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

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Chapter 12

Tzedakah Verses Rage!

Israel, as history proves, have suffered the hatred of the nations from the time when Moses stood before the burning bush. Even as he was standing in the presence of the LORD God Pharaoh was pursuing a plan to exterminate the Children of Israel. Whilst Moses saw the bush ablaze with the presence of God gave him a message with a promise. All nations should take note of this event.

As Moses watched, he saw this bush burn with fire, yet, it was not consumed, for God was in the midst of it! The LORD God taught Moses that He was about to emancipate Israel from slavery in Egypt. Even whilst being persecuted, “ablaze with fire,” Israel would never be consumed nor exterminated, for our Heavenly Father would be “in the midst of His people,” as He was “in the burning bush.”

Whilst the fire of “the Holocaust” was gripping the Netherlands and Europe, an event took place in Lublin, Poland. Lublin was famed as the city of great Jewish learning. The following story of an even that occurred there, gives us a glimpse of the faith, and the determination of the faithful of the House of Israel, during those tragic days. This story should touch all who read it. To see such a powerful faith in action, in the face of death must challenge everyone. It should lead us to question ourselves, “Will my faith be that strong in the face of danger? Will I stand on what I believe in, or would I deny it, in order to escape death?”

A scetch of the old part Jewish of Lublin by Leon Wyczolkowski

Storm trooper, Commander Globochnik, already known to be a notorious sadistic murderer, was entrusted with the sad fate of the Jews of Lublin. One of the first things he did was to call an assembly for all Jews of the city. Any that refused to come would be shot on the spot. Not knowing their fate, they came to an abandoned field just on the outskirts of the city. High barbed wire fences surrounded it. Guards stood with machine guns and whips in hand. Already the Jews of Lublin had seen their great Yeshiva (Hebrew School of Learning-Seminary) attacked, and the sacred books and Torah Scrolls (Five Books of Moses) burned and destroyed. There they stood trembling not knowing what would befall them. Suddenly the armed guards formed a double line, guns in hand, as Globochnik stepped forward. He was delighting himself by inventing new and ingenious tortures, to plague “these horrid Jews.” His troops well used to inflicting brutal torture, stood impatiently for their orders that would soon come. Globochnik was in high spirits, laughing uncontrollably. His laughter curdled the blood of these poor Jews, who were waiting, and waiting.

Then suddenly he screeched, “Sing, Jews, sing! I want you to sing a happy song! Yes a Chassidic ditty!” However, the Jews of Lublin remained silent. “Is this all this madman wants from us?” they asked themselves. How could these poor souls, in mortal fear of their very lives bring themselves to sing a happy Chassidic song for these murderous barbarians? They were unable open their mouths whilst in fear. “Attack those stubborn Jews! Beat them with all your might, show them no mercy!” The guards happily followed Globochnik’s order, their ruthlessness matched only by their vehemence. As they came hitting and pushing, the Jews were forced back against the barbed wire. Barbs on the fence tore their flesh, pricking their very beings, and blood began to flow. They huddled closely together, stumbling, and falling as more, and more guards came against them, beating, and beating. Many were trampled under foot, as the confusion of a new wave of retreating people was pushed back. Again came the hideous voice of Globochnik, “Sing, you arrogant Jews, sing, or you will die! Attack them; force them against the wire. Gunners, aim your machine guns. Sing you dirty Jews or die!”

Suddenly, a cracking melancholy voice broke the silence. It was the voice of a man crushed amongst these frightened ones. He began to sing a Chassidic folk song in which this faithful Jew poured his soul before his God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob.

These were the lyrics …

“Lomir Zich Iberbeiten, Avinu Shebashamayim, Lomir Zich Iberbeiten”
“Let us be reconciled, Heavenly father, Let us be Reconciled.”

Nobody joined him. The singing stopped. Then after what seemed like hours, the same tune broke forth again. Somebody else was singing. It was the same melody, but this time the words were different. This one solitary voice in this downtrodden crowd became the representative of all the Jews in Lublin. He composed new lyrics on the spot, he composed lyrics based on the promises given by God, in the Holy Scriptures.

