Photos

Photos made during the period of 1942 until 1945

Photo: Château de Bassines

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the interior of the castle. It was worth while. Especially the large drawing room with its antique furniture and painted protraits of the Belgian nobility on the wall. It was all slightly obsolete, but it did not harm the ambience, on the contrary. Next to the drawing room there was the dining room and sometimes Mr. Cougnet had to say to us something. Then he took a glass and tapped on it with a knife asking for silence.

The dormitories for the little children and the girls were in the castle. The boys had their dormitory on the first floor in another building next to the castle. In this building there was a large hall for our homework, every afternoon from four o’clock till half past five. The exterior of the castle was in the style of renaissance. It’s a pity the castle no longer exists, it was pulled down in the sixties.

Photo: Château de Bassines

The front of the castle, the entrance is in the middle. At the back of the castle there is a park and behind there is a large forest with a splendid drive in the middle. One day a German car with soldiers was driving to the castle. They were looking for an Austrian boy because he was a Jew. The boy, George Kluger, saw them coming and and fled into the forest. There climbed a high tree and remained seated there till the Germans had left. He survived the war.

Photo: Eugène Cougnet

"Eugène Cougnet, born in Ledeberg-Gent, on August 1, 1892, was a pedagogue and a teacher who dedicated his whole life not only to young people, but to anyone in problems who appealed to him. This was especially the case during the occupation."

This sentence was written by George van Lefferinge in his letter, dated January 7, 1982 to Yad Vashem, in order to have him recognized Righteous among the Nations.

The boarding school that Mr. Cougnet first managed was in the town of Heide (near Antwerp) and was nicknamed "the Eagle’s nest". In 1939 the school was transferred to "Château de Bassines" in Méan-en-Condroz in the Ardennes.

In my war story you can read that in Bassines Mr. Cougnet took in children, young people and adults who were all Jewish and that on October 25, 1943, the "Feldengendarmerie" arrested everybody. Mr. Cougnet was deported to the concentration camp of Gros Rosen where he died. Moreover, on the castle there were weapons and a radio station for the resistance, but the Germans did not find them, or else Mr. Cougnet had been shot immediately.

Especially it’s because of the memory of Mr. Cougnet that I started to be interested in the past and that I started trying to track down the ex-occupants of Bassines. I can still picture him with his beautiful beard; he had made an unforgettable impression on me.

Not only was he an extremely courageous man, but also an exceptionally good teacher. He had called me to say that I had to follow the lessons in French just like everyone else, but in addition I would receive private lessons from a teacher. That was a very nice and pretty 22-year-olld girl, Miss Pollet, Polski was her real name. I saw her again in 1994 during the reunion on January 7, 1982 where we revived old memories. It was funny that I had difficulty in speaking Dutch on my return to my parents in Brussels.

Photo: Eugène Cougnet

Mr. Cougnet, standing in front of the entrance of the castle with the youngest of the four Waedemon children.

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This picture is taken by a street photographer near the Gate of Namur in Brussels in the month of July in 1942. I had just bought a pair of Shoes after arriving in Brussels, for all my Shoes were still left in Amsterdam. So this is my first picture in Brussels.

Photo: Taken in my classroom

This picture is taken in 1944 in my class at the “ Princess Juliana School”. I am in the middle behind the two girls. Mr. Neven is standing in the corner in the back. In 2003 the school celebrated its centenary with a reunion of ex-pupils I also attended. There were at least six Jewish ex-pupils who attended this school after their hiding into Belgium.

Why I attended this school is an interesting story. When I arrived from the boarding school to Brussels, I was already 18 years old, but according to my identity papers I was only 16 years old. As I had been registered officially I thought that working wouldn’t be any problem. But after a few months I was called by the employment office where I had to go for report. There I was received by a civil servant who told me that I had to go working in Germany for the “Arbeitseinsatz”. He asked me some more questions but suddenly he asked: “Do you want to work in Germany?” Of course I said “no, not at all”. Then he said: “You are only 16, you can still go to school, and then you do not have to work in Germany”.

Back home I told this to my parents and the next day my mother went to the Holland school to have me registered for the fourth class of the Secundary School. Mr. Neven didn’t ask anything. My sister already attended this school, so he had met my mother before. I am convinced that he understood the situation.

Photo: a group of people at Bassines

This picture was taken in 1942, in the back row there are George van Lieffering, Pouss (André) Cougnet, in the middle row there are Robert Arouete, Philip Lejeune, François Dekker, Mr. Cambron, Mr Cornille, ? , George Kluger (climbing the tree), in the front row there are Jean Arouete, Pierre, Nicole and Francine Wademon. Robert sent me this picture, together with a splendid war story about his experiences.

