“Dutch Tzedakah” - Stories of righteous ones in the Netherlands - Saving Jews from the Nazis

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Chapter 11

Hunted Like a Deer

After the emancipation in 1794, records show that a Jewish family came and settled in Winterswijk which was an attractive small town located near the border of Germany in the province of Gelderland. Soon a small but thriving community was established. Services and gatherings were held in private homes. Around 1847 a small Synagogue was built in the Jonensteeg and finilly the Jewish community had a home to worship God and come together on Sabbat and Yom Tovim, the Feasts, etc. This Synagogue remained in service until 1908, but it became clear that a larger and a more permanent Synagogue was required. Building commenced and the foundation stone was eventually laid on 18 June 1888 or on the Hebrew date 9 Tammuz 5648. This date is recorded, carved in the stone and is still visible today.

The wall of the Winterswijk Synagogue containing the restored foundation stone

This new Synagogue located in the Spoorstraat was dedicated with much pride and joy on 14 August 1889. The Hebrew Scripture above the entrance reads, “Then I called upon the Name of the LORD” (Psalm 116: 4). The Hebrew letters in their numerical value added up to the Hebrews year of 5649, or 1889, the year of dedication.

Little did these Jewish population of Winterswijk know that just fifty three years later their little town would become the very nerve centre of a well organised group of Protestant Christians who would commence hiding and saving of many Jews throughout the Netherlands, from the Nazi “Final Solution.”

In 1940 Winterswijk had some two hundred and seventy Jewish citizens. However between 1942 and 1945, two hundred and thirty five of them were sadly deported to various concentration camps. Tragically the majority were marched straight into the gas chambers. Some attempting to escape were shot on the spot whilst those who were strong and fit were forced to work in one of the concentration camps. Others were forced to drag the mangled bodies of their Jewish brethren out of the gas chambers and place them into the crematorium. Life in these camps was unbearable, as they had to suffer the unbearable as there was so much evil to witness and there was death on a daily basis. Each day they had to work to the point of exhaustion, whist being almost starved to death for none of the food that was given to them had any nourishment in it. Only five out of two hundred and thirty five Winterswijk Jews survived the horror and terror of this never-ending brutality at the end of this wicked and evil war.

 

Above & below: The Winterswijk Synagogue was completed in 1889

 

These five Winterwijk Jews defeated their enemy by staying alive and testifying to the world about these horrific years. For amazingly there were those who hated Jews and actually backed the Nazis. These evil deceivers even claimed that the Holocaust never happened that the whole story was a Jewish lie. These Ultra right wingers also claim that the Jews used this lie in order to “force Britain and the world to give them Palestine as their homeland.” Others even claim that the 100% Roman Catholic “Adolf Hitler was a Jew.” But when pressed for compelling evidence, they will concede, “some Jews did die, but not six million, ONLY three million, but they died due to a typhus plague.” What Only three million?

Sadly, this lie is being claimed by certain evil men, including certain christian’s, yes, you heard it, christian’s. To this day They are the evil and most hideous Holocaust deniers and will have a place where all those who are sinners will end up! “The wages of sin is death.” Amongst these so-called christians are one of the most wicked of them all; the “Ku Klux Klan,” but also here in Australia there is an organisation called the “Australian League of Rights.” Its founder was a Rev Eric Dudley Butler (1916 - 2006), who made the above claim that “only three million died,” in his book “The International Jew.” The roots of this organisation can be traced back to 1930, based on the writings of the English theorist C. H. Douglas, a fascist and a Neo-Nazi. But worst still, this racist was closely associated with Australia’s Liberal and Country Party, being the Governing Coalition Government, and they implemented the “White Australia Policy” which was against all coloured people and Jews! In fact when Jews who were rescued from Germany and brought here by ship, they were placed in prisons in the country side and received very bad treatment, mostly thanks to an evil, if not a satanic Rev Eric Butler!

Because Winterswijk was so close to the German border, some of its population was sympathetic with the Germans at first. Yet, from the very heart of this town came the Dutch National Resistance, who aidded the Jewish population not only in Winterswijk but throughout the Netherlands.

In Winterswijk, apart from the handful of survivors from those taken captive, thirty-five other Jews lives were rescued. They, and so many others throughout the nation, owed their lives to one godly woman, her husband and their pastor.

Near, het Stadhuis (the Town Hall) stands a statue of a lady; you will note that close to her side, stands a deer. Its head is turned upwards and it is looking at her. Its eyes movingly look up into hers, as if to say, “I know I can trust you.” She stands there with a special kind of humility and love, her very presence is saying.

