Beate Oestreicher
Visual biography

Anna Beate Oestreicher, the first child of Felix Oestreicher and Gerda Oestreicher-Laqueur, was born in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic). Her twin sisters Maria and Henriette (Helli) were born less than eighteen months later, in February 1936. Her childhood was a happy one with many visits from Gerda’s and Felix’s families from Amsterdam.
When the threat to the Jews from Nazi Germany became too great, grandmother Clara, Felix and Gerda and their three daughters Beate, Maria and Helli fled to the Netherlands in the hope of eventually leaving Europe. However, the Germans occupation of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940 made this impossible. On November 1,1943, the Germans ordered the Dutch police to arrest the family and take them to the Westerbork transit camp. Helli, who was ill was left behind in a local hospital. Six months later the others were transported from Westerbork to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany.
In April 1945, as the war was coming to end, a train was loaded with prisoners departed from Bergen Belsen and wandered through the devastated German countryside on its way to an unknown destination. It was liberated by Russian soldiers in the village of Tröbitz in the spring of 1945. For Beate and Maria it was like a fairy tale to sleep between clean sheets once again, to pick wild flowers and to no longer be hungry. The fairy tale did not last long. Felix and Gerda became sick and died. The two girls were taken back to the Netherlands by survivors and arrived at the end of June 1945 at the home of their maternal grandparents in Amsterdam. Shortly thereafter, having not seen each other for almost two years, the three sisters were reunited at the farm of Mr and Mrs Herman Braakhekke in Gorssel. They had provided Helli with a loving and secure home during the occupation.
The three girls were then taken in by the ter Laag family in Bergen in North Holland. There in September 1945, Beate, now almost eleven, attended school after having been to school for a month in 1941. She was able to read, write and do arithmetic and quickly made up for lost time.
In July 1947 Felix Oestreicher’s sister Lisbeth and her husband Otto Birman, who had been married in the Westerbork transit camp in 1945, decided to give the three girls a permanent home with them in Amersfoort. After graduating from the gynasium, Beate went to study biochemistry in Utrecht and received her master’s degree in 1960. Thereafter she was granted a research position at the Rockefeller Institute in New York, after which she undertook research into the B-50 protein (now known as the Gap-43 protein) with Dr Perlman in Israel. She received her doctorate in 1967 in Amsterdam under Professor Slater with a dissertation on The Mechanism of the Inhibition of Succinate Oxidation by Uncouplers.
Beate then took up a research post at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam. When her post was cut during re-organisation, she continued her research at the Rudolf Magnus Institute in Utrecht. Just before her death, she published her extensive study ‘B-50, The Growth-Associated Protein-43: Modulation of Cell Morphology and Communication in the Nervous System’. Among her colleagues Beate was known, among other things, for the antibodies she produced in the laboratorium, which were much better than commercially available varieties.

Throughout her adult life, Beate was not only dedicated to science but was also a committed member of the peace movement. In the 1970s she participated in anti-nuclear demonstrations and the protests against cruise missiles. She went on protest marches and lobbied officials, but was mostly active in developing strategies. She never ceased to look for new ways to convince people of the need for peace. She conceived the idea for Radio Irene: a plan for the creation of a network to facilitate the distribution of information and peace proposals in countries entangled in civil conflicts. The aims of the Beate Oestreicher Friedenswerke Foundation, which she set up, were based on the ideas of behind Radio Irene.
Beate was concerned not only for society at large, but also for her family. She was intensly engaged with her sisters and their children. She was an extremely attentive and generous aunt to her nieces and nephews, not only pampering them with presents, but also listening to their ideas and taking a serious interest in their opportunities and perspectives.

When her life had stabilized she met her great love and companion, Gerard Holzmann, a scientist and fellow peace activist. They lived together for many years until it became clear that Gerard could no longer continue his scientific research in the Netherlands. He left for an interesting position in the United States. They corresponded, saw each other frequently and spent holidays together.

In the early 1980s, Beate was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She lived with the disease for years and never complained. She went about her life and work fearlessly. At the end of 1996 it became clear that the disease could no longer be controlled. It was then that she established the Beate Oestreicher Friedenswerke Foundation (BOF), which she endowed with substantial funds to support activists and organisations that attempt to disseminate reliable information about war zones and promote activities that will bring about reconciliation and peace.

Beate died in September 1997 just after the publication of her major article (almost a second dissertation) on the B-50 protein.

The memories of the horrors of the concentration camps in the Second World War and the sexism within the scientific community did not restrain her from constantly striving to attain her goals with dogged determination. She had a fragile appearance. As delicate as she was, she had immense perseverance and the conviction to formulate and implement her ideas.

Biography Beate Oestreicher 1934-1997

1934 born in Carlsbad (now Karlovy Vary, Czech republic)
1938 flees to the Netherlands with her parents, grandmother and two sisters
1943-1945 interned with parents, grandmother and Maria in Westerbork transit camp and Bergen Belsen concentration camp
1945 liberated in Tröbitz, death of parents
1945 returns with Maria to the Netherlands and is reunited with her sister Henriette (Helli)
1945-1947 she and her sisters live with the Ter Laag family in Bergen
1947 she and her sisters move in with Lisbeth and Otto Birman-Oestreicher in Amersfoort
1948 gymnasium in Amersfoort
1954 graduates from gymnasium, studies chemistry in Utrecht
1960 master’s degree in biochemistry at Utrecht, works in New York and Tel Aviv, Israel
1967 receives her doctorate under Professor Slater in Amsterdam
1968 researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam
1985 researcher at the Rudolf Magnus Institute in Utrecht
1997 major publication on the B-50 protein
1997 dies in September from cancer of the bladder