Den Texstraat 3, 1017 XB Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hugo van Win (October 14, 1920 - May 22, 2004) went into hiding as a forced labourer in Germany under the name Bertus de Witte. He witnessed homo-scene in heavily bombed Berlin, which was never completely eradicated.
Many stories can be told about the colourful and socially active life of the collector, Hugo van Win. As a young Dutchman of Jewish descent he survived Word War II in an exraordinairy way. Escaped from German raids in 1944, he decided to go hiding in the last place the Nazis would look for him: Berlin. About his adventures he wrote the book ‘A Jew in nazi Germany’ which was published in 1997 by A.W.Bruna in Utrecht. Van Win told his unique story in front of the cameras of ‘Survivors of the Shoah’ , the organisation established by Steven Spielberg to record war testimonies for future generations. After the war, Hugo van Win moved to Amsterdam, where in 1946 he was involved (with among others Benno Premsela) in the establishment of COC, the Dutch Federation for the integration of homosexuals. No less than 13 years he was on the board and later he was made a honorary member. His courage, fighting spirit and his financial ingenuity have helped COC survive the difficult first years. The same passion that made him a great and succesful businessman, Hugo van Win applied for his collecting glass. His love for the brilliance, the colour and the sound of fine glass brought him to the most distant places in the world.
Hugo's ancestors came from Rotterdam. They moved to Amsterdam and became diamond workers there. Hugo himself was born on 14 October 1920 in Den Texstraat 3 as the son of Salomon van Win (1891–1955) and Elisabeth de Metz (1892–1975). He had an older brother, Robert (born 1919) and a younger sister, Mieke (born 1929). His father was the founder of liquorice factory De Atlas (1925). This factory was located at Nieuwe Prinsengracht 15, later at Muidergracht 89 and then Duivendrechtsekade 30.
Hugo attended the Reguliersschool, the building on the corner of the Weteringschans and the Reguliersgracht. There he sat in class with Benno Premsela, who later became a famous designer. When Hugo was nine years old, the Palace for People's Work burned down. He saw the giant angel, who was standing on the building, crash down and this made a big impression on the then nine-year-old boy. After the Reguliersschool Hugo went to the 2e Public Trade School. That was equivalent to an HBS – a school between havo and atheneum. Hugh was not raised religiously. His parents were worried about the events in Germany during that period, especially when Hitler came to power in 1933. In the night of 9 to 10 November 1938 it became clear in Europe what Hitler wanted. Then the Kristalnacht was organized. Synagogues were set on fire and destroyed, as were Jewish shops and 30,000 Jews were captured. There was no longer any room for doubt about the intentions of the Nazis. After 1933 refugees had already come to the Netherlands from Germany, after the Kristalnacht the flow of refugees started well. Hugo graduated in 1939 and went to work at Lehmann & Co, a Jewish textile firm and wholesaler in Fashion Articles, at Oudezijds Voorburgwal 107. However, Hugo wanted to go to India and even booked a ticket for a sea trip to the Indies. That never happened, because the war broke out on May 10, 1940. On 15 May 1940, his father wrote in his diary that thousands tried to flee via IJmuiden and Den Helder, which did not work. People committed suicide en masse, the Van Win family sits for hours with the upstairs neighbors, family Snuyff, to talk them out of their suicide plans (they were later murdered in Sobibor). On 16 May 1940 Hugo went to Rotterdam. At Ypenburg, the airport of The Hague, he counts 47 downed aircraft. In Rotterdam, the centre was burned after the bombing; he can look from the Heemraadssingel to the Oostplein. Early in the war Hugo thought about going into hiding. However, this was not easy. You had to have money for it and you had to know the right people. It was not until 1943/44 that the resistance really began to organize itself, but in the first years of the war this was not the case. In those first years, a large part of the Dutch Jews were already sent to the extermination camps via Westerbork. It became difficult for Jews during the occupation, and also for homosexuals. Hugo was both. On July 31, 1940, Ordinance 81 was issued by the Germans that could be used for homosexual acts up to four years in prison. However, the Germans were not satisfied with how the Dutch implemented this measure. Not much was done with it and Van Win writes that homosexuals did come into the concentration camps, but that was because they were homosexual and Jewish, or homosexual and in the resistance.
Whether he was right with this is not clear, there are sources that report that people did end up in the concentration camps because of their homosexuality. In any case, in the concentration camps there was a distinguishing mark for homosexuals, the pink triangle. The Van Win family managed to buy forged identity cards. These costs in that time up to ƒ 1000, – each, a very large amount. The deportations began in early July 1942. The Jews had to report for the so-called "Arbeitseinsatz". The Jewish Council was commissioned to deliver fixed numbers of people from Berlin. Between 14 and 17 July of that year, for example, at least 4000. On Sunday, July 5, those people received a call at home. Some people who received such a call did not trust it and tried to go into hiding. Many others did not trust it either but did not dare to refuse and there was also a part that made it less bad for themselves, thought it would not be too bad, and did report. But in order to be able to supply the number of people, other measures had to be taken and it was decided to carry out raids. It was also effective to use institutions where many Jews were concentrated to provide the required number. Such institutions were Jewish hospitals, psychiatric institutions and retirement homes.
