Guide to the Papers of Gertrude van Tijn (1897-1974)

AR 3477

Processed by Dianne Ritchey

Leo Baeck Institute

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 744-6400

Fax: (212) 988-1305



© 2013 Leo Baeck Institute. All rights reserved.
Center for Jewish History, Publisher.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey in June 2013. Description is in English.
March 26, 2015  dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: van Tijn, Gertrude, 1891-1974
Title: Gertrude van Tijn Collection
Dates:bulk 1934-1947
Abstract: This collection primarily documents the professional life of the social worker Gertrude van Tijn, who worked with Jewish refugees in Amsterdam during the 1930s-1940s. Much of the material focuses on the experiences of Dutch Jewry along with the German-Jewish refugees who had fled to Holland. About half the collection relates to the manual training farm Werkdorp Nieuwesluis. Some reports on the postwar refugee situation in Shanghai and Australia and biographical material are also present. The collection includes reports, correspondence, official documents, newspaper clippings and articles and a few photographs.
Languages: The collection is in English, German, Dutch, and a small amount of Hebrew.
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet.
Identification: AR 2477
Repository: Leo Baeck Institute
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Biographical Note
Portrait of Gertrude van Tijn (1891-1974)

Portrait of Gertrude van Tijn (1891-1974)

On July 4, 1891 Gertrude Francisca Cohn was born in Braunschweig, Germany. She studied social work under Alice Salomon at the Lotte-Verein in Berlin. In 1910 she went to England, where she had relatives. Made to leave due to her nationality, in 1915 she went to the neutral country of Holland, where she worked for a time for the banker C.E. ter Meulen. and became involved in the Zionist movement, attending meetings with Chaim Weizmann, Norman Bentwich and others.

In 1919 Gertrude Cohn married the engineer and geologist Jan van Tijn. They lived a year in Switzerland, and in 1921 had a daughter. The family lived in South Africa, Holland, and Mexico, where their son was born. From 1925 until 1932 they lived in South Africa with explorations to various countries nearby. On their return to Holland in late 1932, where her husband had accepted a position as engineer, Gertrude van Tijn visited Palestine for the first time.

In April 1933 she began to assist with the growing number of Jewish refugees from Germany. This assistance led to Gertrude van Tijn becoming the representative of the Joint Distribution Committee in Holland and a member of an advisory committee of the League of Nations' Commission for Refugees. She became head of the Emigration Department of the Dutch Refugee Committee and also the secretary of the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, a farm founded in 1934 in the Wieringermeer polder in North Holland that trained refugees of varying ages and vocations in agricultural work as well as construction, the raising of cattle and poultry, domestic work, gardening, cabinetry, locksmithing, and other practical work. She also aided in organizing the trip of the Dora, a ship which in 1939 brought a number of refugees from Amsterdam to Palestine.

Although she sent her children abroad, Gertrude van Tijn remained in Holland and chose not to go into hiding because of her work assisting refugees. In September 1943 she was sent to the concentration camp Westerbork and then Bergen-Belsen. In July 1944 she was among those Jews exchanged from Bergen-Belsen for Germans in Palestine. Afterwards the Dutch government in exile offered her a position in London to work with displaced Jews; she traveled through liberated Europe and Switzerland in this capacity until the end of the war.

After reuniting with her children in New York the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration offered her a position working with refugees in China. She stayed in this role for a year then spent three months working with the Joint Distribution Committee in Australia before going to the United States. After traveling through the country she lived for a decade in Taos, New Mexico, then settled in 1958 in Portland, Oregon, to be closer to family. Gertrude van Tijn died in Portland in 1974.

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Scope and Content Note

The Gertrude van Tijn Collection centers on Gertrude van Tijn's role working with Jewish refugees in Amsterdam, Shanghai and Australia as well as secretary of the training farm Werkdorp Nieuwesluis. It contains a number of reports and articles as well as correspondence, official documents, newspaper clippings, and two photographs.

The bulk of the collection focuses on her work, with most of the materials pertaining to it to be found in Series II, including several reports. Notable is her lengthy 1944 "Report on Dutch Jewry," written after her release from Bergen-Belsen, which discusses the fate of the Jews of the Netherlands, with details on the work of the refugee committee for which she worked, the restrictions on Jews in Holland, deportations, and the camps of Vught, Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen. Notable as well is the material on the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis in Wieringen, which educated refugees in agricultural, manual and domestic work. Various reports, her detailed article on the training farm's history, and correspondence with former students provide a view of the farm's establishment, instruction and role in shaping the lives of its students. Other material on refugee work concerns the welfare, status and statistics of Jewish refugees in postwar Shanghai and Australia.

A small amount of material deals with Gertrude van Tijn's own life, primarily in Series I. This series includes a few biographical items such as her curriculum vitae and a newspaper article, official and identification papers from Amsterdam, and her yellow Jewish star badges, among other papers.

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The collection is arranged in two series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:
Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Related Material

The LBI Memoir Collection holds two memoirs by Gertrude van Tijn:

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Separated Material

Most photographs have been removed to the LBI Photograph Collection. Duplicate photocopies of items were deaccessioned from the collection during processing.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date (if known); Gertrude van Tijn Collection; AR 3477; box number; folder number; Leo Baeck Institute.