The statue of the Lady with a Deer

“Come to me, you who are hunted like a deer. With me you shall be safe for God is with us. Does He not call you, ‘Israel My beloved,’ and the ‘apple of My eye.’?”

This monument is of a lady who was known as Tante (Aunty) Riek, however this was not her real name, but her code name. Her real name was Mrs. Helena Theodora Kuipers, nee Reitberg. Through some friends, Mr & Mrs. Kuipers had met a fine and a godly Pastor, Fritz Slomp who had been in hiding from the N.S.B. (the Nationalist Socialist party) and the Nazis. Thus he had to move from one place to another, he became better known as “Fritz de Zwerver” (“the Wanderer”). Together with this faithful man, Tante Riek became responsible for uniting various underground organisations that sheltered Jewish individuals and their families. Her strong faith gave her a genuine concern and love for the Children of Israel. She and her husband felt spiritually led to commence this work throughout the entire nation, and soon a nation-wide network was established with many suitable hiding places being found. Her vision and spiritual determination saved thousands of Jewish lives as well as thousands of others, including English and American pilots who were shot down over the Netherlands.

The plaque on the retaining structure of the monument reads as follows …

“T’geloof heft haar gedragen, de lievde gaf haar Kracht. De hoop deed niet verslagen, tot redding was gebracht” Translation“Faith did carry and sustain her. Love gave her strength. Never losing the hope until salvation had come.”

It is most interesting to note that the words “The Hope” is recorded in Zechariah chapter 9 verse 12. For in the Hebrew, it is “Hatikvah,” which just happens to be the name of Israel’s National Anthem – Hatikvah – The Hope. Tante Riek’s “hope” was in the God of Israel, who had made this profound statement.

“Thus saith The LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold of the garment of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” Zechariah 8: 23.

She knew that Israel, the Jewish people, would somehow survive the Nazi holocaust, for the Scriptures made this clear. She, her husband and their mainly Protestant Co-workers in the Netherlands, would play a major part in the survival of thousands of Jews, due to their strong faith in their Messiah and Saviour!

Some of the details of this story came from a moving interview with the then, eighty-five-year-old Mr. Kuipers, known affectionately in the resistance as Oom (Uncle) Piet. He agreed to an interview, but only on the basis that he and his dear late Helena, “now home with the LORD” would not be glorified, or made into a folk hero. “This simply will not do. There were so many others that also did so much,” he said.

I certainly believe that these fine folk are a true picture of humility. But, more above all these are a people that have shown what true faith is, and that they have placed their faith before their own needs, even giving their own lives knowing they are saving those of others.

These Righteous (Tzadik) ones are greatly loved by the LORD the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They fully believed in God and “His only begotten Son” Jesus their Messiah. Mr. Kuipers continues

“Our faith in God gave us strength to do His will. It required prayer, much prayer, and a readiness to serve Him, no matter what. My dear partner in life, my beloved Helena, gave her life in God's service, protecting His people Israel, called “His beloved” in Jeremiah 31, Isaiah 40 & 62, Psalm 135: 4 and Romans Chapters 9, 19 & 11.

The LORD God showed us that He had …

“Set watchmen, who would never hold their peace, pray and comfort His people Israel, for whosoever touches Israel would touch the apple of God's eye” Isaiah 62: 6, Isaiah 40: 1, Zechariah 2: 8, 7 & 9. Paul also taught, “that through your mercy, they (Israel) also may obtain mercy” Romans 11: 31.

On 10 May 1940, the German forces captured Winterswijk.

“From that moment we the people had no further say in our own affairs. All Dutch and local politics were outlawed. “The traitor’s party,” the N.S.B. took control. We remember N.S.B. members dancing with joy, greeting the German invading armies, their Nazi comrades.”

Life in general took a sudden and dramatic turn in Winterswijk, and the changes would eventually affect the entire nation. A good number “burgers” (locals) took part in the underground. Most were strong young men and women. Some became famous through their heroic deeds, as was the case with Mrs. Kuipers, alias Tante Riek.

Mr Kuipers continues …

“The local resistance became so strong that the Germans commenced a campaign of humiliation. Using N.S.B. informers, they entered homes of those that were knows to have anti-German feelings. At first, they would be humiliated in front of the townsfolk and forced to public toilets. This was typical German humour.

The first year was tolerable, but then came the years of great tragedy and pain. Our hearts filled with sorrow wished to act, to do something. Local Jewish burgers were being transported like a hunted deer, to the death camps. We cried, “O LORD God of mercy help them.” The LORD did answer our prayers. Little did we realise that He would actually use us in His plan.

