Archive/File: holocaust/netherlands weidner.001 Last-Modified: 1994/05/27 Newsgroups: soc.culture.jewish.holocaust From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Fred Christiansen) Subject: Holocaust Rescuer Dies Message-ID:
Originator: rhorowit@mondrian.CSUFresno.EDU Title: Holocaust Rescuer Dies Organization: California State University, Fresno Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 18:29:39 GMT Lines: 82 HOLOCAUST RESCUER JOHN HENRY WEIDNER DIES; WAS HONORED BY GOVERNMENTS FOR HEROISM MONTEREY PARK, CALIFORNIA -- John Henry Weidner, honored as Righteous Gentile for his heroic activities as a rescuer during the Holocaust, died of heart failure on May 21 at his home in Monterey Park, California. He was 81. As the leader of the Dutch-Paris Underground in World War II, Weidner was responsible for the rescue of at least 1,000 persons, including 800 Jews and more than 100 Allied airmen. Operated with the help of more than 300 friends and relatives, Dutch-Paris was, in view of former Dutch ambassador Johan Kaufman, "the most important underground organization during World War II for helping people, mostly Jewish persons, to escape from the Holocaust." Escape routes ran from Holland through Belgium, France, and Andorra to Spain, and through France to Switzerland. Weidner was considered one of the Gestapo's most wanted men because of the importance of many of those lives he saved. Among them were Flight Lieutenant Bram Van der Stok, a participant in the "Great Escape" from Stalag Luft III in the fall of 1943, later appointed Minister of Justice for the Dutch government-in-exile, and Gernt van lleuven Godehart, who later won a Nobel prize. Dutch-Paris, however, rescued those in danger regardless of their ability to cover expenses and regardless of religion or political associations. Weidner himself succeeded in every rescue attempt, and only one person moving along the Underground was ever caught. However, a member of the Dutch-Paris, captured by the Gestapo, betrayed the names of scores in the Underground. As a result, 40 agents died, including Weidner's sister, Gabrielle. Weidner was captured twice and tortured. Once he escaped from prison the night before he was scheduled to be executed. After the war, Weidner assisted the Dutch Minister of Justice in the prosecution of war criminals. In 1958, he emigrated to Southern California, where, with his wife, Naomi, he established a chain of successful health food stores. While living quietly in California, his story was discovered by Herbert Ford, whose 1966 book Flee The Captor recounted Weidner's wartime activities. For his acts of heroism, Weidner has been honored with the United States Medal of Freedom with Gold Palm, the Order of the British Empire, the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau and Medal of Resistance, the French Croix le Guerre and le Medaille de la Resistance, and has been made an officer in the French Legion of Honor. Last November the government of Belgium bestowed on him the Order of King Leopold II. The government of Israel honored Weidner by entering his name among the heroes in the Golden Book of Jerusalem and by planting a grove of trees with his name on the Hill of Remembrance along the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. He was one of seven persons chosen to light candles recognizing the rescuers at the opening of the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. last year. In a foreword to Flee the Captor, Haskell Lazerc, director of the New York Metropolitan Council of the American Jewish Congress, recalled the words spoken by the actor Lee J. Cobb when presenting a plaque to Weidner on behalf of the Jewish organization. Said Cobb, "There is an old Hasidic legend that God has created in every generation thirty-six wise, pious, and just men, upon whom the world depends for its survival. They are called `Lam-ed Vovniks.' Their identity is not to be known to any save God. Yet I cannot help feeling that tonight we are in the presence of one of the thirty-six." Atlantic Union College, a sister campus to Weidner's French alma mater, established in 1993 The John Henry Weidner Center for the Cultivation of the Altruistic Spirit. Through the Center, the college is developing lectures, concerts, classes, exhibits, and social programs to encourage others to act in the spirit of altruism and selflessness. Weidner was a life-long devout Seventh-day Adventist who believed that as a Christian he was compelled to help his fellow men, even when it put him at personal risk. A public memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 28, at 2 p.m. at the Temple City Seventh-day Adventist Church, 9664 E. Broadway in Temple City. Weidner is survived by his wife, Naomi; a sister, Annette Hiplch; and a nephew, Charles Hiplch. -end-
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