Dutch couple posthumously honored for Holocaust heroism

Couple had saved Jewish child; grandson: They did what they thought they should from a strong belief.

yad vashem 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
yad vashem 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
It was the summer of 1942 in Nazi-occupied Holland. The deportations of the country's Jews had begun, the lights of Europe fast fading on European Jewry as a sea of darkness and destruction spread. The Levy family, who like the rest of the Jewish community in Holland received orders to report for "forced labor" in the East, was desperately looking for hiding places for its three young children, Miriam, Dan and Yehudit. Then the coded message came. A place had been found for the "pink hat," the nearly two-year-old baby girl, Yehudit. With the help of neighbors, Yehudit was placed in the home of Wessel and Ankje Ruwersma, a Dutch couple in their 50s with two children of their own who worked on the family farm and ran a local grocery. The couple took in Yehudit and treated her as their own daughter, seeing to all her needs and safeguarding her for the next two years until the end of the war. To conceal the child's identity, the villagers were told that she was the daughter of friends from another village whose mother was ill and whose father was unable to care for her. To further obscure her identity, Yehudit's black hair, an uncommon sight in that area, was bleached. "My grandfather and grandmother were mediocre people, hard-working, honest and firm," recounted Daniel Postma, 58, at a ceremony Wednesday at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial posthumously recognizing the Ruwersmas as "Righteous Among the Nations," Israel's highest honor to non-Jews. "They were also strong believers in Christian faith, not in the Orthodox way, but in a sense that what was taught in the Bible should be practiced in daily life," he said. "They were humanistic people." Postma recalled that the answer was "clearly yes" when his grandfather's sister called to ask if they would take the young Jewish child. "So came Yehudit into our family and so she stayed until today. She is part of the family and a sister to us," he said. After the war, Yehudit was reunited with her mother and siblings (her father was murdered at Auschwitz while her mother escaped the Death March) and, even after the family immigrated to the newly-established State of Israel in 1949 following a difficult parting from her adopted family, she remained in close touch with them for the next 60 years, even attending the couple's 60th wedding anniversary. "They were very simple people with a heart of gold," Yehudit Levy, 67, of Tel Aviv said at the ceremony. "I love them as they were my own family." The Levy family, who over the years had invited the Dutch couple to visit them in Israel, would send them crates of oranges since they actually never left Holland. Even after the couple passed away, Levy maintained contact with their children, and more recently with their grandchildren. "In all the years the contact remained and we felt their gratitude," Postma recalled, who attended the ceremony with his sister, Ankje van-Keulen-Postma, during a vacation in Israel. He recounted that his grandparents, who lived until a ripe old age, would very often talk about the war time Yehudit spent in their home, and the strong feelings they had towards her. "They did what they thought they should from a strong belief," Postma said during the event held at the Garden of the Righteous on a warm spring day. "It is a pity they cannot be here, but I am sure they are proud in heaven watching this ceremony with a smile to Yehudit, with gratitude for all you have done," he concluded.