In the Apeldoornsche Bosch, 1100 Jewish mentally ill people were nursed by about 400 nursing staff. On April 1, 1942, the non-Jewish staff were dismissed, who had to be taken from the occupier, and new Jewish nurses were recruited. One of them was Hugo. In January 1943, the order for the evacuation of Bosch in Apeldoorn came from Berlin. This order came from Eichmann personally. On January 11, Aus der Fünten came to the institution and on January 19 it had to be made Jewish-free, which was Nazi language for complete deportation. That would be carried out on the night of 21 to 22 January. Hugo van Win was therefore in a very wrong place. He escaped, via the station at Het Loo and with a forged identity card. With the residents of the Apeldoornsche Bosch it did not go so well. They went to Auschwitz-Birkenau and arrived there on 24 January. Also 50 nurses of which 20 after the promise of Aus der Fünten that they would come back volunteered to accompany the patients and 30 who were appointed went along. The arrival of the transport was terrible. Many mentally ill people were so confused that they tried to flee in Auschwitz-Birkenau and were shot on the spot. The patients were burned alive on the corpses of those who had already been gassed (source: Lou de Jong). Hugo van Win had escaped one of the largest Jewish transports from the Netherlands.... Hugo returned to Amsterdam on a forged identity card. He walked to his parents on the Den Texstraat and soon went to his hiding room in the Alexander Boersstraat (Museum Quarter). Soon extra people in hiding came to live there and Hugo decided that it was better to leave. Through the employment office in Hengelo he was placed with the Arbeitseinsatz in Germany. A strange place to go, but at the same time a place where no Nazi would expect him. On August 17, 1943, his papers were deregistered and he went to Germany. He ended up in Exiles, south of Stuttgart. His stay there was not always easy. For example, he had to forge certificates and an HBS diploma because they were asked for them. He also tried to escape to Switzerland, but the German-Swiss border was too well guarded. During the Arbeitseinsatz one was also entitled to leave. Hugo was allowed to go to his own country for 1 week a year. During a leave of absence he came into contact with a German soldier who had been in Poland. This soldier told him what was going on in the camps in Poland. Hugo decided to go to Amsterdam to warn his family. However, that did not work. Instead, he went to Berlin.
He arrived in Berlin on 1 July 1944. It was totally different there than in Exiles. The city was often bombed. The inhabitants were exhausted and ran out of food and drink. Hugo experienced more than 300 bombings in Berlin from July 44 until the end of the war. After July 20, 1944, the atmosphere in Berlin deteriorated even further. A group of senior German officers gradually believed that Hitler was insane, and they made an attempt on his life. This group was led by Claus von Stauffenberg. This group was shot after the attack and now that Hitler got the feeling that even in Berlin his life was not sure, his madness and his conspiracy theories worsened. A week later, on 28 July, Goebbels announced the "Totaler Krieg" (total war). Van Win has had the most bizarre encounters in Berlin. For example, he had dinner in a restaurant and met a group of Dutch people there. This turned out to be the top of the NSB – the Dutch accomplices of the Nazi regime. These NSB members had fled to Berlin after Mad Tuesday. However, it was never discovered that Hugo van Win was Jewish during the time he was in Berlin. Van Win experienced the end of the war in Berlin. This city was then completely in ruins. On 6 May 1945 he left Berlin and went on his way to the Netherlands. It was not without danger and not easy, because on the way a doctor found that he had pleurisy (pleura inflammation). On the way he was recognized for the first time. A son of an NSB member recognized him from before the war, but by now the war was over and it was no longer dangerous to be Jewish. After 23 days of travelling, Hugo van Win arrived in Eindhoven on 29 May 1945. In the Netherlands, many people could not believe that he had survived the war as a Jew in Germany. After a week he was told that his parents had also survived the war and Hugo wanted to return to Amsterdam quickly. When he came home to the Den Textraat, his father, mother, grandmother and his sister were still alive. His mother's two sisters had been murdered. A month and a half later they found out that Hugo's brother, Robert, had survived the war in London. They turned out to be one of the few families that, apart from the aunts, was still largely alive. They had lost the things in the house, shortly after their departure from the Den Textraat their house was pulsed. Although the entire house was owned by Hugo's father, an NSB family had moved in there in the meantime. However, Father Van Win did not wait for any legal proceedings and this family told that they could leave. After a few days they were gone. The Van Win family was able to return to their own home. Hugo van Win became active in many areas after the war. He was on the board of the COC for many years and was treasurer of this organization. When his father died in 1955, he took over his business, Dropfabriek and Importhandel De Atlas. After Steven Spielberg recorded Schindler's List in Krakow, he was approached to tell his story for the project Survivors of the Shoah, which Spielberg started with. In addition to the book "A Jew in Nazi Berlin", his story was also recorded by Spielberg.
Hugo van Win died on 22 may 2004, at the age of 83.
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