Universiteit Leiden

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More than 600 staff members and students of Leiden University did not survive the war. Two of them were Caroline van Loen and Elsa Oppenheim .

Monument dedicated to Elsa Oppenheim and Caroline van Loen in the University Library. Photo by Mengying Zhang.

Van Loen was born in Amsterdam in 1886 and started studying mathematics and physics at Leiden University in 1905. From 1918 onwards, she had been working in the reading room of the University Library. Between 1940 and 1944 she survived in hiding thanks to her friends, but she was deported by the Nazis the 3rd of March 1944 to Auschwitz where she was killed just a few days later. Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center aims to collect all the names and information of Holocaust victims in their database, and information of Van Loen was included. It could be viewed by entering her name into the database.

Elsa Oppenheim was a Jewish female colleague of Van Loen. She was born in Groningen in 1885, the daughter of the well-known jurist Jacques Oppenheim (1849 – 1924). She studied law in Leiden and obtained a PhD when she was just 25 years old. Without possibility to sustain herself, she committed suicide on the 8th of April 1941. She is buried in the Israelite Cemetery in The Hague.

Both their names are included in a voluminous victim list in In Memorial, a publication dedicated to the victims of the Second World War at Leiden University and carved in a memorial plate hung on the brick wall at the entrance of the computer area at the ground floor of the University Library. Ladies like them showed courage and fought to make their own choice of living during the war. As examples of contemporary leading ladies at the Leiden University, Professor Yara van Dijk and PhD student Adriënne Baars, have been making great effort to unveil more untold stories of female as well as male figures just like Van Loen and Oppenheim. Their achievement is extending In Memoriam.

Employees of the Leiden University Library in 1924. Standing fourth from the left: Caroline van Loen; standing third from left: Elsa R. Molhuysen-Oppenheim. Source: joodsmonument.nl.
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