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

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Chapter 13

Klazina and the Jewish Babes

Please Note: There have been various challenges regarding the details of this somewhat unknown Klazina and the Jewish Babes” story in history that until the early 1990’s was never written or been told. I met the dear lady in question late in life and she was a precious soul and a wonderful and a faithful Christian! However, it has been checked out through a number of authorities in the Netherlands and it has proven to be accurate, however, only the actual number of the babes and some details cannot be completly guaranteed, and as the dear faithful lady has now long departed, I honestly believe that she spoke in total faith and I met her son, who also has backed up her story! Thus I can say with absolute assurance, having met her, she was NOT a liar as some evil anti-Christian individual would have her to be, but she is indeed a saint who did save countess Jewish and other babes!

Throughout the centuries, there have been those who withstood injustice and cruelty, and took a firm stand. They did this because of national pride, personal determination, or having felt a calling from the Almighty to stand up to defend, and protect the innocent. World War Two had many such stories, both in the Netherlands, and in other places throughout Europe. A Roman Catholic Bishop in Belgium had the Church bell ring out a popular Hebrew (Jewish) melody, announcing unto all that heard it, his defiance to the Nazi dictators, and his concern for the Hebrew people. Such displays gave local Hebrews hope, a hope they have never forgotten. These displays of support prove that even in a world full of evil and sin, there are still individuals who will “Stand Up” and act according their conviction and faith!

Klazina Hurkmans

This chapter contains one more heroic tale, like that of Tante Riek, which until now, has not been written. This has been mainly due to the humility of the individual involved. It is the courageous story of Klazina (Chris) Holland. It is a moving story of an enduring lady who went into hiding, living underground in darkness for over three and a half years. This alone would be difficult enough, but she did this whilst hiding Jewish babies and children. No doubt, these little ones would have been doomed without her determination. Most of this chapter comes directly from her lips; one that miraculously survived “the Holocaust that I tasted along with my beloved Jewish children.” I noted while speaking with her in Perth Western Australia in February 1990, the loving manner in which she always mentioned “Father God” and her “my precious Saviour” who was her “constant friend, companion, and strength.”

Klazina was born on January 6, 1917 in the fishing village of Scheveningen, which is the now famous beachside town near Den Haag (The Hague). She was the youngest of ten sisters and one brother.

Klazina continues.

“I was raised in a street where Jews and Christians lived close together. My family, as did my fellow compatriots, respected the Jewish people. My father always told us ‘to love and respect God's chosen people, Israel.’ Thus, I grew up with the other Jewish children in my neighbourhood. The only difference I knew was that they went to the Synagogue to worship God on a Saturday, and we went to Church to worship God on Sundays. Often I would wonder, ‘Why can't I go on Saturdays too?’ So every now and then, I would join my Jewish friends at the Synagogue and attended the Sabbath Services. I loved to go. I knew that the Jewish people were so family oriented, and also that their services were so different than those I attended on Sundays. I noted the reverence that was given to the blessed Word of God. The Torah Scrolls would be taken from the Holy Ark, and the Rabbi would carry it to the central platform. Men standing close would touch the Torah with the corner of their prayer shawl, where the fringes were, and then lovingly kiss where it had touched the Torah. They obviously loved the Word of God. Unlike most Churches, they did not decorate, or beautify the Synagogue. The one I visited was always neat and clean, but rather simple, even to the point of being austere. Only the Holy Ark containing the Torah Scrolls and the mantles covering the Scrolls were beautifully decorated. In this way it was only God, and His Word that was glorified. Men in the congregation would be called to the central platform to read from the Torah, which are the five books of Moses. First, they would say a blessing, and then read a portion aloud in Hebrew. It was so beautiful to hear the Word of God read and sung in the original Hebrew. Indeed, as a child, I really loved the Jewish people and I still do!

I remember my father telling us, ‘Remember our Lord and Saviour, Jesus was an Israelite, a Hebrew.’ And of course in our lives Jesus was, and still is very important.”

In 1939, Klazina met a like-minded man, Frank Hurkmans, and they soon they fell in love. They were married, and a son was born in January 1941, whom they named (little) Frank, after his father.

Klazina continues:

“Is it not strange, I was conceived and born during a war, being World War One, and I married and had a child during another war, World War Two? Our peaceful and happy marriage was to be abruptly interrupted as Hitler destroyed everything that was lovely and beautiful in Holland, and the rest of Europe. He was about to attack and destroy those whom my parents, my husband, and I held dear, our Jewish brethren who we considered as Dutch citizens, so why should they be singled out?

