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Gertrude van Tijn Collection

Identifier: AR 2477

Scope and Content Note

The Gertrude van Tijn Collection centers on Gertrude van Tijn's role working with Jewish refugees in Amsterdam, Shanghai and Australia as well as secretary of the training farm Werkdorp Nieuwesluis. It contains a number of reports and articles as well as correspondence, official documents, newspaper clippings, and two photographs.

The bulk of the collection focuses on her work, with most of the materials pertaining to it to be found in Series II, including several reports. Notable is her lengthy 1944 "Report on Dutch Jewry," written after her release from Bergen-Belsen, which discusses the fate of the Jews of the Netherlands, with details on the work of the refugee committee for which she worked, the restrictions on Jews in Holland, deportations, and the camps of Vught, Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen. Notable as well is the material on the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis in Wieringen, which educated refugees in agricultural, manual and domestic work. Various reports, her detailed article on the training farm's history, and correspondence with former students provide a view of the farm's establishment, instruction and role in shaping the lives of its students. Other material on refugee work concerns the welfare, status and statistics of Jewish refugees in postwar Shanghai and Australia.

A small amount of material deals with Gertrude van Tijn's own life, primarily in Series I. This series includes a few biographical items such as her curriculum vitae and a newspaper article, official and identification papers from Amsterdam, and her yellow Jewish star badges, among other papers.


  • 1934-1970
  • Majority of material found within 1934-1947


Language of Materials

The collection is in English, German, Dutch, and a small amount of Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Access Information

Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Leo Baeck Institute, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note<extptr actuate="onload" altrender="Portrait of Gertrude van Tijn (1891-1974)" href="" show="embed" title="Portrait of Gertrude van Tijn (1891-1974)" linktype="simple"/>

On July 4, 1891 Gertrude Francisca Cohn was born in Braunschweig, Germany. She studied social work under Alice Salomon at the Lotte-Verein in Berlin. In 1910 she went to England, where she had relatives. Made to leave due to her nationality, in 1915 she went to the neutral country of Holland, where she worked for a time for the banker C.E. ter Meulen. and became involved in the Zionist movement, attending meetings with Chaim Weizmann, Norman Bentwich and others.

In 1919 Gertrude Cohn married the engineer and geologist Jan van Tijn. They lived a year in Switzerland, and in 1921 had a daughter. The family lived in South Africa, Holland, and Mexico, where their son was born. From 1925 until 1932 they lived in South Africa with explorations to various countries nearby. On their return to Holland in late 1932, where her husband had accepted a position as engineer, Gertrude van Tijn visited Palestine for the first time.

In April 1933 she began to assist with the growing number of Jewish refugees from Germany. This assistance led to Gertrude van Tijn becoming the representative of the Joint Distribution Committee in Holland and a member of an advisory committee of the League of Nations' Commission for Refugees. She became head of the Emigration Department of the Dutch Refugee Committee and also the secretary of the Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, a farm founded in 1934 in the Wieringermeer polder in North Holland that trained refugees of varying ages and vocations in agricultural work as well as construction, the raising of cattle and poultry, domestic work, gardening, cabinetry, locksmithing, and other practical work. She also aided in organizing the trip of the Dora, a ship which in 1939 brought a number of refugees from Amsterdam to Palestine.

Although she sent her children abroad, Gertrude van Tijn remained in Holland and chose not to go into hiding because of her work assisting refugees. In September 1943 she was sent to the concentration camp Westerbork and then Bergen-Belsen. In July 1944 she was among those Jews exchanged from Bergen-Belsen for Germans in Palestine. Afterwards the Dutch government in exile offered her a position in London to work with displaced Jews; she traveled through liberated Europe and Switzerland in this capacity until the end of the war.

After reuniting with her children in New York the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration offered her a position working with refugees in China. She stayed in this role for a year then spent three months working with the Joint Distribution Committee in Australia before going to the United States. After traveling through the country she lived for a decade in Taos, New Mexico, then settled in 1958 in Portland, Oregon, to be closer to family. Gertrude van Tijn died in Portland in 1974.


0.5 Linear Feet


This collection primarily documents the professional life of the social worker Gertrude van Tijn, who worked with Jewish refugees in Amsterdam during the 1930s-1940s. Much of the material focuses on the experiences of Dutch Jewry along with the German-Jewish refugees who had fled to Holland. About half the collection relates to the manual training farm Werkdorp Nieuwesluis. Some reports on the postwar refugee situation in Shanghai and Australia and biographical material are also present. The collection includes reports, correspondence, official documents, newspaper clippings and articles and a few photographs.


The collection is arranged in two series:

Other Finding Aid

Sixteen catalog cards provide an item-level list of most of the collection's contents.

Related Material

The LBI Memoir Collection holds two memoirs by Gertrude van Tijn:

  1. The World Was Mine [ME 643]
  2. Untitled [ME 1335]

Separated Material

Most photographs have been removed to the LBI Photograph Collection. Duplicate photocopies of items were deaccessioned from the collection during processing.

Processing Information

In June 2013 the collection was reprocessed in order to integrate additional materials and create series. A few very large, overfilled folders were further subdivided and assigned more specific titles. Duplicate materials were deaccessioned and folders were arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Guide to the Papers of Gertrude van Tijn (1897-1974) 1934-1970 AR 3477
Processed by Dianne Ritchey
© 2013
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from GertrudevanTijn.xml

Revision Statements

  • March 26, 2015 : dao links added by Emily Andresini.

Repository Details

Part of the Leo Baeck Institute Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States