Dutch Christian couple honored for exceptional Holocaust-era bravery


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Dutch Christian Zionists who died as a result of their unrelenting efforts to save Jews from the Holocaust were recognized by Israel as Righteous among the Nations.

A medal attesting to the distinction, conferred by the Jewish state through the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, will be given on Aug. 24 by Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Haim Divon, to Maya Schipper — a granddaughter of Johanna Engelberta Schipper-Kuiper and her husband, Klaas Abe Schipper.

Also present at the ceremony in Oosthuizen will be Meijer van der Sluis and Samuel Segal – two of the dozens of Jews saved because of the actions of the couple and members of their underground network.

From 1943 to 1945, the Schippers, a pastor and his wife from Schardam near Amsterdam, endured between them a total of at least four house searches by German Nazis and Nazi collaborators. In one search, they managed to avoid capture by hiding several Jews in secret hideouts in their home and in adjacent buildings. One of them, Ruth Lilienthal, concealed herself in a closet as Nazi troops searched for her. She passed away in 2001.

Klaas Abe was arrested twice, for several months at a time. His health deteriorated severely, and he died in 1949 at the age of 42 as a result of the abuse. Prior to the war, he organized meetings to protest anti-Semitism, which he considered a sin against God’s “chosen people.” Questioned by the Nazis, he explained his theological motives but betrayed no concrete information.

While he was arrested and perhaps tortured, Johanna was traveling with two Jewish children and her own son between safe houses. Her family, which was ardently Zionist, was heavily involved in her rescue operation. She smuggled one of the Jewish children, whom she later adopted, from a Nazi-run detention center. A wanted person, she showed up at the Amsterdam facility, engaged the guards and talked her way in — perhaps thanks to her excellent German.

Johanna Schipper died in 1956 at the age of 59 from an infection that developed in a wound that she sustained in a vehicular accident while bringing fake passports to Jews. The wound in her leg never fully healed, in part because her responsibilities toward the Jews she harbored prevented her from resting after the injury.

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