She saved 600 children – Amsterdam municipality

Henriëtte Pimentel (1876-1943) was the director of the nursery at Plantage Middenlaan. Together with a small group of allies, she smuggled about 600 Jewish children from there to a hiding place. On Tuesday 19 April, the Henriëtte Pimentel Bridge will be unveiled. The beautiful bridge over Mauritskade in the direction of the Tropenmuseet then officially gets its name.

Henriëtte Pimentel became a heroine in World War II. At the risk of her own life, she helped save hundreds of Jewish children.

Jewish family

Pimentel came from a Jewish family rich in children. She grew up in the then Jewish quarter between Amstel, Sarphatistraat and Plantage Middenlaan. Her father died young, but left his mother financially well behind.

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Henriette Pimentel with a child. Photo: collection Jewish Historical Museum.

Heart for children

Henriëtte Pimentel had a big heart for children. She worked a lot with children and immersed herself in modern teaching methods. In 1926 she became director of the ‘Vereeniging Zuigelingen-Inretning en Kinderhuis’, which was founded in 1906 by Jewish benefactors, on Plantage Middenlaan 31. Children of all faiths could walk in this modern nursery with a beautiful playground and brightly painted classrooms.

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The Dutch Schouwburg. Here the Jews were gathered, and then deported to the extermination camps.

Collect

In 1942, the ‘Hollandsche Schouwburg’ across the street from the nursery was requisitioned by the German occupiers. There were tens of thousands of arrested Jews from Amsterdam and the surrounding area gathered. And from there they usually went after a few days by train to Westerbork and then to an extermination camp.

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Registration of arrested Jews in Hollandsche Schouwburg.

progress

The theater was obviously not suitable to house many hundreds of adults and their children. The building was overcrowded and there were also too few sanitary facilities. Therefore, the Germans also requisitioned the Pimentel nursery for the children just across the street. Many dozens of children up to the age of 12 lived there temporarily. Waiting for the transport with their parents.

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Babies in the nursery. Photo: NIOD.

smuggling

It turned out to be possible to smuggle children from the nursery to a hiding place. Of course, the parents had to give permission for this. It was a very painful, difficult and bitter decision for the parents. They abandoned their child while their own destiny and the fate of their child / children were shrouded in darkness. The children’s names also had to be deleted from the German registration, so that they were not ‘disappeared’ with all the life-threatening consequences it entailed. Child smuggling was a complicated and dangerous operation.

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Henriette Pimentel. Photo: collection Jewish Historical Museum.

The smuggling took place in different ways. Sometimes, for example, a daycare worker took the child to an assistant at Artis around the corner. The person then took the child to a hiding place. Children could also sometimes join the trams that drove slowly through Plantage Middenlaan. The tram served as a screen where the children hid behind. They were then not seen by the Germans on the other side of the street in Schouwburg. Children were also smuggled out of the nursery through the garden at the back. Henriëtte Pimentel worked with, among others, Wouter Süskind, Johan van Hulst and Felix Halverstad.

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Henriëtte Pimentel in her study. 1932. Photo: Jewish Historical Museum.

‘Judenrein’

The deportations from Amsterdam started in July 1942. On July 23, 1943, a robber car stopped in front of the nursery. 99 percent of the staff and children were then arrested. 2 people were able to hide, but 37 adults and 70 children were taken away, including Pimentel. They went first to the Polderweg and then to the Muiderpoort and Westerbork stations. On September 14, 1943, Henriette Pimentel arrived in Auschwitz. She was gassed almost immediately.

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The beautiful bridge over Mauritskade 1932, now named after a monumental woman.

On September 29, 1943, Amsterdam was, according to the Germans, ‘Judenrein’. According to them, the biggest crime in the city’s history was over. Of the 80,000 Amsterdam Jews, nearly 60,000 were murdered. As a result, the city of Amsterdam changed from ‘Mokum’, loved by Jews, to a permanent ‘guilty’ place.

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The nursery in 1942. Henriëtte Pimentel is not in the picture.

Esther Shaya and Frank Hemminga wrote the book ‘Wait but – Henriëtte Pimentel’s eventful life’. Together with Fokko Weerstra and Henk Dijkman, they requested the name of the bridge.

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