Features – Reconnecting people from the past with a story

It’s an amazing feeling when you publish something online you’ve worked meticulously to write, then have someone from the other side of the world contact you to say how your story has affected their lives.

This is something that happened to me recently.

In 2011-12 I lived in Israel for six months. During that time I produced a feature story about a Dutch Righteous Among the Nations individual, Pieternella ‘Nell’ Van Rangelrooy, who saved Jews during the Holocaust. The feature explored the reasons why gentiles helped save Jews during World War II and explains why these individuals should be honoured. The story was published in Melborne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre bi-annual publication, Centre News and subsequently published on this site. The story can be viewed here.

In early November 2012 a gentleman from the Netherlands contacted me via the Facebook Page for this site with news about one of the Holocaust survivors, Henriette ‘Jetty’ Shartel, who I interviewed for the story as a Jew who Mrs. Rangelrooy and her husband, John, had hidden in their house in the Netherlands during World War II.

The Dutch man, Dick, who lives in a small village in the Netherlands nearby to Rotterdam, where Jetty lived with her family before her brother, mother and father perished during the holocaust – and subsequently resided in with the Van Ranglerooy’s – explained to me that a monument would be built (by a well-known Dutch architect) in 2013 in Rotterdam to commemorate 686 children aged between 0-12 who were murdered during the Holocaust. Other events include educational programs in schools and a ceremony involving 686 pupils from Jewish and non-Jewish schools in Rotterdam.

What baffled Dick was that he found a death notice for Jetty in a Dutch newspaper in 2011. He believed her to be dead until he came across my story. He passed the story onto his friend, Andries, who contacted me with news that he had met a schoolfriend of Jetty’s. She had shown Andries a book of poetry which included a poem written by Jetty, as well as a photograph of the two women with their class. The friend had no idea of Jetty’s whereabouts until she came in contact with Andries. Jetty had suddenly disappeared from school during the war.

In January this year, I received another email from Andries with a copy of his completed story. Additionally, he brought me news that he had been in contact with Piet, a Dutch man who was friends with Jetty’s brother when they were children before he died during the Holocaust. Piet emailed me a couple of days later with stories of his childhood ‘blood brotherhood’ friendship with Jetty’s brother, Jopie, and their mate Willy.

Will this story continue to see an influx of people contacting me of more lost stories and friends from the Holocaust?

NOTE: If you would like a copy of any of the stories Piet, Andries or Dick have sent me please visit my Facebook page and send me private message.

To view my other Holocaust related stories click here, here or here.

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