I remember one day, a N.S.B. traitor entered the local kosher butcher shop and threatened the butcher and his wife by saying, “Your end is near, death awaits you.” Two days later, German trucks raced towards the butcher shop and home, dragging the family out in the street in a mad frenzy. As locals looked on helplessly, the butcher and his family were severely beaten, mocked, and then forced on the truck to be transported to a death camp. Several days later the N.S.B. members announced with great pride, “The Jew butcher and his family are dead.” What a victory, murdering a helpless man, his wife, and little children! Our hearts wept for them. We could imagine the pain and trauma that these poor loving ones had to suffer.”

Mr and Mrs Kuipers lived at number 8 Willinkstraat. In the autumn of 1942, together with Pastor Slomp, a plan was devised in their home to re-organise and centralise groups that housed “Onderduikers” (people in hiding). Mrs. Kuipers felt that God had shown her a way to combine all the hiding places throughout the Netherlands, ensuring them efficiency, and back up required in helping the Jewish people, and others that needed to be rescued from the Nazis. This new organisation would be known as the LO – “Landelijk (Countrywide) Organisation” made up of members of Dutch believers, mainly from Protestant denominations. Like Tante Riek and Piet, they were faithful souls who were willing to put their faith into practice. The Kuipers’ home became the centre of the resistance in this area, known as “De Achterhoek” (the Back Corner) of Holland. Soon it became the Nations nerve centre, hiding Jews and illegal workers, American and British aviators who were shot down, and anyone who had to hide from the Germans and the N.S.B.

It was not very long before the Nazis became aware of the resistance in Winterswijk, and thus great care had to be taken to protect one another. Few ever knew the real names of their contacts, they only knew them by their code-name. Tante Riek's LO enlisted volunteers from every corner of the Netherlands, which during the war enabled some ten thousand Jewish men, women and children to be hidden. This alone was a great feat, but their faithfulness also opened the way for some three hundred thousand non-Jews to be hidden and saved. In Winterswijk itself thirty-five local Jew's were kept in hiding and remained underground until the end of the war. Another work by the LO was, distributing the illegal newspaper “Trouw” (Loyal) among the population, keeping them informed of the facts.

Mr Kuipers continues …

“As time went by, many involved with the LO were captured and thrown into prison, or were shot on the spot. A few would be released, and were quickly placed under surveillance in the hope that they would lead the N.S.B. to the Head Quarters of the resistance in Winterswijk.”

In 1944 the Germans stepped up their campaign to rout out the LO and many were caught and arrested. One day Tante Riek and Piet were warned by a faithful local police officer, a Mr. Gunnink, that an attack on their home was imminent. That day Mr. Kuipers was suffering from a high temperature, but immediate action was warranted and they managed to get out of town on the next train. Just fifteen minutes later, their home was broken into and ransacked. Mr. Kuipers recalled …

“As we were leaving our hearts were filled with pain and sorrow for all those that had already been captured and executed.”

Tante Riek and Piet went into hiding themselves. This had been prearranged should this event become necessary. They went to stay with an industrialist, a Mr. van Schuppen in Benekom, a man who had supported the LO over a long period of time financially and personally. Their concealment however was short lived, for on Saturday 19 August, a warm summer’s day, Nazis who had received information from an informer, attacked the home. Tante Riek and Piet were taken to a transit prison and placed in adjoining cells. Tante Riek’s cell at least had a bed, but Piet’s cell was completely bare, just concrete all around. Whilst they were there they were not given any food or water whatsoever. But as Mr Kuipers said …

“We were thankful to the LORD that we could communicate by knocking on the wall.”

Mr. Kuipers recalls …

“I could hear Helena praying and singing, testifying her faith in our God. Then, suddenly, we had one last short chat through the keyhole, as she was being taken away. I did not realise it then, but I would never hear that loving, sweet voice ever again.”

Tante Riek was taken to a nearby transit camp in Arnhem where she was able to write a short letter home:

“My beloved ones, I have arrived in Arnhem. I wish to tell you children, the LORD God has been near to me and He still is! I believe that I am to be moved to a camp in Vucht. I pray it will be a little better. This cell is so cramped with ten people, making it very hot. I do not know where Piet is. I believe he is in a detention camp somewhere. Please will you give my hearty greetings all the family, wherever they live? Please ask all the family to pray for us, and all those that are in this time of difficulty. He is LORD and He hears our prayers! I have been able to pray and sing much of God's eternal love. My children remember always, eternal life is more important than our earthly life. The LORD God, He is my strength, Helena.”

Tante Riek arrived at Vucht on 25 August, six days after her arrest. On 7 October, she was placed on a cattle train bound for the women's prison camp in Ravensbruck. She knew in her heart that she would never come home again.

