The heroic efforts of the late Hendrik and Pietertje Bakker, who saved Dutch Jews during the Holocaust, has been acknowledged at a special ceremony in Brisbane last week.
The Israel Embassy, in conjunction with Yad Vashem (the World Holocaust Remembrance Center) and the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies (QJBD) awarded the Bakkers Righteous Among the Nations.
His Excellency Amir Maimon, Ambassador of Israel to Australia,
said this award was the highest honour the State of Israel could bestow upon non-Jews and recognised those ‘angels’ who saved Jews.
“With the number of Holocaust survivors declining and antisemitism rising around the world, it has never been more important to share the heroic efforts like the Bakkers and to simply say thank you,” Mr Maimon said.
“As Elie Wiesel said: ‘What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.’
“We know the Bakkers didn’t stand by. Wiesel also said: ‘We must know these good people who helped Jews during the Holocaust. We must learn from them, and in gratitude and hope, we must remember them.’”
The Bakker family along with their neighbours – the Makkinje family, hid, protected and cared for all eight members of the Veffer family: two parents and six children, for two years and nine-and-a-half months in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during World War ll.
Speaking on behalf of the Veffer family, via a recorded video message, Hartley Stern said they were all extremely indebted and eternally grateful to the Bakkers for their enormous bravery.
“After immigrating to Toronto in Canada after the war, our entire family was saved and has produced 15 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren and 29 great-great-grandchildren, who now reside in North America and Israel – they are doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women,” Mr Stern said.
“This could not have been possible if it wasn’t for the Bakkers.”
Hendrik and Pietertje Bakker were represented at the ceremony by their son Fred Bakker and grandson Chris, along with daughter Cathy Wogandt (nee Bakker) and her husband, Allen.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Cathy said it was a huge honour to receive the award for her parents and to remember their bravery.
“My father and mother hid the six Veffer children during Nazi raids, some of them would go into their bed with them as if they were their own children,” Cathy said.
“After some raids Dad organised new hiding places and would bring food, hidden in the basket of his bicycle, to the Veffers and other Jewish families.”
Hendrik and Pietertje Bakker migrated to Victoria in the 1950s before settling in Queensland in the late 1960s.
QJBD President Jason Steinberg said these events were vitally important in not only honouring the Righteous, but also in ensuring the memory of the Holocaust was kept alive.
“The extraordinary efforts of the Bakkers and those awarded Righteous Among the Nations are stories that must be told and celebrated for their bravery and humanism,” Mr Steinberg said.
“These are stories that will be shared when the new Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre becomes operational later this year.”
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