'Righteous' Dutch family honored

The Snappers hid a Jew in their home and never flinched when the SS came.

October 25, 2007 23:01
3 minute read.
'Righteous' Dutch family honored

Righteous gentiles 224.8. (photo credit: AP)


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It was 1944 in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Six German soldiers took up residence in the Snapper family home in the small Dutch village. The family had been hiding a Jewish woman for two years in the guise of a live-in housekeeper when the SS men arrived. The Snapper family never flinched. "Maybe we can get some of their food portions," Martha Snapper told the Jewish housekeeper, Rosa de Hartog. The head of the family of eight, Hendrikus (Hein) Snapper, had become active in the underground back in the summer of 1942, with the full support of his wife, Martha. Because of his position at the municipal labor exchange in Naaldwijk, a town in the western Netherlands, he was aware of the persecution of Dutch Jews early on, when they were first forced to wear the yellow star, and he was determined to turn from a bystander to a rescuer. After joining the underground, Hendrikus Snapper was put in contact with the de Hartog family, who had been among the last Dutch Jews to receive a deportation order and were desperately searching for a hiding place. The Snappers, with six small children of their own, took in Rosa de Hartog and arranged hiding places for her husband, Levy (Leen), and their five children with friends and neighbors. The Snapper family had previously taken in two Jews, an elderly woman and a dashing 17-year-old, but neither could pass as their housekeeper so they had moved them on to other families. De Hartog remained at the Snappers for the next three years. Conditions worsened during the 'hunger winter' of 1944-1945, and then the Nazi soldiers moved in to the home. Eventually, Martha Snapper got the soldiers to share some of their food with her family and the woman they were sheltering; the SS men never caught on that the housekeeper was Jewish. During the three years De Hartog spent at the Snapper home, her husband and one of her children were able to visit her, sometimes even staying for dinner. "My father's conviction to help his fellow man seemed boundless," Johan Snapper, 72, of San Francisco, said Thursday. The "typical" Dutch family attended church every Sunday and the kids, including the then seven-year-old Johan, went to Bible school. "Theologically speaking, we were as Jewish as we were Christian," he said. But most of the villagers - although schooled in biblical values - failed to act - out of fear of arrest, concentration camps or being killed. "My parents understood this," Snapper said. In May 1943, a massive deportation of Dutch men for forced labor in Germany began. Snapper used his position at the local labor exchange to destroy records, and to forge documents for the de Hartogs. The entire de Hartog family survived the Holocaust and were united after World War II. The two families posed for a memorable photograph outside the de Hartog home in 1945. After the war, Snapper received special recognition from Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands for his resistance activity. The Snappers immigrated to the US in 1949. Hendrikus and Martha Snapper passed away more than a quarter century ago. Last year, they were posthumously awarded Yad Vashem's highest honor, recognition as Righteous Among the Nations for risking their lives to save Jews. "Your parents deserve a golden chair in heaven," survivor Truus de Hartog, 80, of The Netherlands told five of the Snappers' children who assembled along with more than 30 extended family members for Thursday's ceremony honoring their late parents at Yad Vashem. "Without your parents, we would not be here," she said. Johan Snapper would go on to become a professor of Holocaust studies at the University of California at Berkeley. "Though dead, our parents are very much alive in our hearts," he said. "They lived their lives as compassionate Christians, who lived their faith especially when it mattered most."

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