Betje and Sophie Lazarus

01 July 2019 - 10:01

In December 1895 Betje and Sophie attended a public meeting of the ANDB together. That meeting was convened to convince diamond workers who were not yet organized to join the trade union. Rose cutters were among the group addressed.

On the left photo is Sophia Lazarus, on the one at the right is Betje Lazarus.

    Betje and Sophie Lazarus

    Roosjes Snijdsters en Snijders Vereeniging

    One of the problems was that employers kept reducing wages, because they found people willing to accept such low wages, especially young women largely working from home. Because new people kept being trained in the trade, the situation continued. Known as ‘cultivating apprentices,’ the practice had to be stopped and minimum rates introduced for men and women alike. At that meeting Betje asked a question, causing great consternation, as was later remembered ‘How an ordinary young girl, a rose cutter in fact, could be so bold as to speak up at a meeting!’ [1]

    In June 1896 at the second meeting the Roosjes Snijdsters- en Snijders Vereeniging (RSSV) was formed, with Betje Lazarus as president and Sophie Lazarus as secretary.  The minimum rate, which was to apply for men and women alike, was enforced only after a major strike in 1900.


    [1] Weekblad van de ANDB 18-11-1904

    The International Diamond Workers Congress

    In September 1897 Betje and Sophie Lazarus travelled to Antwerp to attend the International Diamond Workers Congress. According to Betje, women were ‘regarded as very unusual’ there too. [1] At that congress a group photo was taken, featuring Betje and Sophie in front.


    [1] Weekblad van de ANDB 18-11-1904

    International diamond workers’ congress in Antwerp


    Collection IISH.

    Betje ran a café - Sophie remained with the ANDB

    At the end of 1897 Betje left the union. In June she had started a teetotallers’ café on Rembrandtplein with Jac de Beer, whom she married on 3 November 1897.
    From that point onward, her sister Sophie served as chairwoman and secretary alike, although Betje continued to chair the meetings for another year. In 1898 the ANDB membership records were introduced, and Sophie was issued a membership card as well.

    Betje’s farewell at her own café


    Report from the meeting where Betje Lazarus steps down as chair of the RSSV at the teetotallers’ cafe she owned. Weekblad van de ANDB 10-12-1897


    During the great strike in the diamond industry, which broke out in August 1900 (Sophie’s card reveals on the rear that she collected strike benefits for five weeks), many unemployed rose cutters who were not yet organized joined the union. After the strike had dragged on for seven weeks, the minimum rates were finally adopted. In June 1901, after five years of hard work, the RSSV was doing well, and over half of all rose cutters had joined.



    Sophie stopped serving on the board as well. In October 1900 she married Abraham Soep, a bookseller and publisher at the time, as well as a known troublemaker in socialist circles. Sophie and Abraham had two sons: Leonard and Bernard.

    The publishing company did not generate enough income, and in 1905 the family moved to Antwerp, where Abraham found a job as a diamond worker. In 1907 they divorced, and Sophie returned to Amsterdam with her two sons, where she went back to work as a rose cutter.

    In 1913 Sophie married Marcus Haringman, who was also a diamond worker. In 1918 she was promoted and became a brilliant cutter. From 1937 through 1939 she was continuously unemployed, and in 1940 (when she was 68) her name was removed from the list of members.



    Betje and her husband Jac had a daughter, Etha, who was born in 1903. In various places in Zaandam and Amsterdam they ran teetotallers’ cafés, albeit with little success. Following the umpteenth bankruptcy, Betje returned to the diamond industry as well and was issued a membership card.

    Often unemployed, she ended up leaving the trade in 1919. In 1911 Jac died, and Betje tried to run a lunchroom but declared bankruptcy in 1925. In 1926 she moved in with her daughter Etha, who by then worked as an assistant bookkeeper and was married to Abraham Smalhout, an office clerk. Betje lived with them until her death in 1933.

    Sophie, Marcus Haringman and Sophie’s brother Marcus Lazarus (also a diamond worker) were all murdered in Sobibor in 1943.