Walter Suskind was a German Jew who fled from the Nazis to the Netherlands with his
wife and daughter. When the Germans invaded Holland, Suskind was put in charge of a deportation center
in Amsterdam while his wife, Hannah and daughter, Yvonne were held hostage in Camp Westerbork, a way
station from which Jews were later sent to their deaths in the concentration camps of Germany, Poland
and neighboring countries. The deportation center, which Suskind supervised, was called the Hollandsche
Schouwburg, a gutted theatre located in the Jewish section of Amsterdam. Directly across the street from
the Schouwburg there was a childcare center (a crèche). A streetcar ran between the two buildings.
Seizing upon the opportunity to save human life, Walter Suskind devised a plan enabling him and his
accomplices to smuggle children from the confines of the crèche to freedom and safety.
During the 1-1/2 years that Suskind was in charge of the Hollandsche Schouwburg and with the help
of four separate groups of resistance workers, Suskind was able to save almost one thousand infants and
children and many more adults. The infants and children were placed in a network of safe houses in the
There are some particularly compelling aspects to this story. When the streetcars stopped in
front of the theatre, blocking the Nazis’ view of the crèche, Suskind was able to effect the rescue
of children by distracting the German guards. He fraternized with the Nazi officer in charge of
the deportation effort, Commandant Ferdinand Aus der Fuenten and, speaking fluent German, he told
jokes, offering cigars and schnapps to Aus der Fuenten and his cronies. Over time he came to be
seen as a Nazi collaborator when quite the opposite was true. The operation was never betrayed or
discovered by the Nazis. Only a few people directly involved with the escapes ever knew the existence
and the details of the rescue operation.
||"We had to fight against Nazism. That was that main reason why we did
what we did."