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Yad Vashem to honor Belgian Baroness as Righteous Among the Nations

Holocaust Survivor to Attend Thursday Event

8 June 2010

On Thursday, June 10, 2010, Yad Vashem will hold a ceremony posthumously honoring Baroness Gisele Van der Staten Waillet from Belgium as Righteous Among the Nations. The Righteous’ daughter Baroness Gaëtane van der Stegen of Belgium and the daughter-in-law of the Righteous Baroness Eliane van der Straten, will receive the medal and certificate of honor on her behalf. The ceremony will take place in the presence of the survivor, Joseph Fruhauf of Israel and Belgian Ambassador to Israel H.E. Bénédicte Frankinet.

A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance will be held at 11:00 followed by the awarding the medal and certificate and the unveiling of the name of the Righteous in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. The events will take place in French & Hebrew. The event is open to the press, in coordination with the media relations dept. 02 644 3410. Rescue Story:

The Fruhauf family, Feiwel, Lily (née Rapaport), and their children, 25-year-old Lea and 21-year-old Joseph, lived in Antwerp, Belgium. On September 26, 1942, Feiwel was arrested by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz and, soon after, Lea’s husband of only six weeks was deported to Auschwitz as well. Lily, Lea and Joseph succeeding in escaping and found various hiding places in Brussels. With the aid of a Catholic organization that helped women find employment, the Fruhaufs were put in touch with Baroness Gisele Van der Staten Waillet, a devout Catholic widow with nine children of her own - eight daughters and a son. Although the pious Baroness initially did not want men to stay in her home, in light of the desperate plight of the Fruhaufs, she permitted Lily to hide with both her son and daughter on her estate in Southern Belgium. There the Fruhaufs posed as household staff: Lily worked in the kitchen as a cook, Lea as a chambermaid and Joseph as a servant. In order to further disguise their identity, they attended weekly mass and the other servants were strictly forbidden to speak of the Fruhaufs before strangers.

Despite the isolation of the estate, the family was often in danger of discovery. Several times throughout the war, the Nazis searched the estate, looking for members of the underground. On these occasions the Baroness quickly hid Joseph in the cellar or under a bed, and the Germans failed to discover the family hiding on the grounds.

Lily, Lea and Joseph remained at the Baroness’ home from the end of 1942 until September 1944. After liberation, the family returned to Antwerp where they learned that both Fiewel and Lea’s husband had been murdered. Baroness Gisele Van der Staten Waillet passed away in April 1950. The Commission for the Designation of the Righteous Among the Nations decided to award Gisele Van der Staten Waillet the title of Righteous Among the Nations on November 30, 2009.

For more information about the Righteous Among the Nations Program: http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/righteous/index.asp