Suddenly a sea of voices bellowed forth, joining in what seemed an impossible dream. Feet were now stamping, arms were locked, and the Jews of Lublin sang and they danced in harmony!

They sang and sang these words;

“Mir Velen Zey Iberleben, Avinu Shebashamayim, Mir Velen Zey Iberleben”
“We shall out-live them, Heavenly Father, we shall out-live them!”

At first Globochnik was delighted, however, as he saw their enthusiasm, he stumbled upon their secret “This is not how a humiliated people behave?” In their song and dance, the Jews of Lublin forgot all their pain, suffering, humiliation, and despair. They had even forgotten the presence of Globochnik himself.

“Stop you … Jews! Stop singing, stop dancing! - STOP now!” he yelled. “Attack” he ordered his ever-willing soldiers. But the Jews of Lublin kept on singing and dancing …

“Mir Velen Zey Iberleben, Avinu Shebashamayim - We shall out-live them, Heavenly Father."

They were beaten terribly, but they defied their oppressors. Only one individual survived the horror of that day in Lublin. He has told the world this true story. And indeed the Children of Israel did “out-live them.”

Above & Below: Deportation of Jews of Lublin to Belzec death camp

Just look at that happy Nazi top right.

 

Blessed be the LORD God, Israel has out-lived the rage and all who have come against them over the centuries! As for those \who have persecuted Israel, then and today, the LORD God has clearly stated:

“As you have done unto Israel, so shall I (the LORD) do unto you” Obadiah verse 15.

The prophet Ezekiel spoke these prophetic words about a “valley of dry bones” around 587 BC,

“Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the LORD God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then He said unto me, Son of man, these dry bones are the WHOLE house of Israel: behold they say, our bones are dried, and our hope is lost, we are clean cut off. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God, Behold My people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come out of your graves (exile - dispersion), and bring you into the LAND of ISRAEL” Ezekiel 37: 9 to 12.

The LORD God had and still has a great future for His people. Just look at the nations that have persecuted the people of Israel. Where are they now? They have either vanished or diminished as nations. Israel has stood at the grave of every empire that has ever persecuted it, even as it did at the fall of the Nazi Empire in 1945. For the LORD God had promised Israel in the Scriptures that they would never be totally be “consumed,” nor would they ever “perish,” although they would be “ablaze with fire.”

The above Scriptures were well known to a very special family in The Netherlands who took a stand against the German authorities and their law of ruthlessness, knowing that they acted in the will of God, who had given them a higher law in the Scriptures. It was the law of “Tzedakah.”

Grote Mart (Large Market) Square Haarlem

Not far from Amsterdam is the city of Haarlem. History abounds in this ancient city, which had its beginnings some three thousand years ago. Haarlem is full of charm, with its quaint gabled houses, narrow streets and romantic tree-lined canals with wooden drawbridges, which are still in use today. It is a city, that to this day, has delightful courtyards behind tiny but wonderfully decorated gateways in streets, which dates back to 1295 AD. In these courtyards up to thirty little brick houses are beautifully restored to their original charm, including the always-present central water pump. Today, as it was in the 1940s, it is as if you stepped back in time. In the very heart of the city is the Grote Markt the (Large Market), which is also the main and central square of town. Here stands the impressive Grote (Evangelical) Kerk (Large Church), with its giant steeples piercing the sky. Fine old buildings dating as far back as the sixteenth century surround the Church. But sadly all too soon, the Germans their boots marched along the Grote Mart and they had arrived on the scene. Not long after they had commenced rounding up the Jewish people in Amsterdam and Haarlem being a city so close by, it pounced on next as it had a considerable Jewish community!

The Nazis have taken over the Grote Mart and Haarlem in 1940

Haarlem, and very just a block or so from the Grote Mart is one other great story that unfolds of “Dutch Tzedakah” or what was sheer Dutch righteousness! It is the story of the family ten Boom that became well known much later due to the famed book and movie, “The Hiding Place” by Corrie ten Boom.

