Dutch Olympian Athletes Murdered during the Holocaust

It is strange sometimes how one thing can draw your attention to another. I did a piece recently on the German national anthem, that led me to look at the Dutch national anthem. “Wilhelmus van Nassouwe”, usually known just as “Wilhelmus” is the national anthem of the Netherlands. It dates back to at least 1572, making it the oldest national anthem in use today.

I mostly associate it with sporting events like the Olympics. It still give me the goosebumps every time I see the Dutch flagged being raised and the anthem is played during the Olympics, or any other sporting event for that matter. Although the Dutch do punch above their weight when it comes to sport, considering the size of the country. it only hosted the Olympic games once, in 1928. It was held from 28 July to 12 August 1928.

It was the first time that female athletes were competing in the field of gymnastics. Five women on the Dutch Olympic gymnastics team were Jewish: Helena-Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, Estella-Stella Agsteribbe, Judikje-Judik Simons and Elka de Levie. The team’s trainer, Gerrit Kleerekoper, was also Jewish. The team won the gold medal for women’s gymnastics at the 1928 Olympics, and the Dutch press elevated the women to the status national heroines.

“Everything was taken care of down to the last detail. Nice practice material – not too heavy – logically composed, neatly executed in class, wonderful order and leadership, in one word sublime. …The jury was also enthusiastic and awarded the Kleerekoper corps a total score of 316.75 points, leaving the other teams far behind. With their well-deserved success the gymnasts were the first female Olympic champions in the Netherlands. At a quarter past five, the Dutch flag fluttered above the Olympic Stadium and the National Anthem sounded over the central area. However, the cheers rose when HRH Prince Hendrik stepped forward and shook hands with each of the participants. …and then they, our ladies, to whom we owe the first victory, disappeared under the grandstand to their dressing rooms.”

The Dutch Olympic women’s gymnastics team at the Amsterdam Olympics, 1928. The team won the gold medal. The coach was Jewish, as were five of the team members.The Jewish team members are standing on the first row: From left: Helena-Lea Nordheim (second), Anna Polak (third), Estella Agsteribbe (fourth), Judik Simons (last) and Elka de Levie (second row, first from right). Courtesy of NOC-NSF Gelderland collection

Less then 12 years later that status was forgotten. On May 10 German troops invaded the Netherlands and a few days later the country was fully occupied by the Germans who quickly found collaborators and a Nazi regime was put in place.

Leah, Estella and Elka trained at the “Bato” sports club in Amsterdam, which had been established in 1902 and was one of the largest Jewish sports clubs in the city. In September 1941, the Germans banned Jews from all sports activities, but even after the club’s closure, Jews continued to train and exercise illegally until 1942. From the summer of 1942, Dutch Jews were deported to the East.

Judik Simons married Bernard Solomon Themans in 1935, and they had two children, Sonja (b. 1937) and Leon (b. 1940). After the team’s win, Simons and her husband ran an orphanage in Utrecht, where they lived with their own two children. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the family was given a chance to escape deportation to the death camps, but Simons and her husband refused to leave the orphans. On March 3, 1943, the entire family and dozens of children from the orphanage were gassed at Sobibor.

Helena Nordheim married Abraham Kloot, and their daughter Rebecca was born in 1933. Lea and Abraham were both hairdressers. In 1943, they were arrested and sent to Westerbork. On 29 June 1943, a deportation train left Westerbork, arriving at Sobibor three days later. The deportees included Helena Kloot, her husband and their ten-year-old daughter, and Gerrit Kleerekoper-the coach of the team- his wife Kaatje and their 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth. They were all murdered. There were no survivors from this deportation. Gerrit and Kaatje’s 21 year old son Leendert was murdered on 30 July 1944 at Auschwitz, according to the Totenbuch des KL Auschwitz-Monowitz (death register)

