Saved 600 children – Amsterdam Municipality

Henriëtte Pimentel (1876-1943) was the director of the nursery at Plantage Maidenlane. Together with a small group of allies, she smuggled about 600 Jewish children from there to hideout. Tuesday 19 April is the opening of the Henriëtte Pimentel Bridge. The beautiful bridge over Mauritskade in the direction of the Tropenmuseum will officially get its name.

Henriëtte Pimentel became a heroine in World War II. She helped save hundreds of Jewish children, risking her life.

jewish family

Pimentel came from a rich Jewish family with children. I grew up in the ghetto at the time, between Amstel, Sarvatistraat and Plantage Midelan. Her father died young, but he left her mother financially behind.

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Henriette Pimentel with a child. Photo: The Jewish Historical Museum Collection.

heart for children

Henriëtte Pimentel had a big heart for children. She worked a lot with children and immersed herself in modern teaching methods. In 1926, she became the director of “Vereeniging Zuigelingen-Inrichting en Kinderhuis”, founded in 1906 by Jewish benefactors, at Plantage Midenlan 31. Children of all denominations can go to this modern nursery, with a beautiful playground and brightly colored classrooms.

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Hollandschaeusburg. Here the Jews gathered, and then were deported to extermination camps.

Aggregation

In 1942, the German occupiers captured Hollandsche Schauburg across the street across from the nurseries. There gathered tens of thousands of imprisoned Jews from Amsterdam and the surrounding area. From there they usually go after a few days by train to Westerbork and then to the extermination camp.

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Registering the arrested Jews in Hollandsche Schauburg.

Progress

The theater was clearly not suitable for housing hundreds of adults and their children. The building has become overcrowded and there are few sanitation facilities. This is why the Germans also confiscated the Pimentel children’s nursery across the street. Dozens of children up to the age of 12 lived there temporarily. Waiting for transportation with their parents.

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Children in the nursery. Photo: NIOD.

smuggling

It turns out that it is possible to smuggle children from the nursery to a lair. Of course, the parents had to give permission for this. This was a painful, difficult and bitter decision for the parents. They abandoned their child, while their fate and that of their child(ren) was shrouded in darkness. The names of the children also had to be removed from the registration of the Germans, so that they would not become “missing”, with all the life-threatening consequences of this. Child smuggling was a complex and dangerous operation.

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Henriette Pimentel. Photo: The Jewish Historical Museum Collection.

Smuggling was carried out in different ways. Sometimes, for example, the nanny takes the child to an assistant at Artis near the corner. Then the person took the child to the lair. Children could also sometimes join the trams that ran slowly through Plantage Midenlane. The tram acted like a screen for children to hide in. Then the Germans did not see them across the street in Schaeuburg. Children were also smuggled out of the nursery through the back garden. Henriëtte Pimentel has worked with Wouter Süskind, Johan van Hulst, and Felix Halverstad, among others.

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Henriëtte Pimentel in her study. 1932. Photo: The Jewish Historical Museum.

“Godenren”

Deportations from Amsterdam began in July 1942. On July 23, 1943, a car burglar stopped in front of the nursery. After that, 99 percent of the employees and children were arrested. Two people managed to hide, but 37 adults and 70 children, including Pimentel, were taken. They went first to Polderweg, then to the stations Muiderpoort and Westerbork. On September 14, 1943, Henriette Pimentel arrived at Auschwitz. She was gassed almost instantly.

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The beautiful bridge over Moritzkade in 1932, now named after a huge woman.

On September 29, 1943, according to the Germans, Amsterdam was “Judenrein”. According to them, the greatest crime in the history of the city is over. Of the 80,000 Amsterdam Jews, approximately 60,000 were murdered. As a result, the city of Amsterdam changed from a “mukum”, beloved by Jews, to a permanently “guilty” place.

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Nurseries in 1942. Henriëtte Pimentel not pictured.

Esther Chaea and Frank Heminga wrote “Wait But – Henriette Pimentel’s Incredible Life”. Together with Fokko Weerstra and Henk Dijkman they requested the name of the bridge.

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