Jan Kasper Klein
Jan Klein (b. June 8, 1912) worked for many years as a gymnastics teacher at Technische Hogeschool, Delft. He was a close friend of a Jewish man, Bob Denneboom (b. December 23, 1909), who in addition to his talent for painting, dove competitively, winning many prizes and even becoming champion of the Netherlands. He specialized in platform diving from the three meter springboard.
With the beginning of the occupation Bob had gone into hiding at his weekend cottage in Egmond-Binnen, North Holland. When the coastal region was evacuated, Denneboom abandoned his hiding place and on January 1, 1943, went to live with Jan Klein. At this time, Klein was already sharing his house with his friend, Mischa Elkan, a Jew from Latvia who had moved to Amsterdam at the age of 19. Somehow, Mischa managed to convince the Germans that only two of his grandparents were Jewish, which allowed him to avoid deportation and move around freely.
As the Germans stepped up the deportation of Dutch Jews, Jan and Mischa gradually took in Bob Denneboom’s entire family: his parents, sister and brother-in-law, and his relatives. Finally, there were 17 Jews living in the small three-story house, which had a special hiding space under the roof.
In order to relieve the overcrowding, four or five of the refugees would occasionally stay with Jan’s mother, Mrs. C. Klein-Manherst, in her house in the bombed-out section of The Hague. Jan’s house was located in a quiet area of the city. If anyone came to visit, the fugitives had to be completely quiet. In order to allay suspicions that people were hidden in the house, he told the neighbours that he owned a breadcrumb factory when he was seen carrying too many loaves of bread.
During the war, Jan was employed as a food distributor, which allowed him to move freely through the city. Through his resistance connections, he obtained ration cards every month for all the refugees in his care.
On February 16, 1944, the Germans raided both the Klein households. Everyone was arrested, including Jan, Mrs. Klein, and Mischa Elkan. Only Bob Denneboom escaped. Of the 19 people arrested, only five survived the camps. Bob's parents - Joel Denneboom and Deborah Denneboom-Gazan, sister Marianne Visschoonmaker-Denneboom and brother-in-law Philip Visschoonmaker were murdered in Auschwitz. Bob's friens Siemon Vos was murdered in Germany. Jan Kasper Klein, who was taken to Dachau, and 65-year-old Mrs. Klein, who was taken to Vught, survived. Of the Jews, only three came back alive: Mischa, who immigrated to Israel after the war; Roza Vos-Rijksman, who later married Bob Denneboom; and another distant relative of Bob’s. After the war, Jan returned to work as a gym teacher.
On May 28, 1974, Yad Vashem recognized Jan Kasper Klein as Righteous Among the Nations.
Yad Vashem would like to thank Thessa Prins-Denneboom and Albert Vischherr for providing additional materials and background for this story.