In April 2007, Andrée Geulen-Herscovici received honorary Israeli citizenship at Yad Vashem. Some 160 Holocaust survivors who had been children in hiding in Belgium attended the ceremony with their families
“Dear Madam Geulen,
Your courageous activity within the framework of the CDJ during the war has been well known for many years. You have been awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations, and today you receive another honorary designation. Many people in Belgium have been in touch with you immediately after the war. I say all this as an introduction to my personal story.
I am going back in time: it’s August 1942. I am thirteen years old and the Nazis begin the roundups in Brussels. My father, who was a member of the resistance movement, understood what was going on and looked for a hiding place for me. (This is the story told to me by the family that hid me.)
My father took me by the hand and walked the streets of Anderlecht in Brussels, asking passers-by if they knew a family that would be willing to take in a child. (I’m not sure he mentioned that the child was Jewish). I finally found myself with the Nagel family.
The family already had one Jewish boy, and soon another young child arrived. Thus there were three Jewish children hidden by the Nagel family.
My parents were hiding in another place in Brussels. I assume that until their arrest they paid the Nagel family for my upkeep. After one year, my parents were captured and disappeared from my life. What happened then is directly connected to the CDJ activities. The details became clear to me only much later.
I am jumping forward. The war ended, and I joined a Zionist youth movement. In 1946, at the age of 17 we clandestinely immigrated to Israel and established a kibbutz in the south of the country – Mishmar HaNegev. Several years later I left the kibbutz, settled in Tel Aviv, married at a very young age and established a family. Children, work, problems of daily life. Although I sometimes think of that time, its memory is fading.
Some ten years ago I visited Brussels with my wife. My cousin invited us for Friday evening dinner at the Jewish club. The hall was crowded, and someone asked me if I knew Madam Geulen. I answered that I had never heard her name before.
‘Let me introduce you’, he said.
We approached her table. An unfamiliar lady was sitting there, and I was standing next to my friend who said: ‘Madam Geulen, I would like to introduce a friend from Israel.’. The lady raised her head and asked for my name. ‘I am Henri Novak’.
She looked at me with a long glance and said: ‘1059’. I was stunned, and said: ‘I beg your pardon, what are you saying?’
‘This was your code number during the war. We took care of your upkeep after your parents were gone’.
From this moment on everything became clear. I found out things that I had not known for many years.
‘Come home with me’, said Madam Geulen, ‘it’s all on my computer’. I went to her place and for an entire afternoon she told me how it functioned, how the resistance movement she had belonged to worked to save Jewish children and save them from the Nazis.
Madam Geulen, our appreciation and our gratitude go to you and to all those who were your partners in this courageous endeavor. I am here with some of my family: my wife, my children and grandchildren, and I am very happy that they too will know what you have done for them."