The choices we make often play a big role in the life we lead. It was that one choice the parents of Clara Van Thyn took in 1942 that changed the then 2-year-old’s life forever.
In 1942, Clara was a happy toddler growing up in a Jewish family. She and her parents lived in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, a city broken by German bombs. It was also in 1942 that Clara’s parents received a notice to report to the train station for “relocation.” Each with a suitcase in hand, they stood waiting to board the train.
It was there Clara’s parents made a decision, either a split-second decision or one they had planned in advance. As the train pulled in, Clara’s parents handed her over to a stranger, a resistance worker. As her parents boarded a train, the resistance worker took Clara to a foster family, a non-Jewish couple who were unable to have children of their own and were in the resistance and to safety. Her parents never returned from their “relocation.”
Clara was renamed Sonja by her adopted family, and is now Sonja DuBois. Sonja came to Maryville Intermediate School in early May to share her story and the story of the holocaust with the MIS students.
Sonja’s foster family stayed hidden for the duration of the war. While she was able to attend preschool, the family did move around a lot, usually predicated by when people started to question Sonja’s looks. She was the only dark haired girl in a class full of blond children. She was a child who just “showed” up in the family, but nothing was said about from where she came. These were questions her foster parents would not answer because those in the resistance knew secrets must be kept.
When Sonja was 12, she was told about her Jewish past. That was the same year the family of three immigrated to the United States.
Today Sonja makes it her mission to tell people about the horrors of the holocaust that killed 6 million Jews. Approximately 1.5 million of those deaths were children.
Sonja told the MIS students that she was not alone. Approximately 5000 were hidden by parents who made the ultimate sacrifice of handing them to total strangers in the hope that their child would be safe and survive.
To contact Sonja, email firstname.lastname@example.org.