In 1936, Anna-Ans Polak married Barend Dresden, a tailor, and in 1937 their only daughter Eva was born in Amsterdam. In May 1943, the family was arrested and sent to the Vught concentration camp in the Netherlands. Approximately one month later, Anna and Eva were transferred to Westerbork. On 20 July 1943, a deportation train left Westerbork, arriving at Sobibor three days later. Among the deportees were Anna Dresden and her six-year-old daughter Eva. They were both murdered. There were no survivors from this deportation. Anna’s husband Barend was deported from Vught to Auschwitz on 15 December 1943. He survived the selection, and was sent to forced labor in Auschwitz III: Buna-Monowitz. On 30 November 1944, Barend was murdered at Auschwitz.

In 1928, Stella Agsteribbe competed in the first ever Olympic gymnastics competition for women. Despite placing 13th in the Dutch team selection event, she was elected to compete in the group competition. The Dutch quite comfortably earned the gold in the five-team competition. Individually, Agsteribbe placed 3rd at the Dutch all-around championships in both 1930 and 1934. At the latter event, she competed as Stella Blits, having married Samuel Blits, also a gymnast with her club BATO. Like several of her team mates (Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, Elka de Levie, alternate Judikje Simons and coach Gerrit Kleerekoper, Agsteribbe was Jewish. During World War II, she was deported to Auschwitz with her husband and children. She was killed shortly after arrival on 17 September 1943, along with her six-year-old daughter Nanny, and two-year-old son Alfred. Her husband, Samuel Blits, died at Auschwitz on 28 April 1944.

Elka de Levie managed to evade the tragic fate of her fellow Jewish teammates, and survived in the Netherlands. She passed away in Amsterdam in 1979.

Mozes Jacobs competed in the men’s gymnastics team. He didn’t win any medals, I believe he came 8th. He taught physical education. He joined the resistance and participated in acts of sabotage and helped those in hiding. On 1 April 1943 he was caught in Vierhouten and held at the house of detention in Arnhem. From there he was deported to Germany via Westerbork. He was murdered on July 9,1943 in Sobibor.

Cornelis Compter was of Jewish descent. He was a truck driver by profession. He competed in the featherweight weightlifting event at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, where he achieve the 19th place. Hewas a memer of the the Hague communist resistance. He was involved in the distribution of the resistance magazine De Vonk. He was arrested on August 4, 1941 by Johannes Hubertus Veefkind, a member of the Hague Police Intelligence Service before the war. Compter was arrested as a result of an infiltration action by Johannes Hubertus van Soolingen, ordered by Mayor De Monchy in May 1940. In March 1942 he was transferred from the Oranjehotel to Kamp Amersfoort. The same month he was transferred to Buchenwald. In 1944 he was transferred to the Nacht und Nebelkamp Natzweiler. In September 1944 he was transferred to Dachau and shortly afterwards to Mauthausen, where he died of exhaustion on 23 February 1945.

Elias Hyman Melkman was a member of the gymnastics association Plato in Amsterdam. He took part as a gymnast in the Olympics of 1928 in Amsterdam. He was murdered in Auschwitz on January 3,1942.

Israel Wijnschenk was also a member of the Dutch men’s gymnast team. He competed in seven events at the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was murdered in Auschwitz on January 31,1943.

Pierre Marie Robert Versteeghwas a Dutch horse rider who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics and in the 1936 Summer Olympics. In the 1928 Summer Olympics he won the bronze medal in the team dressage with his horse His Excellence after finishing ninth in the individual dressage. Eight years later he finished fifth with the Dutch team in the team dressage and placed eighth in the individual dressage.

Pierre Versteegh trained for the Dutch military, enrolling at the Royal Military Academy in Breda in 1906. In June 1909 he was appointed second lieutenant and assigned to the Third Division in Ede. In the years before World War I, and also after the conflict, Versteegh became an active equestrian participant, winning numerous local competitions. In 1925 he was promoted to captain and in 1936 to major in the Army. In 1931 Versteegh had been awarded the Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau with Swords.

