This Hanukkah lamp (or Hanukiah) is a significant object in Jewish tradition. Its eight candles commemorate the miracle of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem, when the lamp burned for eight days despite its one day’s supply of oil. The Hanukkah lamp symbolises the survival of Jewish faith. This lamp belonged to Sophia and Levie van Dam, residents of Leens, in the Netherlands.

The van Dam Family's Hanukkah Lamp

This Hanukkah lamp (or Hanukiah) is a significant object in Jewish tradition. Its eight candles commemorate the miracle of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem. (Photo: Peter Berra)
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This Hanukkah lamp (or Hanukiah) is a significant object in Jewish tradition. Its eight candles commemorate the miracle of the Second Holy Temple in Jerusalem. (Photo: Peter Berra)

The shamash, the ninth holder of the Hanukkah lamp, is used to light to other eight candles. (Photo: Peter Berra)
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The shamash, the ninth holder of the Hanukkah lamp, is used to light to other eight candles. (Photo: Peter Berra)

Leens’ synagogue, photographed in 1945. The windows were vandalised during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.
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Leens’ synagogue, photographed in 1945. The windows were vandalised during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Deportation to the Sobibor Death Camp

In September 1943, the van Dams learned that they would be deported to the Westerbork transit camp. They decided to entrust their belongings to non-Jewish friends, and gave this lamp to neighbours Jantina and Jelte Bolt. Henderika, the Bolts’ 9-year-old daughter, never forgot this gift.

The van Dams were later deported to the Sobibor death camp in Poland, and were likely killed in the gas chambers upon their arrival.

Most Jews deported to Sobibor met a similar fate. The camp had six gas chambers working simultaneously, capable of killing 1,300 people at once. It is estimated that more than 250,000 people were killed at the Sobibor death camp between 1942 and the summer of 1943.

The Hanukkah lamp, a Memento of the van Dam Family

The van Dams never returned to Leens, and the Bolt family kept the Hanukkah lamp in their memory. Henderika brought the lamp to Canada when she immigrated in 1953, and her daughter donated it to the Montreal Holocaust Museum in 2009.

This project is part of the implementation of the Plan culturel numérique du QuébecObjects of Interest of the Holocaust, Plan culturel numérique du Québec

Draw Me the Story of Jews in the Netherlands during the Holocaust

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