The fourth theme focuses on the individuals that chose to take positive action. What were the rescuers like? What was their motivation, why did they act to save lives when others did not? Almost invariably they say, “I only did what was right”.
This section reflects on the courage of these individuals and the consequences of their bravery. It challenges and inspires us to learn from their example and ask ourselves what we can do to make a meaningful contribution to our society today.
Exhibition Panel: Adrian and Bertha Vanas
Adrian felt compelled to fight injustice. When he saw the Nazi persecution of Jews in Holland, he and his wife, Bertha, immediately joined the Underground. They were in a unique position to help.
Employed by the Dutch government, Adrian was responsible for the fair distribution of food rations in the Westerbork transit camp. Originally a refugee camp, it later became the largest Nazi transit camp of its kind in Holland. He and his family – Bertha and their two daughters – spent the war years there.
With the understanding that their children would be taken care of if they were caught, the couple spent their free time working for the Underground. Their activities included removing names from deportation lists, supplying false documents, and finding safe houses. Bertha hid documents under her corset and smuggled them in and out of the camp.
The Nazis suspected Adrian and Bertha of clandestine activities, and threatened them on numerous occasions, but they continued in spite of the danger.
The courageous actions of Adrian and Bertha Vanas tell a story of unwavering commitment to saving people and fighting for justice. Both Adrian and Bertha were awarded the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’.
Vanas Family Portrait