23 May 2011
Today, a special event honoring the late Johanna (Pieterse) & Jacobus Witte as Righteous Among the Nations was held at Yad Vashem.
During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the Jewish Kalfus family decided to go into hiding, and their four-year-old son, Leopold Robert Kalfus was brought to Johanna and Jacobus. Robert was introduced as a nephew of Johanna and was treated as one of the couple's children. He slept in the attic with the two Witte sons, Cees and Jan, soon calling the Wittes Uncle Jaap and Aunt Jo. Despite increasing risk, Robert remained hidden on their farm. The Wittes looked after Robert for two years; during this period they also sheltered a downed Allied pilot.
“I am standing here in Yad Vashem, 66 years after the war. I cannot express in words the emotional turbulence I am feeling right now,” said Robert at today’s event. “I am thankful that I survived, thanks to the courage of Johanna and Jacobus. I joined the Witte family as a nephew. The hope and the love that they have showered upon me were a substitute to my lost childhood. I am happy to be here today with my children and grandchildren. I would like to thank Yad Vashem for this ceremony.”
“Johanna and Jacobus lacked for nothing,” said Amb. Michiel den Hond, Ambassador of the Netherlands in Israel, “They could choose to keep a low profile and go through the Holocaust without any danger. Instead, they took into their home a four-year-old boy, and took care of him as their own child. Even after their death, their legacy lives on. This is the outcome of being a human being even under these hard conditions.”
Robert’s son Danny expressed the family’s appreciation to the Wittes.
“We are here to celebrate life itself. The rescuing of one is the rescue of many generations. We would like to thank the Witte family from the deepest place in our hearts. We will never forget what you did for us,” he said.