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Chairman Dani Dayan Presents the Righteous Among the Nations Award to Descendants of Three Rescuers at a Special Ceremony in the Hague

11 March 2024

In a ceremony today at The Hague, Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan and Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands Amb. Modi Ephraim, honored three Dutch Righteous Among the Nations recognized by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. The title Righteous Among the Nations is presented to those few non-Jews who risked their lives to help rescue Jews during the Holocaust. The descendants of Righteous Among the Nations Johannes Martinus and Rolina Oelen, Jan Hendriks and Johannes Jozephus and Wilhelmina Regina Bros, were presented with the certificate and medal of appreciation on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel for their selfless acts of kindness and bravery.

The ceremony was part of Chairman Dayan's historic visit to the Netherlands, which included participation in the inaugural ceremonies for the new Dutch National Holocaust Museum in Amsterdam. The opening of the museum was attended by the King of the Netherlands, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the President of Austria, the President of the Bundesrat of Germany, as well as the President of the State of Israel. During his visit, Dayan also visited the Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names and met with heads of institutions dealing with Holocaust remembrance and the fight against antisemitism.

At the event Dayan stated:

"As Chairman of Yad Vashem, I feel the heavy burden on my shoulders and the great responsibility to pass on the story of the Holocaust, its causes, and the duty the world has in preventing such events from happening again. I work towards this goal each and every day. Moreover, in moments like these, as I stand before families of people who chose to stand up in the face of pure evil and act as beacons of light amid the great darkness, I am filled with hope for our shared future. The Jewish people as a whole owe these individuals a debt of gratitude for their courage and inner morality."


About the Rescuers:

Johannes Martinus and Rolina Oelen-ter Steege

Rolina (Oelen-ter Steege) and Johannes Martinus Oelen lived in a small village near Leeuwarden. They had two children. Johannes, a member of the Dutch underground, was asked if he would agree to hide Jews. The Oelen couple agreed, and Esther and Nathan Cohen whose two sons and granddaughters had already been murdered by the Nazis, moved in with Rolina and Johannes in late 1942.  For over two years, the Cohen's hid in a small house belonging to the Oelen family, where Johannes built a special hiding place where Esther and Nathan were able to avoid detection. After liberation, the Cohen's returned to their home and stayed in touch with their rescuers. Johan Oelen received the coveted title on behalf of his grandparents.


Jan Hendriks

Jan and his wife Abeltje Hendriks-Aardema (previously recognized by Yad Vashem in 1979) lived in Emmer-Compascuum with their daughter. The couple owned a grocery store where Abeltje worked, and Jan sold goods door-to-door. The couple were central figures in the Dutch resistance group Zefat, which operated in the Province of Drenthe. They hid Jews in their home and also helped hide a large group of Jews in the forests near Valthe. Jan was arrested in 1944 and deported to the Amersfoort camp, where he contracted dysentery. Jan died from exhaustion in Husum-Schwesing, a subcamp of Neugengamme in Germany on 18 November 1944. Albertje continued her resistance activities until the end of the war. Jan Hendriks's Righteous Among the Nations award presented to the couple's granddaughter, Annemieke Vloedmans.


Johannes Jozephus and Wilhelmina Regina (van Tongeren) Bros

Wilhelmina Regina (van Tongeren) and Johannes Jozephus Bros had 11 children and lived in Ravenstein. At one point, the local priest named Petrus Adrianus Johannes Maria van Heijst approached the couple and asked if they would hide Henriëtte Hen (born 1917), a Jewish girl whose parents, Jozef and Frouwgje (née Druif) Hen were deported and murdered in Auschwitz in November 1942. The Bros' hesitated due to the great risk to their family and the small size of their home. However, they later agreed, and Henriette stayed with them for two months. Henriëtte later moved to another family, where she had to hide in a pigsty to avoid being discovered. The risk of being discovered was so great that the priest decided to move Henriëtte back to the Bros family who took her back into their home for six more months until liberation. Henriëtte maintained a close relationship with the Bros family and their descendants. Yad Vashem recognized the Bros couple and Father Petrus van Heijst as Righteous Among the Nations. The certificate and medal were received jointly by Henriette's daughter, Frouwgje Bornstein, together with the lifelong friend of Betty Strijbos-Bros, daughter of the rescuers, Wilhelmina and Johannes Bros.