in Western North
Choosing to Remember from the Shoah to the Mountains
Name Ė MARY BOS SCHNEIDER
Birth Date Ė SEPTEMBER 26, 1928
Place of Birth Ė AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
Parents' Names Ė ARIE AND KATHARINE
Name: Mary Bos Schneider
Birthplace: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Birthdate: September 26, 1928
Parents: Arie and Katharine Bos
Erica: My name is Erica Grabon and Iím here with Mary Bos Schneider. Todayís date is Sept, 10, 2007. [Erica is joined by Deborah Miles, Catee Matoian and Luiza DeCamargo}
Erica: What was your life like as a child? What was it like growing up there before the war?
Mary: I loved living in Amsterdam. It was really wonderful. As a child I have to explain about my parents. My dad and I were born in Amsterdam and my mom and brother were born in Philadelphia. So my dad was a billiard player and he was a world amateur champion. When he went to the United States my mother also played and she refereed a game he played and thatís how they met. They were married, they had my brother, they came back to the Netherlands and thatís where I was born. After about 5 years we came to the United States for the summer, then went back for two years to the Netherlands, then my mother became homesick again, so back to the United States and we lived there for 2 years then we came back to Holland after that and our family had planned to stay there for the rest of their lives but different things happened so we came to the united states in February 1940 before the Netherlands was invaded.
Erica: What was life like growing up?
Mary: Well, I went to the Montessori School and I really loved that school. You could talk when you wanted to, you could learn your reading, your arithmetic whenever you wanted and you went along just beautifully. That was where I met Anne Frank. She was a year younger than I was and her sister was a year older so I was right in the middle. I didnít know the sister very well at all. As you know Anne Frank was a lively young lady and she wanted to play with everybody. It was so funny after the diary of Anne Frank was written everybody was talking about it . I said to my mother ďAnne Franks name sounds so familiarĒ and she said ďIt does to me too, but I canít remember herĒ. I coluldnít place her and the weird thing was that on one of the pages she says she has a dream and she mentions Mary Bos in her book and I was just so shocked to hear that. And I said ďfrom the Montessori schoolĒ and then I realized I was at her 10th birthday party. A lot of the girls I was friendly with Anne Frank. She always played with us during recess or from school. We had lunch from 12-2 and everyone went home and came back early to jump rope or to play cards or play marbles. That was the most fun that we used to have. That was how I knew Anne Frank mostly and she was, like I said, a live-wire little girl. At her party we had a wonderful time there, you saw the picture. And I pulled that out me and my mother went through all the old books and things like that and I found a little tiny snapshot about this big, maybe 3x5 and sent that to the Anne Frank museum and its been published everywhere and Iím always surprised cause here I am and hereís Anne Frank. It was nice at her birthday party. Her father took us all inside and the one thing I could remember so clearly in her apartment was we all sat down and we had to take our shoes off and he covered our feet with blankets, I think there were 9 of us girls, and he covered us with blankets and Mr. Frank, all the shoes were all in a pile, tried to find out the first shoe that he picked up who would put on the right foot and donít ask me that game Iíve never played it since. Whoever was the last one won something. Mrs. Frank had all the dessert, cake and ice cream for us stuff like that and was very, very nice and then we went outside to play and thatís where the picture was taken. When we left I can remember very clearly I had a little album for people to say goodbye and Anne Frank wrote a beautiful little poem which Iím surprised it hasnít been published.
Deborah Miles: Do you have the book?
Mary: No, I gave it to the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam.
Deborah: Did you make a photocopy?
Mary: I didnít even think to do anything like that. When your 15 and 16 you donít think of those things. And those were the years you couldnít copy you donít know how lucky you ladies are and all the things theyíve discovered since then.
Other girl: so you were 15 or 16 when you were recalling back on your life and meeting Anne?
Mary: Yeah thatís right. The diary came out about í47 and I think it was about 48 or 49 so I would have been in my teens. Maybe a little older than that.
Erica: Do you have many other memories with Anne Frank or was it just that specific birthday?
