Israel Posthumously Honors Dutch Couple Who Saved Jews during Holocaust

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Photo by Hillel Maeir/TPS on 23 April, 2019

By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 23 April, 2019

Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust Remembrance Center, on Monday hosted a ceremony posthumously honoring Jantje and Johannes Krijl from Holland as Righteous Among the Nations. Sandra Krijl, the granddaughter of the rescuers, was presented with the award.

The “Righteous Among the Nations” designation is a title bestowed upon gentiles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust. Israel has recognized over 27,000 such individuals, 5669 of whom are from Holland.

Holocaust survivor Gershon Eisenmann and his family, Narkisa Jamenfeld, the wife of the late Mechel Jamenfeld, representative of the Dutch embassy in Israel Theresa Yunger and members of the Commission for the Designations of the Righteous Among the Nations committee were present at the special event.

Jantje and Johannes Krijl names were added to the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

Their story is one of human compassion during humanity’s darkest period.

Mechel Jamenfeld was born in Amsterdam in 1934 to Moshe and Rachel. Both parents were of Polish origin, but they settled in Amsterdam. Mechel was their firstborn son. The family was religious, and Mechel went to the synagogue with his father.

After the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940, increasing tension entered the country. The Jews of Amsterdam, including the Jamenfeld family, wore the yellow star on their clothes, as the Germans had decreed. Mass deportations of the Jews of Amsterdam began in the second half of 1942. Moshe opposed going into hiding because he did not want to endanger or disturb other people. Instead, he dug a hole under the floor.

When the Germans came to arrest the family in 1943, they were easily discovered and imprisoned in the Hollandsche Schouwburg (the Dutch Theater) in Amsterdam. Mechel’s sister, Mirjam who was two years younger than him, had already been sent into hiding and was therefore not arrested.

During his time in the Crèche, the place opposite the theater where the children were held, Mechel learned that his parents had been deported to the Westerbork camp.

Thanks to some brave resistance workers belonging to the “NV group” of Joop Woortman, Mechel was smuggled out of the Crèche and brought by train to the southern Netherlands. An intense period of hiding began for him then. He went from place to place, from family to family, and learned to adapt, eat everything that people put on his plate, and behave like a Christian boy. His name was changed to “Kees.”

He stayed with the last family he went to for the longest period. The family, Johannes and Jantje Krijl and their children, Marion and Harold, who were a little older than Mechel, lived in Kaatsheuvel.

The Krijls’ house was connected to the little public primary school, where Krijl was a teacher. Krijls also hid another Jewish boy, Gershon Eisenmann, who was born in 1937 in Amsterdam. He had also been brought to the southern Netherlands by the NV group and had already been at several hiding addresses. Gershon was called “Gerrie,” and soon the two boys in hiding became attached one to another.

After the war, Mechel and Gershon remained with the Krijl family for some time. Gershon’s parents, who had survived in hiding in the southern Netherlands, came for him following a six-month search. Their other children had also survived, even a son who was born during the war.

After a couple of months, they invited Mechel to come and live with them. Krijl told Mechel that he was free to choose whatever he wanted, to stay with the Krijl family or to go to the Eisenmanns. Mechel felt he should go to the Eisenmanns, where he had a good time. Mechel’s sister, Mirjam, had also survived the war in hiding. She remained with her hiding family, who adopted her.

After having been with the Eisenmann family, Mechel went to Prosdor, a Zionist religious Jewish institution in Hilversum. In 1952 he went to Israel, where he studied, and in 1964 he married. In 1967 the couple’s daughter was born.

Gershon stayed in the Netherlands. He also married, and the couple and had two sons.

Mechel and Gershon never forgot the Krijl family, who had saved their lives.

Yad Vashem recognized Johannes and Jantje Krijl as Righteous Among the Nations on 18 October 2017.

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