A Dutch policeman who joined the resistance movement after being ordered to round up Jews will Monday posthumously receive Israel's highest honor for people who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.
Henk Drogt's bravery became known thanks to the efforts of an El Al pilot who heard the story from the hero's son, who will receive the honor on his 65th birthday.
Drogt, who was executed by the Nazis in 1944, was already recognized as a hero by former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, Britain and the Netherlands for his role in rescuing Allied pilots who ejected over occupied Holland.
But Israel had never acknowledged the circumstances in which Drogt joined the resistance. Monday his son will receive the honor naming his father Righteous Among the Nations in a formal ceremony in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes Remembrance Authority.
Drogt, who was not Jewish, defected in 1943 with his rifle after receiving orders to arrest the remaining Jews in the Groningen area in northern Holland, where he served in the ranks of the Marechaussee, the military police. Some of his comrades who also refused the order were arrested, and later honored by Yad Vashem for their actions.
Drogt's name was omitted from the list submitted to the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous, because he had managed to escape. It took another 20 years and the unexpected help of an El Al pilot to complete the picture.
The pilot told Haaretz that he met the son, Henk Brink, a few years ago in South Africa. "I thought I'd invite him to see Israel and meet the guys from my squadron, because he's interested in aviation," he said. "I also told Yad Vashem about it, but I wasn't sure they'd name him Righteous among the Nations."
Drogt, 23 at the time of his arrest, was planning to marry his pregnant girlfriend. She gave birth to Brink, the son, on September 22, 1943 - one month after Drogt's arrest. "The impression I received was of a young man, a doer rather than a thinker, who died young," says the pilot, who is also a reserve Israel Air Force pilot.
"My connection to Drogt's story is mostly as an army pilot," he added. "Ejecting behind enemy lines is a pilot's worst nightmare. It must have taken tremendous bravery to risk his life to help those stranded and wounded pilots."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now