The Claims Conference recently made our first-ever compensation payment in Sri Lanka. Hans Vischjager survived the Holocaust as a child hidden with a non-Jewish family in the Netherlands and has been living in Sri Lanka since 1999. He decided after decades of emotional trauma to finally apply to the Article 2 Fund and began receiving payments in 2015.
In January 1943, in occupied Amsterdam, the parents of 11-month-old Hans realized that the Gestapo would soon be coming for them. To protect their son, they gave him to an organization that placed young children in hiding, which in turn brought him to the de Keizer family in Leiden.
Young Hans thought the de Keizers to be his real family, unaware of course that his parents had been deported to Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz. Hans’ parents survived but separated after the war. His mother, Hilda, came back to Amsterdam very ill and was hospitalized. Hans’ father, Joseph, eventually immigrated to Australia.
Many months after the war, Ms. de Keizer took Hans to the hospital. “At that time, my foster mother pointed to someone in a bed behind the window and said, ‘Hansje, that lady is your mother. I am not. I only looked after you,’” Hans wrote in his application to the Article 2 Fund. “I became scared and wanted to leave, begging to go ‘home.’”
Six months later, Hans’ mother came for him. “Screaming and shouting, I was fighting not to go with her. I had no choice,” Hans wrote.
Hans spent the next decade in boarding schools, angry and aggressive. When he, his mother and stepfather immigrated to the U.S., his violent anger landed him in juvenile homes.
“All my life I searched for ‘maternal’ love, something my mother was unable to give me. She became estranged from me after she returned from Auschwitz. Not her fault, but that of the circumstances,” Hans says.
As an adult, Hans worked as a sales representative but in the 1970s went back to school and trained as a nurse. He then became a mental health nurse and eventually earned a Ph.D. in psychotherapy, prompted by his experiences of seeing the trauma of concentration camp survivors. Hans has written four books.
Hans’ wife of 43 years is from Sri Lanka and in 1999, the couple moved there. Hans decided in 2014 to apply to the Article 2 Fund and began receiving payment in 2015. “Because of my suffering from the age of 11 months until present, I feel I should be entitled to compensation,” Hans wrote in his application.
In 2015, the Claims Conference also made compensation payments for the first time in Iceland and Kenya. More than 70 years after liberation, we are still able to acknowledge the experiences of Holocaust victims as a result of our negotiations for payments to them.