Lou Velleman gives us the story of himself and that of his family. Erfgoed Fundaasje (Heritage Foundation) is publicizing his story here and providing the background information. Currently, (25th of march 2019) this is still in progress. We will publish the story in phases on this web-page as it becomes available. This is the beginning of the story.
There are six Jewish children born in the same year as me. That year was 1935. Of these children I’m the only one who would survive the second world war. This is in thanks to the network of underground safe-houses. Our grandmother on my father side, my father, my mother and me survive the war. The family on my mothers side in The Hague do not. The family of my grandmother on my fathers side – the Paisen family from Harns – for the most part, also don’t survive. I will give you a detailed report of this. First I’ll give you some information about the family of Velleman.
We derive our name from the name of our job. In Dutch this now defunct job was called ‘kattemeppen’. In the previous centuries the number of feral cats was excessive. These cats would steal anything they could. They were a plague. The people didn’t know how to cope with this. There was a need for someone to control the population of these cats. My ancestors saw this as an opportunity to make a living. They started in the profession of kattemeppen. This is the practice of killing the cat by clubbing it to death and skinning the cat for it’s pelt. The pelt would be sold. Our last name is a reference to this practice: Velleman. In Dutch this name translates as: the man of skins.
Our father lived in the time of were this practice was ending. At that time our family didn’t work in this profession anymore. He did work with the waste products derived from butchering though, but that was the extent of his involvement. As a child, after the war, I did know older farmers who had known of others who had been employed in the skinning of cats.
Our great-great-grandfather Velleman emigrated in the 18th century from Germany to Leeuwarden in the Netherlands. At that time he already ceased to work as a ‘kattemepper’. At that time he already shifted to a profession as a small, self employed tradesman. This Velleman was born approximately in 1768 in Lippstadt, present-day Germany. The first four years of the 19th century, the Velleman family still lived in Leeuwarden and then moved to Sneek. There, they lived for four generations as small tradesman. For the most part in rags and scrap iron.
Grandfather Levi Velleman’s mother, Mietje Mendels, was such a tradesman. As a widow, she cared for four children and provides room and boarding for others. One of these is Salomon Blindeman. He is also employed as a tradesman in rags and scrap iron. A relationship develops between them and in time they are married. They have six more children, one of these dies at an early age. In this way the household grows in size to eleven. Grandfather Levi is an eternal bachelor and lives at his mother’s house. He is quite happy with this arrangement. His brothers and sisters have all long since left the family home and his stepfather has already passed away. When he is 43 his mother dies. He is now alone but isn’t up to the tasks of the chores in the house. He looks for a wife and marries half a year later. He marries Johanna Pais. She’s 28 years old at the time and comes from the town of Harns.
Trade has to expanded. Grandfather Levi has no choice but to work as part of a new business. The eldest son from grandmothers second marriage – Machiel Blindeman – becomes the new tradesman. Grandfather isn’t as proficient a tradesman and prefers to let his half-brother handle this part of the job. In time Machiel’s son Salomon joins the business, as does our father. They join as assistants. Now there are two nephews – Salomon Machiel Blindeman and Salomon Velleman – with their fathers in the company. Machiel dies at this time. The brothers now have to run things together. Two opposite personalities, generally stated, accommodating and hard as nails. In no time at all conflict occurs.
Our father leaves the company and strikes out on his own. At first in the auto maintenance shop of Jikke Ozinga, next to his hotel. After only a brief time, the customers come running to our father. Offcourse, the reason for this is since Sam Blindeman isn’t proficient in contact with customers. Our father uses a ‘Skûtsje’ (small Dutch traditional vessels) to improve his trade. In the summer-time he rents out this vessel for leisure to his customers. This is a successful way of retaining his customers. At five years of age I’m allowed to accompany our customers at fishing for eal. In this, I have an important function: to be on the look out for the police. Afterwards I also smoke the eal. Delicious!