Torch carrier given away at 10 days old

SO PROUD: Hanneke was nominated to carry the torch by her daughter Ruth

Doreen Wachmann meets a woman who found Judaism again after twice 'marrying out'

ONE of Hanneke Dye's proudest moments was carrying the Olympic torch in June. It was a world away from the time she was a hidden child - in every sense of the word.

Hanneke, of Hebden in the Yorkshire Dales, was born in 1943 when her Dutch Jewish parents were in hiding from the Nazis.

When she was only 10 days old, her mother gave her to a brother as his home in the Dutch town of Helmond was thought to be safer because he was married to a non-Jew.

Nevertheless, Hanneke's uncle's home was raided by the Nazis who, fortunately, failed to find the young baby hidden in the attic.

But the trauma of the raid, which was witnessed by Hanneke's young aunt Lena - 16 at the time - stayed with her all her life until her aunt committed suicide 25 years ago.

Hanneke, however, was passed on to the care of a nurse, Sister Pop, who ran a children's convalescent home in Breda in which she also sheltered some Jewish children.

Hanneke was reunited with her parents after the war when she was two-and-a-half, but the trauma of the early separation has remained with her all her life.

She said: "My aunt had such a fear that the Nazis would find me or that I would cry that even after the war she was full of fear.

"About 25 years ago, she jumped from a fifth floor apartment, thinking the Germans were there to get her.

"All that time she was persecuted by that fear of saving my life.

"It was a really hard thing to carry. My grandparents, my aunt, my uncle, great uncles, my cousin all ended up in Auschwitz."

Hanneke continued: "Not only was my mother in hiding because of the Nazis, her emotions remained hidden all her life because she would never talk to me about her experiences during the war.

"The war was a taboo subject in my house.

"Only after my mother died in 2006 did I see a photograph of my parents' wedding in 1942.

"It would have been so lovely to have shared that picture with them. But they never showed it to me because they are all wearing yellow stars on the photo."

Hanneke reckons that if not for the psychological distance caused by her mother's "hidden" feelings, she would never have rushed to marry a non-Jewish Englishman and emigrate to this country.

She said: "Had I not been a hidden child, I might not have lived in England. My mother always felt she had never bonded with me because she had given me away when I was 10 days old.

"To me, I never knew any difference. I absolutely loved my parents. We had a very good upbringing.

"But when I became a teenager we had big difficulties. I tried to find out about the war, but my mother denied facts about our family which were recorded in books on hidden people in her town and on my relatives who died in Auschwitz.

"My mother may have felt guilty to have given away a 10-day-old baby. It was absolutely horrendous.

"My mother had a tic in her shoulder because of the war. She would not talk about her fear.

"I was working as a hotel receptionist when a young chap came in. He looked smart and handsome. He started talking and I quite quickly fell in love.

"It was crazy. I didn't realise the consequences. Now I feel that if I had had a closer relationship with my mother, it wouldn't have happened so quickly.

"He asked me to marry him four days after we met."

After 12 years, Hanneke was divorced with three children before she remarried - again to a non-Jew.

Born into a traditional Dutch Jewish family, Hanneke had first become alienated from Jewish practice when she was growing up near Rotterdam.

She said: "I was seen going on the tram to synagogue because we lived in the country.

"The rabbi felt I should stay with a Jewish family for Friday night. But my parents would not allow it as they felt it was their responsibility.

"I was therefore ostracised and I couldn't go to shul any more."

Hanneke eventually became reconnected with her Jewish roots when she was living and working in Halifax.

She recalled: "Through my work, I met Roy Stroud of the Bradford Reform Synagogue who invited me to shul for Chanucah.

"I naturally thought the Orthodox wouldn't allow me in because I had 'married out'. I started going regularly to the Reform shul.

"But when I became president of Bradford Bnei Brith about 15 years ago, the installation was in the Bradford Orthodox synagogue.

"I felt more at home there. Gradually, I became disenchanted with Reform. I felt traditional."

But she added: "I will be ever grateful to the Reform because they brought me back to my Judaism. I owe them a big debt."

Meanwhile, Hanneke's second husband, Alfred Dye, was terminally ill with malignant melanoma. Weeks before he died, he went into the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice in Keighley.

Hanneke said: "I was able to be with him, living in the same room as him in the hospice for the last three-and-a-half weeks.

"I was fed by the hospice. I had showers there. My clothes were washed there. They did not charge me anything. I felt I owed them.

"I decided I wanted to do something for Manorlands. I went to college and qualified to practise Swedish body massage, Indian head massage and Reiki.

"I went back to the hospice every Thursday to massage patients and their loved ones on a voluntary basis and from time to time patients in their own homes.

"I also set up the Wharfedale Support Group for Manorlands five-and-a-half years ago. We have raised 45,000."

Beginning at the schools of her grandchildren, Hanneke started talking about the Holocaust, as well as about women in Judaism, in schools and to adult groups all over Yorkshire.

Because of her Holocaust education and her work for Manorlands, her daughter Ruth of Sheffield nominated her to carry the Olympic torch in Harrogate in June.

© 2012 Jewish Telegraph