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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 countryside.

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."
-Max Rubinsten
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