Liberating Our Stories

Claire bkgd

Claire Baum


1936, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Survived the War

In hiding in Rotterdam, the Netherlands


May 5, 1945, Rotterdam, the Netherlands


Canadian Army

Claire Baum and her sister, Ollie, were separated from their mother and father and spent two years hiding in Rotterdam with Tante Nel, who was like a parent to them. Claire and Ollie had to conceal the fact that they were Jewish and missed their Mama and Papa. By September 1944, the Allied forces were in the Netherlands. Still, the German ban on food transports to the Netherlands meant that Claire, Ollie and Tante Nel had to endure a winter season with very little to eat. How much longer would the two girls have to wait for their freedom?

Claire (right) and Ollie with two of their liberators from the Canadian army. May 5, 1945.

Finally, on May 5, 1945, we were liberated by the Canadian army. We were so excited to see Canadian soldiers on their Jeeps in Rotterdam. Our friends ran over to our house and screamed, “The war is over, the war is over!” They were jumping up and down and hugging us. They said that they were going to ask the Canadians if they could sit on one of their Jeeps and Tante Nel let us go with them, knowing we were safe. After we came back, we told Tante Nel that not only did we sit on a Jeep, but the soldiers had also given us chocolates and chew­ing gum while they took our picture. It was the most memorable and exciting day of our young lives!

And when we looked up we saw all kinds of planes and, out of the sky, packages were raining down. Each package contained food and our first piece of bread in such a long time. It was so delicious! Tante Nel called it, “Manna from heaven.” She said that it was a miracle.

The war is over, the war is over!

The Friedberg family before the war. Left to right: Claire’s mother, Sophia; Claire; Ollie; and Claire’s father, Rudolph.

Liberation day in Rotterdam, May 5, 1945. Claire and Ollie are seated on the Jeep, behind the stilts.

In 1951, Claire and her family moved to Canada, the same country whose army had liberated her. She pushed her memories of life in hiding from her mind. But in 1984, a package arrived from a woman in Rotterdam. The woman’s mother had lived in the house where Claire’s parents were hidden during the war. What Claire found inside the package brought all those long-buried memories to the surface, memories she felt she had to share.

Claire (left) and her sister, Ollie, with Tante Nel (Nel Van Woudenberg), circa 1944.

Letter from Claire to her parents, 1944. Claire writes, “Once the war is over I will come back to you.”

Drawing from Claire to her parents, 1944. At the top of the drawing, Claire writes “Dear Papa and Mama.”

I was confronted with the past, memories long forgotten. The pictures, letters, photographs and drawings described happy as well as sad moments while Ollie and I were in hiding and separated from Mam and Pap. This package was our diary from 1942 to 1945.

I was finally able to fill in the missing pieces to write about our hiding and survival during World War II. Although this was a memory I wanted to forget, I felt I should not, because Ollie and I, as only innocent children, were not the heroes in our story. Our story needed to be told because we owed our lives to many heroes – our parents, the Resistance, the Duchene family, the Canadian army, and a very special lady we fondly called Tante Nel, our caregiver, our war mother.

We owed our lives to many heroes.

Claire sharing her story with students. Toronto, 2019.