Barbara Ledermann Rodbell
Born: 1925, Berlin, Germany
Describes receiving her first set of false papers [Interview: 1990]
I met a fellow named Art Verstijgen and he had a friend who he told me could get me false papers. Art came to me and he said, "It is time for you to start thinking." Now he was Dutch, he was not Jewish. And he said to me, "It is time for you to start thinking about...uh...doing something about not going." I said, "Art, where do you come off? You know, where do you say such a...?" He said, "I have a friend who told me all about it." And he said, "You need papers." And he said, "It'll be three hundred gulden." I remember that. Three hundred gulden. That was a lot of money, you know. And I came home and I said to my mother that I needed the money and she said, "What for?" And I said, "For the papers." And she said, "Tomorrow, when you go back to school, you'll have it." And those were my first false papers. And they were very bad. But, they saved my life. And, uh, on the papers...in...in those days, at the early days, the...the false papers were of people who died or people who had happened to have really lost them, or...uh...various ways that you could get papers, and what they would do is they would take out the picture of the person--the original person--and insert your...your picture, and your fingerprint, and whatever else they had to cha...to change. And, of course, these were not...uh...papers that had a "J" on it, which stood for...identity papers without a "J." Um, they looked very authentic. Now mine was of a 22-year-old girl. I was 17, maybe, and I looked like 13. Pigtails, little. So, they were unlikely papers, if anybody really stood there and looked at it and it said, this girl is 22 years old, you know. So those were my papers. And I had 'em.
In 1933 Barbara's family moved to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. They became friends of Anne Frank and her family. The Germans invaded the Netherlands in 1940. Barbara's boyfriend, Manfred, had underground contacts and she got false papers. Her mother, sister, and father were deported to the Westerbork camp and then to Auschwitz. Barbara survived using her false papers and worked for the resistance. She helped take Jews to hiding places and also hid Jews in an apartment rented under her false name.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum - Collections