19 October 2009

Amsterdam: Saving more than 100

Ten minutes from Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam is another building that saved 100 Jews.

The story of Dr. Tina Strobos was detailed in the New York Times.

Now 89, she continues to be honored for the brave deeds of some seven decades ago. Working with her mother, the then-medical student hid the Jews in their three-story rooming house.

That sanctuary, which included an attic lair that was never discovered, was just a 10-minute stroll from a more famous hideout: Anne Frank’s at 263 Prinsengracht. Indeed, the question of why the Franks did not have an escape hatch for when the Gestapo barged in gets her fairly worked up.

At her home, the Jews were stowed away on the upper floors with quick access to the attic, which had a secret compartment for two or three people to cram into. “A carpenter came with a toolbox and said: ‘I’m a carpenter from the underground. Show me the house, and I’ll build a hiding place,’ ” she recalled.

There was an alarm bell on the second floor so she or her mother, Marie Schotte, could alert those above. They drilled their fugitives in how to scramble out a window to a roof and make their way to an adjoining school, which was not likely to be raided.
A psychiatrist who retired last May, Strobos was honored Monday by the Westchester-based Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center.

Along with hiding individuals, she carried news and ration stamps to Jews on farms outside the city, carried radios and guns for the Dutch resistance. Nine times she was seized or questioned by the Gestapo. So why did she do it for people she barely knew?

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said with nonchalance. “Your conscience tells you to do it. I believe in heroism, and when you’re young, you want to do dangerous things.”
The Center's director Donna Cohen says this philosophy is "learned behavior."

Strobos' family were socialist atheists who sheltered Belgian refugees during World War I and hid German and Austrian refugees before World War II. She had close Jewish friends and even a Jewish fiancé (although not her husband) Abraham Pais, who went on to become a particle physicist.

In addition, Strobos created false papers by stealing documents from gentile guests and adding new photos and fingerprints. The family's six-bedroom house was a way station, until better hiding places could be found.

Among the people who lodged with her was her close friend Tirtsah Van Amerongen, a blonde who passed for a gentile, and her sister and brother-in-law. She hid an Orthodox couple with five children, who brought their own kosher food. She helped Jews in other hideouts, including a prominent impressionist, Martin Monnickendam, who painted her portrait, which now hangs in her apartment, at a residence for older people.
Read the complete story at the link above for more of her story.

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