For the millions who perished during the Holocaust, as well as those who survived, this dark chapter in history too often came down to impossible decisions, decisions that meant life or death. For many Gentiles during the Holocaust, the decision was to do the right thing and save their Jewish brothers and sisters, even if it meant danger for themselves or their own families. This week’s Hero of the Holocaust certainly made the difficult but heroic decision to save the life of a Jewish child.
When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and began deporting and murdering Dutch Jews, the underground resistance movement began transferring Jewish children to Christian families, saving hundreds of youngsters who would otherwise have died in the Nazi extermination camps.
A Jewish child named Andy Ijzerman had been given to members of the resistance by his parents. And before she gave her baby to these strangers, Andy’s mother Marie wrote this letter:
My beloved child: I am forced to write you a few words before I leave you, hopefully not forever. But, it so seems, there is little hope that I will ever see you again.
My dearest Andy, I must bid you farewell now, when you are only nine months and three weeks old. God knows what a terrible price this is for us, but it is better this way than to take you with us to the unknown. I hope that you will grow into a brave young man and that you will love the people raising you as if they were your parents.
And now, my dearest child, only God knows if we are doing the right thing or not. I always wanted you to be with me, but the situation is that it would be too dangerous for you, and I don’t want you to fall into the hands of our executioners.
And now, my child, I must bid you farewell. A thousand kisses from your mother and father.
May God bless you, amen.
Marie Ijzerman Trompetter
After Andy’s mother made her own decision, letting her child go, so did a 43-year-old Dutch widow named Hermanna van Corbach. Hermanna took the young boy in, and raised him until the end of the war, when he was adopted by relatives, an act for which she would be named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
Andy’s parents were both murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz in February 1944. And Andy, after surviving the Holocaust asked to be buried with the original copy of his mother’s letter. So, while the only copy of Marie’s heartbreaking words that remain is a poor Xerox, we can still read these words as we vow to “Never Forget.”