Mary: That particular birthday I remember the most.
Erica: How did it feel when you finally picked up the diary and realized, hey Iím in this diary, this is something thatís become a major story, a major symbol of the holocaust and how did it feel to be associated with it?
Mary: Well at that time it wasnít quite, everyone was just reading and it wasnít as popular as it is today. I was very pleased for Anne Frank and the Frank family to read and how well the diary, her diary, has gone. The first time my mother went back to Holland she went to the Anne Frank museum and took the pictures and that little book. She asked if Mr. Frank was there and they said Mr. Frank comes here, rarely, he lives in Switzerland. And she said oh well there are some things I would like to give to the museum and they ďReally, what is your name?Ē They told my mothers name and it was Bos B-O-S and they said wait one moment please and that was the one day, believe it or not, that Mr. Frank was at the museum. They took my mother into his office and Mr. Frank sat down and cried and cried and cried when he saw the things. A lot of people did not know that we had gone to the United States it was kept as quiet as possible the day we left. I donít think Mr. Frank was aware of it. He never knew what had happened to us or where our family was. And the reason that we were very important to leave was because in November of 1939 in the middle of the night a letter came from the American consulates for my mother as an American citizen saying leave the country immediately as soon as they could. It was a very difficult decision but my father realized he was also wanted by Germany. He was a billiard player as I mentioned, and he was very popular in Europe. The Germans asked my father to come to play for a billiard championship against the Germans and he refused to do this and he was threatened by the Germans and the reason that my father decided not to do it was he watched a newsreel in those years and you could see they showed concentration camps but thatís the type everyone was forced to smile but he had heard various rumors about Jewish people, gay people, whatever you were ill if you were, what do you call it, handicapped, you were sent to concentration camps in 1939 and were put to death. I should say and that was terrible to do to someone so he was really threatened by the Germans. [The people in Holland never thought that war would break outÖ in WW1 nothing happened and Holland wasnít touched so they thought the same thing would happen]. My brother and I [could see] from my apartment the troops, the Holland soldiers. They were young kids and they carried shovels, sticks, mops, as soldiers. And they were just walking regularly and waving to everybody and it was fun. It was very sad later on to see what happened to all these people.
Girl 1: Do you remember anything of the changing climate before the war?
Mary: what do you mean?
Girl 1: like the changing political climate in your country, did you notice the differences? Mary: Well between the ways people moved or the news or the events that happened before you left?
I think that Holland just changed as far as I was concerned I was 10 or 11 years old at that time and I was thinking of going to America. Isnít that great? Another trip to America, how nice, I mean the realization of an 11 year old child just doesnít have an idea that war will happen or how threatening Germany was in those years.
Erica: did your father or parents explain to you why you guys were leaving or did they just say hey weíre going back to America?
Mary: No we realized there was a threat for my father. My mother and my brother were American citizens and it took us 3 months to really get visas. You just didnít go to the post office and get your picture taken and get a picture and fill out the papers and send it Washington or wherever it goes. No those were not the years where that was happening. It was quite different. We had to go to Rotterdam and be very quiet when we did so nobody would know we were doing this. I stayed out of school on a Saturday because obviously in Europe you go to school from 9-12 Saturday. The principal found out I was not in school that day and she threatened me and she said ďwhy werenít here?Ē and I said ďI canít tell you.Ē I finally told her why and she was just horrified at leaving Holland. It was very difficult to leave but they all agreed that that was the right thing to do.
Girl 2: did you travel by boat?
Mary: By boat. Those were the years when it took 10 days to cross the ocean, flying was not popular in those years. Our furniture was sent by English Channel and no ship was going through that b/c of the mines and our ship somehow got through.
Girl 2: So you all had time to plan your trip and pack up everything. Did you leave anything behind?
(Husband comes in and talks in the background for a moment)
Erica: When news finally, I know you came to the US before a lot of stuff had happened when news finally starting filtering in to America saying this is whats happening in Europe theres all these camps thereís murder thereís death how did it affect you? How did you feel realizing that you had escaped this that you guys got out before everything fell apart.