Photo: a group of pupils at Bassines

Group of pupils in Bassines, picture taken in 1942. I was not yet there then. Standing from left to right Margot Cuvelier (Grunewald), Pierre de Muyter (Sammy Rubenstein), Jean Jacque Adam, Jacques Wademon, Christine Page, Jean Jean Cougnet, ? , ?. Sitting: Pierre Waedemon, ? , Jean Arouette, Claude Grosjean, Sylvain Somers, (Suchowolski), André Arouete and one of the Smit brothers and three unknown little ones. The four Waedemon children stayed in Bassines because their father, a pilot, had left for England in May 1940.

Photo: a group of pupils at Bassines after a basketball match

At the back of the castle there was a site where some pupils had made a basketball field with the aid of a teacher. In an essay about this, which I had to do for the teacher of French, I wrote (in French): “Here they practice a kind of boxing with a ball which is called basketball” and also the sentence: “The purpose of the game is not making goals but exhausting the opponent.” Of course it was meant humorously, but it was a fact that some players were very fanatic. Completely the right Robert Arouete is standing, , next to him Jacques Moreau (Szwarctburt), Jean Arouete, Philippe II (Weyckmans), somewhat further away Léon Tenier (Tenzer, my best friend). You see also some scouts. During the summer break the castle received a group of Catholic scouts who came camping. This picture was taken after a game between the pupils and the scouts.

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In this picture you see my mother entering their house. This picture was taken after the liberation in 1944. During the occupation I had frequent contact with our neighbours’ son, a young man of my age. The neighbours were not informed of our situation but I do think they suspected something. We shared a kind of the same hobbies and were together often, he at my place or me at his place. His name was Daniel Dansaert.

In the afternoon on July 13, 1994 I celebrated my birthday with a number of friends, Daniel, Hans Meddens and a couple of others. We were playing records and the music was quite loud. Suddenly Daniel came and stood very close to me to tell me that on the opposite side two men were observing our house. I carefully looked outside and did see two men. I was worried but didn’t show anything; on the contrary, I made a joke and said that those men wanted to join the party.

After the liberation, Daniel told me something remarkable. He collected butterflies and beetles which he pinned down and a few days after my birthday he went into the woods to find beetles. Once arrived at a lonely spot he started searching. Suddenly he was approached by the same men who started to ask questions about us. So he was followed from his house till deep into the woods. What he knew about the neighbours? etc. etc. Daniel replied that he didn’t know anything, but that he liked us, but that he did not know anything else. After a quarter of an hour of questioning the men left again. Never will we find out who these men were and what they wanted but I do think they were traitors.

We were lucky that shortly afterwards liberation came or else they had undertaken actions against us. For that matter luck played an important part for us in those days. One day when my parents and sister stilled in the villa in Ukkel, a car pulled up for their door with a German and Belgian in civilian clothes. They got out and rang the doorbell. The lady of the house, Madame Barrez, answered the door and asked what they wanted. The Belgian man said that he had heard that there were Jews living in the villa. Madame Barrez remained very calm and said the she understood very well why people thought so, because previously Jews used to live there indeed, but they had left and because the villa was empty and as she was divorced she had rented the villa for herself and her children. Now there weren’t any Jews in the house. Upon this the man thanked her for her information and left. Fortunately they were not very bright.

Another day my father stood waiting on a tram stop in Avenue Louise. While he was waiting he was reading a newspaper. It was on a crossing and a German military man regulated the traffic. He signalled to stop and beside my father a Citroen pulled up. My father, seeing the car in a flash, recognized the notorious Jacques in it. He pulled himself together, remained reading his newspaper dead calmly, but he noticed that Jacques was observing him. Suddenly the military man signalled the traffic to go on and the Citroen had left. Such a relief. According to my father Jacques was about to ask my father to get into the car, but he was too late.

Foto: genomen op 11 juli 1945 op de verjaardag van Hanneke Hamme

This picture was taken on July 11, 1945, on my twelfth birthday. The first birthday after liberation I could celebrate with 8 girl friends, who all attended the Princess Juliana School. Together with my parents we went that day to a playground (La Ferme Rouge).

On the picture from left to right, Els Doodeheefver, Jetteke Emmering, Julltje Meddens, Elsje Niesingh, Ellen Werhaauer, Nellie Niesingh. me, Hanneke Hamme, Pippie Stodel, Anneke Zijlstra. During the war I spent 6 months at Mr. And Mrs. Meddens’ place, who took me in their family lovingly. I am still often in touch with Juultje. Ellen Werthauer lives in the USA. She was decorated for her work for the W.U.V., which law entitles payment to victims of the Holocaust. Nellie Niesing passed away a few years ago. Pippie Stodel lives in Amsterdam, we have remained friends ever since. (Text written by Hanneke Hamme)

