About Yad Vashem
Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony Honoring Wessel & Ankje Ruwersma
On 1 April 2009 Wessel and Ankje Ruwersma, Righteous Among the Nations from the Netherlands, were posthumously honored at Yad Vashem for rescuing Jews during the Holocaust. the ceremony took place in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations in the presence of the survivor, Yehudit Levy, and the grandchildren of the Righteous, Daniel Postma and Ankje van Keulen-Postma, who had arrived especially from the Netherlands to accept the medal and certificate of honor on their late grandparents’ behalf. The ceremony was attended by fifty IDF officers and NCOs who had come to Yad Vashem for a seminar on the Holocaust. The awards were presented by Yad Vashem Director-General Nathan Etan.
The rescuers’ grandson, Daniel Postma, said at the ceremony: “"My grandfather and grandmother were mediocre people, hard-working, honest and firm…. 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… They did what they thought they should from a strong belief… So came Yehudit into our family and so she stayed until today. She is part of the family and a sister to us…. In all the years the contact remained and we felt their gratitude… 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”.
“They were very simple people with a heart of gold. I love them as if they were my own family”, said Yehudit Levy.
Wessel and Ankje Ruwersma lived in the village of Burum, located in the district of Friesland in Northern Holland. Wessel worked on the family farm and also distributed kerosene in the local villages while Ankje ran a grocery shop in Burum. The couple, who were in their 50s, had two children: a married daughter, Anne, and a son, Ruurdtje, who lived with them.
In May 1940, the Germans captured Holland, and in Summer 1942, the deportations of the Jews of Holland began. When the Levy family, of Tilburg in Southern Holland, received orders to report for forced labor in the East, the parents, Jeanne and Alfred, decided to search for hiding places for their three young children, Miriam, Dan and Yehudit. Through a neighbor they managed to place Yehudit, at that time almost two years old, in the home of Wessel and Ankje Ruwersma, who referred to Yehudit in coded messages as a “a pink hat.”
The couple received little Yehudit with open arms. They cared for her as if she were their own daughter, seeing to all her needs. In order to hide Yehudit’s identity, the people of the village were told that she was the daughter of friends whose mother was ill and the father unable to care for her. Additionally, in order to further obscure her identity, Yehudit’s black hair, an uncommon sight in that area, was bleached in order to lighten it. When Yehudit began to speak her first words, she repeatedly said the word “Oetie,” and Wessel and Ankje decided to call her by this name. To this day, the Ruwersma family still calls her “Oetie.”
Yehudit remained with the Ruwersma family for two years, until liberation in April 1945 when her aunt collected her and returned her to her family. Yehudit’s father was murdered in Auschwitz, but her mother, sister and brother survived the Holocaust. Yehudit regarded her rescuers as her parents and her separation from the Ruwersmas was especially difficult. When the Levy family immigrated to Israel, Yehudit remained in contact with her rescuers and then later on, after their deaths, with their children.