Nieuw Israelisch Weekblad 30.4.1993


Esther scroll is back home

Monique Marreveld


A story of more than fourty years looks as if it is about to be concluded. Three weeks ago Jan Krijgsmann from Oudesluis ap­proached the Nieuw Israelisch Weekblad for help. He was looking for a suitable home for an old parch­ment scroll with Hebrew text which he had inherited from his father. Krijgsman the elder in his turn had been given the scroll by a jewish colleague, Ieke van Gelder, when the latter emigrated to South Africa. A few days after publication of the story an emmisary appeared: Ieke van Gelder's son.


Krijgsman, catholic, had kept the parchment scroll in a cup­board for years, and wanted to get rid of it. He told us his story at the beginning of April. About his father, who was a butcher in Den Helder, about his father's colleague who ran a kosher shop a hundred meters further along, about Ieke's emi­gration plans. Van Gelder had indeed left for South Africa with wife, son and daughter, giving the parchment scroll to Krijgsman with the words: "Take it. I want nothing more to do with this."


When Jan Krijgsman was a little older he took the scroll with to his family's home, but in time it was forgotten in a cup­board. A month ago Krijgsman was reminded of the scroll when he played a lead­ing role in the play Ghetto, and decided to find a 'proper jewish' home for it.


Two days after publication of his story in the Nieuw Israelisch Weekblad Jan Krijgsman gets a phone call. The man on the line says: "You're looking for a Van Gelder from South Africa. Well, that's me, or at any rate, the only one still alive from this family." The same afternoon Fred van Gelder was sitting at his table at the farmhouse in Oudesluis. A long way from home, since Ieke van Gelder's son had been living for many years in the Frankfurt , Germany .


Frederik van Gelder was born on 10 April 1945, in a hiding place in Den Helder. When he was five he emigrated with his parents to South Africa, where they opened another butcher shop. Judaism and the Jews were never mentioned. After the death of his par­ents Frederik began to look into the history of his parents, of their time in hiding in Den Helder , the fate of his grandpa­rents, Judaism. In a quest for like-minded, he attended the congress last year of 'hidden children' in Amsterdam. While on a visit to The Hague , with friends he had made at the congress, he paged, coincidentally, through a copy of the Nieuw Israelisch Week­blad. Where he chanced upon the history of his own father. "I never imagined that my parents owned such a scroll" he tell me. "It was not mentioned, not once. It must have been the way Jan (Krijgsman) tells it: 'Take this with you, I never want to see it again, and good­bye."


The scroll has been dated by a Judaica expert and is described as a "fine Netherlands handwriting". It is an Ester scroll from the end of the eighteenth, beginning of the nineteenth century.

The handle, which is probably of ivory, bears an inscription which is no longer decipe­rable. There is no indication of who the original owners might have been, or who may have original­ly had it pro­duced. The ex­pert thinks it possible that it had been ordered for private use.


Frederik van Gelder, to whom Jan Krijgsman has in the meantime returned the scroll, is considering having it restored, if nec­essary, and finding a suitable home for it. He has ap­proached rabbi Awraham Soetendorp of the Liberal Jewish com­mu­nity in the Hague .