During the German occupation of Holland, Jan Giliam, a police detective from Haarlem, who frequented the Jewish-owned store of Jacques De Vries, urged Jacques and his family to go into hiding, offering his own home as a temporary way station. Within a few days, Jan managed to arrange permanent hideouts for the fugitive family. Several months later, the fiancé of one of the De Vries’ daughters, Simcha van Frank, came to Jan, also seeking a place to hide. He stayed with Jan for two nights before relocating to a permanent shelter where he remained until the end of the war. In February 1943, Jan was betrayed; he was arrested by the Gestapo and taken to the Euterpestraat, the SS-headquarters in Amsterdam and then to the Amersfoort internment camp. While in the camp, he succeeded in sending out a warning his protégés. Only after he heard that they had received his warning and moved to safety did Jan succumb to torture and admit to having helped Jews. For unknown reasons, he was released. Upon his discharge, he immediately contacted those in hiding to check if they were still safe. He remained in contact with them until the end of the war.
For close to 70 years, the De Vries and van Frank families and their descendants cared for and cherished their personal artifacts and documentation from the war years. In 2008, they decided to donate these items – including a carefully preserved journal, an underground newspaper, forged identification documents, letters and poems – to the Yad Vashem Archives for permanent safekeeping. Last October, some 50 members of the extended family gathered at Yad Vashem for a special event as part of the “Gathering the Fragments” campaign to rescue personal items from the Holocaust period.
Attending the event was Lenie De Vries, the last living survivor of the family, as well as Klaas Giliam, the son Jan Giliam, who was honored as Righteous Among the Nations in 1977. Klaas delivered a heartfelt speech about how his father had courageously come to the aid of the Jewish family in their time of need and did not betray them, even under the most terrible suffering. He then presented Yad Vashem with a memento of his own: a letter written on a piece of cloth that his father had secreted to his mother in a laundry bag while he was incarcerated in the Nazi headquarters.
"Together with the artifacts donated by the survivor families, this fragile memento serves as testimony to this incredible rescue story," said Archives Division Director Dr. Haim Gertner. "The events and their fortunate outcome are a paradigm of how one courageous human being has the potential to save so many innocent lives."