Monsignor Louis-Joseph Kerkhofs

Monsignor Louis-Joseph Kerkhofs, was the bishop of Liège/Luik during the war years. He used his considerable authority and prestige to urge the clerics in his diocese to lend a hand to save Jews from deportation. His attitude inspired many people and religious institutions in the Liege area to help Jews, and many cases of rescue resulted from his intervention. Father Hubert Celis being only one of them.

Betty Garfinkles, who hid with Father Louis Jamin, relates that as a result of Kerkhofs’ appeal to the priests under his jurisdiction, the Banneux monastery afforded a roof to a large number of fleeing Jews. Other monasteries and Catholic seminaries spontaneously followed suit, including the Benedictine monks in Liège, in Charneux and in Val Dieu, The Holy Heart of Maria in Ter Hulpe, and other religious institutions.

In July 1942, Monsignor Kerkhofs was personally involved in securing a safe hiding place for cantor Joseph Lepkifker, who officiated as head of the religious Jewish community in Liège,and his family. Monsignor Kerkhofs, known as the “Prince of Charity” for his magnanimity, first hid Joseph Lepkifker, his wife Tzivica, and their two sons Mendel and Elie in the bishopric; Tzivica Lepkifker was then moved to a convent in Huy/Hoei (the mother superior of which was a cousin of Kerkhofs), and the two sons were placed with Paul Bonhomme, and Dr. Marcel Lambrichts. When Lepkifker’s parents were arrested and deported, Monsignor Kerkhofs felt it best to move Mrs. Lepkifker to another place, and he took her in his car to a small convent in Liège (Les Soeurs du Bon Secours), made up of nuns of different nationalities. There, Tzivica stayed from 1943 until the country’s liberation. In this rescue operation, Monsignor Kerkhofs worked closely with Fathers Emile Boufflette and Joseph Peeters, who was executed by the Germans. He was well known for his stand in favor of persecuted Jews, not only in Liège but in other regions as well.

On July 6, 1981,Yad Vashem recognized Monsignor Louis Kerkhofs as Righteous Among the Nations.