Risk and Resistance: The Elise Kann Jaeger Collection (Curators' Corner #18)

Uploaded by ushmm on 24.05.2012

Susan Snyder: The Elise Kann Collection is a collection of stamps, documents, and some
photographs that Elise Kann Jaeger donated to the Museum. The Kann Collection has been
a great help in, in understanding more about resistance, resistance activities in the Netherlands.
We really don't have anything this exemplary that really explains the process of forging
identification cards.
Elise Kann was one of four children--Jewish children--living in the Netherlands. When
the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Elise Kann's mother was friends with Molly von Heel. And
Molly had approached Elise's mother and said, "You're in danger, you're Jewish, it's 1942.
You really need to go into hiding and we want to help you." And Elise's mother didn't want
to do that; she wasn't ready. Some time had passed, she [Molly] came back and she said,
"Look, you might not want to go into hiding yourself, but you have to think of your children."
So, she agreed to go ahead and place her children in hiding with a number of rescuers. It turned
out that Elise and her sister, Judit, were in hiding with Molly von Heel and her husband
The von Heels lived in Eindhoven, a Phillips company was in Eindhoven, and there were people
who were working in the company and they, they got together as a group and they decided
they needed to rescue Jews, help people, work with the resistance. And the von Heels didn't
want to do that because they didn't want to be part of a group. Nevertheless, they wanted
to help. It really probably came to a head when Mrs. von Heel, Molly von Heel's brother,
who was performing resistance activities, was arrested and was killed. And they took
over her brother's efforts and continued on from there.
In other countries, you have experiences where people would purchase baptismal papers or
birth certificates from non-Jews and just walk into an office and have cards issued
to them using that piece of paper. This is different because they were actually making
the identification cards in their house, which is highly unusual, because you needed the
stamps, you needed a variety of devices to make it work. And they stole these things,
they managed to steal these, or they worked with the underground, who obtained them for
them, or Elise explained to me that Mr. von Heel and Mrs. von Heel also obtained some
of these things from her brother, who had himself stolen some of these stamps and used
some of these materials and ink bottles to forge the identification papers.
The collection Elise gave to us contains a number of blank pages, full documents. They
also had a book, which was printed by the Nazis in the Netherlands, which really was
interesting because it's a, it's a number by number description of every identification
card that is thought to be stolen or forged. And this enabled them to also know what numbers
were problematic.
In addition, there were notes that Mr. von Heel had included in the collection, which
were sort of his personal notes and crib sheets as to what to do, what numbers not to use.
Sort of Cliff Notes, his Cliff Notes, per se, as to how to create the identification
Elise talks about one evening walking into a room that they weren't really supposed to
go into and she walked in and she walked in on Mr. von Heel, who had materials out and
only later she could surmise that he was probably forging identification cards, creating these
forged papers. And she asked--she did not ask him about it, but he said to her, "Please
leave and don't ever talk about this."
Elise kept in touch with the von Heels after she was liberated. And, and she would go back
periodically to visit once she was living in the United States. And at one of these
visits she approached Mr. von Heel and she asked him about it, and he went into the other
room, and he got out a box, and it was the box with the stamps, the ink, the blank pages,
everything, and he explained to Elise what he was doing, and what Molly was doing.
By giving the artifacts to the Museum she can also tell the von Heels' story, which
is for her very important. She was very close to this family, they saved her life and her
sister's life, and she knows that they rescued a number of other people, so for her, it was
one more way in which, I think, she could honor these people.