of the Barneveld Jews is not a very happy one. While more than 102.000
fellow Jews perished in the extermination camps of Birkenau and
Sobibor, these fortunate ones were singled out for survival. We should
remember that survival was on the mind of everyone, no matter how such
survival was obtained. Some went into hiding while family members were
rounded up for extermination. A few managed to escape from Westerbork
at the expense of dozens who were placed on the next deportation train.
Others, while incarcerated at Westerbork, tried to secure positions of
importance that would guarantee, at least for the time being,
postponement or perhaps even exemption from deportation to the east.
The successful ones were called the Prominent. Then there were those
who managed to survive this most horrible ordeal using their God-given
musical or cabaret talents while others were sent to their death. No
matter what, survival must have been on the minds of everyone. Only the
more fortunate ones were able to find a way out. These were the ones
who through sheer determination managed to survive grueling circum-
stances, unfortunately more than once at the expense of the lives of
The movie, Een Gelukkige Tijd - A Happy Time describes the life of some seven hundred prominent Dutch Jews during a time when more than 102.000 less fortunate companions perished in the extermination centers of Auschwitz/Birkenau and Sobibor. The documentary Een Gelukkige Tijd was produced by Paul Cohen and Oeke Hoogendijk, and released by NPS distribution: Netherlands Film Museum. Een Ge- lukkige Tijd was first shown on Dutch TV on Monday 18 May 1998. The movie ironically is labelled by some Geen Gelukkige Tijd - No Happy Time.
The documentary follows the relatively unknown story of some seven hundred prominent Dutch Jews referred to as the Barneveld groep - Barneveld group. Most survived the Holocaust. The seven hundred selected ones were interned in a castle near the town of Barneveld in the province of Gelderland from the end of 1942 toward the beginning of 1943. These Barnevelders were thus called because when in 1942 most Jews in the Netherlands were hunted down and rounded up for extermination in Nazi Germany's death camps, these prominent fellow Jews enjoyed certain protection and even limited freedom while at castle De Schaffelaar because of status and because of connection.
The Barneveld group was indebted to mr. K. J. Frederiks, LL.M. Frederiks was the Secretary General for Internal Affairs in the Netherlands before the war and during the Nazi occupation years. He intervened on behalf of the Barneveld Jews. Frederiks asked Rauter, the Höhere SS und Polizeiführer - Higher SS and Police Chief, to guarantee the exemption from deportation for a number of "well deserving Dutch Jews." The fanatic Jew hater Rauter refused to do so. Afterwards Frederiks visited Schmidt, the representative for the NSDAP - Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei -National Socialist German Labor Party - in the Netherlands. Schmidt approved the deal. Because of animosity between Rauter and Schmidt, Frederiks got his wish playing one out against the other.
Frederiks finally got permission from the Nazi authorities to compose a list of "deserving Dutch Jews." These, together with their families, were to be exempted from deportation to concentration or work camps. Or rather, it was believed these were concentration or work camps. These aforementioned prominent Dutch Jews included for the most part scientists, artists, physicians and industrialists, but also others were added to the list of the prominent. Hundreds others, however, who sought inclusion in this much sought after list were rejected. We may never forget that survival must have been foremost upon the minds of these members of our society. Certain survival techniques may not be considered ethical solutions by some, but when persecution knocks at the door, how would we have reacted?
While fellow Jews were systematically and unceremoniously hauled from their homes and deported via Westerbork to the death camps, these Jews, known as the Barnevelders, found refuge in castle De Schaffelaar. With the exception of a few elderly people all Barnevelders would survive the war. Albeit, in the end, they too were deported via Westerbork to Theresienstadt. In Theresienstadt, most received the status of prominence once again and a few even were released into the hands of the Red Cross to be transferred to Switzerland. After the war some, not all, surviving Barnevelders understandably felt constrained and remained silent about their time spent in the castle.