The promise

Gleiwitz, Death march
20 januari 1945

That night was terrible, and Machiel Pach said to me: ‘Coen, remember the book, remember to report this’.

Coenraad Rood made it his task to expose what happened during the Holocaust. It was a promise he made to his dead camp comrades: “Whoever lives has to report so that we will never forget.” This promise was the basic principle of his book and of his report before the camera. His central message is: “Don’t hate. And watch out, for looking down on someone is the beginning of hate!”

After his return to Amsterdam he immediately started to write down his experiences. It turned into an extensive report that he handed over to the then National Institute for War Documentation (now NIOD). His retrospective does not suffer from the distortions that often mark memories of a later date.

Historians like Lou de Jong and Jacques Presser made good use of Report 1942-1945, as Coen’s account is registered in the archives. It remained as such in the archives until the 1960’s. When the Eichmann process brought attention to the persecution of the Jews, a small part of Coen’s account was published. Together with Presser’s novella The Night of the Girondists, Rood’s descriptions of his time in Rouveen and Westerbork were published in the early sixties with the title Westerbork.

It wasn’t until years later that Rood himself again picked up the thread. Together with his daughter Josepha, who was born in the US, he translated Report 1942-1945 into English, but it was never published. There was, however, interest in Germany, where Fischer Verlag had it translated.  In 2002 it was published as Wenn ich es nicht erzähle kann, muss ich weinen; Zwangsarbeiter in der Rüstungsindustrie.  But the original manuscript was shortened by half for the report. It wasn’t until 2011 that publishing house Boom published Onze Dagen [Our Days], the first unabridged version of Rood’s account.