When the Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, Versteegh held the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and was also concerned because his wife was Jewish. After the Dutch Army surrendered, Versteegh joined the Dutch Underground, working with the Ordedienst (OD), a fusion of several underground groups. On 2 May 1941 Versteegh was arrested after being found to be a member of the OD. He and several other OD members were kept in the state prison in Scheveningen, later called the Oranjehotel. In March-April 1942 Versteegh and many of his compatriots were tried in Amersfoort, and all were found guilty, and sentenced to death.

On 1 May 1942 the convicted OD members, among whom were included Richard Schoemaker, a Dutch fencing Olympian, were taken by train to Oranienburg, near Berlin, and then transported by truck to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. On 3 May 1942 all of the convicts were executed by firing squad, in groups of 12 each. Pierre Versteegh was among them.

Jan Geert Ankerman was a Dutch field hockey player , he was born in Wommel in Friesland, the Northwest of the Netherlands. He competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics. He was a member of the Dutch field hockey team, which won the silver medal. He played all four matches as halfback.

He did not die in any of the Nazi deathcamps. He was murdered in another concentration camp, by another axis power. He died on December 27,1942 in a Japanese prisoners of war camp in Burma.

Although the Japanese camps were not to the scale as the Nazi camps, they were nonetheless horrific and inhumane and often described as hell on earth

sources

https://www.olympedia.org/lists/3/manual

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/535112/about-elias-hyman-melkman

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/158818/israel-wijnschenk

https://peoplepill.com/people/pierre-versteegh/

https://www.timesofisrael.com/the-jewish-olympians-among-hitlers-victims/

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/sport/dutch-gymnastics-team.asp

https://peoplepill.com/people/jan-ankerman

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The slightly more bizarre Olympics.

Now that the 2020 Olympics are well on their way, it is perhaps a good time to look back at some of the more bizarre Olympic events.

Art competitions were held as part of the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Medals were awarded in five categories (architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture), for works inspired by sport-related themes.

The Irish artist Jack Butler Yeats(brother of W.B Yeats) won the silver medal for his painting the “Liffey swim”, as seen above. The gold medal was awarded to Luxembourg artist Jean Jacoby for his painting “”Corner”, “Départ”, and “Rugby”.In fact he also won the Gold medal in 1928, making him the only artist who won 2 medals at the Olympic games.

During the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games Zambia became the first country ever to change its name and flag between the opening and closing ceremonies of an Olympic Games. The country entered the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics as Northern Rhodesia, and left in the closing ceremony as Zambia on 24 October, the day independence was formally declared.

Thankfully, this bloody sport only appeared in the Olympics once, at the 1900 Olympic games in Paris. The competition consisted of shooting as many pigeons as possible in the allocated time. The winner killed 21 birds that day, with an estimated total of 300 fowl killed in the entire competition.

Tug of war was contested as a team event in the Summer Olympics at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920. Originally the competition was entered by groups called clubs. A country could enter more than one club in the competition, making it possible for one country to earn multiple medals. This happened in 1904, when the United States won all three medals, and in 1908 when the podium was occupied by three British teams. Sweden was also among the top countries with two medals, one as a member of the mixed team.

Either the Olympic committee ran out of ideas, or desperately wanted to relive their glory days of screaming obscenities at kids in gym class. Either way, it was included from 1896 to 1932.

The 1900 Paris Olympics were probably the weirdest. At the 1900 Paris Games, the horse long jump featured as an event.

Even though the winning leap from Belgium’s Constant van Langendonck who was riding the Extra Dry was an impressive 6.10 meters, it didn’t have a patch on the humans taking the same leap of faith. It failed to impress and was axed from the events list afterwards.

In 1900, the Paris Olympics also included a swimming obstacle race. Just like a normal swimming race, except this one had three obstacles including pole climbing and boats to climb onto and swim under.

