Timeline - Sonja DuBois


October 19: Sonja DuBois was born as Clara Van Thijn to Mauritz and Sophie Van Thijn in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. She was their first and only child.


Mauritz van Thijn was dismissed from his job in the linguist department at an export company in Rotterdam.


July 27: When Clara was 21 months old, the Van Thijns were forced to board a train from Rotterdam to Westerbork Camp, and so they give their daughter to a non-Jewish family friend and artist, Dolf Henkes, in hopes of saving her life.

Later that year her parents were sent from Westerbork Camp to Auschwitz where they both died at the age of 29.

August: Dolf Henkes found a foster family for Clara with “Pop” and “Mom,” Willem and Elizabeth Van der Kaden. Clara’s name was changed to Sonja and the family moved to a suburb of Rotterdam called Schiedam. At this point Sonja became a hidden child.


Sonja’s foster parents (Mom and Pop) decided to immigrate to the United States with the help of her birth family. Sonja discovered the truth about her real parents when she had to sign her passport.


May 12: Sonja married Ron DuBois and they raised two daughters.


Sonja received a letter with a newspaper clipping inside from her childhood friend in Holland. The clipping was of her as a young child and the caption said, “Where is Clara?” Later that year, Sonja traveled to Holland and met Dolf Henkes, his brother, and sister. Dolf was 81 years old at this time.


Sonja and her family moved from New Jersey to Johnson City, Tennessee.


Sonja received a phone call from a cousin named Bev. Bev’s family sent Sonja care packages, with clothes and other items, when she was living in Holland after the war. She was never told that these packages were from her birth family.


Sonja lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. She publicly shares her experiences with area students and other community groups.