Clara Asscher Pinkhof
- Category : 1896-births
- Type : PE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Split - Small (36)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Unexpected 3
Dutch-Jewish writer and educator.
Clara was the fourth of eighth children of Hermanus Pinkhof (10 May 1863, Rotterdam - 16 July 1943, Westerbork), a physician and Adèle de Beer (3 June 1867, Utrecht - 1967, Israel), a piano teacher. The children got an orthodox education, learned Hebrew and were stimulated in their creativity.
Clara studied for school teachers at the Jewish seminary, but left school when her mother had a nervous breakdown. Via private lessons she finished her education in 1915 and worked as a volunteer in Amsterdam and as a teacher in Deil. Later in Amsterdam, she met her fiancée Rabbi Abraham Asscher, when erecting a local Zionist Youth Association. Her activities for Jewish children were stimulated by the teacher Jan Ligthart and the Jewish tradition, to learn by heart, not only with the head. She wrote her first children books "Joodsche kinderliedjes" (Jewish children's songs) and "Van twee Joodsche vragertjes" (About two Jewish question children or Too Small to Ask) in 1918.
On 3 April 1919 Clara married Abraham Asscher (16 June 1884, Amsterdam - 10 May 1926, Lugano) in Amsterdam, the son of Eliëzer Asscher (1845-1926), teacher of religion and Rosalie van Hes (1845-1931). Abraham had been a teacher of classical languages and Hebrew in Utrecht and Sneek (1917), a rabbi in Amsterdam (1 Sept 1918-19) and chief rabbi of Groningen (March 1919).
They got six chidren: The twins Elie(zer) (18 February 1920, Groningen - 23 June 2010, Israel) and Menachem, a pianist (18 February 1920, Groningen - 23 July 1942, Auschwitz), the sons Jitschak (5 May 1921, Groningen - 28 February 1945, Poland) and Meier (31 July 1922, Groningen) and two daughters Roza Adéle(6 September 1923, Groningen) and Fieke (1926-2002. Roza became a nurse and migrated in 1939 to Israel.
After the birth of Fieke, the rabbi became gravely ill and tried to find a cure in Lugano, where he died on the 10th of May 1926, most likely of tbc. Clara was invited to return to her family in Amsterdam, but she stayed in Groningen, publishing children's books and stories and giving lectures, besides living on a small pension. She was no longer the wife of the chief rabbi, felt as she had lost her legs, but still was able to dance, as she explained in her autobiography "Danseres zonder benen" (Dancer without Legs). In the spirit of the educator Jan Lightart (John Lightheart), she tried to reform Jewish religious education that was dull and boring in her eyes: "My school women's heart was heavily involved in what was being sanctioned in the religious schools against the child's soul .(...
After the German occupation of May 1940, she returned in the autumn with her daughter Fieke to Amsterdam. She became a teacher at Jewish girls school, that soon would be situated in a ghetto, as the Nazi's step by step tried to isolate the Jewish population from other civilians. But Clara still could publish her children's stories in "Het Joodse Weekblad" (The Jewish Weekly), a journal set up by the Jewish Council, until the German censorship became worse. The German occupants, while in secret preparing and executing the Holocaust for the Dutch Jews, were eager to prevent uprisings and thus permitted "normal" Jewish life as long as it was not too political. And Clara's (clear) writings seemed apolitical, as they were just dealing with children,
In the Jewish Women's Archive Selma Leydesdorff wrote: "Her motivation for writing was not simply a question of material need. She also wanted to share with a larger audience her feelings about what had happened to those she had worked with and loved. Sterrekinderen (Dutch 1946; German 1961; English 1987), her most moving book, which was translated into a number of languages, expressed her love for the children playing in the sun on the eve of the disaster. She portrays their poverty by describing their ragged clothes, the dirt on their bodies, their ignorance and their joy at playing together in the street; they don't yet know what is going to happen to them."
During a raid on 26 May 1943 Clara was picked up and transported to the Westerbork transit camp. January 11, 1943 she was deported to part of concentration camp Bergen Belsen, that contained Jews with a solitary Palestinian certificate (Exchange Jews). Clara was eligible because her daughter Roza lived in Palestine. From Bergen Belsen she traveled in 1944, along with 200 sometimes old and sick fellow-men, to Palestine in exchange for German citizens held on British territory.
There she wrote her best-known book: Star children (1946). In 1947, she returned to Holland to thank the people who had helped to hide her family. She also held lectures. In 1958 she remarried Asher Czaczes (1967). In 1966 she published her autobiography The dancer without legs. After her husbands death the moved to the elderly house Beth Joles in Haifa. When she died on November 25, 1984, she left a suitcase with a pile of German reviews of her book Sternkinder.
In 1961 the German writer Erich Kästner wrote the foreword of the German translation of her book Sterrekinderen, calling it as important, deeply moving and terrible as the Diary of Anne Frank: "Sternkinder, the title sounds like a fairy tale book. But the Sternkinder, of which is reported in this book are not fairy tale characters, but little Dutch girls and boys with Hitler's Jewish star on their school dresses and aprons. These star children are as important as Anne Frank's diary. Adults and adolescents must read it. There is no help Excuse."
Fieke Asscher, later Sophie Langer-Asscher (4 January 1926, Groningen - 2002, Israel) became a teacher and illustrator. Fieke was four months old when her father died. From November 1941 till January 1943, Fieke was illustrating her mother's comic story De Rare Belevenissen van Professor Stap-door-den-Tijd (The strange adventures of Professor Step-through-time)), that was published in Het Joodsche Weekblad. Fieke went into hiding in Friesland and wasn't reunited with her family until 1946, in Jerusalem. Fieke's daughter Efrat Hadany (1955, Ma'ayan Zvi) made a theater play about her mother called Sofia's drawings in 2012.