Yad Vashem draws fire over 'discrimination' against saviors of ex-Jews
By Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha'aretz
Dutch recipients of Yad Vashem's highest honor are considering returning the title to protest "discrimination" against saviors of ex-Jews, said leaders of Holland's Jewish community.
Yad Vashem has agreed to review the claims.
The protest is about a decision by Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority not to honor Non-Jewish Dutchmen who hid children of converted Jews.
Last week, 230 cosignatories sent a petition to Yad Vashem asking it to reconsider and warning of the protest. The petition calls for recognizing two families, the Hollebrands and the Egginks, who hid three children from the Sanders family, which had converted to Christianity before World War II.
The Nazis later caught and murdered the Sanders children.
Yad Vashem's Commission for the Recognition of the Righteous among the Nations determined the couples were ineligible for the title - which is reserved for non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews in the Holocaust - because the children weren't Jewish.
The petitioners wrote: "Yad Vashem's discrimination ... is unacceptable. They [the Sanders] shared the same fate [as Jews] and should be treated accordingly."
They added that some title recipients were so "distressed" that they are considering returning their award.
"We strongly advised them to wait for the result of this appeal," the petitioners said.
The petition warns that the title may have "lost a great deal of its value." In order to "restore" its integrity, Yad Vashem must state it considers "all persecuted and murdered Jews equal, regardless of religion."
The cosignatories, who include politicians and community leaders, complained that the fact that the Sanders children died in the Auschwitz gas chamber "was apparently less important to the commission than their parents' membership in a non-Jewish denomination."
During the war, the father registered the family as Jewish and sent the children into hiding with the Hollebrands and Egginks. He was arrested in 1943 and tortured into divulging their whereabouts. He, his wife and the children - Eline, 10, Egbert, 8 and Marie Lena, 6 - were murdered that year.
Journalist Dick Verkijk, who has studied the case, says he received an e-mail from Yad Vashem saying the institution doesn't follow "the Nazi definition of the victim" and only pays "tribute to those who risked their lives to save Jews, not for other purposes such as saving other people who were victimized by the Nazis."
One of the cosignatories was Ronny Naftaniel, head of Holland's Zionist lobby, CIDI. In protesting Yad Vashem's ruling, he told Haaretz: "The father decided everything for the kids. At first their conversion before the war, then their registration as Jews and ultimately their hiding with two brave Christian families."