Here we see Dutch Jews boarding the cattle trains at Westerbork bound for the various deathcamps around Eastern Europe

During this long journey in a crammed cattle carriage, all had to use a single bucket as a toilet. Soon it was no longer needed, for it soon overflowed, thus any corner would do. The carriage smelled horrible for there were also those who had already died. In that carriage, Tante Riek managed to scribble a little note on a sheet of toilet paper, which she had saved. When she had finished it, she managed to throw it through a small opening from the train that was taking her on the final journey of her life. She must have prayed very hard that someone would find the note and pass it on, for eventually the note was found by a farmer some distance from the railway line. In due course, it found its way to Winterswijk.

These are the faithful and the final written words of Tante Riek on a sad piece of toilet paper …

“Beloved Piet and children, we are on wagons waiting to go. Where to? We do not know. STAY FAITHFUL IN GOD, PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER. Your ever loving, Helena.”

Eventually the train arrived at the prison camp of Ravensbruck, the same camp where Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom were imprisoned. (Their remarkable story will be found in the next chapter entitled, “Tzedakah verses Rage.”) It is not known if they met.

Just three months later, Tante Riek, a godly woman, who loved and cared so much for the Children of Israel, who were like a helpless deer, died due the most hideous circumstances, for she was continually tortured for the entire duration she was at Ravensbruck. Why? Because of the crime of daring to save innocent Jewish lives from barbarous German hands.

In the first edition of this book, which was published in the Netherlands, I wrote the following. “It is not my desire to write the details of what happened to this lady of God or the things she had to suffer.” However, dear reader I now feel compelled to write some of the details of how she suffered and how this very special and godly lady died.

Beware: This section is not easy reading, but, it will prove a faith beyond belief! If your stomach cannot stand it, go to “End.” But I do encourage you to read it, for it will change and strengthen your faith and life forever!

German crimes committed against Tante Riek:

The Germans were well aware of Tante Riek’s importance as a leader in the Resistance. Upon arrival, they took her to a cell, a room that became a hell beyond belief. She was hung naked on an icy-cold concrete wall. She was suspended by metal shackles around her wrists, making them bleed profusely as the weeks and months passed. Her feet could not reach the floor, thus she hung there with all her weight pulling on her arms. There were no breaks to relieve one self and she was left hanging on that wall.

Early the next morning SS officers came to interrogate Tante Riek. “Give me names. I want the addresses of all members of your unlawful organisation,” they screamed. Later it was reported by one of the *soldiers present, that Tante Riek remained calm, and started to quote various Scriptures to those who beat her. The interrogation officer asked question after question, but Tante Riek continued to speak of “Jesus,” and how they as “sinners could repent and be saved, washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.”

As time passed, each day was worse than it was the day before, and soon they commenced the most evil torture imaginable. Each day, after questioning, these vile men would invade and brutalise her body beyond belief as they would mutilate a part of her body to the point she passed into a state of unconsciousness, at times even near death.

On the first day, they tore nail after nail with pliers, but still Tante Riek asked God to forgive them, and sung hymns of praise, until she could take it no more. Whenever she was close to death, doctors would come and resuscitate her, for the Nazis wanted to keep her alive as long as possible and “continue to punish this woman who dared to care for the vermin Jews.” Slowly they began to cut parts of the body, so horrid were these evil tortures that it is impossible for us to comprehend, but it involves the removal of the eyes, one by one, then they cutting off her breasts. Still Tante Riek summoned all her strength and continued to praise God, and share her faith with these beasts that were hurting her so much.

I was told that when she died, this incredible lady of God did not even resemble a human being, but just before she took her last breath on earth, she summoned her last of her strength, and asked the LORD God to “forgive and save” her “persecutors.” Tante Riek died whilst faintly singing praises to her Lord Jesus.

End.

The actual day of her death is not known. It is believed that she “went home to be with the Lord,” as Mr. Kuipers told me was “late December 1944.”

Mrs. Helena Theodora Kuipers, nee Reitberg

Lovingly known as Tante (Aunty) Riek

Mr. Kuipers somehow survived the war. But it was not until war was over, that he was advised that his beloved Helena had died. I did discover that the official death notice did not actually reach Winterswijk until September 1, 1950. It read, “Mrs Helena Theodore Rietberg, wife of Mr. Kuipers, aged 51, died at Ravensbruck women's prison camp on December 27, 1944.” Thus, the people of Winterswijk and the Netherlands remember her courage and death of this amazing lady on December 27 each year.

