Three Dutch Couples Named Righteous Among the Nations

Honor for non-Jews who rescued Jews during WWII awarded posthumously at Rotterdam's liberal synagogue.

The children of three Dutch couples received the title of Righteous Among the Nations Wednesday in their deceased parents' names, the Israeli Embassy in the Hague told Haaretz.

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Authority said it had posthumously awarded its highest honor for non-Jews who rescued Jews from the Holocaust to Berthus and Gijsbertje Colet, Pieter and Siebregje van der Werff and Cornelis and Marretje Veenhof, at a ceremony in Rotterdam's liberal synagogue.

Another Dutch couple, Hendrikus (Hein) and Martha Snapper, received the title last month. Yad Vashem said that the four cases are not part of any specific effort connected with the Netherlands. "This is part of our general action regarding applicants," spokeswoman Estee Yaari said.

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Colet, Riet, received the medal in her parents' name for helping to save Mr. and Mrs. Thalman, who owned the Eindhoven furniture shop where Berthus Colet, a carpenter, worked.

The Thalmans, who were Jewish, spent 22 months in hiding from the Nazis in a two-by-three meter room in the Colet household. Berthus Colet had earlier given the Thalmans the key to his house in case they needed to hide.

The Jewish couple showed up at the Colets' doorstep when the deportation of Dutch Jews to death camps began in 1942. The Nazis would often execute anyone caught hiding or assisting Jews.

In 1943, Pieter and Siebregje van der Werff sheltered two Jews in their house in the small town of Bolsward in northern Holland: Elisabeth Groenteman, who was 23 at the time, and nine-year-old Esther Waterman.

The two Jewish girls did not live in hiding at the van der Werffs, but ate at the dinner table with the couple and went with them to church. Some of the van der Werff's neighbors must have known the girls were Jewish, Yad Vashem concluded, but no one said a word. The van der Werff's son, Sytze, who thought of Esther as his older sister as he was growing up with her during the war, received the medal in his parents' name.

When the deportations started, Milo Liebstaedter, a Jewish banker of German descent, came to Cornelis and Marretje Veenhof for help. The couple had made their Utrecht home, where they lived with their three children, a safehouse for Jews in hiding.

At tremendous personal risk, the Veenhofs took in the Liebstaedter's two daughters: three-year-old Hedi and her sister. Hedi's sister was quickly moved to another shelter, but Hedi remained with the Veenhofs, who presented her as their adopted daughter.

The Veenhofs' biological daughter, Margriet, who received the medal in her parents' name, was only two at the time. By the age of four, when the Netherland was still occupied, she already knew not to mention her step-sister to strangers.

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