A suitcase of WWII letters (Or: Found in The Hague)

Recently a suitcase full of WWII letters were found in the French restaurant Walter Benedict in The Hague. (Article: in English | in het Nederlands). These letters were uncovered during a renovation and were written by Israel Bachrach, a Jew living in The Hague. He wrote to both his mother and his non-Jewish girlfriend about how horrible it was to live in a German-occupied city.

The Facebook page for the restaurant talks about how the letters were discovered. In Dutch: “Tijdens het strippen van het plafond in het achterhuis waar nu de keuken gevestigd is vielen oude brieven met daarin foto’s en kleding naar beneden. Een dag voor het strippen hadden we al vraagtekens bij de ruimte waarin onze keuken geïnstalleerd zou moeten gaan worden. Dus zijn we naar het gemeente archief gegaan om de oude bouwtekeningen van het pand te bekijken. We stuitten op een bouwtekening uit juli 1941 waarop duidelijk wordt dat een extra vloer in het achterhuis is geplaatst waardoor een geheime ruimte tussen de vloeren ontstond.”

In short – the restaurant was working on the renovations for the kitchen. They had questions about the room (dimensions or similar) and decided to go to the city hall’s archive to ask for the building’s blueprints. They were able to find blueprints from July 1941 which made it clear that there was an extra floor in the room (and thus a space in between the two floors to hide items). This is where the letters were found.

Walter Benedict was able to escape in September 1942 to Switzerland (via Belgium) though there were a few close calls where he was almost caught – but he made it out. After the war he returned to The Hague and opened a bookstore at the spot that would later be occupied by the French restaurant.

 

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