By now we had moved to a new place and I so clearly remember the very day the bombs fell on the city of Rotterdam, when thousands of innocent lives were lost. This was a tragic and black day for Holland. I had been appointed to become a ‘Block Mother’ and was to take care of orphans from the area around us. Each day I would go and collect surviving children and babies to care for. This was done in a bomb shelter, as there was continued danger of the falling bombs. The resistance contacted us with the sad news that our beloved Holland had fallen completely into the hands of the Germans. The Dutch army, fighting bravely, could not hold the invasion back. The resistance, and my husband supported me in my work, feeding and clothing the children, both Jewish and Christian.

When the Germans took control, they requested me to continue in my ‘Community Work’ with the orphans. Then early in 1942 the Nazis demanded that I hand all Jewish children to them. I knew in my heart if I did so, they would not be cared for, even worse they might even be killed. But, I said, ‘yes I will,’ with the absolute resolve in my heart that I would never do so.

Being a mother, with a baby just nine months old a difficult decision had to be made. The whole area where we lived was to become a military zone as much of our area was reasonably close to the coastline and facing Britain, thus they were going to use this region as a protective perimeter from a possible British invasion. Our home and my protectorates were right in the middle of this sector. I could not move them for they would be detected and taken by the Germans or those evil Dutch traitors, the NSB agents who patrolled the streets. Frank, my husband, and I had to come to a decision that would change both our lives. We decided that he, and my beloved baby, would leave the area along with others who had to leave, including all the Christian children that were in my care. I would stay behind to care for the Jewish children somehow. I will never forget watching Frank and my baby in his arms depart. I would not see my baby again for many long years. But, in my heart I knew that this was my call from the LORD God, to stay behind and care for His loved ones, even at great cost and sacrifice.

I recall, and will never forget a broadcast on the radio with Hitler giving a speech, saying, that all who would help the Jewish people would suffer the same fate as the ‘vermin Jews.’ They would face deportation, even execution. He also dared to say, holding up a book written by Martin Luther, ‘I am a Christian fulfilling my duty to remove the vermin of the earth, those Christ-killers, the Jews.’ This actually strengthened my faith and determination to stay with these poor babes and care for them giving them as much love as I could unlike those ‘so called Christians’ who live a life of hate, jealousy and anger, as shown throughout history. I was taught to uphold the principles taught by Jesus in the New Testament, to be kind, loving, but above all, merciful. He also said, ‘Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of my brethren (Israel), ye have done it unto me.’ These are the words that gave me not only the obligation to help the Jewish people, but also the assurance that God would be with me throughout this endeavour.

With the help of the resistance and my husband, we were able to smuggle out some of the children, and place them in suitable hiding places. Some even managed to get out of the country to a safe haven. At first, I was still able to walk the streets, as I had forged ID papers, which allowed me to be there. In addition, I received help of a nearby tavern keeper who helped to smuggle quite a number of them out. I would put one or two to sleep with the help of a few drops of ether and place them in beer barrels or special boxes. The tavern keeper would take them out on his cart to a safe place. This dear man later gave his life whilst rescuing yet another Jewish family. Every now and then, a house or farm used as a hiding place would be detected. The Germans came without warning deep in the night and bombed these homes. Many perished whilst still in their beds as bombs exploded around them. Far too many died in the rescue attempts, but I know with assurance that I, and others would do it all again should we have to.

Some fishermen made a heroic escape bids and succeeded. Many Jews were crammed on their little boats, crossed the North Sea during the night, and were smuggled to England, which like many nations had closed their doors to the Jews of Europe. Most of these fishermen were unable to return home until after the war.

Then came the time the Germans levelled most of our area and made it a forbidden zone for all except German soldiers. No longer could my husband or the resistance help me with food, and clothes and any other needs. Even though we had some stores, I was left entirely alone without any help of any sort, except that of God.

-In late 1944 through to March 1945 the “hunger winter” commenced. Germans had plundered the Netherlands of its last food. Due to this, thousands of Dutch men, women, and children died.

Before the demolition, I had placed groups of children in each of three separate kelders (cellars). The age varied from two to six years of age.”

Klazina and the babes and young children would remain underground until the end of the war

Please note: Images of children are generic in order to denote the conditions of the time

“It was a very long, long three and a half years. Never did I think that it would last that long. For how could we possibly survive? We had some stores, but certainly not enough for an extended period. Reticulated water had been cut to the region and this would prove to be another problem we had to face.

As soldiers were patrolling above the ground, we had to remain very quiet, especially during the day. I prayed, ‘Father God, take charge in this matter’ and He did. The children would remain whisper-quiet the whole day. But soon many problems would arise, such as the lack of food, water, and hygiene facilities. We had no extra clothes or water to wash in. During some nights, I would venture out at night, quietly searching for some food or water. Water I managed to scoop from a nearby canal. I would transport bucket after bucket to the cellars that they might drink a little and wash, even if it was only the hands and face.