Mary: It was very sad, it was very horrible to see that on the news reel when they showed the concentration camps and all the piles of all those bodies it was very frightening, very terrible. For the first two years of the war 1940-42 you could see letters but then after that nothing came anymore.
Girl 2: Do you have any idea what happened to the rest of the girls in that picture?
Mary: Iím still in touch with my best friend Kitty thatís right next to me in that picture and we write each other and itís wonderful to hear from her. She said after the war she thought she would never be happy again. I know that she wrote very little about the war ever and she said she saw Anne Frank several times before the concentration camp and they, well as you know all the Jewish children were sent out of the school.I donít know what happened but our teacher, Mr. Gelder, itís the funniest thing I always thought of him as an older man and I saw a picture of him I think at your place (gesture to Deborah). I saw a picture of him and he looked like a young kid and it was funny to see. He helped so much with the Jewish children.
Erica: Did you ever discuss the war and the camps with any of the girls you stayed in contact with? Did they ever talk to you about it or did they just keep it as a distant thing?
Girl 1: Where were you living after you moved back?
Mary: We lived in New York for one year and then we took an apartment in New York City and I lived there till I was married in 1958.
Erica: Were you fluent in both languages, both Dutch and English?
Mary: When I first came here I didnít speak a word of English. I think I was 5 years old the first time when I was here for 3 months in the summer and I learned very little English and we went back to Holland and then I was put in 2nd grade in school and I hardly knew the language and it was amazing what children could learn because in 3 months I could speak English and write and read it.
Girl 1: Where you still corresponding with Kitty when you were here?
Mary: At that time yes when we first came here.
Deborah: Do you still correspond with her?
Deborah: Where is she living?
Mary: She in the Bloemendaal and its right outside of Amsterdam.
Girl 2: What happened to her and her family during the war?
Mary: She never wrote about that. She just said how unhappy she was after the war.
Deborah: There was a time where you guys did not correspond?
Erica: A lot of survivors still talk about the war but listening to survivors stories a lot still havenít talked about it because they donít want to remember it and they just want to act like it was a bad nightmare that happened long ago and just block it out so I can understand why she would never have talked about it.
Mary: Yeah it was very, I mean I never asked about it but I did ask about Anne Frank of course but she never answered that she just said she saw her a few times and visited her, she was doing fine but thatís all she ever wrote.
Erica: Was Kitty herself, was she Jewish?
Mary: No. She came from Budapest, Hungry.
Girl 2: In Holland could you feel a rift between the Jewish and the non Jewish population?
Mary: The only time that I felt it direct to me was we always had someone who came to clean the house and my mother was collecting a lot of canned goods in the apartment in our attic and thatís where the girl, she was a new one, we had one for years and years but she went back to Germany. A new somehow came to be with us I donít know how but those were the years that you didnít know anything. Everything was kept between the mom and dad. It is a big difference. I think that families are so much closer today. One day, one of my parentís friends called them and told them be careful. They had seen her one day on her night off with the Nazi crew and she was with them and then they found out she was a spying on our family.
Girl 2: They really thought your father was that much of a threat?
Mary: He was so well known like Michael Jordan or whoever you have here and when he went anywhere they were all like ďItís him!Ē and were so excited.
Deborah: What was your fatherís name?
Mary: Arie Bos. Billiard player b/c that was the Netherlands national sport was at that time. Its soccer now or something. But billiards what was they were going for and they had a parade when he won the professional, professional amateur world championship. I have a picture of a horse and carriage all through Amsterdam hundreds of people out in 1920.
Girl 2: Do you remember being scared?
Mary: No. I think years later we were horrified to think what could have been.
Erica: Did you leave before, well before the stars started appearing for example.
Mary: Oh no, we left in February 1940 and the war came out in May so we didnít have that. They didnít have to wear that, any of the Jewish people till about 42.
Erica: So you really left before pretty much any signs had started to come out.
