It was thanks to this documentary that I got to know aspects of the life of Hans Snoek, the founder of the Scapino Ballet, of which she never boasted. This documentary was indeed, a great vehicle to promote the values for which she stood.
Sadly, Hans (formal: Johanna) died a year later, remarkably on Yom Kippur’s eve, which – some people believe – is another sign of her righteousness. She was, indeed, a Tzadeket Gdola, a huge saint.
a new world
When I came to the Netherlands, in the summer of 1988, to work with the director Izzy Abrahami, a whole new world opened for me.
Izzy was well rooted in the Dutch cultural world. He knew everybody – and everybody knew him. At that time, it was pretty much a close and tight community of Dutch artists, who knew each other from way back, before the war, and in the sixties (the1960’s), many of them were part of the Provo movement.
They all met twice a year at the home of Erik de Vries (the renown Dutch TV pioneer) and his life partner, Hans Snoek. June 5th and December 29th were the birthdays of Erik and Hans, respectively. No invitations were ever sent. Everyone knew there will be a party, and everybody came. It was a big house, the second and third floor, and a huge attic on the PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam.
It was an amazing house. The walls were covered, floor to ceiling, with original artworks of Dutch artists, original Dutch pottery was everywhere, and several walls were covered by shelves, laden with books, and endless VHS tapes. When I was introduced to Hans Snoek, she asked me right away if I speak Dutch, and when I answered in the negative (I just arrived a few months before) she told me that all the expat dancers who came to Scapino ballet – the group she created right after the war – were obliged to learn Dutch, and if I wanted, she was willing to give me weekly lessons. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and we met the following Friday, 10:00 sharp, at the dining table at the PC Hooftstraat.
Hans handed me a book titled “Dutch in 3 months”, a book full of exercises and homework. I flipped through it and told her honestly: “Hans, until today, every morning, I’m so happy I don’t have to go to school… I can’t do homework… We must find another way of teaching me Dutch. I would love to learn the language the same way Dutch babies learn it…”
Hans was game! She agreed right away and asked me what would I like to know how to say in Dutch. So, the first sentence I learned was ‘Hoe gaat het met jou?’
Up until September 2000, every Friday morning, I would climb the 2 floors to their home, where we would chat (less and less in English, more and more in Dutch) about our daily life. What I did, what she did. We would go shopping together, I got invited to join her and Erik to Gala evenings, premieres, and events, all over the Netherlands. And surprisingly enough, I did learn Dutch in this way – though I still don’t dare writing in Dutch…
obligation in The Hague
One Friday in 1999, Hans told me that the next week we won’t be able to meet, since she has another obligation, in The Hague. I asked her what it was about, and she said, as if it is nothing remarkable, that she’s invited to the Israeli Embassy, to receive a medal for the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’. My jaw dropped. All these years of weekly Friday meetings and more – and she never mentioned her courageous actions during the war? Only then did she tell me, that her attic was a hiding place for Jews all through the war!
When I told this to Izzy, we decided to make a TV documentary about this amazing, modest woman. The Joodse Omroep commissioned us to do it, and in September 2000 we flew together to Israel, with Erik and Hans, filming the reunion with one of the women she saved, lighting the torch in Yad Vashem, visiting a dance studio in a kibbutz, meeting Israeli artists at the residency of the Dutch Ambassador to Israel, and finally – making Hans’ childhood dream a reality: she conducted the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra.
We would have done more, if it wasn’t for the flaring of the second Intifada, that forced us to cut our stay short and fly earlier than planned, back to the Netherlands.
You can now watch through this link the movie for free.
Thank you for participating in our celebrations and if you have any question – I’ll be happy to answer them, and tell you more!
Next time the story will be of the video installation we created in 2006-7, in honor of Erik de Vries ‘The Promising Past of Television’!
* * *
Stichting Rainbow is now headed by a board of 3 Israelis who live in the Netherlands: Nir Geva, Gilad Nezer and Yankale Bader, and our activities in the past years focus on Israeli cultural and societal activities for the Israeli, Dutch Jews, and the general Dutch public.
In the coming weeks I will reveal more background stories of our projects. In the meantime, you can read all about the foundation, its mission, and projects.
cover illustratie: Scapino Ballet