Food became much harder to find. As time went by and I had exhausted every possibility in providing healthy food, it became apparent that I had to take some rather unorthodox measures. During the night, I would go and catch stray dogs, cats, mice, and yes-even rats. I would take home the spoil and divided it into equal morsels of food and in this way I was able to feed my little ones with this horrid nourishment. The other factor was that I was unable to cook any of the food, as the aroma would somehow waft above the ground and German soldiers would soon detect us. At first this vile food, that is if you can call it food, was almost impossible to eat, but as time passed, it became bearable. There simply was no choice. However, with the Lords help we where going to live! One night, and with my strength already fading, I went out to obtain some water from the canal. In my absolute horror, I saw that the water was severely polluted, including several dead bodies floating in it. This was the end of our water supply. Our hideous food was bad enough, but now we had to take extra care from disease. I returned to my own quiet corner and wept before the Lord “Father God, what now?” As I lay there under a door wrapped in some paper keeping the bitter cold off me, I suddenly heard something, drip, drip, drip. I knew what it meant, “Oh bless you Lord” I cried. Somewhere in the distance was a pipe that was leaking a little water, drop by drop. I found the source and slowly it filled a container. Upon my return, I distributed just a little to my charges. Sadly, there would be only one sip every second day as I was unable to collect any more than this.

The winters certainly took its toll. Yes, winter provides snow, thus we did have extra water, but the freezing conditions had its own devastating effect. By now, several of my sweet darlings had perished, due to hunger and disease. Without any heating, some tragically froze to death. I tried everything, and told them, “Sleep closely together, huddle up and keep as warm as you can my darlings.” I would read to them whenever possible and allow some sort of playtime, provided it was done very quietly. We all became weaker and weaker, but I kept a brave face whilst in their presence. Only in my quiet place would I cry and cry out unto to God, “What must I do dear Father? Shall I try to take them from here, or stay?” Of course, I realised, that taking them above ground at any time would have spelled untold dangers and almost certain death to us all. I would venture out, now only on my hands and knees, which were terribly scarred; to seek whatever food would be available.

Our bodies had become filthy and by now our bodies had little flesh on them. More little ones died, and I had to do my very best to take them somewhere from the others to hide them. If the Germans would have located their little lifeless bodies, they would have started a full search of the area.”

At this stage, the author asked Klazina for some clarification on how she was able to dispose of so many of these little bodies without detection. It must be remembered that at this point of the story Klazina herself was close to death, but somehow continued to do that which was possible, in her weakened and mental state. Yet, her objective remained clear - survival. At this point Klazina gave the author some details, which simply cannot be included for humanitarian reasons. I know that I cried and felt so deeply for this dear and extremely brave woman, who did everything, no matter the cost, to keep as many of her charges as alive, no matter what, or how. The Almighty certainly knows her heart and intentions!

Hungry children facing the horrors of a hideous war

Klazina continues

“Nothing can possibly describe the horrors of those years, especially the last six months. By now, many had perished and I could hardly take any more pain as I found yet another dead. ‘O God, please, please help us. Do not forsake us. In Your love and mercy, give me strength to continue. Help me to find some food. Lord, I give you my all. Please save these little ones so dear to your heart.’ No doubt, God gave me sufficient strength to venture out at times, each time would be more difficult than the time before. By now, almost all-animal life had gone thus there was no food for my little ones any more. But now and then, I would find a little grass or some weeds in a crevasse somewhere. I would push the weeds into their little mouths for them to chew. Grass contains some moisture and at least some nourishment.

‘Lord is it all worth it?’ I cried out sometimes. But I knew it was, for many of my dear ones did survive our own Holocaust, which we endured together in those dark basements. Yes, all the pain was worth it. So often I would think about my own little baby and my husband, ‘Lord keep them well.’

I remember one day, I had almost no strength left whatsoever. Was my time up? ‘O Lord how much longer, can I hold on till salvation comes?’ Then suddenly I heard the drone of planes and it was low above the ground, and then there were noises as if something dropped on the ground above but not far away. ‘Thud, thud.’ I knew they were not bombs, for that sound I knew all too well. I wanted to go and see what was happening, but I dared not for it was still light outside. “Maybe the Germans are trying to trick us to the surface” my feeble mind reasoned. Several days later, as we struggled on in our cellars, which became like hell itself, I finally gained enough courage to go above and look. I dragged my painful, bleeding body out of this pit. Being daytime the light almost blinded me, for I had not gone out during the day for so long. Then, as my eyes were slowly adjusting, I could see boxes lying on the ground and they were smashed open. I crawled to them, and with my last strength managed to open one of the packets inside. It turned out that the allies had dropped food parcels for the starving in the Netherlands. However, to my horror, I discovered that the boxes were full of dry, very dry biscuits. ‘How can we eat them? Our mouths are parched.’ I cried out. I took some just the same and passed them round. They did try to eat, but could not. I can still see their drawn sad hungry little faces, even though were now years older. They looked so little and helpless. All had a look of death on their little faces. It was at this time I finally came to my end, and apparently it was then I fell into a coma. I would never see any of my precious ones again.

