Burlington resident Betty Laron was 11 year old Betty Rosenberg, a member of a Dutch-Jewish family when the German army invaded Holland in 1940. The family lived in the village of Zevenaar, just a couple of miles from the German border. For the first couple of years of the occupation, things weren’t too bad, and Betty’s father was one of a number of community leaders who served on the Jewish Council—an organization that served as an instrument for organizing the identification of Jews more efficiently. While the Jews on the council were convinced by the Nazis that they were helping the Jews, by 1942 all Jews were ordered to wear the yellow Star of David; and Betty’s father realized that it was only a matter of time before everyone would be persecuted. Restrictive measures deepened. A curfew was imposed on all Jews and most of their property was confiscated. Jews with skills and education were deported to work in Germany on the war effort and the first rumours of concentration camps emerged. By September of 1942, Betty’s father determined that the family would have to go into hiding. Amazingly they were able to find a family willing to take them. “We had to be so careful,” remembered Betty, “we couldn’t go into a home where there were small children for fear they might tell somebody at school.” Once they went into hiding in the fall of 1942, it would be 786 days before any member of the Rosenberg family would feel safe enough to step outdoors. Betty’s father kept track of the days marking them off on the wall. The husband of the family that sheltered the Rosenbergs was a woodworker. He started making and selling wooden toys, which quickly became much in demand at a time of extreme shortages of all consumer goods. Mr. Rosenberg was handy with tools and for the rest of the confinement was able to contribute to his family’s upkeep by helping make toys. Times were hard and food was scarce but the two familes were able to survive on vegetables they grew and the occasional chicken, which, when available would be a source of great celebration.
“We were able to keep track of the war outside by listening to clandestine radios,” remembered Betty. “So we knew the Allies had invaded Normandy and that they were heading our way.” Then around Easter of 1945, suddenly there were almost no Germans seen in Zevenaar. They had apparently disappeared overnight. Betty can still remember the day when the Canadians marched into town. “They came walking around the corner with daffodils on their helmets. The Dutch people had given them to the soldiers. The Canadians shared cigarettes and chocolate with the locals. Betty and their family were still afraid to venture outside amid rumors that some townspeople had been murdered on the day of liberation, apparently by Nazi stragglers. Finally at 2 in the afternoon the Rosenbergs emerged from two years of confinement. “ We hadn’t been on the street in two years,” said Betty, “I thought I was dreaming.”