The event was held in the river Seine, so it was basically in seine(pardon the pun)

Some two dozen countries, mostly from Africa, boycotted the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal after the IOC refused to ban New Zealand from the Games. New Zealand’s national rugby team had toured South Africa, a country that had been banned from the Olympics since 1964 because of its apartheid policies. While the boycott did not succeed in banning New Zealand from the Games, it did have a significant financial and athletic effect on the Games. Most importantly, it brought worldwide attention to apartheid policies in South Africa. In fact, when the South African Springboks took their rugby tour in New Zealand in 1981, they were met with antiapartheid protests.

In 1908, the competition made its official debut in the London Olympics and it was also the last time it took place. The boats had to complete a 40-mile course around Southampton Water but it was a real challenge as the weather was bad and six out of the nine scheduled races were cancelled. The high winds made it difficult for the spectators to even see the action taking place.

sources

1964 – Last Day of Northern Rhodesia

https://www.thecoolist.com/strange-olympics-sports/

https://www.britannica.com/list/7-significant-political-events-at-the-olympic-games

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Franz Jägerstätter- Can’t be both Nazi and Catholic

The picture above is of Franz Jägerstätter and his wife Franziska Schwaninger on their wedding day Thursday April 9, 1936, the day before good Friday known as Holy Thursday.

Prior to Franz meeting his wife he had a bit of a reputation. A native of Radegund, near Salzburg. In his younger years he was regarded as a bit of a troublemaker, involved in several fights and the owner of the first motorcycle in the locality ,and even had a child out of wedlock. However he settled down after he met Franziska Schwaninger in 1935. He became a devout Catholic.

The couple did have 3 children

When German troops moved into Austria in March 1938, Jägerstätter rejected the offered position as Radegund mayor. He was the only person in the village to vote against the Anschluss in the plebiscite of 10 April 1938. Franz was also disturbed by the reports of the T4 Euthanasia program.

Three times he was called up for active service but he always refused.He became known as a conscientious objector who, for reasons of faith, refused to go fight for Hitler. He knew this could cost him his life.

In many writings, Franz told of his reasons for his actions: for him, to fight and kill people so that the godless Nazi regime could conquer and enslave ever more of the world’s peoples would mean becoming personally guilty. Franz prayed, fasted and sought advice. He also requested a talk with the Diocesan Bishop of Linz, Joseph Calasanz Fliesser.

The Bishop explained to Franz that, as the father of a family, it was not his task to decide whether the war was righteous or unrighteous. Franziska had accompanied her husband to Linz, but did not take part in his talk with the Bishop. She recalled the moment when her husband came out of the Bishop’s office: “’He was very sad, and told me: ‘They don’t dare themselves, or it’ll be their turn next:’ Franz’s main impression was that the Bishop did not dare to speak openly, because he didn’t know him – after all, Franz could have been a spy.”

In February 1943, when he received his last summons to Linz military barracks for active service with a motorised unit, he explained his intention of refusing to fight in what he regarded as an immoral war. He stated that he could not be both a Nazi and a Catholic He was promptly arrested and sent on to Berlin to stand trial before a court martial.

After two months in the Wehrmacht Prison in Linz, he was transferred to Berlin-Tegel.
There he was executed on August 9th. In one of the last letters before his death he wrote the well-known sentence: “If I write with my hands tied, it is still better than if the will were tied.” One of his last statements was “If the Church stays silent in the face of evil, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

By all accounts Franz was a hero and if there had been more people like him, God knows how the was would have gone.

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

https://www.dioezese-linz.at/site/jaegerstaetter/english/biography/article/22528.html

https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/an-irishman-s-diary-1.369074

https://www.meinekirchenzeitung.at/salzburg-tiroler-teil-rupertusblatt/c-kirche-hier-und-anderswo/ein-verborgenes-leben_a8009

The weird case of Violette Morris

viole

Of all stories relating to spies and collaborators during WWII this most be one of the most intriguing ones.

