely reason for the speedy deaths. 4 He takes the position that Mauthausen played a unique role in western Europe in the destruction of Dutch jewry. In 1941 the Nazis were not so much interested in the deployment of slave workers or Vernichtung durch Arbeit – destruction by labour. If that were the case the men from Twente – as yet not weakened by malnutrition – could have kept going for a while. The Mauthausen deaths of 1941 were designed to intimidate Dutch Jews, and to make them amenable in the run up to the deportations scheduled for 1942. The spectre of an imminent death in Mauthausen (cynically nicknamed ‘Murder-housing ’) was meant to psychologically soften-up the vast majority of Dutch Jews – accustomed to living in a society without political violence – for deportation to ‘work’ camps in ‘the east’. Indeed, at the least it would give them a ‘second chance’.
And so, the Jews picked up in the waves of arrests in 1941 had to be killed as soon as possible. In Enschede the chairman of the Jewish council, Sig Menko, received the death notices from Mauthausen. For this he had to go to what had been his own villa on the Tromplaan – now commandeered by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). His wife Emmy then took the terrible news around to the next-of-kin. On 21 October 1941, the day in which Mauritz in Denekamp was informed about Julius’s death, Sig Menko collected a batch of 38 death notices from the SD in Enschede. According to Menko’s notebook he was told that Julius, the 22nd death, had died of ‘peritonitis’. 5 Isidor van Engel was the 21st case, dated 10 October due to ‘apoplexy’. Mozes Swelheim, No. 23 , due to ‘pleurisy’. During this period Sig Menko and his wife wrote coded letters to his younger brother, Alfred (a medical director) and his wife Fré, who lived in New York. These letters gave news of one family member after another who had ‘gone to be with father and mother’ – who had been dead for ten years. 6
But why were Julius and the other two doomed? Julius (43) was in his prime, living with his wife and daughter in a large, new house that he had had built not long before. Hannie (Johanna) had celebrated her fourth birthday in July, and Lida was eleven months. The fact that their father had been selected was a sharp blow to the Jewish community and maximized intimidation.
Did Julius have any chance at all? In 1988 Mina Tukkers – a friend of his wife Hennie – said that Constable Weerkamp had given Julius two hours notice that he would be coming to pick him up. 7 The assumption is that Mayor Van der Heijden – who may well have been obliged to select the men in the first place – was giving him the chance to go into hiding. 8
Dingeldein gives evidence of the effectiveness of this intimidation. As early as 20 October 1941 he wrote in his journal that ‘None of the Jews will come back alive’. Less than a month after the death of Julius and Isaäk Suskind and Lutze Elkus – the three men from Denekamp – he noted:
8 November. ‘…Concerning the fate of the Jews who have been taken away. The following possibilities are considered: 1. Immediately shot. They have specially selected criminal types to do this – they shoot them without warning after the interrogation – in another room. 2. Tortured to death in terrible ways. 3. Used as guinea pigs to test the effects of poison gas on human beings. 4. Used as “rabbits” in the preparation of serums, e.g. for tetanus.’
We will never know how Julius died. Tortured to death in Mauthausen’s quarries ? Was he one of those hopeless souls who jumped into the deep quarries – sometimes hand-in-hand? Did he die in one of the many peripheral camps? Did he get a bullet in the back of the neck? Or was he suffocated by carbon-monoxide in the gas chamber at nearby Schloss Hartheim? And – few hours later – did his ashes float down the Danube?
Pointers to the last option bode ill. Every day two buses with blacked-out windows left Mauthausen for this ‘euthanasia station’, the site of an operation built in 1939-1940 to reduce the human body to ashes within four hours. The ashes were then dumped in the Danube. Each bus carried 35 men. 9 The list of 105 Jewish men from Drente who ‘passed away’ in Mauthausen shows that many died in small groups on one and the same day. 10 There were seven on 10 October 1941. Alongside Julius and the previously mentioned Isidor van Engel from Goor, there were Mozes Swelheim from Almelo, Joseph van Haren from Haaksbergen, Theodoor Heijmans from Enschede, Ruben Löwenstein from Oldenzaal, and Barend Menko from Delden. Julius’s prisoner number in Mauthausen was 6491. This group of seven, plus ten more Dutch Jews were all declared dead in Mauthausen on 10 October 1941 – while the space behind their numbers in the camp’s Nummerbuch was left empty. Although I would have wished him a gentle death I fear that Julius also underwent Sonderbehandlung/special treatment in Schloss Hartheim.
Izak S. Suskind and Lutze H. Elkus from Denekamp died on 18 and 22 October 1941 respectively. On 24 November 1942 Julius’ widow Hennie ten Brink-Salomons and her two daughters we put on the train from Westerbork to Auschwitz.
Translated from the Dutch by Anthony Fudge, Amsterdam.
- W. H. Dingeldein, Om niet te vergeten. Notes from the journal of Willem Hendrik Dingeldein covering the period 1940-1945. Stichting Heemkunde Denekamp, 1995.
- Stichting Heemkunde Denekamp, Joods leven in Denekamp. Denekamp, 2002, p. 81.
- Presser, Ondergang, p. 144-46. Jacques Presser’s book was translated in 1968: Ashes in the wind. The Destruction of Dutch Jewry.
- Hans de Vries, ‘Sie starben wie Fliegen im Herbst’, in Mauthausen 1938-1998, Van Gruting, Westervoort 2000, pp. 7-18.
- Enschede city archives, Jewish community archive, Enschede municipality, 226, the ‘Menko boekje’, Julius ten Brink is No. 22 of the 118.
- Jan R. Magnus, Alles zal reg kom. Wartime letters from Sig and Emmy Menko-van Dam. Zutphen, Walburg Pers 2005, p. 122.
- Stichting Heemkunde Denekamp, Joods leven in Denekamp. Denekamp, 2002, p. 86.
- Interview with Sjouke Wynia, Denekamp 3 November 2010.
- Luise Jacobs, ‘De verborgen massamoorden in Schloss Hartheim’, in Mauthausen 1938-1998, Van Gruting, Westervoort 2000, pp. 31-42 op 39 and email from L. Jacobs to the author, 12 December 2010. See also Luise Jacobs, De gaskamer van Schloss Hartheim. Op zondag gesloten. Sosterberg, ASPEKt 2011.
- Marjolein J. Schenkel, De Twentse Paradox. The fate of the Jewish population of Hengelo and Enschede during the Second World War. Zutphen, Walburg Pers, 2003, pp. 67 and 147-50.