During Holocaust

Dutch family took in Jewish couple whom they hadn't previously known at the request of the Dutch resistance movement. By Cnaan LiphshizTags: Holocaust Jewish World Israel news.

Sent by Shlomo Tagger, our correspondent in Israel

"No matter what, nobody enters the attic." This was the unbreakable rule that defined the childhood of 75-year-old Albert Johan Reeders from Amersfoort, Holland. On Wednesday, his parents will posthumously be awarded Yad Vashem's highest honor, for harboring two Jews whom they hadn't previously known for three years during the Holocaust.

Israel's national Holocaust museum decided to name André Reeders and Aaltje Reeders-Wittermans as Righteous among the Nations for taking Sally and Claire Gimnicher-Hirsch - a married couple - into their home near Amsterdam in 1942, at the request of the Dutch resistance movement.

Unlike most cases involving Dutch households taking in persecuted Jewish families, the two families had had no prior knowledge of each other. Yad Vashem's inquiry into the case showed that their cohabitation through strife, occupation and want led to an unusual friendship which lasted long after the war.

"My parents had about two hours to decide whether to take in this couple," said Abert Reeders. He will accept the award for his parents, who died more than twenty years ago.

The Reeders had five children. If caught harboring the Gimnichers, the entire family might have met a curt execution by German soldiers. The parents told their children never to let anyone from outside the family into the attic, where the Gimnichers were living.

The initial connection between the Reeders - a deeply religious Christian couple - and the Gimnichers was made after a source in the Dutch police informed resistance fighters that police was going to raid the Jewish family's hiding place.

The resistance asked André and Aaltje Reeders - a factory worker and housewife - to take the strangers in. André Reeders was involved in printing anti-Nazi propaganda for the resistance, which seven-your-old Albert Johan would sometimes distribute. Albert Johan Reeders says he remembers well the Gimnichers, whom he calls his "uncle and aunt."

"Food was scarce, and acquired through food stamps which only the Reeders possessed," Yad Vashem's report says. "The food was shared equally by all house occupants. The issue was never even discussed."

The Gimnichers had two children. One of them was sent to the U.S. and another survived the war in a different hiding place in Holland. The Gimnichers stayed with the Reeders for several months after Holland's liberation - an unusual occurrence in rescuer-survivor relationships of this kind.

During the Nazi occupation, the Gimnichers stayed in the attic but would eat on the staircase, so as to be able to rush upstairs as quickly as possible. Only one room was heated, and so in the winter the Gimnichers would come down more often. Sometimes they would stay with Andre Reeders' mother, who lived nearby until she died in 1944.

"The manner in which the couples shared everything was remarkable," Yad Vashem's report said. "The relationship continued between the couples' children and grandchildren through telephones, emails and meetings even after the Gimnichers emigrated to the U.S." The Gimnichers died in the 1960s.

"The Bible tells people to share their food with the hungry and their homes with the homeless - so my parents did this," Albert Johan Reeders told Haaretz.

A representative of Israel's embassy in Holland will present Albert Johan Reeders and three of his sisters with Yad Vashem's medals for their parents at a ceremony scheduled to take place at the Amersfoort City Hall on Wednesday - exactly one week before the January 27 commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Door: de redactie -IW-

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