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Wartime aid to Jews recognized with Yad Vashem medals

Michigan Dutch-American women cited

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND / GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan - Two Dutch-American women who helped Jews during the wartime occupation of the Netherlands, were honoured recently during special ceremonies hosted by the Yad Vashem organization in the U.S. Both women live in Western Michigan, Diet Eman whose story was documented by Prof. James Schaap in the book "Thing's We Couldn't Say" in Grand Rapids and Theresa Weerstra (92) in nearby Holland.

The women are but the latest of a list of Dutch-born residents of Michigan who in recent years have been recognized by Yad Vashem for their underground hospitality during the war.

Eman served with fellow resistance worker and fiancee Hein Sytsma when they were arrested by the Germans for their activities. She regained her freedom but Sytsma lost his life in a concentration camp. Weerstra who lived with her husband Martin in Ylst where he worked in a skate-making factory, also sheltered Allied airmen and Jews. In the Spring of 1945, the Weestra home was surrounded by German soldiers and Martin was arrested along with Jacob Speyer, who with his pregnant wife Flora was hiding at the Weerstras.

The events in Ylst made a deep impression on the Weestra children who then were quite young. Theresa Weerstra led her family in prayer on the hardwood floor of their living room as the men were taken away. Days later, both were unexpectedly released.

The Weerstra ceremony was presided by Israelís vice consul David Roet whose father also had been sheltered by a Dutch family during the war years.