Catharina de Levita-Godefroi

11 June 2019 - 15:16

Catharina (Cato) Godefroi was born in Amsterdam on 24 May 1892. She trained as a brilliant cutter, joined the Algemene Nederlandse Diamantbewerkersbond [General Diamond Workers’ Union of the Netherlands, ANDB], and was active in the Union.

Catharina was born to ‘a humble but well-respected family of decent people, with a lingering  aura of having brought forth the first Jewish government minister in the history of the Netherlands: Michel Henry Godefroi served as minister of Justice in the first Thorbecke council of ministers, and the family took pride in him. (…) Nothing remained, however, of the affluence associated with the prestige of being minister,’ noted her son David de Levita. [1]


[1] D.J. de Levita, ‘Catharina de Levita-Godefroi’,


Catharina de Levita-Godefroi

Catharina de Levita - Godefroi, photo belonged to D.J. de Levita.

Brilliant cutter

In 1907 Catharina started training to become a brilliant cutter. At her home, at 20 Blasiusstraat, she was instructed by her father Joël Godefroi, also a brilliant cutter. Two years later she completed her master trial, and on 30 November 1909 she joined the Brilliant cutters section of the ANDB as a fully trained cutter. Her sister Josephine belonged to the union as well. In 1910 Cato enjoyed the week of (unpaid) holiday leave introduced that year by the ANDB.

Active in the Union

Catherina was very active in the union. In 1919 she was elected to the Union Council as the only woman. The Union Council comprised over twenty members who from 1906 wielded considerable authority: the regulations from 1906 tasked the Union Council with running the Union and managing all institutions deriving from the Union. In addition, the Union Council tried to regulate wages and other working conditions. Until 1926 Catharina was a core member of the Union Council. This was not the only additional work she did for the union. In 1919 she joined a sub-committee that sold shares in Het Volk to ANDB members as a way of raising funds to expand the paper. In 1922 she helped sell stamps for the TB foundation the Koperen Stelen Fonds, and in that same year joined the Commissie voor Maatschappelijk Werk [social work committee]. In 1925 the conclusion of her important work for children and young adults was acknowledged, and she left the Union Council as well. Much had changed in her personal life by that time.


In 1922 she married Dolf de Levita, born in 1868 and also a brilliant cutter. He co-founded the Amsterdam chapter of the SDAP and the ANDB. Dolf and Cato met in the SDAP and made their home at 59 Weesperzijde as newlyweds. Catharina continued to work; in addition to faithfully paying her ANDB dues, she remained exceptionally active as a union member.  In 1923 their first son (Frank) was born, named after Franc van der Goes, the journalist, Marxist theoretician and co-founder of the SDAP, as well as the socialist mentor to the young Dolf de Levita, Herman Kuijper, Jos Loopuit, and Henri Polak. After giving birth, Catharina received ten guilders a week in benefits from the ANDB and was granted three weeks leave. She then returned to work. Unfortunately, Frank was in poor health. Suffering from a mental disability, he did not live long.

Expanding family and widowhood

In 1926 their second son David was born. Once again, Catharina received maternity benefits from the ANDB and returned to work some time after the delivery, as she did following the birth of their third son Frans in 1928. The family moved to 61 II Rijnstraat. In 1931 their fourth son Henri was born, named after ANDB president Henri Polak.

Despite her busy family life, Catharina found time to volunteer for the union: in 1932 she represented the ANDB at the Women’s Conference in the Troelstra Oord, organized by the Permanent Committee to promote the trade association of white and blue-collar women workers. The purpose of the meeting was to set up a ‘propagandists network’ to convince more women to join a trade union. After being without work for two years she returned to work in 1933. In 1934 tragedy struck, when her husband Dolf died. Catharina was left to run the household on her own. She worked long hours to support her family and – with some help from her sisters – gave her sons a carefree childhood, as her son David de Levita recalls.

Catharina de Levita-Godefroi with her son David


Catharina de Levita-Godefroi with her son David in 1926, photo belonged to D.J. de Levita.

Re-elected to the Union Council

In 1936 she stood for election to the Union council once again. She was praised as somebody ‘who had previously been a valued member of the Union council.’  [1] In 1937 she was elected. She also served briefly as secretary to the Propaganda Commissie of the Diamantwerkers Weezenfonds [Diamond workers’ fund for orphans] and collected donations toward Aid to Spain.


[1] Weekblad van de ANDB 22-4-1932


Catharina was still working as a cutter when the war broke out. In March 1942 Jews were no longer allowed to be members of the ANDB, and she had to transfer to the Jewish trade union Betsalel. To qualify for a Sperre [exemption from deportation], for herself and her three sons living with her, Catharina completed an application form in August 1941. She was granted this exemption from deportation until May 1943, when all exemptions were revoked. In the raid on 26 May in Amsterdam East Catharina was removed from her home with her two youngest sons and deported. She and her son Henri were murdered in Sobibor on 4 June 1943. Her son Frans was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. Her son David survived the war in hiding.