Sydney woman accepts Righteous Among the Nations medal awarded to her parents.

September 5, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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An extraordinarily courageous Dutch couple who hid Jews from the Nazis have been honoured as Righteous Among The Nations in a powerful ceremony at the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Anika Winkler, Petronella Zinsmeester and Ambassador Mark Sofer

Willem Lodewijk (Wim) Zinsmeester and Elisabeth Petronella (Beb) Zinsmeester lived in Delft in Holland. They were married in 1941, and Wim’s parents lived with the couple. In 1943, their first son was born, Johannes. Beb was a butcher, working in the shop his father established.

Beb and Wim took in many refugees, both Jewish and gentile, including Jewish couple Jozef (Jopie) Boas and Roza (Roosje) Boas.

Jopie and Roosje Boas were hidden by the Zinsmeesters from the summer of 1942. They developed a warm friendship, even sharing the traditional Dutch Sinterklaas evening together, exchanging presents and poems.

Sometimes Jopei and Roosje left the Zinsmeester home, struggling with the isolation and wanting to earn some money. In May 1943 they were arrested in the street and transported to the Westerbork camp.

From there, they sent a postcard to the Zinsmeesters, which translated to “thanks for all the good. Care for Dad and Mum and Betty. From your unforgettable friends. Jopie”. The postcard was the last sign of life from the Boas family – both were murdered in Sobibor on 23 May 1943.

Around this time, Jopie’s parents Samuel and Betje (Betty) Boas were also hidden in the Zinsmeesters’ home, staying there until 1945.

In September 1942, Wim Zinsmeester took Jozef and Roza’s little daughter Betty Dora to the Kwant family in Delft. She was younger than two years old when she was taken in by Hendrik and Maria Apolonia Kwant, living with their four children still at home. Wim continued to provide food coupons.

The youngest Kwant daughter became close with Betty, who lived with the Kwants until after the war.

As well as sheltering the Boas family, the Zinsmeesters sheltered other Jewish families.

Their daughter Petronella was born in June 1945, and second daughter Johanna Frederica in 1949.

On 4 December 2017, Yad Vashem recognized Willem Lodewijk and Elisabeth Petronella Zinsmeester (Oosterhoff) and Hendrik and Maria Apolonia Kwant (Kraan) as Righteous Among the Nations.

Israel’s ambassador to Australia spoke before presenting award to Sydney-based Petronella Zinsmeester.

He said: “As a young married couple they took it upon themselves against the fear, daily constant fear, of death the hide refugees, both Jewish and non-Jewish. I said on behalf if the State of Israel that we will be eternally grateful for people like your parents who demonstrated the rare courage and compassion in the face of such cruelty and calculated destruction. I thank you and nothing more. If I were to say more it might detract from the depth of our gratitude….”

Petronella, the daughter who received the honour, spoke in emotional terms of her late parents falling an address made by the great-nephew of the Josef and Roza Boas.

CEO of The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies  Vic Alhadeff spoke about a Turkish Muslim consul general who saved 42 Jews, including five Alhadeffs, all members of his family on the Greek island of Rhodes.


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