Jewish physician’s personal archive discovered  22 July 2010

JHM presents exceptional new acquisitions

Starting on 2 August 2010, the Jewish Historical Museum will present selected acquisitions from the past year in its temporary exhibition case and at its Resource Centre. This temporary summer display will highlight a few of the most exceptional, moving, and impressive gifts and purchases, including the recently discovered personal archive of the Jewish medical doctor Andries Bloch. The acquisitions will remain on display until Sunday 24 October 2010.

The JHM temporary exhibition case will hold a selection of paintings, prints, and documents, such as The Little Savoyard (1859) by Maurits Léon (1838-1865). This painting, which JHM was able to acquire thanks to the financial support of the BankGiro Loterij, is one of the very few known works by this artist. Léon was the first nineteenth-century Dutch painter to specialize in scenes of Jewish religious ceremonies. The JHM will also exhibit the bronze head of Max Elion by Jobs Wertheim (1898-1977) and a portrait of Sientje Bloch-Elte as a young woman by the painter Willem van den Berg (1886-1970).

The portrait of Sientje Bloch (1901-1945) is part of a very special group of acquisitions. Recently, in a home in Sarphatistraat in Amsterdam, the personal archive of the Jewish physician Andries Bloch (1895-1945) was found. This archive, which was recently donated to the Jewish Historical Museum, includes a collection of touching letters written by Geziena (Sientje) Elte in the summer of 1922 to her future husband Andries (Dré) Bloch. On 23 March 1923, Dré and Sientje were married in Scheveningen. Two of the surviving documents relate to this event: the wedding invitation and a special newspaper printed for the occasion. The couple had two children, Klaartje Elisabeth (Liesje) (1926) and Meijer Hans (Hans) (1932), whose drawings, Sinterklaas poems, class notes, and letters were included in the find.

The present occupants have lived alongside this historical treasure trove for almost 35 years. During their work, they found a hollow behind the fireplace in their living room, which contained a large number of documents and objects that had once belonged to Andries Bloch. Apparently, Bloch had hurriedly hidden his personal belongings behind the fireplace before his departure for Westerbork in 1943. They would remain there for more than 60 years. Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, they have resurfaced to tell the moving story of the life and work of one Jewish doctor and his family. Andries Bloch, his wife, and his children did not survive the war.

The discovery of this archive makes it possible to reconstruct the lives of these four random victims of the Shoah. More than 65 years after their death, they again have human faces and stories of their own.

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