“I don’t feel like a hero,” 91-year old Annie Schipper said. “I did what I had to do.”
What Annie and her husband Pieter “had to do” in 1942 was hide a young Jewish couple with a baby son in their small apartment in Amsterdam, at the risk of their own lives.
For their bravery and humanity, Mrs. Schipper and her late husband, as well as a second Dutch family, were honored Dec. 14 as “Righteous Among the Nations” by local Israeli diplomats and the American Society for Yad Vashem.
Schipper, now a resident of Santa Barbara, Calif., was joined on the stage at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel by the young mother she had saved, Leah Lopes Diaz Van den Brink, and her now middle-aged son, Wulfert.
Mrs. Van den Brink recalled one heart-stopping day, when the Schipper house – partially rented by a barber with a German clientele – was surrounded by a cordon of German and Dutch police, looking for a friend of the Schippers active in the anti-Nazi underground.
As the police approached the door where the Van den Brink family was hiding, Annie Schipper yelled at them in the barking, shouting tone often employed by the Germans, “Goddamn, if you want to enter this room, go upstairs and ask your friend the barber’s permission, because the room is full of his stuff.”
The police were so astonished by the outburst that they left without searching the room.
Honored posthumously with the scroll and medal of Yad Vashem were Josef (Jupp) Herinx, who in 1943 found clandestine foster homes for Jewish children in his hometown of Kerkrade, Holland, and his mother Theresa.
One boy thus saved was Andre Neuberger, who was hidden in the home of Theresa Herinx. The cover story was that Andre was an orphan, who had lost both parents during the German bombing of Rotterdam in 1940.
Present at the ceremony here were Theresa van Wortel of Costa Mesa, Jupp’s daughter, and Theresa’s granddaughter.
Neuberger, who lives in Quebec, recounted emotionally how the Herinx family had been “like a father and mother to me.”
The role of the Dutch people during the Holocaust is somewhat ambiguous, Fred Kort, president of the West Coast Friends of Yad Vashem, pointed out in his talk.
On the one hand, 75 percent of Dutch Jews perished during the Holocaust, the highest percentage in any country in Nazi-occupied Europe, except for Poland.
On the other hand, among the 18,000 Righteous Gentiles officially recognized by Yad Vashem, 4,000 are Dutch, by far the largest national contingent in Europe.