A little over half of the Righteous Among the Nations recognized by Yad Vashem are women. While many of them acted in cooperation with other family members, some of these courageous women were the initiators of the rescue and acted independently to save Jews. Here are some of their stories.
Caecilia Loots, born in Haarlem, trained to be a teacher in the Montessori school system. She ran a small private school in Amersfoort, Utrecht, for children with severe learning disabilities.
In 1942, when her friend asked her to take in some Jewish children, Caecilia, a devout Catholic, agreed. Initially, seven-year-old Caroline (Lineke) Sons and her four-year-old sister, Marian (Janneke), came to the school, an excellent hiding place.
Over the following months, others arrived there too, among them Dori and Joost van Cleef, Miriam Emanuel, 12-year-old Simone Paur, 17-year-old Betty Springer, and a young child named Rosen.
Caecilia, who was called “Tante Ciel,” was assisted in all the housework by 17-year-old Dina van Heiningen (later van der Geld), who was fully aware of the true identity of the wards.
Caecilia did everything possible to give the children a natural environment to grow up in. They attended school, played around the house, and she even gave extracurricular music lessons. The house kept up the appearance of a normal school, with regular pupils coming and going every day.
The risk Caecilia took was enormous; her house was located near the Amersfoort internment camp and thus there were always Germans in the vicinity. For emergency situations, a hiding place was constructed in the attic but it was only used a few times.
Over and above hiding the children, a number of adults also found temporary refuge in Caecilia’s home during the war. Among them was the mother of one of the children, who had been forced to leave her previous hideout. In addition, from time to time men who escaped from the Amersfoort internment camp hid temporarily in Caecilia’s house. Caecilia and Dina were also involved in a number of Resistance activities including courier services and distributing illegal newspapers. Caecilia also hosted Resistance meetings in her house.
On November 11, 1969, Yad Vashem recognized Caecilia Antonia Maria Loots as Righteous Among the Nations.