Designer who rescued 406 Jews in Nazi-occupied Netherlands dies

Penraat withstood torture to protect fellow members of the resistance; "You do these things because in your mind there is no other way of doing it."

July 2, 2006 08:21
1 minute read.
Designer who rescued 406 Jews in Nazi-occupied Netherlands dies

Jaap Penraat 88. (photo credit: )


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Jaap Penraat, an architect and industrial designer who helped 406 Jews sneak out of Nazi-occupied Netherlands and withstood torture to protect fellow members of the resistance, has died, his daughter said. The 88-year-old died June 25 at his home in Catskill, New York. The cause was esophageal cancer, his daughter Noelle Penraat told The New York Times for its Sunday editions. Born in Amsterdam in 1918, Penraat was in his 20s when he began forging identity cards for Jews. After being discovered, he was imprisoned for several months and tortured, but refused to tell his captors anything. After his release from prison, Penraat and other resistance members began disguising Jews as construction workers hired to work on a wall Hitler was building along France's Atlantic Coast. He made 20 trips, accompanying about 20 Jews each time to Lille, France. There they were met by the French underground and transported to neutral Spain. Years later, when he began speaking about his wartime experiences, Penraat said he had simply done what seemed necessary. "You do these things because in your mind there is no other way of doing it," he told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000. Of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands before the Nazis invaded, only about 30,000 survived. Poland was the sole nation to lose a larger percentage of its Jewish population. After the war, Penraat became a noted designer in Amsterdam, moving to the US in 1958. He is survived by three daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife of 52 years, Jettie, died in 2003.

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