Foto: Ouders Meddens en Hamme

We, children, have experienced the war years in a carefree way characteristic of our age, which is certainly not the case for our parents, despite the moments of relaxation, spent together, as in the picture at the Ter Kameren Forest near Brussels. From the four persons at the table, two are my parents, Elizabeth Meddens (left in the front) and Theodorus Meddens (left in the back), who had come from the Nederlands in 1938 to settle in Brussels. Ro Koekoek and Emanuel Hamme are Hanneke’s and Nico’s parents. The two families not only felt sympathy to one another, but stayed friends for life. We are still in touch with each other and attend our mutual feasts. When at the time my mother and mrs Hamme once took the tram to go to town, they witnessed a raid in that tram, which frightened them of course very much. I remember that I had told the girl nextdoor that there was a Jewish girl in our house, although I had promised to keep it a secret. However, my parents were warned in a friendly manner, from then onwards I have learned not to talk about secrets. Despite the terrors which were brought about by this war, close relations have arisen and seeds of hope are sawed. (text by Juul Meddens).

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October 15, 1945, the day of our return to Amsterdam for my parents, my sister and me. We had gone to Belgium with a small suitcase, but for our return my father had hired a truck. In the picture you can see the truck in front of our house at the moment my bike is loaded. Behind the truck Mr. And Mrs. Stodel are standing, friends from before the war which we saw in Brussels again, where they were in hiding just like us. We met them at the Dutch consulate in Brussels shortly after liberation where we had to report to. We had to be Dutchmen again and I must say that if we hadn’t done so we would have remained Belgians for the rest of our lives, something I regretted later. Their 12-year-old daughter was there too, as well as my sister and the two girls had been friends already in Amsterdam, where they attended the same class at school.

Their enthusiasm was enormous and so was their noise, in such a way that a civil servant came out of his office and asked for silence. Further you can see Mrs. De Wit, the lady who had rented us three floors of her house in 34 Meerstreet close to the beautiful Avenue Louise. She lived on the first floor herself and we on the other three. I have nice memories to the days between liberation and the return to the Netherlands, but it would go too far to write about it in detail now. Mr. Stodel travelled with us to Amsterdam, he was a well-known antique dealer and had to go on business there.

The return to Amsterdam was a big disappointment to me. It was sad there compared to Brussels. All my friends had gone, I felt lonely and miserable. I went for work placement to Rotterdam, which was even sadder than Amsterdam. So different from Brussels. In the month of May 1946 I was called up to the military. I regretted terribly in those days, I hadn’t stayed in Brussels.

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This picture is taken about 1980 during a “pilgrimage”. Now it’s a restaurant in Gistaoux, a village south of Brussels. In 1942 it was a hotel called “les Accacias”. In the month of July 1942 we stayed there for some weeks, awaiting our journey to Switzerland. That departure didn’t take place because some people had been captured by the Germans during their escape.

Mr. Bolle advised us to remain in Belgium or to go to Switzerland with another organisation he had just found. We did the latter. End of July we left with a group of about thirty people by train for Lille. A woman of the organisation led us to a café there. The café was filthy, full of German soldiers and whores. The woman asked us to wait there until she returned with a bus who would take us to Switzerland. But after half an hour that woman had not returned and we had lost confidence. Opposite to this café there was another café which looked much more decent and we decided to cross the street and to wait there. From there we saw a German car pulling up across the street; some soldiers got out and went to look around in the filthy café. But shortly afterwards they came out and left. It was clear; we had been swindled, but fortunately without any serious consequences. Only we had to pay half of the requested sum in advance and we had lost that. We returned to Gistoux, where we met the Apflebaum family, of whom the wife advised my mother to send the children to “Château de Bassines. These were some memories of our “holiday” in Gistoux.

photo: of the reunion of the survivers rescued at Bassines

This is a picture of the reunion in 1994 of the former residents of Bassines. In 1992 I started to trace them back. First I looked in the telephone directory of Brussels underneath the name of Cougnet and I found Andre. I called him and made an appointment at his place. Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember much about Bassines and its residents. He did know that his father had been awarded with the Yad Vashem decoration. Through my cousin in Tel Aviv I received a copy of the E. Cougnet File. I found Kurt Pck’s telephone number in it, the economist/baker from Vienna. When I called him it caused an enormous astonishment, he was very surprised. He was still in touch with two teachers and George van Liefferinge. This was the beginning of a snowball effect, I found almost everybody with the aid of especially the union of children in hiding in Belgium. The reunion was very successful, but also sad because of missing those who hadn’t survived, especially Mr. Cougnet.

photo: taken at the unveiling of the memorial stone of late Mr. E. Cougnet

This picture is taken on May 8, 1995 when revealing the monument in memory of the late E. Cougnet. The text is:

In memory of
Mr. Eugène Cougnet
Passed away due to deportation
Righteous among the nations
Who saved 40 Jewish children from the Holocaust
At the risk of his own life.

The man on the right is the mayor of the town (Monsieur Florent Delorme). The monument is put on the memorial of the dead of the two wars 1914-1918 and 1940-1945.

This memorial was an initiative of the union “Children in hiding” and the means were raised by the former residents of the boarding-school.