The maternal line

Yad Vashem displays scrapbooks by women hiding Jewish babies

Holocaust museum displays three books recently added to its archives that were put together by women who hoped the children’s mothers would see them one day

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Photos from a baby book kept by the adoptive mother who sheltered 
Efraim Kochava during the Holocaust (Courtesy)
Photos from a baby book kept by the adoptive mother who sheltered Efraim Kochava during the Holocaust (Courtesy)

Baby books, the carefully curated scrapbooks and diaries of a baby’s early development, are usually put together by a baby’s mother.

Several baby books recently given to the Holocaust remembrance center Yad Vashem are full of first photos, scribbled anecdotes and notes marking the babies’ development, from weight and measurements to first sounds, words and sentences.

Yet these particular baby books were fastidiously kept by the women who hid a Jewish child, with the hope that their birth mothers would be able to read them after the war.

One book tracks the development of Efraim Kochava, born in 1942 in Holland, and immediately given to his parents’ Dutch friends, the Mintzes — Max, who was Jewish and Jacqueline, who was Christian and called him Ernst.

The book chronicles Jacqueline’s struggles as an adoptive parent, doing her best in a difficult situation.

Kochava’s parents were killed during the war and his adoptive father, Max, was also taken to a work camp. After the war, Kochava’s surviving relatives found him and wanted to raise him, winning custody of the little boy.

Photos of Efraim Kochava, called Ernst Mintz by his adoptive parents, in the baby book kept by his parents’ friends who sheltered him during the Holocaust (Courtesy)

His adoptive father, Max, had survived, but Jacqueline became sick and died, and Kochava never saw them after his new family moved to Israel.

It was only years later, when Kochava was in his early 20s, that he learned about his adoptive parents, and made contact with Max, eventually receiving a translated version of his meticulously kept baby book.

“It shows us that the Holocaust didn’t simply end in 1945. There were many consequences that affected those who survived,” said Orit Noiman, who heads the Collection and Registration Section in the Yad Vashem archives.

Another baby book chronicles the early years of Avraham Packer, who was taken care of by Maria, when his mother had to part with him and his other siblings during the war.

Photos from a baby book kept by the adoptive mother who sheltered Avraham Packer during the Holocaust (Courtesy)

Even after Maria had her own first child near the end of the war, she continued documenting Packer’s early years, and kept the album safe until his parents, who survived, were able to reunite with him at the end of the war.

Packer and his family kept in touch with Maria and the baby book was used as evidence in their recognition of her as Righteous Among the Nations.

Rolf Stibbe with the mother who sheltered him during and after the Holocaust (Courtesy)

The final baby book in the Yad Vashem collection was kept for Rolf Stibbe, also born in 1942 and adopted by the Kirpenstijn family, educators who opened their home to Stibbe and other children they sheltered during the war.

Stibbe’s family was murdered in Auschwitz and Sobibor, and he was raised by his adoptive parents well into his teenage years.

As Stibbe grew up, he was taught about his Judaism by his adoptive parents and ended up later emigrating to Israel.

“His adoptive mother, his savior, understands that she is keeping this boy,” said Noiman, “and she keeps the diary as well and describes his upbringing, protecting his Jewishness throughout his early life.”

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