The love story of Westerbork Girl Hannelore Cahn, her great love Rob de Vries who
freed her in World War II from the Westerbork transit camp and the man who
tracked her down: Hans Eisinger. A week after her escape she returned to the
camp with him. Voluntarily. A decision that still haunts her today.Hannelore is 83 and still very girlish as she hands out flowers in a New
York hospital, the way she used to hand out packages in the Westerbork
transit camp. "I was lucky, nobody ever bothered me. Not even the Germans."
In Westerbork she was a star. One of the Westerbork Girls: the chorus line
of the camp revue. Singing and dancing seemed to protect her from being
deported to Auschwitz. After all, between 1942 and the end of 1944, more
than 100,000 Jews were deported to Poland.
In the cellar of her house in
Queens, New York, Hannelore searches for one snapshot in particular. Showing
her madly in love in wartime alongside Rob de Vries: the Jewish actor and
resistance hero who freed her spectacularly from the Westerbork camp in
1943. "My big love."
She still wonders why she returned to the camp from her hiding place.
Back to the transit camp. With the older Hans Eisinger of the Jewish
Ordedienst – the camp police. The man had to fetch her back, or himself face
deportation to the East. Surely she could have got away? Every attempted
escape was punished by immediate deportation to Auschwitz. So why was
Hannelore allowed to stay in Westerbork?
Westerbork Girl is a film about love and survival. Or rather:
about survival and love. About forgetting and remembering. About an
impossible decision that still haunts her today.
Hannelore sings and is still serenaded by Louis de Wijze, who was also in
Westerbork and who still sings the songs of the revue. It’s the ultimate
sound track for this wartime love story: ‘Ich hab’ es bei Nacht den Sternen erzählt, ich liebe dich’.
Steffie van den Oord
VPRO/ DNU Film, Rolf Orthel