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Biography of Klaartje Blok

On 21 December 1842, the very first winter day, Klaartje Blok was born in the middle of the night. She was the very first child of Andries Abraham Blok and his second wife Hester Denekamp. From Andries' first marriage with Kaatje Salomon Cohen, there was another daughter. Elizabeth, also called Betje was 9 years old when Klaartje was born.

Family tragedy

Andries and his first wife Kaatje had a total of 4 children. Only Elisabeth reached the age of adulthood. Elisabeth's twin brother Levij died at just 6 weeks. Matje, who was born a year later, was only one month old when she passed away. And the next child Kaatje gave birth to, was a stillborn child. The drama was complete when, a month after giving birth, Kaatje also died.

Five years after Kaatje's death, Andries married again. He married Hester Denekamp from Amersfoort and moved to Gorinchem with his new wife. Eleven months later Klaartje was born.

Fate seemed to haunt the family continuously. Because although Hester gave birth to six more children, apart from Klaartje, only one survives the first 24 months: Klaartjes brother Hertog Blok.

IJsselveere in Hoenkoop
The "IJsselveere" in Hoenkoop (Oudewater) around the time Klaartje Blok lived here.

Klaartjes other siblings (Eduard 2x, Abraham and 2 nameless brothers) all died within 18 months after birth. And history repeated itself when soon after delivery of the last child (Eduard Blok. Dies after one day) Hester dies in childbirth. Klaartje was no more then 12 years old.

In the years between the birth of Klaartje and the death of her mother, the family moved several times. In 1842 the Blok family moved from Gorinchem to Ameide. The family lived there for about 10 years. Then they moved to Oudewater. And around 1854 we locate the family in Gouda. They lived there at De Turfmarkt. Just a stone's throw away from the synagogue . Other than the removals, little is known about Klaartjes childhood. However, what is clear, is that her life changed radically after her mother's death.

The Teenage Years

Klaartjes mother's death not only caused great sorrow but also practical problems. As the only remaining parent, Andries couldn't take care of his 2 youngest children. After all, he had to earn a living. Klaartje and Eduard were too young to take care of themselves, so a solution had to be found.
Five months after Hester death Klaartje's eldest (half)sister, Elisabeth, married Jacob Trijbits . Whether or not the marriage was earlier than planned isn't clear, but it might have been. After their marriage they moved to a house of their own and let Klaartjes father Andries and younger brother Hertog move in with them.

Klaartje was sent to Schoonhoven. Although she is not listed in any local registry, she presumably found a temporary home with her uncle Eliazer Ephraïm Denekamp and her aunt Susanne Arend van Rees. Traditionally, family ties within Jewish circles were close and in those times family members took care of each other, if necessary.
After eleven months Klaartje returned to Gouda. The family was reunited, but only for a short while.

In 1857, 14-year-old Klaartje went to live with another uncle and aunt. In Leerdam, she resided with her uncle Jacob Walg and aunt Mietje Denekamp: The parents of her later husband Eduard Walg, whom she would marry in 1874. Whether this marriage was a so-called "arranged" marriage is not clear. If not, romance must have blossomed during her stay in Leerdam.

It must be clarified that "arranged marriages" were the rule rather than the exception within the Orthodox Jewish community in the late 19e century/early 20e century. Marriages between cousins were also fairly common at that time. Within Orthodox Judaism there were/are many rules regarding whom you may or may not marry. Marriages between cousins were/are permitted and therefore occured on a regular basis.

advertentie uit de Schoonhovensche Courant
Advertentie uit de Schoonhovensche Courant

In 1859 Andries Blok moved with his son Hertog Blok to Ouderkerk aan den IJssel. A few years earlier he founded, together with an associate, a (kosher) cheese shop. This provided him with more resources.
Two years later Klaartje left her lodging in Leerdam and temporarily moved back in with her father. In the subsequent period Klaartje got to work as a maid in a.o. Gouda and Oudewater. In 1865 she quits working , returned to Ouderkerk and focuses entirely on her role as a housewife.

A family of her own

On May 4th, 1874 Klaartje married in Ouderkerk Eduard Walg. After their marriage, they remained living in Andries' house. Before long Eduard and Klaartje start their own family. In 1875 Klaartje gave birth to the twins Hester and Mietje (named after their two mothers) and a year later to their first son, Jacob.

In the last quarter of the 19th century only 3 Jewish families lived in Ouderkerk.  The Ouderkerk Jewish community consisted, at its peak, of 18-25 people. Most of them were children. Only a few were men and that wasn't enough to form a minjan.( In Judaism a minyan is the minimum number of males (10) required to constitute a representative “community of Israel” for liturgical purposes. A Jewish boy of 13 may form part of the quorum after his Bar Mitzvah (religious adulthood).) And so the Walg-Blok family had to go to the neighbouring congregation of Lekkerkerk for the prayer services. Maybe that's why the family moved to Lekkerkerk in 1877.

In Lekkerkerk 4 more children were born. In 1879 Klaartje gave birth to Andries, in 1881 she delivered Henri and Elisabeth was born in 1883. And finally, in 1886 daughter Sara was born . Unfortunately Klaartje's father Andries did not live to see this; he died on April 26th, 1878 at the age of 72. Upon his father-in-law's death, Eduard took over the business. Klaartje took care of the now extended family.

Rotterdam

In the late nineteenth century, many Jews abandoned the countryside and moved to fast-growing cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Often for financial reasons. The Walg-Blok family also moved to the city. In 1888 they settled in Rotterdam.

Helaas is er (tot nu toe) heel weinig bekend over Klaartjes leven in Rotterdam.  Men mag echter aannemen dat Klaartjes eerste prioriteit bij het reilen en zeilen van het gezin ligt; de opvoeding van de kinderen, het schoonhouden van het huis en het bereiden van de maaltijden. En misschien dat ze later wellicht nog wat hand- en spandiensten verricht in de Kaaswinkels aan de Schiedamsedijk en de Westewagenstraat.

overlijdensadvertentie Klaartje Blok
Overlijdensadvertentie Klaartje Blok. Bron: CBG Verzamelingen

Maar feit is dat ze uiteindelijk op 13 december 1907, op bijna 65-jarige leeftijd overlijdt in Rotterdam. Ze is begraven op de Joodse begraafplaats aan het Toepad in Rotterdam.

*This version of the Biography is of temporary nature. As more data is found, this biography will be rewritten.

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