Dutch People Led Resistance to Nazis during WWII

In honor of National Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am going to highlight how Dutch people were leaders of the resistance to the Nazis during World War II. By reviewing the Righteous Among Nations site, I learned that Dutch people offered the most resistance against the Nazis during World War II in terms of per capita population.

“Righteous Among the Nations” is an honorific used by Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination. According to Wikipedia, the Netherlands led the world in terms of saving Jews from death with 5,190 Dutch people recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. This is the highest number of people honored in the world based on per capita population: 1 in every 1700 people. Only Poland had more people (7177) who were honored with this medal: 1 in every 3700 people. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Righteous_Among_the_Nations_by_country.

Righteous Among the Nations Medal

I need to thank Lee Deval, a tour guide with Heygo.com, for making me aware of this fact. I joined an online tour she did on Wednesday titled “Iconic Stories of World War II in Amsterdam.” Lee walked around Amsterdam in the winter cold and pointed out different buildings and monuments connected to people who resisted the Nazis.

One of the most interesting facts that she shared involved two Dutch brothers who were bankers in Amsterdam. Their names were Walraven (Wally) van Hall and Gijs van Hall. They raised money to help victims of Nazi persecution and help fund the resistance. With the approval of the Dutch government in exile in London, the brothers were able to obtain as much as 50 million guilders to help Jews escape Nazi persecution and help the resistance fight the Nazis. This was the largest bank fraud in Dutch history. Guide Lee shared a photo of the brothers with us during the Heygo tour.

The brother bankers who funded resistance to the Nazis

Lee also walked us passed the Dutch Central Bank where the brothers worked. The building faces one of the many canals located in Amsterdam.

Dutch Central Bank

Unfortunately, Wally was killed by the Nazis when they discovered his involvement in funding the resistance. It wasn’t until 1978 that Israel recognized him as “Righteous Among the Nations” for supporting and funding between 800 and 900 Jews in hiding during the war. His brother, Gijs, who was less involved in the day-to-day helping of the resistance, lived until 1977. He was even the mayor of Amsterdam from 1957 to 1967. A Dutch movie about the work of the brothers was made in 2018. It is titled The Resistance Banker and is currently available on Netflix.

We passed a tobacco shop in Amsterdam whose owners hid 13 Jewish families in their basement during the course of World War II. Later, we went by a University of Amsterdam fraternity house where one student remained behind when the Nazis came. His name was Ivo Schoffer. He hid 12 people in the fraternity house during the course of the war. All those people survived. He was also honored with the “Righteous Among the Nations” medal. Heygo tour guide Lee told us that Schoffer was quoted as saying, “When you see injustice, you have to fight it.”

Here is a photo of the front of the fraternity house.

Building where Ivo Schoffer saved 12 Jewish people during World War II
Outside the fraternity house is a plaque honoring Ivo Schoffer

Lee also spoke about the efforts some Jews have been making to try to reclaim art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. All in all, this was an exceptional Heygo tour. I highly recommend people check out this way to see the world for free. https://www.heygo.com/home.

After hearing about all the Dutch people who saved the Jews, it just makes me especially impressed with them. People from the Netherlands have had a long-standing reputation for tolerance. Indeed, one of my ancestors, Jan De Lannoy, left Tourcoing, France for Leiden in the Netherlands in 1591 when facing prosecution for his Protestant (Huguenot) faith. His son, Phillip De Lannoy, my grandfather nine generations removed, immigrated to the American colonies on November 9, 1621. Arriving on a ship called the Fortune, this Delannoy (later changed to Delano) was the first Huguenot to settle in the colonies and leave American descendants.

During this Holocaust Remembrance time, I want to say that I am proud to have some Dutch ancestors and to be connected in this way to a people who not only tolerate differences, but have risked their lives to save others from persecution.


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