When Light Pierced the Darkness: Christian Rescue of Jews in Nazi-Occupied Poland

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview

Introduction

There are people the world over who identify with and mourn the fate of Anne Frank. Forbidden from the age of thirteen to venture forth from her hiding place, she nevertheless managed to touch millions. Her courage and her faith in the ultimate redemption of humanity have made her the symbolic Holocaust child. In sharp contrast, very little is known about the Christians who for over two years endangered their lives to protect her. Who were they? What prompted them to undertake this risky venture? What happened to them after the Gestapo discovered Anne Frank's hiding place? Most of these questions were never raised. To this day the answers are not easily found.

The Encyclopedia Judaica, for example, devotes more than a page to Anne Frank's story. In this space, however, the only reference to the Christians who tried to save her reads: "From July 9, 1942, until August 4, 1944, the Frank family remained in their hiding place, kept alive by friendly Gentiles. An act of betrayal resulted in their discovery by the German Police." 1 Only a bit more informative is a well-known book about Christians who protected Jews during World War II. The author, without mentioning names, notes that "the two families of noble and self-sacrificing Netherlanders who helped the Franks were sent to concentration camps." 2 A more accurate but limited source, a supplement to Anne Frank's book, explains that when the Gestapo came to Anne Frank's hiding place they arrested two Christians, Mr. Koophuis and Mr. Kraler. After a few weeks Koophuis was released because of poor health, but Kraler spent eight months in a forced labor camp. With no reference to the characteristics or motivations of Anne Frank's protectors, this publication at least gives their names. 3 Only through personal inquiry did I learn that in 1972 Yad Vashem had bestowed upon Anne Frank's protectors the official title of Righteous Christians. 4

Yad Vashem was established in 1953 in Jerusalem as a memorial to European Jews who perished during World War II, an experience that

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