(Edmonton) – The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada recognized the Righteous Among the Nations at a special ceremony on February 20, 2018, at Beth Israel Synagogue in Edmonton.
Mr. Hartgert van Engelen received a certificate of recognition and a medal on behalf of his parents Albertus and Gerrigje van Engelen, who rescued numerous Jews during the Holocaust.
The Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. However, some Jews survived, saved by righteous gentiles (non-Jewish individuals). Albertus and Gerrigje van Engelen were two of these special individuals who stood against the Nazi regime despite the highest risk to their security and the security of their families.
Both the Van Engelen family and the families of survivors participated in this moving ceremony.
“My family did what any normal humans would do,” Hartgert van Engelen said, “we did our humanitarian duty,” he added.
“This is part of our family history, but it is also part of history that extends out to the greater community and is a celebration of the greater good of what we as humans are capable of,” emphasized Claudia Kobayashi, Albertus and Gerrigje van Engelen’s grand-daughter.
CSYV’s responsibility is to share with young Canadians the stories of Righteous Among the Nations such as the story of the Van Engelen family, as they demonstrate that some individuals are capable of exceptional courage.
The Story of Albertus and Gerrigje van Engelen
Albertus and Gerrigje van Engelen demonstrated rare courage and humanity during the Holocaust by hiding numerous Jews in their home in Soest, Netherlands, despite the risk to their safety and the safety of their loved ones. Among the Jews saved by the Van Engelen family were the Bremer family: Martin Bremer, his wife Beppie, their son Bob and Beppie’s brother Leo Karpe. Thanks to the Van Engelens, they avoided the fate of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Shoah.
Ilse Jacobsohn was another Jew saved by the Van Engelen family. Unfortunately, Ilse and her sister Eva were the only members of their family who survived the Holocaust. Their parents were murdered in Sobibor, where hundreds of thousands of victims of Nazi Germany perished. This ultimate assistance provided by the Van Engelen family during the Holocaust created a special bond between the Van Engelens and those they rescued, a bond that grew even stronger after the war, maintained by the descendants of the Righteous and the survivors’ families.
All three of Leo Karpe’s daughters came to Edmonton from Amsterdam to attend this unique ceremony. They would not exist without the Van Engelens.
“They took a very big risk because if they should be discovered by someone, they would have been killed — all three of them. My father was hidden there, that’s why he survived the war,” says Leo Karpe’s daughter.
Righteous among the Nations
In 1953, the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, established Yad Vashem as the sole entity authorized to confer the “Righteous Among the Nations” title on behalf of the State of Israel to gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. As of today, more than 26,000 individuals from 51 countries have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.
The Canadian Society for Yad Vashem (CSYV) has the responsibility and privilege of recognizing “Righteous Among the Nations” or their descendants who made Canada their home for their post-war lives. CSYV holds a collection of “Righteous Among the Nations” stories in written forms and video testimonies. CSYV encourages Canadian educators to include these unique accounts in their educational programs to share with young Canadians the stories of “Righteous Among the Nations,” as they demonstrate that ordinary people are capable of extraordinary courage.