Dutch Righteous Gentile honored for bravery as teenager

Bol assisted her parents, who were members of a local underground movement in Holland, in hiding and caring for Jews.

The 15-year-old Dutch girl stared transfixed in horror as the group of German soldiers pulled up outside her home in a row of military cars and entered her house. It was 1943 in German-occupied Holland. The German officer started pulling books out of the family bookcase near the secret hiding place in which her parents had been hiding a group of Jews, and began reading off a list of names found in the books. "Who are these people?" he demanded. Elizabeth Bol did not flinch. "I don't know," she coolly responded. Starting in 1942, and for the next three years until the end of the war, Bol had assisted her parents, who were members of a local underground movement in Holland, in hiding and caring for Jews they sequestered in their house in Western Holland. The teenager was herself responsible for warning the hideaways about Nazi searches of the house by stamping her foot on the ground. She bought food with forged coupons at different kiosks so as to avoid suspicion and would update them with news about the outside world. By July 1943, word reached the family that their household hiding place, which had successfully sheltered more than 10 people for a year, had become compromised due to informers. Bol managed to find alternate hiding places for four of the eight Jews who were hiding in the house while her parents found the rest of the hideaways alternate shelter. About one week later, four armed Germans stormed into their home and headed straight to the now-emptied hiding place, only to find no one left. After the search, her parents were arrested and her father sent to a concentration camp. He was incarcerated there for the next two years until he was freed due to illness. On Monday afternoon, a quarter-century after her parents were awarded Yad Vashem's highest honor as 'Righteous Among the Nations,' Bol received the same distinction for her own heroic actions. "What most remains from that period is a feeling of utter chaos, fear and the feeling that at any moment something can go wrong," she recounted. Bol, 77, was reunited at the ceremony with one of the very Jews she and her family had saved, Dr. Mordechai Menat. Menat was one of those for whom Bol herself found alternate shelter after the hideout was compromised. "I want to speak for tens of hours over the miracle but I do not have any words," an emotional Menat said at the ceremony. Menat, surrounded by scores of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, linked hands with the woman who had saved his life. "I always asked myself how could all of this of happened," said Bol, who attended the ceremony with her three sons. "One thing I want to say is that I feel that I have won a connection with a Jewish family whom I love very much." Also posthumously awarded Yad Vashem's highest honor on Monday were a Polish family, Hipolit and Wiktoria Ropelewski and their son Robert, who hid a young Jewish infant that was smuggled out of the Warsaw Ghetto through the duration of the war. The young child, Miroslava Arditi, who was saved from certain death along with her mother, was united at the ceremony with the granddaughter of her saviors, Wiktoria Bogdan, who accepted the award on her late father and grandparents' behalf. "I will carry the love and care which they gave me until my last days," a tearful Arditi, 63, said at the ceremony.