Despite his busy schedule, he always made time to see us and check on my mother. He cares deeply about the Voskuijl family. One of the first things he did after returning from Auschwitz was to visit my dying grandfather Johan at home, which he couldn’t do while he was in hiding. A year later, at my parents’ wedding in Amsterdam in May 1940, Otto saw off the bride. Sometimes I choke just thinking about that fact. It had only been a year since he had returned from concentration camp, and that was the year he learned he had lost his whole family. And yet there he was, forcing a smile as he posed for a photo with my mother in her wedding dress outside the Municipal House in Amsterdam. How did he feel in that moment as the father of the bride, knowing that his two daughters, Anne and Margot, would never have their own wedding?
That day at the beach, Otto could tell something was wrong with my mom as soon as we sat down. He took her hand and listened quietly. She was whispering to him. I’m not sure exactly what was said. I remember her mentioning her sister’s name, Nelly – but not much else. I left once to go to the bathroom. When I got back to the patio, I saw my mother crying. Otto decided I shouldn’t be there; maybe he didn’t want me to hear what was being said, maybe he just wanted to give her some space.
He signaled my mother to stop talking. Then he gave me some money for my birthday in September. I happily ran down the boardwalk to buy myself a gift. It didn’t take me long to pick out something: a large kite named Groene Valk.
Later that afternoon, Uncle Otto taught me how to fly a kite. By then, we had moved to the beach. My mom was relaxing on the recliner and watching us play. I can see why she confides in Otto – he is so gentle and patient, I think he understands almost everything. I asked him why his mother was always crying around him. he laughed. “Because she loved my family and me,” he said. Then he made me run off to play with my presents and go back to my mom.
I know Secret Annex is the source of my mum’s pain, but I think her problem is my dad Cor van Wijk only makes things worse. Their marriage was strong at first, but later 1940 cracks appeared, and my mother withdrew even deeper as the relationship deteriorated. Sometime in the 1950 years, she began investigating her trauma, writing long letters to Otto and Meep, trying to figure out what happened so she could continue Forward. But it never worked.
“I’m stuck again,” she would sometimes say to me.
I think she means she’s back in the annex. I didn’t understand then what afflicted her. Of course, this is tragic, Annie and the others will end up, what else can she do? Can’t she give herself a break? Couldn’t she be proud of the fact that she managed to maintain her own humanity, brave in the face of such brutality?
Although she sometimes says that she and other aides “failed” in their efforts to secure the Annex, no one blames her for what happened, how it ended. Instead, the world seems Ready to celebrate her, if she lets it.
“When you go back to that time, why are you always so sad?” I was only years old asked her. “It’s amazing what you’ve done.”
My mom started sobbing. “My dear child…that sadness will never leave my heart.”
Photo: Courtesy of the van Wijk-Voskuijl family
Around this time, I noticed that my mother often sat at her desk in the morning sobbing quietly in the living room. As the weeks went by, she became more desperate and lonely, and I started paying attention to her, worrying about what she might do. 1950 We were home alone one Friday morning in winter. My father had gone to work early, and my younger brothers had already gone to school. I think I heard the same soft sobbing from my mother’s bedroom. I tried to ignore them – I’m sad to say they’ve become commonplace in that time – but soon the sobs were replaced by plaintive moans that sounded almost like she was in physical pain . I ran to her bedroom, but she wasn’t there. Next, I checked out our tiny bathroom.
She was sitting on the edge of the tub, crying at the sink. Her mouth was filled with little white sleeping pills. Without thinking, I lifted her up. I just knew I had to get those pills out. I patted them out of her mouth. A lot fell into the sink, but I couldn’t get them all out of her mouth, so I stuck my fingers down her throat and made her retch. Afterwards, I helped her back to the tub, and we cried for a long time together. Then she stumbled over to the bed. All she said to me was, “Don’t tell your father or your brother.”
I must not have spit all the pills out of her mouth because she fell asleep so quickly So deep I could barely see her breathing. I skipped school and stayed with her all day. When my father arrived at night, she was still asleep, waiting for dinner. I told him she had another migraine and went to bed early. I tried my best to put on a brave face and pretend that everything was normal, but I was still crying inside, afraid that she would never wake up again.