War escaper, forger celebrates a century
A woman who escaped the Holocaust and once met Anne Frank reckons she's had enough adventure as she turns 100.
Dora Suuring, who still has more spark and wit than many younger people, has led a remarkable life.
A wartime concentration camp escaper, she became a document forger who used her skills to survive among the Dutch community for the rest of the war.
In 1948, she migrated to Wellington to make a new life.
Suuring, of Crofton Downs, recalls how, after the Nazis occupied the Netherlands, she and her first husband were persuaded to go to a special "safe" camp for Jews.
It soon became apparent that this was a weigh station for the deportation of thousands who were destined to slavery or death in Nazi concentration camps.
Suuring and a friend did not want to be deported and made their escape by making a hole in the camp wall.
As Suuring was blonde she was not readily identifiable as Jewish and changed her name to something less likely to raise questions.
Her mission from then on was to do whatever she could to help save others, especially children.
Using her skills as a chemist, she took a job in a baking powder factory which gave her access to chemicals that she used to remove photos, fingerprints and stamps from ID cards so new papers could be forged for herself and others associated with the Dutch underground.
She recalls a day when she was nearly caught as she was carrying a pass she had forgotten to sign.
Fortunately, the policeman only glanced at it and handed it back without spotting the flaw.
Suuring also remembers meeting Anne Frank, the German-born Jewish girl who wrote the famous diary of her time hiding in Amsterdam before she and her family were sent to Auschwitz.
"She was in a special Jewish school and she came to our house once, but I didn't like her very much. Her family were real German Jews . . . they were arrogant and thought they were better than the Dutch Jews."
Suuring and her first husband split up during the war, and he also survived.
These days she still gives public talks at the Jewish Institute about her wartime experiences and is scheduled to speak at the Paraparaumu Probus Club in September.
But today, her 100th birthday, has her thinking it's time to go.
"I'm looking forward to dying very soon because my hearing is going back, my sight is going back, my energy is going back."
She still lives in the family home her second husband built in 1950 and although she gets a little home help to do the cleaning, she is determined never to go into a retirement home. "I don't like being dependent on other people."
The birthday celebrations began on the weekend when family and friends came around on Sunday and since then there's been a steady flow of visitors bearing flowers and cards.
Suuring, who has two daughters, two grandchildren and four great grandchildren, taught chemistry and science at Onslow College, Queen Margaret's College, Chilton Saint James and Teachers College.
The Dominion Post