Usually, when I start a piece with a photo of a Jewish child, it is followed by the tragic story of that child’s short life and death. However, that is not the case this time.
In November 1943, the occupying Nazi regime in the Netherlands raided a guest house. They found a small Jewish girl, three-year-old Miriam Dasberg, the daughter of Rabbi Nathan Dasberg. Miriam had been kept in hiding there, safe from the Nazis. The young girl had been found and was to be deported to the concentration camps, where she would have been murdered.
However, another young person would be one of her saviours. Seventeen-year-old Hein Korpershoek was already a member of the Dutch Resistance. Now he was asked by a friend to rescue the little Jewish girl. The friend was Ans van Dam. She was a Jewish medical student from Hilversum who was part of a resistance group consisting of nurses and students, Jewish and non-Jewish.
Ans asked Hein to help her kidnap the child from the guest house. Hein’s friend Wibo Florissen also volunteered to join him and try to get the little girl before the Germans came back.
Hein and his friend Wibo Florissen disguised themselves as members of the Secret Police and abducted young Miriam from the house where she was being held. The two young men were frightened throughout the operation, but it ended in success when they handed Miriam off to Ans van Dam. He then hid the girl in another secret location. Two weeks later, Ans was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. She survived and later immigrated to Israel.
Miriam ended up in the South of the Netherlands, in the village of Swolgen near Tienray. She was placed by Hanna van der Voort and Nico Dohmen in the home of Leonardus Jacobus Nabben and his wife Maria Gertrudis Vermeulen-Nabben.
Hanna van de Voort, also known as Tante Hanna, was a Dutch resistance fighter during World War II. During the war years, together with Nico Dohmen and Kurt Löwenstein, she placed more than a hundred Jewish children with many foster families in North Limburg and saved them from deportation to the camps.
Miriam and her brother Lex both survived the war.
On 10 May 1995, Miriam Dasberg accompanied by her brother Lex, came to Swolgen for the first time in 50 years to meet her diving-time brothers and visit the Hanna monument, in honour of Hanna van der Voort, in Tienray.
There was a fellowship of at least seven brave and courageous souls who would have faced the death penalty if caught. Yet, they took the risk for a three-year-old who was a stranger to them. It had toyed with the idea of calling this piece The Magnificent Seven, but I think The Fellowship of Courage describes those involved better.
All involved were recognized by Yad Vashem as the Righteous Among the Nations, with the exception of Ans van Dam. It is a pity that Yad Vashem does not recognize the Jewish rescuers and resistant fighters as the Righteous Among the Nations, but I presume they have their reasons.
Many thanks, to Michele Kupfer Yerman, for pointing the story out to me.