THE EAGER WOMEN’S RIGHTS ACTIVIST AND THE PACIFIST

Rosa Manus (1881-1943)

was a Dutch pacifist and female suffragist. She was the daughter of Jewish parents and grew up in Amsterdam. In 1908, Rosa Manus was engaged in the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) [currently known as the International Alliance of Women]. She was the Dutch association’s secretary and one of the organizers of the 1915 International Congress of Women in the Haag in the Netherlands. In 1935, she and a colleague established the International Archives for the Women’s Movement. Here, literature about women’s rights and women’s history was collected and stored. Rosa Manus also worked against the increasing fascism in Europe from the middle of the 1930s, and for peace.

What do you think happened to Rosa Manus when the Nazis occupied the Netherlands on 10 May 1940?

Rosa Manus immediately fled the country.

Rosa Manus was active in aid work for Jewish refugees who came from Germany to the Netherlands. She was one of those who understood what would happen to Europe’s Jews. Nonetheless she did not leave, but stayed to help refugees and continue her work with women’s rights and peace.

Rosa Manus was arrested because she was a pacifist and Jewish, and because she had worked internationally with women’s rights.

Just two months after the occupation of the Netherlands, the International Archives for the Women’s Movement that Rosa Manus had worked with, was closed by the Nazis. All the books and archives found there were seized and parts of the collections sent out of the country. Literature that promoted the women’s movement, peace and other topics with which the Nazis disagreed ideologically, was not to be found available anywhere. It was most likely that all the material was sent to Berlin where the Nazis established a separate library for the study of the enemies’ literature. One month after the archive was closed, Rosa Manus was arrested.

What happened to Rosa Manus?

Rosa Manus was 59 years old when she was arrested. She was held in the Netherlands for three weeks before she was sent to Germany and interrogated by the Gestapo. She was never released. For a woman of almost 60, it was difficult to survive the German concentration camps. In July 1942, her family received word that she was dead. After the war, the family received a new message from the Red Cross saying that she had not died before April 1943. It was first assumed that she died in Ravensbrück concentration camp for women, and she is listed on the memorial there. But after the war, witnesses claimed to have seen her, very sick, in Auschwitz.

The International Archives for the Women’s Movement, which Rosa Manus had helped to establish, exists today and is now called the Atria Institute on gender equality and women’s history. The books that Rosa Manus herself owned were spread to the four winds as the Nazis evacuated the cities where all the seized literature was stored. The books ended up in different libraries around Germany, and some ended up abroad. In 2003, parts of Rosa Manus’ private collection were returned from an archive in Moscow that had stored the material. Books are found even today that Rosa Manus owned, in German and some other foreign libraries. Some of these books are to be found in the National Library in the Czech Republic.