Ruben (Ruud) Rubens

Ruben was born in Amsterdam on 3 September 1917 and died in Melbourne on 7 November 1993. After his highschool (MULO) he became a bicycle dealer and sales representative.

Winners of the ‘Silveren Bal” 1939. Ruben is kneeling second from left.

He loved sailing on the rivers and were involved with the swim clubs and soccer clubs where Ruud competed.  Ruud played soccer at the highest level in Holland. They were also involved with the fledgling labour movement in Holland that  was trying to make Holland a better place for the workers

His Jewish family suffered tremendous losses during WWII, and Ruben, fleeing to Switzerland, miraculously survived (see info below).

After the war, on 24 May 1945, Ruben was registered in the population register of Den Bosch. He lived there with the Spiero family at Ververstraat 60. Almost the entire Spiero family went into hiding and survived the war.

He married Milly Schelvis on 19 September 1945 in Amsterdam. Milly also lost many family members in the Nazi camps, but she too survived. They lived for some time in Den Bosch at Rijkevorsel van Kessellaan.

However, Europe was still far from settled and Milly lived with the fear that the Russians and the cold war would again bring war to Europe and she could not live with that. So with three kids – Paul (b.1947), Hans (b.1948), and Ingrid (b.1953) -, no money and very few belongings they decided to emigrate to Australia, although they would have taken any faraway land had it been offered.

Brothers Paul and Hans Rubens on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
Milly with Ingrid on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt

They arrived in Melbourne on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in November 1953. The De Zoete family had sponsored them and were the only people they knew. They spoke little English – the kids none – and had no money. They found ourselves a refugee camp (Bonegilla) 3 hours by train from Melbourne. But the camp and the food were really good (probably compared to the German camps).  And of course no guards. Within 2 weeks Ruben had hitchhiked to Melbourne and found work sweeping floors in a glass factory and the family moved into a single room in a house in Coburg with 5 other refugee families. They lived there for a year while both Ruben and Milly worked 2 jobs each. Milly wrapping Easter eggs for Red Tulip and house cleaning. By the end of the year they had saved enough money to put a deposit on a house in Springvale.

Brothers Paul and Hans on the Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.

Dutch Wholesale Business: Rubsons

Ingrid Rubens ca 1975 at Dutch Food expo

Ruben worked several jobs in the next 2 years the last of which was as a salesman for a food importer. This motivated them to start a business. They started off in a small, rented shop. Ruben bought Dutch type foods from local bakers and importers and sold them to at first the Dutch community and then to delis and milk bars. While Ruben was a great salesman, Milly was the driving force behind the business. They made a great success of this and to their huge delight their children Paul and Hans joined the business in their late teens. The company was now known as Rubsons and they where one of the main wholesalers of Dutch food in Australia.

Milly & Ruud about 1990 in Hervey Bay Qld. They retired there for about 10 years before Ruud passed away.

They retired from the business as soon as they were confident that their children could manage it and this was in their late 50’s. They moved to Blind Bight by the sea so Ruben could indulge in his passion (fishing) and lived in Hervey Bay every winter. Later on they moved here permanently but after Ruben’s death, Milly moved back to her children in Melbourne. She passed away in 2016.

Newspaper article and pictures about Rubsons

Dutch Australian Weekly
Rubsons Warehouse Melbourne
Rubsons Warehouse Melbourne
l-r Paul Rubens, Ruben Rubens and Hans Rubens ca 1965
Family Rubens in their ‘exhibition shop’ in ca 1973
Visited by the Netherlands Ambassador Rudolf Carl Pekelharing ca 1973, Hans Rubens to the right and Paul Rubens to the left

The Dutch heritage has continued in another way, with son Paul Rubens becoming the organiser of the Holland Festival in Melbourne.

The horrific WWII history of the family Levi Rubens

Father: Rubens, Levi b. 11-2-1888 Doetinchem d. Auschwitz 9-11-1942

Mother: Rubens den-Arend, Rebekka b. 19-9-1892 Rotterdam d. Auschwitz 9-11-1942


Rubens, Salomon b. 9-1-1914 Amsterdam

Rubens, Ruben d. 3-9-1917 Amsterdam d. Melbourne 7-11-1993

Rubens, Lena b. 16-10-1919 Amsterdam d. Auschwitz 9-11-1942

Rubens, Judah b. 6-5-1928 Bosch d. Auschwitz 9-11-1942

(Grandmother) Den Arend -de Vliet, Leentje-(mother-in-law) b. 12-1-1870 Rotterdam d. Sobibor 14-5-1943

Grandfather Levi went to a labor camp (before September 1942), which camp is not known. The family had lived since Nov. 1934 from Noremborghstraat 48, and from 29-4-1938 in Ackerdijkstraat 9. Married to Rebekka den Arend.

Her mother Leentje Den Arend came to live after the bombing of Rotterdam in May 1940, on August 28, 1941, she went to live with another daughter in Oss, Walstraat 30, Diependaal-den Arend family. (Leentje reported to Camp Vught on April 9, 1943, when North Brabant had to be Jewish (JR))

Son Ruben was a bicycle dealer & sales representative, his brother Salomon a shop assistant at Boekhandel Adriaan Heihen.

Daughter Juda is in the birth register of the Dutch Israeli Community and attended the Jewish Lyceum from the end of 1941.

Daughter Lena also has an address in 1942: Amsterdam Tolstraat 48 III.

Mother Rebekka and the children go into hiding, Ruben flees to Switzerland, comes back and successfully goes to Switzerland a second time.

Mother, daughters and Salomon are arrested in Rotterdam. They were taken to Westerbork on October 3, 1942, where they found father Levi. The house is sealed and checked by the Dutch police on 15-9-1942. The JR card states: to Germany, November 1942, correspondence to: Van Loon, Ackerdijkstraat 15.

Salomon Rubens manages to escape from Westerbork and flees to Switzerland. Located in Batavia in 1946 and later in Australia. Worked there for office supplies manufacturer Van Dorp.

Levi + Rebekka + Lena + Juda on transport on 6-11-1942, (Levi was wagon leader), All four were killed immediately after arrival.