Once again a book will be published starring the work of Philip Mechanicus. Mechanicus was a well-known Jewish journalist who was arrested in 1942 and sent to Camp Westerbork. In his captivity he wrote letters and made diary entries that, together with the diaries of Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum, are among the most important Dutch Holocaust diaries.

    Unlike previous publications in which the emphasis was mainly on the diary, the new book focuses on the letters that Mechanicus sent from Camp Westerbork. The letters are addressed to his family in Amsterdam and his two Jewish daughters from a previous marriage.

    “That makes this book special,” says writer Koert Broersma. Broersma previously wrote two biographies about Mechanicus, in 1993 and in 2019. He did use passages from the letters for this. “But the letters that Mechanicus wrote to his family have never been published in full until now.”

    This while, according to Broersma, the letters are an important addition to the diary. “Mechanicus started with the diary entries in school notebooks in May 1943. But he started writing letters much earlier. They give a picture of the time before, of how he arrived in Camp Westerbork, for example, badly mistreated. metacarpals shattered, to ensure that he could no longer write for the time being. He also spent some time in hospital.”

    “Dear Jo, A few words from my illness. My right hand has still not recovered, but the writing is going pretty well. I am not able to write much, but the purpose of this note is a sign of life,” writes Mechanicus on November 26, 1942. It is a fragment of a longer letter to Jo Heinsius, the pharmacist in Nijmegen where two of his daughters are hiding at the time.

    “At the moment I have been in hospital for just 2.5 weeks. I don’t know how long I will stay here, but yesterday I was taken off the list of the transport and at the moment my case is being processed, especially with the intention here to stay or to be released.”

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