Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

My father was the personal physician to the commander of the concentration camp

Physicians heal anyone they can, no questions asked

My father was the personal physician of the German Nazi commander of the largest Dutch transit concentration camp, Westerbork, via which 105,000 Jews traveled on to their murders “in the East,” among them Anne Frank.

My father was an exception in many ways. He grew up dirt-poor. He and his brother were able to study at the university through a grant for gifted children from the Dutch government. They both chose Medicine.

My father, Nico (natan) van Zuiden, just got his medical diploma (bul) on the day Germany invaded the Netherlands, May 10, 1940. As customary, at MD graduation, he vowed to work as prescribed in the Hippocratic Oath.

He grew up in a tiny apartment in the now gentrified Folkingestraat at the heart of the City of Groningen, which then held the second-largest Jewish community in the Netherlands after Amsterdam. Then, the street wasn’t paved with asphalt, bricks, or cobblestones, but bare sand. Summer and winter that meant: mud. The boys wore wooden shoes. They were cheap, sturdy, warm, and waterproof. Yet, to save them humiliation in the halls of academia, their holy parents worked like crazy to get them leather shoes.

The province of Groningen was possibly the most hostile to Jews of all of them. Its homonymous capital wasn’t any better. So, the Groningen Jews were the easiest Dutch target for the Nazis, without friends or money.

So, my father, his family, and all his neighbors were among the first to land in Westerbork, with the assistance of the Dutch police and train personnel.

Het Apeldoornsche Bosch

My mother (the two didn’t know each other yet) was at the hideous emptying of the Jewish psychiatric hospital where she worked as a nurse, not an unusual profession for Jewish girls before and until they married.

My mother, Betty (baty-a) Nieweg, was to be on leave on January 21, 1943, the planned day of the raid on Het Apeldoornsche Bosch, a most modern mental clinic at the time. The ambush was supposed to be a secret operation, but, through sloppiness, it leaked the day before. Many nurses (and fake nurses hiding from deportation), ran. But, with her big heart, my mother rushed to the hospital to get the confused and scared patients ‘ready,’ made sandwiches (that were not taken, in the end), and dressed them. The commander of Westerbork had come over too to enjoy ‘the wonderful sight’ (my mother’s words). The Nazis were kind of scared that mental illness would be contagious, so instead of pushing the confused patients into the open trucks, they hit them with sticks into the vehicles.

The Nazi police asked for 50 nurses who would want to accompany the deportees. My mother wanted to volunteer, but a friend, a Jewish physician who worked there too, who was a bit less naïve, pulled her out of sight behind a door and whispered in her ear: one peep and I kill you.

It turned out that the nurses were directed to the gas chambers upon arrival in Auschwitz, and the patients were gassed still in the trains.

Chosen by Nazis

My mother reencountered the Westerbork commander when she was deported with her parents. She would work in the camp as a head nurse.

At a certain moment, the camp commander ordered three nurses and two physicians to show up at his office, my future father and mother among them. He told them: You take care of me and my soldiers, and we will not transport you. My mother told me they didn’t believe him. Every Tuesday of the roll call for deportation ‘to the East,’ my parents showed up, their backpacks packed, ready to be ordered into the train. They were right. Their names did appear on the last transport list out of the camp. That train never left because the Allies had already liberated the East.

The Nazis were steeped in evil but not stupid. Without saying anything bad about the wonderful people whom they didn’t select into this group of five, in these two they were not mistaken. My father would rather die than be deceitful. He was incorruptible. People say: “Everyone has their price.” They didn’t know my dad. My mom could not hurt a fly with her big heart.

My father was less naïve than most intellectual Jews, possibly because he grew up poor. Before the war, a Jewish physician, Eli Cohen, had shared at a medical congress in the Netherlands that the Nazis were building extermination camps. No one believed him but my father.

As a personal physician of the camp commander and other Nazis, he had all kinds of ‘privileges.’ They were awarded in the most humiliating way. For limited time, signed by the commander. He was allowed out after the 8 PM curfew, to use a bike (the camp was large), and even leave the camp! He sometimes took a patient to a hospital for deeper tests, sometimes he went to a medical library, etc. He always came back. He was told: You don’t return, for you, we’ll send several to the East. He asked me: Was my blood redder than theirs? (A principle from the Talmud that he somehow received by osmosis because he had had no official Jewish training at all.)

After the war, when I was a teenager, I asked my father, who never talked about the war: Was it not hard to take good medical care of the one who was orchestrating the murder of tens of thousands of Jews?

He answered me: I had sworn an oath to heal people. The rest is politics, and I can’t work with that. Note: The last verb was in the present tense!

The Present

Politicians now suggesting that medical personnel could refuse state-of-the-art medical treatment ‘because of their own religious conviction,’ don’t know what goes on in healthcare. A life-long smoker gets the same lung cancer or heart infarct treatment as someone we deem innocently ill. A terrorist who killed and maimed but survives gets the best treatment available, no questions asked. If, in Israel, you don’t want to room with Muslim/Jewish/neither patients or be treated by Muslim/Jewish/neither medical staff, you have a problem because, no matter what wars rage outside and what rage is in-vogue, inside Israeli healthcare reigns peace.

Now, this idea that, as a physician, you heal anyone you can, no questions asked, is a long-standing, established practice around the world.

Surely, medical science was compromised before WW II. Scores of ‘respectable’ physicians and other academics were measuring skulls, artificially dividing humanity into ‘biological races,’ and publishing their ‘state-of-the-art’ nonsense in reputable medical journals, including the Dutch high-standard Neederlansch Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde.

That did not mean that someone would not get optimal medical advice and treatment because of ‘race.’ Medical Nazis, assistants to torture, and Soviet ‘psychiatric treatment’ of dissidents were always exceptions.

Surely, a Muslim physician in an Israeli hospital may have to prove herself more than an equally qualified Jewish MD. This is not different from a woman surgeon needing to be better than a male colleague. It’s human nature or general oppression, whatever you call it. And the cleaners in Israeli hospitals are all Muslim. That’s capitalism. But there is no chance that Israeli healthcare suddenly starts treating or not treating patients following workers’ feelings and convictions. No way.

I knew a Jew who really hated Muslims. There are people like that. He learned to be an ambulance driver. He told me, most of those I transport are Muslims. Don’t you hate that? No, I just act with them as I should. But I’m doing this job to save Jews. Even racists can only serve democratically.

That’s not a Jewish principle. That is general medical ethics around the world. Even in the US, where stone-hard fundamentalists are ready to defile weddings and funerals, no one ever suggested closing healthcare for certain groups, or offering them ‘similar’ care by someone else—I hope.

I’m working on a booklet on my dear departed parents’ War stories.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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