Woman who saved 800 Jewish children passes away

May 19, 2016 Agencies
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Constance Koster, Dutch‐born Melbourne resident and heroine of the Dutch resistance during World War II  has passed away at the age of 95.

Born in January 1921, Constance Koster served with the Dutch underground in Nazi‐occupied Amsterdam, and with several members of the Dutch resistance, was responsible for saving the lives of an estimated 800 Jewish babies and toddlers during the Holocaust. She leaves five children, 22 grandchildren and 27 great‐grandchildren. Her husband, Jan, and son, Roland, predeceased her.

Constance Koster with Sue Hampel, Jewish Holocaust-Centre Co-President Phillip-Maisel, Joe-De-Haan, Her-Excellency-Annemieke-Ruigrok,-Dutch-Ambassador-to-Australia;-Cr-Vanessa-Huxley,-City-of-Port-Phillip.jpg

Constance Koster with Sue Hampel, Jewish Holocaust-Centre Co-President Phillip Maisel, Joe De Haan, Annemieke Ruigrok, Dutch Ambassador to Australia, Cr Vanessa Huxley, City of Port Phillip and Federal MP Michael Danby

The extraordinary acts of courage of Constance Koster were marked by the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne in May last year at a ceremony of recognition attended by The Netherlands Ambassador to Australia, Her Excellency Mrs Annemieke Ruigrok.

As a young woman serving with the Dutch underground in Nazi‐occupied Amsterdam, Constance Koster saved the lives of Jewish children for several years until late in 1943 when she was discovered by the Gestapo to be working for the underground and was forced to flee.

Her remarkable acts of courage involved defying the Gestapo, caring for and smuggling Jewish infants and toddlers to safe homes where they were ‘adopted’ by Dutch families, thus avoiding the horrific fate of their parents and siblings.

She would walk the streets of Amsterdam, often with two babies hidden beneath her green tartan coat, pretending to be pregnant.

In what can only be deemed a bizarre stroke of fate, Melbourne resident Ena Lewis‐Krant met Constance Koster to interview her for a Dutch radio program some years ago. It was during that meeting that they realised that Ena was one of the children for whom Mrs Koster had risked her life to save during the war.

Mrs Lewis‐Krant was just 11 months old when Constance took her and passed her to a foster family in 1943. Months later, her foster parents were betrayed to the Gestapo, and she was transported to the Westerbork transit camp, where she was reunited with her parents, before the family was sent to Bergen‐Belsen concentration camp.

Amsterdam‐born Holocaust survivor, Joe de Haan, volunteer at the Jewish Holocaust Centre, said that if not for courageous people like Constance Koster, he would not have survived.

‘Members of my family were not so fortunate: they perished at the hands of the Nazis’, said Mr de Haan.

‘My life was saved by very brave Dutch people like Constance Koster – people who did not hesitate to save thousands of other Jewish people during the terrible war years, when finding hiding places was extremely difficult and the danger of betrayal ever‐present’.

‘During those terrible dark years of the Nazi occupation Constance stood out like a beacon during a very dark and stormy period’.

‘I mourn her passing’, he said.’

 

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