PLATTSBURGH — After surviving the Holocaust while hiding in Amsterdam, Louise Lawrence-Israels’s parents decided not to speak about the war and the family they had lost.
Lawrence-Israels spoke recently to an audience at SUNY Plattsburgh about her early childhood memories of the Holocaust and the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
“My parents had one goal, and that goal was to save their two children, and they were successful,” she said.
Lawrence-Israels was born in the Netherlands in 1942, two years after the Nazi invasion of her homeland.
“All Dutch people suffered, not just Jews,” she said.
Nazis would take control of homes and force families to move into their own basements, she said.
Jews weren’t allowed to use public transportation or walk through a park, own a business or keep any valuables.
“Dutch Jews above the age of 6 had to wear a bright yellow star,” she said.
Lawrence-Israels, who lives in Bethesda, Md., made a copy of the yellow star and wore it while speaking at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“The moment I put it on, I feel different, even now, because you’re (the audience) not wearing them.”
In 1943, her family was ordered to move from Haarlem to Amsterdam, where her father was able to locate a place to hide, renting a top-floor apartment of a Dutch row house.
“It was a dusty attic for storage,” she said. “We were very lucky because there was a toilet.”
Her family kept only mattresses, a crib and a camp stove for the apartment, where they would spend the next two years.
“You can only take the bare minimum,” Lawrence-Israels said.
With no TV, radio or newspapers, the family received news from outside the apartment only when her father left to gather food and medicine.
“They were always worried but never reflected it,” she said. “My mother was the courageous one, and my father was the brain, and together they managed to save us.”