The ten Boom family, just like Tante Riek provided the world with a testimony that should and has now been told worldwide. The ten Boom home is named to this very day the "BeJe" and it is located in Barteljorisstraat (straat = Street). It was originally purchased by Corrie's grandfather Willem in 1837. He was an expert clock and a watchmaker. He had a shop on the ground level of the house, whilst the family lived on upper levels of the house, as the house was narrow, but quite deep.

The Ten Boom House in the Barteljorisstraat Haarlem, it includes what looks like the tower section in the rear!

The ten Boom's had at all times dearly loved the Jewish people. Corrie who was the youngest of four children was born on April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam and her older sister Betsie who also plays a big part in this story was born on August 19, 1885.

Her father Casper ten Boom followed his family tradition and also became a watchmaker. When Corrie was still a baby, the family decided to move to Haarlem as Casper had inherited the family home and watch shop. Casper and his dear wife Cornelia ten Boom were godly and loving parents, who reflected this by their life and their actions.

Papa (Father) Casper ten Boom

Provided by the Ten Boom Huis

Their home had wide open doors to everybody, especially to those who were in need. Apart from Mr and Mrs ten Boom and their four children, this little house was shared by three aunts and later by a succession of foster children. As she grew up, Corrie became the first woman ever to become a licensed watchmaker in the Netherlands. Apart from working with her father in the shop, she kept busy in community work. She was involved in the running of clubs for boys and girls who were mentally retarded. Corrie also started a Girl Scout Movement that eventually had thousands of members throughout the Netherlands, Indonesia, and the Dutch Antilles.

Left: Corrie - Right: Betsie ten boom, two courageous sisters!

Provided by the Ten Boom Huis

How did the special love for Israel start in the Ten Boom family?

Back in 1844, an unusual event took place, Corrie's grandfather Willem felt called by God to commence a weekly prayer meeting for the Jewish people. This was continued to the day the ten Boom family was taken by the Nazis in 1944. “Neither grandfather or we could possibly have known how the LORD God answers our prayers, but we must be willing to play a part in His plan, no matter what,” Corrie would eventually write.

It would be one hundred years after Willem commenced the family prayer group in his home that his son and four grand children were arrested, just because they dared to save Jewish lives from the Nazis in their home. Four of the family arrested tragically died whilst in detention. Even though difficult to understand, “that was God's answer to all the prayers of our family for the Jewish people over the years.” Corrie stated. “Papa,” Casper ten Boom, “was a man who would stand firmly on the blessed Word of God. He was not going to forsake the Jewish people, whom we believe to be Jesus' brethren.”

When the Jewish people were forced to wear the “Star (Shield) of David,” Casper lined up for one, and wore it until a pastor protested.

On the first of June 1943, a Jewish baby was delivered to the ten Boom house for safekeeping. Then next day what seemed to be the presumed perfect solution walked into the watch shop. This was a pastor who was also a friend of the family. Corrie asked the Pastor if he could take the baby to his home, which was located in the countryside far from all the trouble. The pastor firmly replied,

“Miss ten Boom, I hope you are not getting involved with any of this illegal concealment and undercover business. It is not safe! Think of your father and your sister. She has never been very strong.”

He looked at the baby for just one moment with compassion, but with a sense of fear showing in his face. He declared,

“No. Definitely not, we could lose our own lives for that Jewish child!”

Unseen by Corrie and Betsie, their father Casper had appeared in the doorway.

“Give the child to me Corrie,” he said sternly. Casper held the infant close, his white beard brushing its little face. He then looked up at the pastor and said

“You say that we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honour that could come to my family. You have also protested about me wearing the Star of David. That I will remove, BUT we'll keep the baby!”

The pastor stormed out of the house without a word, proving the difference between those of real faith, those Jesus called in the New Testament, “the wheat,” and those that are just religious, who are in reality “the tares.”

The ten Booms worked closely with Tante Riek's LO, and they hid many Jewish folk in their home. They had built a special hiding place had in Corrie's bedroom behind a false wall of her wardrobe. Often the house would be full of Jews. On one Sabbath eve, one of the guests sang a Hebrew blessing before diner and he did it rather enthusiastically. A neighbour came round and declared, “Do you want the whole neighbourhood to know that you are hiding these Jewish folk? Please be quiet or you will be found out!” Sadly, found out they would be in due course.

