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Jan Schep, a city official in Zeist, Holland who saved hundreds of Jews during World War II by providing them with false ID cards, was posthumously honored as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem on Sunday.
The august ceremony bestowing the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority's highest honor was attended by his two sons, their children and grandchildren.
Schep was captured by the Nazis and died at the Bergen Belsen concentration camp just as it was being liberated in 1945.
He was born in 1898 in Lekkerkerk and moved to Zeist, where he worked in the department of population registration.
After the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, the Jews of Holland were forced to carry identity cards with a J stamped in them. Three years later, the Germans ordered that the IDs also have fingerprints to prevent forging.
Possessing an identity card was the only way to ensure freedom of movement and get food stamps.
When the German order was received by the departments of population registry, which were responsible for issuing the new ID cards, several clerks in the Zeist Municipality set up an underground mechanism to issue forged IDs for people in hiding, including Jews.
The clerks also removed from the registry potentially harmful information, such as the names of people being sought by the Nazis.
Schep was the head of this conspiracy and personally authorized the forged ID cards, even though he did not know most of the recipients.
The new IDs gave the Jews new identities and contributed to saving their lives.
The Germans discovered the forging operation in August 1944. Schep was arrested and sent to the Amersfoort and Vught concentration camps in Holland. In September he was sent to the Oranienburg concentration camp in Germany.
With the approach of the Allies in April 1945, he was sent on a death march to Bergen-Belsen.
According to a Red Cross document from 1950, Schep died in Bergen-Belsen, between April 4, 1945, and May 31, 1945, just as it was being liberated by British soldiers.
After the war, many forged ID cards and documents with Schep's signature were discovered.
The Yad Vashem ceremony was attended by Shulamit Navon and Zvia Caspi, Holocaust survivors who were saved by IDs provided by Schep.
"If he did not provide us with the papers, we would probably not have survived the war," said Navon, 80, of Rishon Lezion.
Schep's sons, Jan and Hank, were kept in the dark for decades about their father's heroic role since their widowed mother never spoke about it.
Hank Schep, 74, said he decided to pursue his father's story after watching a TV documentary about the Holocaust.
"I felt a moral duty towards my children and grandchildren to make them realize what a person their grandfather and great-grandfather was," he said at the ceremony.
Jan Schep, 80, said he felt as if there was finally closure to his father's death.
"For all these years, this was an open-ended story, as we had no grave to visit. Now I hope we will have closure," he said.