Eline Hoekstra Dresden and her daughter Deb Mrowka
Deb Mrowka is a speaker who travels regularly to share the story of her mother, Eline Hoekstra Dresden. Eline is sometimes able to attend these presentations to offer commentary and answer questions, but she does not attend every presentation, as she is unable to travel extensively.
Eline Hoekstra Dresden was born the youngest of four Jewish children in 1923 in The Hague, The Netherlands; two years later her family moved to Utrecht, The Netherlands. It was apparent to Eline’s family that some parts of Europe were no longer safe for Jews as soon as the beginning of the Second World War in 1939, and they took in two Jewish refugee children whose parents had sent them away from Germany for safekeeping among strangers. After the invasion of The Netherlands, German authorities forced these two sisters to leave Eline’s family and return to the Jewish orphanage, from which they were deported to Auschwitz and murdered.
Eline graduated from high school in 1940 and planned to study medicine when she started college in the fall. However by 1941 she was forced out of college when the Nazis forcibly expelled Jews from all schools and universities. Soon thereafter the Nazis seized Eline’s family home, many other contraband items, and their rights. By 1941, Eline and her long-time partner were expecting a baby; she had to walk to the hospital to give birth because Jews were not allowed to take any other form of transportation. Three and a half months after her son Daniel was born, in hopes of saving his life under the constant threat of air bombing and Nazi roundups, a wonderful non-Jewish family volunteered to hide him for safekeeping in the event something would happen to his parents.
In April 1943, Nazis ordered Eline and her parents to board a deportation transport to an internment camp called De Schaffelaar in Barneveld, The Netherlands. In September the whole camp was deported to Westerbork transit/concentration camp, which served largely as a stopover for many Dutch Jews’ deportation to Auschwitz. Eline endured squalor, disease, hard and dehumanizing labor, and starvation alongside her parents at Westerbork until the camp was liberated by Canadian troops on April 12, 1945. By that time, they were among the few prisoners who had not been deported to another concentration or death camp.
Eline’s son Daniel lived with this “war family” until the end of the war (more than three years later), and by then he and his foster family had bonded so much that his return to his birth family was strained. It took years for Eline and her son to come to terms with their past. In 1958 Eline, her husband, and then five children emigrated from The Netherlands to rural Oregon near Portland. Eline and her husband divorced in 1971, and she returned to college to become a land surveyor and water rights examiner. Deb and Eline have been speaking to groups for years and hope that the story will encourage audiences to become more tolerant of all people and to stand up and act when they see injustices and bullying.