When I first read about Violette Morris and saw the date she died,26 April 1944, I assumed she was killed for being a member of the French resistance. Why I thought that I don’t know.

Born in France on 18 April 1893. She was a French athlete who won two gold and one silver medals at the Women’s World Games in 1922 and the Women’s Olympiad in 1924.

violette

She excelled in those sports that require strength and power such as shot put and javelin.However those weren’t the only sports she was involved in.

She partook in football,water polo ,road bicycle racing, motorcycle racing, airplane racing, horseback riding, tennis, archery, diving, swimming,weightlifting, and Greco-Roman wrestling,boxing and car racing.

She loved car racing so much that she had her breasts removed to fit better in the car.

car

She married Cyprien Edouard Joseph Gouraud on 22 August 1914 in Paris. They divorced in May 1923. She had served in World War I as a military nurse during the Battle of the Somme and a courier during the Battle of Verdun.

Although she had been married, she was attracted to women.

Her motto was “Anything A Man Can Do, Violette Can Do, Too”

Her lifestyle was of no shame to her. She lived as a man and made no secret of the fact that her lovers were women. This was considered really scandalous behaviour in 1920’s France.

In 1928, she was refused license renewal by the Fédération française sportive féminine and as a result was not allowed to compete in the 1928 Olympic Games.

Despite her being openly gay she had a big fan in Adolf Hitler. This one of the anomalies in the Nazi policies,according to the Nazi doctrine women could not be gay.

In 1935 she was approached an recruited by by the Sicherheitsdienst. On the personal behest she was invited to attend the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

1936

She provided the Nazi regime in Germany  with partial plans of the Maginot Line, detailed plans of strategic points within the city of Paris, and schematics of the French army’s main tank, the Somua S35. Her information was vital to the German invasion of Paris in 1940.

tank.JPG

After the Nazi invasion, Morris remained close to the Germans and started working for the French Gestapo, the Carlingue. She had the nickname, ‘The Hyena of the Gestapo,’ because apparently she got a lot of sadistic pleasure by torturing people and extracting information.

On 26 April 1944, when she went for a  drive in her Citroën Traction Avant car with two friends and their two children for a spin on a country road.

citoen

Her engine sputtered and the car came to a halt. Earlier tha day, the engine had been tampered with by  the French Resistance Maquis Surcouf group. Members of the group  then emerged from a hiding spot and opened fired on the car. Although Morris was the target, all five people in the car were killed. Morris’ body, riddled with bullets.

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The child is no more

kind

The biblical verse Genesis 37-30 has several translation from “the boy is not there” to “And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?” But for te title of this blog I used the literal translation of the version of the text which can be found on a plaque which can be found on the facade of  the central Israeli orphanage in Utrecht, the Netherlands.”The child is no more” because it is the most fitting translation for this story, although it should be children rather then child.

The orphanage was run by former Jewish Dutch Gold medal winning Gymnast, Judikje Simons and her husband Bernard Salomon Themans. Judikje had been part of the 1928 Olympics gymnast team.

At the start of 1942 the orphanage had about 50 orphans and a further 30 Jewish children of parents who had sent them to the Netherlands from Germany after the Kristallnacht, in the hope they’d be safe there.

weedhuid

Judikje and her husband also lived  in the orphanage together with their own two children,5 year old daughter Sonja and 3 year old son Leon.. During the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the family was given a chance to escape deportation to the death camps, but Simons and her husband refused to leave the orphans.

Simons

In October 1942 the Nazis deported everyone from the orphanage. First they were sent to Westerbork and later they were deported to Sobibor.

The Simons-Themans family all were murdered in the Sobibor gas chambers on March 20,1943.

Nearly all of the children from the orphanage were killed in Sobibor as were the resident carers.

 

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Source

Joods Monument

The murder of the Dutch Gold Medal olympians

turnerinnen_der_niederlandischen_goldriege_von_1928

I am a great sports fan and even though I don’t support a particular team(bar the Dutch soccer team), I do watch all the major sporting events.