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Processing Information

In June 2013 the collection was reprocessed in order to integrate additional materials and create series. A few very large, overfilled folders were further subdivided and assigned more specific titles. Duplicate materials were deaccessioned and folders were arranged alphabetically by folder title.

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Other Finding Aid

Sixteen catalog cards provide an item-level list of most of the collection's contents.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Follow the links to access the digitized materials.


Series I: Personal, 1941-1970

This series is in German, English, and Dutch.
0.1 linear feet.


Scope and Content:

Series I holds papers of Gertrude van Tijn that document her life, most of which provide some biographical details. The first folder of the series, "Biographical Material," holds her detailed curriculum vitae ("Personal Chronicle in Abbreviated Form") along with an article on her life and work from a Portland newspaper. Her Dutch identification and official papers include documentation from the Joodsche Raad voor Amsterdam, the Jewish administration in Amsterdam, a work card from Westerbork and registration cards. It also includes statements regarding her permission to be outside after curfew and orders to an unidentified individual regarding assemble for deportation in February 1945. Her personal papers include two yellow Jewish stars in Dutch and German, a poem and some correspondence regarding the publication of her article on the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis.

The circular letter on Gross-Breesen provided addresses and reports on former pupils of the Gross-Breesen training school, along with some description of former students' immigration experiences.

11Biographical Material1968-1969
12Gross-Breesen Circular Letter1953 December-1954 January
13Identification and Official Papers – Dutch1941-1945
14Personalundated, 1968-1970
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Series II: Professional, 1934-1969

This series is in German, English, Dutch and a small amount of Hebrew.
0.4 linear feet.


Scope and Content:

Series II contains papers that relate to Gertrude van Tijn's work with refugees and immigrants as well as her role as secretary of the training school Werkdorp Nieuwesluis. It includes information on refugees in Amsterdam, Australia, and Shanghai. Most of the material consists of reports she wrote on the status and statistics of refugees as well as on the financial situation in the abovementioned locales.

Material on the Jews of Holland is most prolific. The initial folder of series contains various reports on the Jews of Amsterdam and includes financial reports on income and expenditures of the Amsterdam Refugee Committee in July and September 1937. There is also a report by Norman Bentwich to Amsterdam in November 1938 that discusses the placement of Jewish children in Dutch homes or their sending to England. A "Report on Dutch Jewry" is also present in this series. This lengthy report was written by van Tijn for the American Joint Distribution Committee shortly after her arrival in Palestine from Bergen-Belsen. It discusses the situation of the Jewish Community in Amsterdam as well as describes the concentration camps of Vught, Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen. Included are details of the growing restrictions on Jews in Amsterdam and descriptions of the deportations from Amsterdam, the closing of the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, a narrative of daily life in Bergen-Belsen by Helmuth Mainz, and statistics on the transportation of some Jews from Bergen-Belsen to Palestine, among many other topics. Another folder holds a translation of an article in Hebrew about the Dora, a ship procured with notable effort to take refugees from Amsterdam to Palestine.

A significant portion of this series pertains to the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, the manual training farm located on the Wieringermeer polder, which is frequently referred to in the documentation as the Werkdorp Wieringen. Included are a number of reports on the farm and its work in retraining its students in construction, agriculture, cattle and poultry raising, domestics, cabinetry, locksmithing and other practical occupations for immigrants. Correspondence includes some letters regarding a potential pupil, construction of school facilities, and attestations from students on the usefulness of their studies. Later correspondence was gathered by van Tijn for her article on the Werkdorp and primarily consists of letters from former students that discuss their experiences and future careers as well as a few letters that pertain to finding documentation on the Werkdorp. A draft article by Gertrude van Tijn on the history and work of the Werkdorp, with mention of the fate of its students and staff provides many details on the institution.

Reports and statistics on the postwar situation of refugees in Shanghai and Australia will also be found in this series. Among the material on Shanghai is a statistical analysis on refugees that records their former nationalities, arrival in Shanghai, gender, age, and religion. Statistics also relate to the employment, housing and assistance of Shanghai refugees as well as plans to immigrate to other countries or to repatriate. Other Shanghai material includes two photographs from Shanghai, a report on nutrition needs of families and the use of army rations, and a report on a meeting with the Australian Minister for Immigration regarding Shanghai immigration. Material on Australia primarily relates to immigration and includes a report on the feasibility of further immigration by Jewish refugees in light of the anti-foreign feeling in the country, pamphlets on the links between fascism and anti-Semitism, a list of constituent bodies of the New South Wales Jewish Community, and other related documentation.

15Amsterdam Refugee Committee (Comité voor Bijzondere Joodsche Belangen)1938-1939
16Australia1947 January-1947 May
17The "Dora"undated, 1969
18Report on Dutch Jewry1944 October-1944 November
19Shanghai1943, 1946 May-1946 December
21Shanghai – Statistical Analysis of Refugees1946
22Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Correspondence1936-1939, 1958
23Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Former Students and Staff – Correspondence1967-1969
24Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Newspaper Clippings and Articles1934-1937, 1969
25Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Other Materialundated, 1934-1939
26Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Reports – Dutchundated, 1934
27Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Reports – English1934-1939, 1955
28Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – Reports – Germanundated, 1934-1936
29Werkdorp Nieuwesluis/ Wieringen – A Short History of the Agricultural and Manual Training Farm Werkdorp Nieuwesluis1968
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