The Abandoned Hotel

Children’s Resistance & Friendship in the Second World War

After the holidays, students at your school will be segregated by a wall. Your best mate is in the other group, the so-called othersiders. You won’t be allowed to play together anymore. Unthinkable, right? But this really happened in World War II.

Defiantly, a boy called Ronny and his resistance buddies sing songs over the divide to the othersiders. Together they defeat the mean gang of the Loje Dajes. More (in Dutch).
In utmost secrecy, Ronny plays with Willy, who’s hiding in a cellar across the street…

Lesson plan for BO group 7/8 and first grade VO.
Video of author Mirjam Elias reading extracts from the book, plus personal insights.

Nominated for German and Dutch children’s book prizes.

“exciting, sad, touching, funny…”

Original footage

Hotel Atlantic

A hospitable hotbed of resistance.

The newspaper Het Parool and the original gay magazine Levensrecht (“Right to Live”) were first published here.


His parents and sister, grandfather and friends.

Fighting with WA

The Weerbaarsheidsafdeling (WA for short) chased after Jewish guests, who ran from the hotel terrace and made their escape on to the Westeinde.

Inside, Ronny’s father and his staff armed themselves with billiard cues, beating the WA. Large windows were shattered.

Ronny’s father refused to put up the sign forbidding entry to Jews.

Ronald Sweering voor W.C. school

WC school

Photographer Ronald Sweering opposite the Wilhelmina Catherina school, AKA the “WC” school.

Ronny led his resistance group through the Huidekopersstraat (next to Café Kale) to the Falckstraat, where they and the othersiders fought and defeated the Loje Dajes gang.

No wall here yet…

The last party before the divide went up.

All the kids belonged together. They played with whoever they wanted to play with.

Ronny is on the far right here.

Ronny Sweering

Child of war.

Why don’t the adults do something?
Suddenly there’s a wall dividing his school. Ronny just doesn’t get it.

If he wants to play with Saartje, it’ll have to be in secret. Why?

Children of the resistance

Ronny sets up the children’s resistance together with his friends Kees and Louise.

It started with secret games and passing messages – and singing together through the wall.

Ronny’s parents

So in love. Naturally, Jacob Sweering had to be introduced to the family in Oisterwijk, where Do Boons was born and raised.

Do’s father, Janus Boons, the first socialist councillor, was expelled from the Church along with his family.

Jacob en Ronald Sweering

Father and son

Ronny is three years old here. The family lived above Jacob’s mother’s business on the corner of Middenweg and Zacharias Jansestraat until his father bought a hotel.

Ronny's moeder Do

Ronny’s mother, Do

“Won’t you just ask me out instead of gawping at me?”
Ronny’s father fell head over heels for this beautiful, irreverent girl.

Jacob’s convertible

Jacob’s convertible had been confiscated for the use of SS officers, but he got it back in exchange for a crate of gin. Turns out the German soldiers thought their new leaders were even worse than the last lot.
The steel roof emerged miraculously from the trunk.

Carbide lamp

On the first page of the book, Ronny’s granfather is reading by the light of the smoking carbide lamp. Here it is!

On the left you can see Do’s Philips flashlight for women.

At the back, there’s a kerosene stove and pan.

Hanny’s house

This is Westeinde 24, the Levy family home that was occupied by a member of the NSB after the family went into hiding.

Willy went into hiding in a cellar across the road where the gold reserves of the Dutch central bank are now stored.

Hannah as a doctor

Various teachers made it possible for Hannah to take her examinations in hiding.

After the war she became a doctor. Her fiancé, the resistance operative Rudie Bloemgarten, and her sister, Carla, had been murdered.

Hanny moved to Rotterdam, where she married and made a name for herself as the psychiatrist Ladee-Levy.

Secret ceiling

Mr van Halm was responsible for maintaining the ceilings at the royal palaces. He went into hiding for the Arbeitseinsatz at the Hotel Atlantic, where he made this beautiful ceiling. During raids, up to thirty people could hide in its lower cavity.