The mother of the LO would not live to see the liberation of her beloved Holland, but through her faith and obedience to God, countless thousands did survive, and were able to rejoice in freedom on her behalf. All those who survived, and those may still be alive today, praise and thank God for Tante Riek, Oom Piet and the many co-workers, who gave of themselves so willingly, living a life of true “Dutch Tzedakah” - (Tzedakah Hebrew for Righteousness).

On May 1955, the then Queen Mother, Princess Wilhelmina (who was Queen during the war years), officially unveiled and dedicated the monument of the “Lady with the Deer” in Winterswijk, a tribute to Tante Riek, and all who believed in, and stood for that which was right, be it in the LO or the resistance.

Mr. van Schuppen who gave Mr and Mrs. Kuipers shelter in his home, had this to say of Tante Riek,

“Tante Riek was not one to hold a gun in her hand for she was a woman of faith, who was called and challenged by her Christian duty and commitment. For thousands she was the mother of hope!

Pierre Janssen described her in these words …

“She believed in what had to be done. She was not paid. No one told her that she had to put her life in danger. She did this of her own free will.”

With the war over, the interior of the Winterswijk Synagogue was left in ruins. It has since been fully restored and it is again in use as a Jewish house of worship. Sadly, there are few Jews left to worship in it, as two hundred and thirty Jewish brethren did not come home. Yet, through the faith of one godly lady, Tante Riek, and her supporters, we are able to praise and thank God, for almost ten thousand Jewish lives that survived the Nazi Holocaust. In Israel, Tante Riek and others who did so much, even laying down their lives to save just one Hebrew life, are known as the “Righteous (Tzadik) Gentiles,” individuals who acted with true “Tzedakah.”

“Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivers from death ... THE HOPE (Hatikvah) of the righteous shall be gladness ... The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

Footnote

*In relation to the terrible torture story that I have related above, readers may have wondered how did I come to know what Tante Riek actually went through and what she did and say during this evil and horrific time?

In the early 1990’s I was speaking at a special event called “Celebration Shalom” in Australia, but of course there were a number of well known speakers from around the world present at this major event.

After one of my messages, an older gentleman with a strong German accent came to me and he said, “Pastor Reuven will you please forgive me on behalf of the Children of Israel for hideous things that I have done, for I was a SS soldier at Ravensbruck in 1944.” We had a long discussion and he told me “I came to faith a long time ago.” However, he continued that he remembered a “great lady of faith (Tante Riek) who was at Ravensbruck who was murdered” and that he had later “wept and repented before the Lord” and that he had been “washed clean by the precious blood of the Lamb of God.” Upon hearing that, I stood up and hugged him and said; “Then brother I have noting to forgive you for, as our Heavenly Father, though the saving Grace of Messiah has already forgiven you for your sins. Did He not tell us in His Word that He remembers your sins no more. Thus, in our heavenly Father’s eyes, you are and will always be my brother!” We had a long hug and he departed from me a new man and after Celebration Shalom he returned home to Germany where he still lived. However during my time with him, I did learn how strong Tante Riek’s faith really was! Considering I had already written this book, his story was certainly something that greatly touched me and it was an unexpected closure to this heroic story of “The Lady and the Deer.” Some have told me, “But brother it is far too graphic and you must remove it!” Sadly that is the statement of what I consider the weak and those who are unwilling to face the facts of a woman who had a mighty belief, for will you be that strong in your faith in the hour of the evil one?

In conclusion, let me relate some of the dramatic events that took place when the Temple was destroyed. As that wicked enemy came into God’s Temple, they found faithful priests serving the Almighty at the altar. Although these wicked ones began killing them with swords and spears, the priests would not interrupt their bringing of the daily offering. When the head of one priest was cut off, another came and immediately took the ritual basin out of his hands. This happened with many priests in quick succession, until they had completed depositing on the altar everything that was supposed to be there according to the Torah, the Law and they had completed the order of service. Then the enemy, just like those Nazi madmen, ignited the Holy of Holies. The priests that remained alive threw themselves into the fire. Tragically thousands of young priests were consumed together with the House of God. At the same time tens of thousands of Jews died martyrs’ deaths for their faith; sanctifying the Name of God and clutching to His Word!

The bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed” Shemos - Exodus 3: 2.

Think about this Scripture carefully, Israel hjas been under attack throughout the ages, yet most of their enemies of ancient days, where are they, they no longer exist! However, there are many newe ones and the Almighty will destroy them also! It will be the same with the great enemy of the faithful in Messiah, for He has been victorious and the has His foot on the neck of that serpent the Devil, HaSatan – Satan and all of his henchmen! We will “not be consumed!”

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