Deborah: I would really like you to tell the story of how you came to America and how you met Bob. I forgot exactly how but he saw you on the TV.
Mary: Well my parents, well Bob lived in Monterey, Massachusetts and I donít know if you know where that is, but they bought a summer home out there and one day I was still on TV and I rarely came on a weekend because most shows were on Saturday or Sunday night so we got Sunday off and my parents wouldnít be there because my father had work and Bob saw one show I was on, the Arthur Murry show. And we were 3 specials. I was never with the Arthur company and I was the middle girl and Bob happened to see that show and the next day he went to my father who had lake property next to the Schneider family and Bob said did you see the show last night and my father said yes and bob said did you see the girl in the middle there and my father said yes, she is my daughter, and Bob said, your daughter? When is she coming up? So for some reason I came up maybe 2 or 3 weeks later so I had a weekend off for a lifetime wow, joy, get out of NYC and I met Bob and my father introduced us right by the lake since our properties were right there he said would you like a ride in my boat and I said yes and when we got back he said thank you very much well see you around, see ya. And he took off since he was with another couple and I didnít think anything of it and back in NY. My father called and said you have a date with Bob Schneider. I said what are you talking about he didnít say anything. He said this weekend. What happened, Bobís cousin heard his cousin saying Iíll see you. He called his mother and said Bob has a date with Mary and my father and Bobís mother were friends and she called him and says my son has a date with your daughter. So my father called me about it and said you never told me you had a date and I said I donít have one. Well heís waiting for you this weekend and I said Iím sorry I have a show this weekend I canít come up. Well as soon as I could I did go up and I did meet Bob and we went out and on our second date he proposed.
Deborah: That is love at first sight.
Mary: I thought oh dear, so it worked out very well we were engaged by September and married by May 11th the following year.
Girl 1: Did you have any siblings?
Mary: I had a brother who passed away and he was 2 years older then I was.
Girl 1: Was his memory of the war, the pre-war, did you ever talk to him about it?
Mary: No, no, we were told very little about what happened to people or anything like that. War was not one of those things. You saw it when you went to the news reel you saw those horrors and obviously we saw the troops fighting and we saw London being bombed and death and all kinds of horrible things but its like in the US you just donít get into it or anything because your just not there anymore.
Erica: Were you ever exposed to it in school? Because I know a lot of students post war, um, the news reels came out and teachers would show it in schools and teachers would discuss it in classes and were you ever exposed to it.
Mary: No, very little about the war but I donít recall anything like that. I had a hard time because I was put in the 5th grade when I was in the Montessori school and I was so far ahead especially in math and they put me in the 7th grade. Now how on earth does a 13 year old kid, I was 11 years old or 12 years old, with 14 year old kids how can you have friends? And that was very hard.
Girl 1: And were you speaking English by this time?
Girl 2: Were there any other cultural changes from Amsterdam? Was it hard for you to adjust?
Mary: Yes it was. You eat differently so we had to change everything. I mean the Europeans just have the knife here, the fork here they cut and eat this way and itís a lot easier then switching around your fork and knife for one thing. Food is different. I love both foods. I love food anyway.
Erica: How did you come to after you moved here, How did you come to start performing? You said you were doing ballet and shows. How did that start?
Mary: Well, a lot of hard work. I went to Professional Childrenís School in NYC and I went there from 10-12:15 and then you have papers you have to do that on your own or you went to a college. I went to Hunters College. You can hire somebody to teach you geometry or something like that and I did that in between classes and the classes were from 1-2:30, 3-4, and then you had homework and something to eat and then 6-7:30 by the time you get home thatís 3 classes a day after going to school then you have to do all your homework and then go to sleep and then get up again and you do that for several years. When I graduated high school, I auditioned for a Broadway show and I was hired. And once you make the break and get your job itís a lot easier.
Girl 1: So did you have ballerina training before?
Mary: I had 5 ballet classes in Amsterdam.
Girl 2: What Broadway musicals were you in?