At a time when the home was packed with Jews in hiding the worst happened yet all managed to go and hide in the Hiding place in Corrie’s room. It was on February 28, 1944, when the Nazis raided the Ten Boom’s home. Yet Casper ten Boom’s faith was without end. Even as he was pushed onto the truck a Gestapo officer said, “ten Boom, give me your word you will behave yourself, and you can die in your own bed, old man, this is where you belong.” To this, Casper replied,

“If I stay behind, I will open my door to anyone who knocks for help.”

This is how a man or woman with a strong conviction, and faith behaves, without fear. Papa ten Boom held to a New Testament promise;

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5 10.

The Hiding place was not found by the Germans, and all were rescued the next day, praise be to God! Thankfully all survived! The ten Boom's prayers were answered, and fully realised. So many Jew's were saved. Papa Casper, even when in detention, felt he had much to thank God for. Dear Papa ten Boom died ten days after being arrested, lying ill on a stretcher in a cold hospital corridor, aged 84.

Corrie and her beloved sister Betsie were later transported to the notorious Ravensbruck women's prison camp. There they were forced to do hard labour and live in conditions so foul that later Corrie would describe it in this way, “the deepest hell that man can create.”

Ravensbruck that offered “the deepest hell that man can create.”

Whilst there, both Corrie, but even moreso dear beloved Betsie was very open about their faith, and their love for the LORD God and Yeshua, or Jesus their beloved Messiah. Dearest Betsie eventually became very, very ill, yet she continued to declare the greatness of God, but when she was asked, “How can you still believe in God in this hell” dear, but very weak Betsie replied,

There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.”

Dear and faithful Betsie fell asleep on December 16, 1944 just a week before the death of that other saint, Tante Riek. Miraculously, Corrie was released just a short time later and she spent the balance of her life sharing her story and of God's greatness throughout the world for her faith had grown mightily. She touched countless lives with her love for Israel and the Almighty God!

Corrie ten Boom in the late 1970s

Provided by the Ten Boom Huis

Amazingly, dear Corrie ten Boom fell asleep on her birthday aged 91 on April 15, 1988 and that very date being the anniversary of Corrie's death, “The Hiding Place” in the Barteljoris Street in Haarlem, the ten Boom house was officially opened, although it was already open late in 1987, when myself visited and I was invited to attend and speak at the occasion, but I had other commitments. Thousands visit the ten Boom house, where once visitors both Jews and Christians are made most welcome.

Here they are able to see and hear the wonderful testimony of this family, and the greatness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The emphasis in this home is not the ten Boom’s, but of the great strength that the Almighty gave this family, as found in that beautiful declaration of faith given by Betsie whilst she was in Ravensbruck, just prior her death.

“There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.”

My own experience just wondering around this house was very special and I am most appreciative to then (past) President of the ten Boom foundation for his wonderful assistance and kindness!

Points of Thought:

As we ponder the heroic tales in the last few chapters, let us ask the question, “Why did so many of the Dutch people do so much for their Jewish countrymen?” For in countries like Poland, and others, many locals even murdered Holocaust survivors when they returned to their homes after the war. The Jew is generally hated everywhere, and is still today, to the point that even sayings have invaded every day speech, such as; “I don't know him from a bar of soap.” It may seem innocent, but, this saying obtained a whole new meaning during the war, as Nazis used the body fat from cremated Jews to make soap, commenting, “Now you can't tell these Jews from a bar of soap.”

Here is another common party saying that is used at most happy occasions, be it a wedding, birthday, or anniversary. It is the joyful call, “Hip, hip, hurrah.” This little happy call has a very evil origin. It was born in 69 AD when Jerusalem was destroyed.

HIP comes from the Latin, “HEP” which stands for …

H = HIEROSOLMA, meaning JERUSALEM.

E = EST, meaning IS.

P = PERDITA = DESTROYED.

