A fellow-blogger and author, Jack Scott, shared this story on Twitter the other day. The life of Ms. Tina Strobos, who died last year, moved me so deeply. At age nineteen she joined the Dutch underground movement against the Nazis, and personally saved the lives of at least 100 Jews during the Second World War. My friend Jack found this story on the New Humanist Blog of the UK’s Rationalist Association. Here is their introduction, followed by Tina Strobos‘ obituary from the “Washington Post.”
“Reading the obituary of Tina Strobos, who contributed to the rescue of more than 100 Jews in the Netherlands during the Second World War and who has died in New York at the age of 91, I was struck by a line concerning her motivation for risking her own life for such selfless ends. Speaking in 2009, Strobos explained why she participated in the Dutch resistance to the Nazi occupation (she delivered arms and equipment to resistance fighters) and helped to hide Jews to evade deportation to the death camps by hiding them in her attic:
“I never believed in God, but I believed in the sacredness of life.”
The argument over whether it is possible for atheists to be “good” has always struck me as a particularly absurd aspect of the religion debate – of course the non-religious can be good, and you can find evidence of that in the incredible life of someone such as Strobos, as well as in the innumerable actions of people living in less extraordinary times. So I don’t offer this quote from Strobos as a contribution to a dispute over who is more moral, the faithful or the faithless. People of faith and people of no faith committed extraordinary acts of bravery and compassion in the face of the slaughter of innocent people during the Holocaust, but at the same time millions, both religious or non-religious, participated, collaborated or stood idly by. That’s an uncomfortable truth, whichever side of the God debate you come down on.”
And here (from me) is a quote from Elie Wiesel:
There may be a time when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
By Emily Langer, Published: February 29, 2012
In 1989, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem recognized Dr. Strobos and her late mother, Marie Schotte, as “righteous among the nations” — people who, without seeking personal reward, risked their lives, freedom and safety to save persecuted Jews during World War II.
In the beginning, she worked primarily on arming and equipping the resistance fighters. She ran guns, explosives and radios, sometimes hiding them in her bicycle basket during journeys of 50 miles.
But as armed resistance became increasingly dangerous, she turned her efforts to helping her Jewish friends and, later, others seeking a way out of the country. One of the Jews she saved was her then-fiancé, Abraham Pais, who became a celebrated physicist and biographer of Albert Einstein. They did not marry but had “ties that will never break,” Pais once said.
Rescue efforts in the Netherlands were especially perilous, given the low-lying Dutch terrain, which offered few forests and no mountains for cover. Dr. Strobos and her mother turned their three-story home, which was just behind the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, into an initial stop on the underground railroad. They provided their guests with food and medical care as well as false passports to replace ones marking them as Jews.
Obtaining fresh documents to falsify sometimes required creativity. Once, at the funeral of an aunt, Dr. Strobos rifled through mourners’ coats. She enlisted the help of train-station pickpockets, who stole travelers’ papers for the cause.
The wall was so skillfully made, Dr. Strobos’s son said, that when he and his family returned to the Amsterdam house in the 1970s, they could not find the entrance to the hideaway without their mother’s help.
Her first marriage, to Robert Strobos, a neurologist, ended in divorce. Her second husband, Walter A. Chudson, an economist, died in 2002 after 35 years of marriage.
Survivors include three children from her first marriage, Semon Strobos of New Braunfels, Tex., Jur Strobos of Washington and Carolyn Strobos of Newport-on-Tay, Scotland; two stepchildren, Lucy Chudson of New York City and Paul Chudson of Mamaroneck, N.Y.; and nine grandchildren.
For years, Dr. Strobos once told an interviewer, she had forgotten many of the events that took place in her attic during the war.
“I’m sure it was because I didn’t want to remember all those things,” she said. “So you just close the whole attic of your memory.”
http://newhumanist.org.uk New Humanist (Rationalist Association)
http://perkingthepansies.com Perking the Pansies: Jack Scott’s blog includes details of how to purchase his lively, humorous books!
Ann Frank Exhibition (jonmichail.org)
Holocaust stories (charlotteobserver.com)
http://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/en/museum Dutch Resistance Museum, Amsterdam
http://www2.webster.edu/~woolflm/netherlands.html Survival and Resistance: The Netherlands under Nazi Occupation
French rescuers group snubs Holocaust commemoration (roshpinaproject.com)
100 imams to commemorate Holocaust in France (timesofisrael.com)