Mary: The first one was Music in My Heart, the Life of Peter Tchaikovsky. There was 3 Wishes for Jamie, and the last one was Girls in Pink Tights and I was on TV, Sid Caeser show, Steve Ellen, and Ed Sullivan. We did a lot of that and I enjoyed that because each week it was something different as was the ballet originally after I was with the first Music in My Heart show that lasted 5 months and I was with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo for 3 years going around the country.
Erica: When were you, I mean it was many years later obviously, when were you first approached about your story with Anne Frank and how you knew her?
Mary: I think it was when we first moved to Hendersonville. If it was ever mentioned that I knew Anne Frank people would just look at me and change the subject I think they didnítí know what to say was my interpretation but I was never asked for an interview or anything about it.
Girl 2: What does it say about you in the diary?
Mary: It just says that I was in her dream. I really wish that I could remember so much more about her like things about her during recess and we would all jump rope together and I can just see her but she wasnít really in my classes so I canít really place her.
Deborah: So which one is you and which one is Anne?
Mary: Thatís me and thatís Kitty. Kitty was a lot like Anne Frank. (tells about picture)
There were just 9 girls.
Mary: There were all mixture. There were other schools also. I remember one time I had to bring
Girl 2: Was it common for Jewish children to go to Montessori school?
Girl 1: Do you remember noticing any Jewish culture growing up?
Mary: Everybody was just, there wasnít a difference. I was always brought up people are people donít worry what their ethnicities are. Obviously on Saturday from 9-12 we would go to school and that was cleaning day and the Jewish children would go to their synagogue and obviously they never went to school.
Girl 1: So they were excused from Saturday classes?
Mary: Yes, Yes, because there wasnít a class there we just cleaned the class. The boys would dust everything and I was always in the kitchen. We had a little kitchen there and we had to hand out the soaps and the whole school was scrubbed and the classroom and the whole school was scrubbed top to bottom by the kids. And every Tuesday and Thursday from 2-4, we went from 9-12, 12-2 went home for your lunch and from 2-4 on Tuesday, Tuesday was embroidery and Thursday from 2-4 knitting and crocheting.
Girl 2: What else did you do in school what else did you learn?
Mary: What was it like? If you were naughty, if you talked too much? Well you had to stand in the corner. And I know one day, you could just go over to anybody and sit down and chat and obviously the teacher said about your work but you had to gossip too there a little, I mean girls will be girls and boys will be boys too. One day I went and talked and talked and talked and the whole class got quiet and I just talked and talked and talked to Kitty, I donít remember what I talked about. Mr. Gelder was sitting right over there and I didnít know it I was so busy telling my story to Kitty. I was told to stand in the corner. I was horrified the first time in my life I had to tell my parents I had to stand in the corner.
Girl 2: What were you taught?
Mary: What were we taught? History, Geography, Math, French, Grammar.
Girl 1: You said you found you were ahead at American schools.
Mary: 2 years ahead in math.
Girl 1: Was that the only subject you were ahead in?
Mary: Well, certainly not in American history. Oh, you also have Art, Writing, Reading, the very same thing you would have in schools today.
Erica: What do you remember most about Amsterdam, what things stuck out in your mind?
Mary: I think our apartment, the apartment that we had. I remember going to the Reichís museum our father would take us on Sundays I remember that. The first time I went back to Holland I said to Bob we have to go to the museum and so we did and now the Dutch artist Van Gogh, he wasnít that popular when we were there but now there are books about him. But I prefer the old Dutch artists. I remember the canals, I remember skating on the canals. And Iím sure Anne Frank would join us on Saturday afternoons or Sundays to skate on the canals. We all did.
Girl 2: Was that the first time you went back to Holland with your husband?
Mary: Yes. As a matter of fact we also went to the apartment and visited the people that lived there. We were on the 3rd floor on the highest and there was one sky scraper that was 12 stories in Amsterdam but anyway below us were the family called Cornelissap and she, the daughter, has been to the US once and I was on tour and she was 11 years older then I was, so I never played with her, too big an age there so when we went to there I said to Bob ďwe have to go see herĒ so we rang her doorbell and she answered it and she said whoís there and I told her who I was and she said she nearly dropped dead hearing my voice and we went upstairs and it was very, ooo I sat and cried in the living room, it was very emotional.