Two weeks later, I came out of the coma. The Dutch resistance had remembered that we were there and with the war at an end, they came to see if any had survived the ordeal. To their surprise, some had. The children were taken and well cared for. Many would eventually go home to Eretz (the Land of) Israel.

When I woke, I could see this bright light ‘I must be in heaven, with my Lord,’ I cried out. I could see an outline of a face smiling at me, saying ‘Welcome, welcome Klazina.’ ‘It must be my Lord,’ I thought. As the visage became clearer, I said, ‘You are not my Lord, you are a woman.’ The nurse quickly called the doctor. I remained in hospital for a long time, but my recovery was well on the way. Thank you Lord Jesus for keeping me and all of us, who survived our private Holocaust.

My husband soon came to visit me together with my little boy Frank. But oh, how my baby had grown, but there was a great shock ahead for me, for it had been years and my baby had not seen his mother since he was just nine months old and he did not know who this strange woman was. I felt so rejected. It was a giant blow to me at the time. However, through the love of the Almighty, this healing was also accomplished. We did become very close. After my recovery and back with my husband we had another son, who we named Len.”

Klazina and her family eventually immigrated, arriving in Australia in 1952, and settled there. Until her passing in November 1996, she became known by the Anglicised version of her name, Chris. Later she changed her surname to Holland, after her homeland.

Her faith grew and so did her love for the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel. She, with others, conducted regular meetings at her home where they would pray for the Jewish people, Israel, especially for “The Peace of Jerusalem.” She, together with a close friend, also of Dutch origin, packed and forwarded packages with much needed goods to Israel, to help those in need, especially the new arrivals from east Europe. This legacy continues to this day, as other believers continue the work. Thus Klazina’s or Chris Holland’s love and Tzedakah continues!

This wonderful woman of faith became well known in Perth, Western Australia as Chris Holland

As it was said by Betsie ten Boom in Ravensbruck woman's prison camp, “There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.” This fact saved Klazina and her Babes, whilst these little ones were in her loving care for all those years. I recall how her tears rolled down her face, when she thought of those who tragically perished.

Klazina finished her story with these words

“All I did, I did not of myself, or in my strength, but by the strength, grace, and goodness of the LORD our God. I praise Him and thank Him for the privilege of being able to serve Him, especially in the service of loving and helping His chosen people Israel. I thank Messiah Jesus, for changing my life”

The story of Klazina Hurkmans (Chris Holland) has never been told before. The author prays that all who have read it will be willing to give some “Tzedakah” when called upon for those in need! What is needed in this world full of hatred, war, and sadness, is the honour to give “Tzedakah” unto all who call out in pain!

Reflect on the recent tragic situations around us, such as the tragic events in the Middle East, the Gulf war, Saddam Hussein murdering his own people, the Kurds and the March Arabs. Then there is the sad state of the Israeli, Palestinian situation, and the events of Bosnia, and Rwanda. Both great tragedies. Then on 11 September 2001, came the shock of that great evil when two passenger jets crashed into New York’s World Trade Centre, and another at the Pentagon. On 12 October 2002, two bombs in Bali destroyed more lives, Australians, Balinese, and dear ones from around the world!

Today, there are many horrid situations throughout this evil world. Many are calling out in pain. Those who have a strong faith, be it Christian or Jew, we should be ready to enter into the service of the most high God, the God of all creation, and touch lives with Tzedakah, which the Almighty blesses us every single day. The LORD God, blessed be He, gives us our breath (Heb: ruach), which means, spirit!

When a Jew prepares to go to sleep, the following prayer is said – “May it be Thy will my God, and the God of Israel, to let me lie down in peace, and let me rise up again in peace … Into Thy hand I commit my spirit.”

The Almighty God blesses us with LIFE, let us use it fruitfully unto all who cry out for help!

Dear reader, “TZEDAKAH,” is a word that contains so much. The final chapter, chapter fourteen will cover the full meaning of this word.

Psalm 9

“I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High … He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your Name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people. When He avenges blood, He remembers them; he does not forget the cry of the humble … The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.

Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail; let the nations be judged in Your sight. Put them in fear, O LORD that the nations may know themselves to be but men.” Psalm 9: 1-2, 8-12, 17-20.

Special Thanks:

We thank Klazina’s (Chris Holland) son, Mr. Len Hurkmans for his kind assistance, providing details of his dear mother, father, and his late brother Frank.


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