From Records to Revolution

by Victoria Hirschland Hess — Added March 6, 2011

Frits Hirschland, 1988, Bern

Frits Hirschland, 1988, Bern

In the last minutes of 1986, my boyfriend and I returned early from our New Years Eve outing and the phone was ringing. It was a Frits Hirschland, calling from Amsterdam. I have never heard from him or of him before, and in fact, had not at the time known that Hirschlands still lived in Europe, having survived the war there. I still believed the family myth that my grandfather, Franz, had saved the entire family, while those who told that story were really talking only of our branch of it.

Frits was obviously quite drunk, and surprised that he had found me home, since it wasn’t yet midnight in Washington. He said he had looked through phone books, found my name, knew we were related, and decided to call and wish me a Happy New Year. We went through the “are we related” dance, and he debunked the family myth. I had the impression that he had not yet slept that night, though it was almost 6 a.m. in Amsterdam.

Frits’ Lineage
  1. Salomon Herz Hirschland (one of the three original brothers)
  2. Moses Hirschland
  3. Salomon (Fritz) Hirschland
  4. Herbert N. W. Hirschland
  5. Frits Hirschland

Frits was a record producer. He had recently produced a song called Rock Me Amadeus, a song that had reached number one on the pop charts in the States. Frits apparently had quite a discography to his name, but also a secret history, as can be seen in this translation from Wikipedia.

In this translation, I found something that read like a spy novel. Apparently, from 1986 through the early 1990s, Frits was involved in a political changeover in Surinam, having allegedly been recruited by the French Secret Service. Since Wikipedia can have questionable information, I put my notes on this story aside for a couple of months. Recently, however, I was contacted by Harmen Boerboom, a journalist with the Radio Netherlands Worldwide. He said he knew Frits, and that the Wikipedia entry is 99% true (even given its poor Google translation). From Harmen:

In brief: Bouterse lead a military coup in 1980. In December 1982 under his responsibility 15 important opposition leaders were killed. In the mid 80’s Brunswijk started his Jungle Commando from the interior of the country. Holland saw him as a sort of a Robin Hood (which he was not …). Also Frits saw him as the good fighting against evil, and he joined him in the Guerilla war. When I met Frits during this war he told me that he saw Bouterse as a Hitler.

But having joined him he found out that Brunswijk wasn’t that much better than Bouterse … . So he went back to the Netherlands and in the end he committed suicide.

Record containing hit song Rock Me Amadeus

Frits acted as Brunswijk’s secretary, obviously deeply involved in this revolution. Ironically, “The current (democratic elected) president Desi Bouterse was the one that Brunswijk (and Frits) was fighting against in the 80’s . And now Brunswijk is in his coalition.”

Harmen said that his interest in our cousin was peeked “BECAUSE of the fact that his story IS a spy novel.” Harmen is thinking ultimately of a book about Frits and sought information about his family history form us (which we gladly provided). We are hoping to get some photos of Frits from Harmen at some point.

Though Frits and I talked one other time, when I later tried to contact him for Y2K, I learned that he had died. Dutch papers reported it as a suicide.

Meanwhile, material from the Familie Hirschland tree that we have been working from, and from The History and Fate of the Jews of Essen: A Memorial book to fellow Jewish citizens of the city of Essen, by Dr. Hermann Schröter, translated for Richard Hirschland, provide a history of how Frits’ family got to the Netherlands, and how, until his death in 1999, he was the last of his line.

Frits shares a common ancestor with me of Herz Solomon Hirschland, and is descended from his son, Moses, who had been born in Steinham in 1810, and moved to Essen to follow his father there. Moses was a doctor who treated the Krupps family. Moses’ last son, Salomon, also a doctor and known as Fritz (remembered by John Nathan), was born in 1861 and died in 1944 in the Westerbork Concentration Camp. His wife, a Dutch woman Claire Speyer, was born in Leiden on July 26, 1875, died in 1943 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and one of his five sons, Erhard, died in Auschwitz.

The youngest of Fritz’s five sons, Herbert N. W. Hirschland, a banker by profession, was born in Essen on December 12, 1906. He fled to the Netherlands due to the pogroms against the Jews. He was married to the gentile Trude Batke, who was born on August 17, 1901 and died before the end of the war on May 14, 1944. His marriage to the Aryan woman at first saved him from suffering the fate of his parents. After the death of his first wife – the marriage was childless – he supported the resistance-movement in his adopted country and escaped his National Socialist pursuers only by a frequent change of residence. After the war’s end he married Hendrika Johanna van Reyn, who was born on June 20 in Den Haag.

From Jews in Essen. p 12-13. As of 1984, when Schröter wrote this piece, only Frits, one of Herbert’s two sons, was still living, and worked in his father’s textile firm, and owned a phonograph record production company and nine music publishing houses and managed Dutch artists and music groups. We have no record of anyone in Frits’ direct line, below Moses, having any surviving issue.

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5 thoughts on “From Records to Revolution

  1. I recently received an email from Frits’ cousin, Annemarie den Hartoag. Their mothers were sisters. She said that Frits, his father, and her father had worked together in the textile business. She was very close to Frits when they were young, and by accident, shortly before his death, she learned that he was in den Hague.

    “On 31december I picked up the phone and called him, having seen him for the last time when his mother died in ’87. We spoke for a long time and shared good and sad memories. And I was so glad we agreed to see each other on january 6 or 7. It broke my heart when I found out he took his life, and that still hurts.”

    Annemarie added: “I just want to let you know that he was a difficult, extravagant but loving person, and that he did not have a very happy chilhood in spite of all the money they had.”

  2. More notes from Annemarie Frits also had a younger brother called Herbert. He died in 1968. By the way did you know that Frits was in Suriname for several years as an adviser of Ronny Brunswijk??? He was against the regime of Desi Bouterse who was murdering the people in French Guyana. Frits compared it with the holocaust. He also wrote a book about it. “Dossier Moengo,” in English The Moengo Files.

  3. Thanks to Annemarie, who found this 1979 movie of the group Kayak, with a snip of Frits Hirschland at the pool in its early minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKElULpStWg

  4. Just found your site.
    if anybody wants to know more about any of the Hirschlands in Holland I can give you may be more information as my father was related also to the Hirschlands from Essen and he moved to Holland in the 1930 on advice of Rudy Hirschland.

    • Joost, Just found your comment. I would love to hear more of this story. You can connect to me directly by clicking on my icon on the home page. Victoria

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