Maria Wilhelmina BLUMENTHAL (née KOENS, aka Zus) [1917-1994] | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Maria Wilhelmina BLUMENTHAL (née KOENS, aka Zus) [1917-1994]

Maria Wilhelmina
Alias / nickname: 
c.1917-01-01 (Month, Day are approximate)
c.1994-01-01 (Month, Day are approximate)


Barbara Anslow:

There is no female Blumenthal on any of my lists, perhaps she wasn't in camp?

Suziepie gives us  a link to Australia and Dutch origin, so:

If this is her then could 'Zus' be a nickname?

This is the lady's husband:

On an internee list which, following information from Barbara, seems to have been drawn up before August 1942, there's: Blumenthal, L., a 27 year old engineer, so this could be him.

However, there's  a complication. George Wright-Nooth didn't like 'Mr. Blumenthal' (no first name given) and he makes a couple of critical references to him in 'Prisoner of the Turnip Heads'. One of these, if it's accurate, establishes that he was living in Bungalow C and his father-in-law, Jim Dennis, was one of those killed in the January 1945 bombing. This would be A. J. Dennis, also listed as an engineer.  No mention of a Mrs. Blumenthal.

I can't find a Miss Koens or Dennis on my list, so she doesn't seem to have been in camp under that name either (although this list is very incomplete). Perhaps two Mrs. Blumenthals?

One point that just might be relevant is this: in Helen Tse's 'Sweet Mandarin', a book about the family that opened the first Chinese restauant in Manchester, one of the characters is working for a Dutch merchant on the outbreak of war, and this man and his family don't get interned until (and I'm quoting from memory) 1943. Tse thinks that no Dutch were interned at first (which isn't true) and relates their eventual confinement to the course of the war, but it's possible that, just as some British nationals were kept/allowed out of camp at first, so were some Dutch.

But I think there's a mystery here which might be solved with a little more information!


My family knew Leon and Zus for many years.  Mr George Wright-Nooth has a right to his opinion, but my parents had a high regard for Leon and Zus. They were like and aunt and uncle to me.  Zus was the name she was commonly known by - but the name Maria Wihelmina is familiar. (I wouldn't have known her maiden name). But I believe Maria W Koens is the same person.  And Zus was certainly Dutch. My father mentioned both of them in the diary he kept at Stanley prison camp - in which he recorded his bartering of cigs, peanuts, parrots!, and W.T. (whatever that was?) - and various items of jewellery etc. eg:

20/6    10 W.T.            2000

            Paid Zus          8000

 21/6    10 Peanuts     3300

22/1     Cash to Zus    6000          

 27/6    Leon Ring            75 (settled)

It cannot be a coincidence that he mentions both names in his diary - they have to be Leon Blumenthal - and his Zus (and probably at that time they were not married).  Leon was an officer (Suprintendent?) at Stanley Prison after the war - we visited them often. They moved from HK to Australia, about the 1960s, and they settled in Caloundra (Queensland), where they died - Leon 1991 and Zus in 1994.



The reference to Leon being the son on law of Jim Dennis is a bit of a mystery plus the absence of a Mrs Blumenthat or Miss Koens ? I believe he was a member of the Stanley Platoon - and is referenced in R E Jones diary several times. Best rgds,  Phil Cracknell

Hi. Maria Wilhelmina Koens, Zus Blumenthal was my aunt. She was the sister of my father I know that she was in Hong Kong in the camp and that she met Leon Blumenthal there. She was at that time "red cross" I think, I still have "badge" written on it M.D.H:K. A.N.S. and also in cinese. After she worked at the dutch consolate general in Hong Kong, and they left in 1965. As mentioned she died in 1994 in Caloundra Australia.

Hello Willy

Thank you for your confirmation - now that you mention it, I do recall hearing about Zus and the Red Cross. I also know that Leon had two sons, who I met in HK, but I have a feeling that he had been married prior to the War and the two boys were the sons of Leon and a first wife - hence the name 'Dennis' (the father-in-aw mentioned previously).  Perhaps you can clarify that?

Zus and Leon visited NZ in 1958 when they became Godparents to my little brother and sister - they were a lovely couple.



Hi Willy,

Thank you for the extra detail about your aunt. I've updated her name above.

"ANS" was the Auxiliary Nursing Service, you can read more about it here:

It'll be good to see the badge if you could upload a photo. (Here's how: In fact any photos or memories of your aunt's time in Hong Kong, and especially the wartime years, will be of great interest.

Regards, David

Hi David,  I sent you some pictures, also the one from the badge, hope  it will arrive.

Maria Wilhelmina Koens (Zus Blumenthal) and Leon Blumenthal

The pictures are from after the war.  The others I have from Zus are from Indonesia where the family lived before the war and we returned there after the war for a few years.

Leon had 2 sons from his earlier marriage, Michael and Dennis and as my father told us his wife died.

Best regards from Italy.


Thanks for the photos. They arrived safely and I've added them in above.

Is Zus the lady on the right in the top photo?

If you know the names of any of the other ladies in the photos, please could you let us know them too?

Thanks and regards, David

Yes in the top photo Zus is on the right and on the second photo she's the second left.

Leon is in the middle on the top photo, unfortunately I don't know the names from the others.

Zus was working for the dutch consolate in Hong Kong so maybe they are related to that period.

Regards Willy

In December 1947 Leon Blumenthal of the Officers' Quarters, Stanley Prison, was granted a decree nisi, to be made absolute in three months, against his wife Beatrix Agnes Blumenthal of Sydney. He was also granted custody of the two children.

In February 1948 the marriage of Leon Blumenthal 'electrical engineer of HM Prisons' to Wilhelmina Graf (nee Koens), 'secretary residing at the Helena May Institute', was announced.

Source: SCMP, December 7, 1947, p.9 and February 22, 1948, p. 2