Holocaust remembrance center honors Dutch rescuers

Holocaust remembrance center honors Dutch rescuers

"The fact that we are gathered here today is a miracle." Yad Vashem in Jerusalem held a ceremony yesterday (12 July) posthumously honoring Jan Willem Kamphuis and his daughter Klazenia Kamphuis-Vink from the Netherlands as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

Anthonie Vink, son of Klazenia Kamphuis-Vink and grandson of Jan Willem Kamphuis, received a medal and certificate of honor on behalf of his late mother and grandfather. James Lowenstein, son of the couple that was rescued by the Kamphuis-Vink family during the Second World War, was present at the ceremony.

His parents, Henny Dünner and her future husband Kurt Lowenstein, found a hiding place in the home of Jan Willem Kamphuis, a widower who lived together with his daughter, Klazenia, in Driebregen near the city of Utrecht.

Despite the danger, Jan Willem and Klazenia opened their home to Manfred and Henny. For eight months, the couple hid in a small room in the attic of the house.

Although Henny and Manfred never dared venture outside except to hide out in the nearby forest when imminent danger loomed, the neighbors became suspicious of the Kamphuis home, and in February 1944, the situation became more dangerous, particularly because some of the neighbors were Dutch Nazi party members.

With the help of the local resistance, Henny and Manfred were taken to another hiding place, where they stayed through the end of the war. Shortly before their liberation, while still in hiding, Henny gave birth to their son, James.

For many years, James Loewenstein searched for any surviving relatives of his parents' rescuers, including making a trip to the Netherlands, but to no avail. Little did he know that in the meantime, Anthonie Vink had met and married a Jewish Israeli woman and moved to Israel to raise their children.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day last year, Anthonie Vink, who had also spent years searching for the Loewenstein family, finally managed to find a phone listing for James Loewenstein, and made a call that would change their lives. After a brief conversation confirming that he had reached the correct address, the two families were reunited.

 "My late grandfather and mother simply saw it as their duty to protect the lives of a Jewish family when approached by their local church leader," explained Anthonie Vink. "The fact that we are gathered here today is a miracle on its own."

James Loewenstein thanked Yad Vashem for helping recognizing his parents' rescuers. "The command to be thankful for the good deeds of others is deeply rooted in Jewish law and tradition," he said. "Though to my great regret Jan Willem and Klazenia are not alive to accept this award, they undoubtedly are here in spirit.”

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust Remembrance Center, was established in 1953 in Jerusalem and is dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, documentation, research and education.

“Righteous Among the Nations” is an official title awarded by Yad Vashem on behalf of the State of Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. The title is awarded by a special commission headed by a Supreme Court Justice according to criteria such as actively saving the lives of people during the war with risk to one’s own life and liberty.

The numbers of Righteous recognized do not reflect the full scope of help given by non-Jews since many of the rescue stories remain unknown.

Yad Vashem’s database includes more than 26 000 names and rescue stories from all over Europe, with thousands of rescuers in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine.

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