Erica: Other then the apartment did you go back and look at places you had been when you lived there?
Mary: Oh yes, we went and saw the Anne Frank school and the whole outside of the school has her writings all over the school.
Girl 1: This was the Montessori school?
Mary: Yes, they renamed it, itís now the Anne Frank school but we couldnít get in it was a Sunday. That was hard. But the whole school has her writings.
Deborah: Tell us about the picture. Where is that a plaza? What are the buildings?
Mary: That was apartments.
Deborah: Did you live in those apartments?
Deborah: did Anne Frank live in them
Mary: Yes, she did.
Deborah: Could you point out her apartment?
Mary: No, I canít, I wish I could. I think they were very well to do.
Girl 2: Were all the girls very well off?
Mary: Well, I imagine some were and some werenít I wouldnít say we were overly well off but I canít say we were poor, content is the word. Not wealthy and I would say some of them were wealthy and some of them werenít.
Erica: Money never really came up Iím guessing as children.
Mary: No, as children you donít really think well how much do you have of that type of thing.
Erica: You guys were just content to play marbles.
Mary: Thatís right just little kids. So it was hard to leave everybody.
Girl 2: Do you remember telling your friends that you had to leave?
Mary: Well, we had to.
Girl 2: Well, how was that?
Mary: We left our apartment and we stayed in a hotel for 2 weeks prior to leaving. So they would come from school. I didnít go to school anymore then. We were too far for me to get there. I would go out with them, it was nice.
Deborah: Do you remember where your friends signed the book? Did they come to your house?
Mary: School, I brought the book to school. And I was given that, I took swimming lessons and all the family was there for the graduation. Swimming was a big deal and they said a gift was for me and it was the book.
Girl 1: Like an autograph book?
Mary: Like an autograph book it was about that big (uses hands to show) and some of them put little roses on it or something or another on it.
Girl 2: The girl who was the spy, did your parents ever confront her or was sheÖ
Mary: They just fired her immediately. We were not home at the time we were just told she was gone.
Deborah: And your parents, where are they?
Mary: My parents? my father died in 1962 and my mother in 1968.
Deborah: They had not returned to Holland?
Mary: My father never. He never wanted to go back and my mother went in Ď67 but she thought it was awful to go back to Holland. She said the people she went to see were like ďplease leaveĒ. Different people, they wanted to make sure how much money she had and did they have to pay or was she going to pay. She said it was a big difference and she is the American citizen who got away.
Girl 1: Do you feel like it was a privilege that your mother was American?
Mary: When we lived there? Well there were so many various countries when we lived there and those were the years that you couldnít travel as much as you can today. On occasion, my father would go on tour and that would be through Belgium and through France and then heíd come back.
Girl 1: So, on returning, your mother felt like they noticed that she was different because she was the American that got away?
Mary: Yes. We had friends of my father who stayed. When the Germans broke into Holland they went to Rotterdam to try to get a ship going out cause they were bombing like crazy there. When they got to Rotterdam and he suddenly said to his mother and his wife Iím taking the two boys wait for me and watch me keep your eyes on me and they said hundreds of people were there and I donít know how they did it but the ship was about to leave and he said can you take two boys and us and they said hurry up and he threw the boys over and as he ran back to his mother and wife he saw the ship moving and he said he couldnít leave them, they were what, 9, 11 years old going to England and he ran and ran and took a flying jump and got on the ship and they went all through the bombing in London. On occasion he had a job there and the kids had to go to school and they would come back and there was no apartment left. After, he found out his wife had committed suicide and the mother had died and it was very sad and they came to the US. After the war and my mother and father took in the boys for a while and they were wild they were like little hellions. There was no control they grew up doing everything and anything they thought they could do and it was very frustrating.
(closed up and finished the interview)
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