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Updated on 22-8-2018
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© Photos Peter Smith 2005-2024
For close to two years, I have hunted Holland for needlework that was made during or shortly after World War II, to include in a special issue of the Dutch "Handwerken zonder Grenzen" magazine. The magazine was published in April 2005, commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Holland. During my search I've spoken to many a person and I've heard some remarkable stories that have left a lasting impression on me.
I wanted to conclude this period in my life with an appropriate souvenir: some sort of needlework. So I decided to embroider a handkerchief that is reminiscent of the handkerchiefs that prisoners used to embroider in Concentration Camp Vught. (photo 1)
The art of embroidery turned out to be an important resource for the women locked away in prisons and concentration camps, as Henriette Roosenburg wrote in her 1957 book "The Walls Came Tumbling Down".
An imprisoned woman always carried her handkerchief with her, so it would not get lost. The hanky was a symbol of the solidarity among them. Friends, both male and female, would write their names on her handkerchief. Later, in utter secrecy, she would embroider the names. Quite a number of those handkerchiefs is preserved. The 'Vughts Historisch Museum' in the city of Vught has several on display. On my souvenir handkerchief I wanted to record the names of every person that I spoke with and of the people who contributed in some way to the publication of the April issue of the magazine.

So I sent them a request to write their names on a piece of paper and have it returned to me. (photo 2)
In addition to that I bought some transfer paper to copy their names to the handkerchief. (photo 4-5-6)
I stitched the names in stem stitch with two DMC threads from white skein. In the four corners of the handkerchief I embroidered the heroic "Dutch Maiden of Liberty" holding a spear with a Liberty cap held aloft on top of it. (photo 3)
She is a symbol of Freedom and her image can often be found on Dutch samplers. Then I continued to stitch the names and finally at the bottom corners my initials, the date and HzG 130. (photo 7-8-9) To a prisoner her handkerchief was often a prized possession. And you know what? I feel the same way about it!


Zakdoek Bally van der Putten Kamp Vught Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130 Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130

Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130 Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130 Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130

Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130 Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130 Zakdoek Berthi HZG 130