Thus, it says, “Jerusalem is destroyed.” So many Jews were murdered and died during the destruction, its implication is simple, “Death to the Jews.” As the Crusaders murdered Jews in Europe, around 1000 AD, and in Palestine, they joyfully shouted; “Hep Hep Hurrah” – “Jerusalem is destroyed, death to the Jews.” As Jews were being killed throughout Europe in the seventeenth century, the same shout was heard, “Hip, hip, Hurrah.”

In Conclusion:

The difference between the Netherlands and most other countries is the fact that the nation was built on solid Christian principles from its foundation in 1579, when the Union of Utrecht signalled the end of the Roman Church rule. Dutch Christians realised that God made it clear in the Word that He loves the Children of Israel. This fact was confirmed in the New Testament, “For God has not cast away His people” (Romans chapters 9, 10 & 11). They also knew God's promise to Israel in the Old Testament, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee” (Isaiah 54: 7). The restoration of the Jewish people and the Promised Land Israel was promised in the Scriptures, “In the last generation.” Today this is a reality!

“When the LORD shall build up Zion (Jerusalem), He shall appear in His glory ... This shall be written for (Ledor Acharon) the last generation” Psalm 102: 16 - 18. (From the Hebrew translation).

As the Netherlands was generally obedient to the teaching of the Word, it became a blessed nation economically, which is God's promise to all who “show mercy to Israel” (Psalm 122: 6). Dutch Christians also held dear the following, found in the book of Genesis chapter 12: 3;

“I will bless them that bless you, and curse them that curse you.” Moreover, the command, “Comfort you, comfort you My people, says your God” Isaiah 40: 1.

Having read some of the stories of heroism of Dutch men and women involved in hiding and saving Hebrew lives, the sad fact is that 80% of Dutch Jews perished. One may ask, “Why were not more Jews saved?” The Netherlands is a small nation with its people living in extremely confined and in close proximity. The Nazis very early in their occupation ordered a census, which was executed with typical Dutch efficiency, which in this case had tragic circumstances, as the letter “J” was placed on all Jewish identification papers. When Dutch Jews arrived by train at Sobibor death camp, the Germans were heard to say, “These Jews are so efficient, orderly and civilised. Indeed, these Jews are so Dutch.” In spite of their orderly behaviour, they disembarked the train, and were marched straight to the gas waiting chambers and fired up crematorium.

Jews are being taken under guard to the railway station – Destination? Westerborg Deportation Camp!

This was only a holding camp for all too soon the Jew’s of The Netherland’s were placed on cattle trains heading for one of the death camps.

There was one other factor in the demise of the Dutch Jewry, the “Judenrat,” which was the “Jewish Council.” This council was highly respected by Dutch Jews and was made up of some of its leading members. The Nazis used them to stop any resistance to the anti-Jewish regulations, on the pretence that Jews would be transported for re-employment purposes in Germany. The Council was to assist their orderly departure. But they were being kept in the dark, and thus they did not realise the full implications of what they were really doing. In their ignorance, they unwillingly contributed to the eventual destruction of a very large part of Dutch Jewry.

The task of the department of evacuation was as follows, “The provision of transport and the lodging of the evacuees ... Help in house clearing for those who must leave their homes.” They did this by, “carrying out all operations in connection with individual removals as ordered by the German authorities.”

After the war, the Jewish council was defended, and they were cleared of all charges of collaboration, with the defence explaining that their policies was to keep the calm and to prevent an even worse catastrophe. How can we now in retrospect judge them? How could the leaders of the council possibly have known what actually happened to those they assisted in the “re-location?”

Had it not been for those many courageous Dutch individuals hiding as many Jews as was possible in this tiny nation, another 20% of them would also have perished and this fact can never be denied!

This brings us to the final testimonial chapter of Dutch Tzedakah. It has been purposely left to the end, for it is a story that has never been written. If this story does not touch you with tenderness, then nothing ever will!

It it is the story of Klazina, who without any assistance or help, hid, protected and fed Jewish babies and youngsters, whilst having to live in basements of bombed out buildings for three long horrid years.

Go to Chapter Thirteen

 

 

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A special thank you to the ten Boom House Museum for the ten Boom (TBH) images.

 

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