The cavity space is clearly visible above the buffet in the orchestra room.

Room six

In room six, Ronny discovered his father’s secret stash of stamps bearing the swastika.

Flip Heil

The first printer of the resistance magazine Nieuwsbrief (later Het Parool). He and Ronny first met at the Atlantic hotel.

Flip acquired weapons via Ronny’s father, Jacob Sweering.

Do dressed up as German noblewoman

Do Sweering doesn’t look very happy here. She’s dressed for a Sicherheitsdienst party, part of a plan to mislead the SD about illegally conspiring with two of its officers.

Do was a fierce woman. But could she keep a secret?

Willy’s basement

During the demolition of Westeinde 21, Ronald Sweering photographed the cellar stairs on which he and Willy had reenacted the murder of Willlem van Oranje by Balthasar Gerards.

Willy’s hiding place was just behind it.

At the front of the house, you can see the cellar window on which Willy wrote in mirror writing: Bye, Ronny.

What Willy read

To ease Willy’s boredom in solitude, Ronny gave him his history books.

Willy was captivated by The Murder of Willem van Oranje: Father of the Fatherland, by Balthasar Gerardts.

servies Atlantic

Ronny’s cup and cutlery

Ronny’s postcards in hospital. In the middle, Mr van Halm’s sketch after Ronny dressed the cat as a dog.

Ronny and Y before the war

Everything was good. They assumed it would always be that way.

Ronny and Y
The Hunger Winter

Ronny and Y on the motorcycle built by Ko Boef, future motorcycle champion.

An exciting diversion, but you can read on their faces what war does to children.

Willy’s gone, Ronny’s alive.

The far side is empty – Hanny’s disappeared and so has Willy. Ronny survives an operation.

Why him?
Should he feel guilty?

Ronny and Y liberated…

Ronny and Y with “their” Canadian soldier Stan Burkett.
After the Hunger Winter, this true liberator knocked on their door, and Ronny’s affection for him grew with every morsel from his backpack full of food.

For the first time in five years, Ronny’s parents allowed themselves to laugh out loud.

Ronny’s mother and grandmother.

The Atlantic after the war

Notice the dolphins adorning the corner of each hospitality box. They’re by artist Fred Carasso, who became a well-known artist after the war.

Rita Delvano

Long before the second wave of feminism, lead violinist Rita Delvano, AKA Duifje Walvis, would take requests at the Hotel Atlantic with her all-female gypsy orchestra.

Ambience, Hospitality, Gastronomy…

After the war, Hotel Atlantic became a trendy destination. Ronny was friends with the artists who performed there, including Ramses Shaffy and Liesbeth List.

The kitchen had a staff of 16. Cartoonist Frits Müller designed the logo featuring a mermaid. The slogan? Ambience, Hospitality, Gastronomy.

For many Amsterdammers it was the place to get married.

Brochure from the 1950s

Boy racer

Ronny behind the hotel on his self-built racing bike.

It took him four days to ride to Italy, where he met Peter Post off the plane. In the mountains, Ronny encountered the Tour de France winner Learco Guerra.

Demolition alley

Opposite the Hotel Atlantic, the alleyway and house where Willy hid was demolished to make way for the Dutch Central Bank.

Resistance comrades

Jacob Sweering, Truus Wijsmuller

“Auntie Truus” saved thousands of children. Jacob never talked about his work in the resistance, but allowed himself a tear when he was contacted by former hiders. In gratitude, they had planted a tree for him in Israel.

Ronny & Hanny

Seen here after the unveiling of a plaque on the site of Ronny’s old school at Weteringschans 267 next to Café Kale.

Who was Willy?

Ronald and Mirjam searched and researched for years.

Willy van Biene was from The Hague, the son of an artistic family who performed at the famous Tivoli theatre in Rotterdam.

Willy van Biene

Willy’s house goes up in smoke.