Elly Bollegraaf fonds
Extent and Medium
15cm of photographic and textual records
Elly (nee Dwinger) Bollegraaf (b. September 19th, 1940, Amsterdam, Netherlands) was a child survivor of the Holocaust who now lives in Ottawa. Elly’s mother Rhodea Shandler (nee Henriette Dwinger) (b. August 26, 1919, Leeuwarden, Netherlands - d. February 17, 2006, Richmond, B.C.) was born in a traditional Jewish Orthodox family in Leuuwarden, in the Netherlands. Her parents were Joseph Dwinger and Kaatje (nee Cohen) Dwinger. She had two older sisters, Johanna Weijel-Dwinger (b. Approx. 1910 - d. January 8, 2006, Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Heintje “Henny” Noach-Dwinger (b. Approx. 1907 - d. February 1980, Amersfoort, Netherlands), and an older brother, Simon (b. 1905 - d. January 1943, Auschwitz). Rhodea attended an all-girls private school in the Netherlands. After graduating she worked in a lingerie store in the 1930s, then in the office of a shoe factory. Rhodea met Elly’s biological father Nathan Gruner at her sister’s bakery in Winterswijk near the German border in 1935. They corresponded by letter until 1938 when Nathan fled the Netherlands to avoid the Gestapo. Rhodea found him a place to stay and they began a relationship, however they were not able to be married since Nathan was a fugitive. Rhodea and Nathan moved to Amsterdam in 1940 where Rhodea began working as a student nurse. Elly was born there in 1940, the same year that Germany invaded the Netherlands. As an unwed mother, Rhodea hid her pregnancy to avoid being fired from the hospital where she worked, however, after giving birth she had to leave her job. Nathan was arrested by the Gestapo in September 1940. Rhodea lived in a government sponsored home for new mothers for a few months, then got a new job at a Jewish home for the aged and left Elly to live with her mother and sisters in Amersfoort, where Rhodea frequently visited. Elly was taken care of by her aunt Johanna for two years. Johanna had two children, and her husband was in the hospital due to injuries sustained while fighting in the German invasion of Rotterdam. In 1942, Rhodea began working in a Jewish mental hospital in Apeldoorn, and met Ernst Bollegraaf in Amersfoort, after he and his family had fled to the Nertherlands from Bunde, Germany following Kristallnacht. Ernst worked at a recycling plant owned by his father and also worked as a butcher. Rhodea and Ernst were married in October of 1942. Elly’s uncle Simon, his wife Esther Dwinger-van Rhijn, and his twin son and daughter Joseph and Ida Dwinger were deported to Auschwitz in 1942, where Simon’s family were killed and where he endured two years of forced labour before dying from typhus in 1943. Elly’s maternal grandparents were killed in Auschwitz in October 1942, and her paternal grandparents died in either Izbica, Poland or the nearby death camp Sobibor in 1942. Nathan Gruner died in Sobibor in 1943. In 1943, the hospital where Rhodea was working was overtaken by Nazis, and she was forced to go into hiding. Johanna’s husband Bram was in contact with the Dutch Underground, who helped both Johanna and Rhodea’s family to find hiding places. Rhodea and Ernst initially stayed in a friend’s house but after realizing that they were not safe there they moved to a safe house in Vasserveld, where they lived in a barn belonging to the Ankersmit family. Rhodea and Ernst went by fake names and had fake identification documents, and Ernst helped the Underground by delivering food stamps. Other members of the farming community where they stayed helped them to stay hidden. Rhodea gave birth to her second daughter Johanna Gault (b. December 6, 1943) while living in the Ankermits barn, however due to the increased danger posed by hiding a baby the Ankersmits became less welcoming towards the Bollegraafs and they asked their contact in the Underground to move them. Johanna was sent to live with another family, while Rhodea and Ernst initially were split up then met up again on another farm, where they lived and worked until the end of the war. Elly initially stayed with her aunt Johanna and her husband Bram, however when it was clear that they would also need to go into hiding she was sent to live with another family in the south of Holland, where it was thought that she would blend in more with her dark curly hair. Johanna, Bram, and their two sons stayed with a different family, where they lived until the end of the war. Elly was taken to a house in Utrecht, then to Mechelen South Limburg in 1942, where she lived with the Wetzels family who lived and worked in a hotel. The Wetzels had 7 sons and 2 daughters, all much older than Elly. When the Netherlands was liberated in 1945 Rhodea and Ernst moved back to Amersfoort with their daughter Johanna, and took Elly to live with them a few months later. Rhodea and Ersnt’s daughters Betty Barnes (1946), Henriette “Tikki” Ernestine Glynn (1947) and Carla (1949) were all born in Amersfoort, while Ernst started working for a recycling plant and eventually started his own recycling business. After six years in Amersfoort the family decided to leave the country due to economic struggles in post-war Netherlands, and were attracted to Canada from newspaper and radio advertisements which advertised Canada’s open spaces and economic opportunities. They moved to Ottawa in 1951, and had three more children in Canada; Judy Shandler, Ingrid Hogan, and Nathan Shandler. Elly graduated with a Bachelor of Science with Honours from Carleton University in 1968, and went on to work for the department of Health and Welfare, in positions relating to communicable diseases and epidemiology. She moved to Westboro, and married Dr. P.E. Grattan-Bellew. Elly has been an active member and organizer in many organizations dedicated to remembrance and education of the Holocaust and the Second World War. As part of the Ottawa Holocaust Remembrance Committee, she led a project in the 1990s to document the personal histories of Holocaust survivors and their children living in Ottawa. The result of this project was a book and accompanying digital records on 42 Ottawa Holocaust survivors and 17 children of survivors. She has served Coordinator and Chair of Holocaust Education Week and has attended many of the annual Yom Hasoah Memorials. In 1991, Elly attended the First International Gathering of Children Hidden During World War II in New York, and became part of the Ottawa Hidden Children group as well. Elly was a member of the Anne Frank Exhibit Committee in 1992, for which she interviewed Dutch Canadians living in Ottawa about their wartime experiences and collected artefacts to be shown in conjunction for the exhibit. Elly has shared her experiences of the Holocaust at Ottawa schools and at a variety of educational events. She has served as the chair of the Abe Carlofsky Scholarship Fund Committee. Elly was honoured at a ceremony for Canadian Holocaust survivors in 2000. Elly was a volunteer for the Ottawa Post for Jewish War Veterans for many years. She took photos at events for the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, and wrote articles that were published in the Bulletin as well as Ottawa newspapers. She has served as deputy post commander and Chair of the Student Awards Selection Committee of the Ottawa Post, Jewish War Veterans of Canada.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of two parliamentary letters from MPP Naqvi and Preimer McGuinty; a photo album of photos from the "A Coat of Many Colours" exhibit; a photo album of photos from the first international gathering of children hidden during the Second World War, 1991; a photo album of photos of "The Courage to Remember" exhibit 1991; a photo album of photos from the Leo Haas "Visual Memory" exhibit; 3 packets of photographs; a card sent to Elly from Anna Heilman, an Auschwitz survivor