The Olympic games ,both summer and winter, are events I really enjoy watching, perhaps it’s because the Dutch generally do well in them. They are 13th in the all time standings for the summer Olympics and even higher for the winter games, which is not bad for a small country.

The Netherlands only hosted the summer games once, which was in 1928.In Amsterdam.

That year the Dutch won 19 medals, 6 Gold,9 Silver and 4 Bronze in individual and team sports.

Especially the Women’s gymnastic team did well. In the event of the ‘Women’s team all round’ the  Gold medal was won.

1928-summer-olympic-gold-medal-1

Although most of these 12 young women were in their teen or early twenties,4 of them would not live to see the age of 40. This was not because of some rare disease or because of an accident.This was all because of hate.

These women were Jewish and, 4 of them died in concentration camps.Only 1 of these five survived.

Elka de Levie (November 21, 1905 – December 29, 1979),was the only Jewish team member to survive the Holocaust;

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her team mates Anna Dresden-Polak, Jud Simons and Helena Nordheim were gassed in Sobibor, while Estella Agsteribbe was gassed in Auschwitz.

Not only were these women killed,their husbands and children suffered a similar fate.

On October 31, 1929 she married Andries Abraham Boas, with whom she had two daughters, but the couple were divorced on April 20, 1943. She and both her daughters survived the Second World War by going into hiding. Elka de Levie died in anonymity in Amsterdam on December 29, 1979

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Estella “Stella” Agsteribbe (April 6, 1909 – September 17, 1943) was deported during World War II. She was murderedtogether with her husband Samuel Blits, their six-year-old daughter Nanny and their two-year-old son Alfred in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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Judikje “Jud” Simons (20 August 1904 – 20 March 1943) She was born in The Hague and died in Sobibor extermination camp. She was deported and murdered together with her husband Bernard and their five-year-old daughter Sonja and their three-year-old son Leon

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Helena “Lea” Nordheim (August 1, 1903 – July 2, 1943) Nordheim was born in Amsterdam and died in the Sobibor extermination camp. She was sent to Westerbork concentration camp in June 1943. Shortly after, Nordheim was deported to Sobibór where she was murdered, together with her husband Abraham and their ten-year-old daughter Rebbecca.

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Anna “Ans” Dresden-Polak (née Anna Polak) (24 November 1906 – 23 July 1943) She was born in Amsterdam, and died in Sobibor extermination camp. From Westerbork concentration camp she was deported to Sobibór where she was murdered on 23 July 1943,together with her six-year-old daughter Eva. Her husband Barend Dresden was killed a few months later in 1944 in Auschwitz concentration camp.

Their coach Gerrit Kleerekoper who was also Jewish was also killed by the Nazis

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Gerrit Kleerekoper (15 February 1897 – 2 July 1943) was a Jewish – Dutch gymnastics coach. He was married with two children and worked as a diamond cutter.

He led the Dutch women gymnastics team to win the gold medal at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Kleerekoper’s team scored 316.75 points, defeating Italy and the United Kingdom.

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On 2 July 1943 Gerrit Kleerekoper, along with his wife Kaatje and their fourteen-year-old daughter Elisabeth, were murdered by the Nazis at the Sobibór extermination camp in German-occupied Poland. Their twenty-one-year-old son Leendert died of exhaustion in Auschwitz in July 1944.

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Pierre  Versteegh who was a Dutch horse rider who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics and in the 1936 Summer Olympics.In the 1928 Summer Olympics he won the bronze medal in the team dressage with his horse His Excellence after finishing ninth in the individual dressage.Eight years later he finished fifth with the Dutch team in the team dressage and placed eighth in the individual dressage.

He was executed  by firing squad on May the 3rd 1942 in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He had been an officer in the Dutch army but after the Germans invaded the Netherlands, he resigned his post as Lieutenant-Colonel because his wife was Jewish. He then  joined the resistance.