“Mother of 1001 children”: the resistance heroine who saved thousands of Jewish children

Truus Wijsmuller or “Auntie Truus” as she was additionally identified devoted her life to serving to kids affected by WWII. She was energetic, cheeky, and fearless — even when dealing with the Gestapo. 

Raised to face up for individuals

Born in Alkmaar in 1896, Truus was the daughter of a drugstore employee and a self-employed dressmaker. In 1913, she moved to Amsterdam along with her household. There, her mother and father not solely taught her to assist individuals in want, however set an instance by taking in a homeless Austrian boy after the First World Battle.

Some years after shifting to Amsterdam, Truus fell in love with Joop Wijsmuller and the couple married in 1922.

Nonetheless, when discovering that they couldn’t have youngsters, Truus determined to dedicate herself to serving to the youngsters of others as an alternative. By means of social work, Truus unknowingly started her journey in direction of changing into a resistance heroine.

The start of her resistance work

Beside her social work, Truus was additionally very politically concerned. The mix of her exhausting work in these two areas and her basic good-hearted nature earned her the respect of many. 

Thanks to those attributes, she might depend on an intensive community of individuals when she started her resistance work in 1933.

Her first endeavour was to journey to Jewish acquaintances in Germany and produce their kids safely to the Netherlands. After the Kristallnacht (The Night time of Damaged Glass) in 1938, she went to the Dutch-German border after having heard rumours of misplaced kids wandering about within the forest. 

There, she discovered a Yiddish talking Polish boy. To be able to keep away from being caught, she smuggled him throughout the border and into the Netherlands below her skirt! 

“Truus was our guardian angel.. she gave me my life. That’s the rationale I’m right here.” — Philip de Groot (saved by Truus as a baby).

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England comes calling 

Having been concerned in rescuing Jewish kids from Germany for years, Truus’ operation turned extra intensive on the finish of the Thirties.

In November 1938, the British authorities determined to supply non permanent refuge for Jewish kids who lived in international locations below Nazi management. Having made a reputation for herself, Truus was requested to assist with the operation.

Truus was requested to go to Germany and meet with Otto Adolf Eichmann (who later performed a serious function within the organisation of the Holocaust). On the time, Eichmann was the official answerable for the compelled emigration of Jews from Germany and Austria. Fearlessly, she agreed.

An unimaginable job

On December 11, 1938 Truus met with Eichmann to rearrange for the emigration of Jewish kids to England by way of the Netherlands. 

When she arrived on the assembly, she had anticipated to barter what number of kids she might convey again along with her on her first journey. Nonetheless, Eichmann refused all negotiations and as an alternative gave her a problem:

He charged her with the care of 600 Jewish kids within the perception that it will be an unimaginable job and that her operation was doomed to fail. 

He couldn’t have been extra improper.

Going to work instantly, Truus managed to convey all 600 kids out of Austria! Inside just a few days, 500 of the youngsters had safely arrived in England by way of Hoek van Holland, whereas 100 stayed within the Netherlands. Take that Eichmann — by no means underestimate a lady! 💪

Truus continued this work till the outbreak of the struggle, bringing 150 kids to security every time she made her journey between England and the Netherlands. Much more impressively, she organised the transport of those kids with none assist from the Dutch authorities.

In reality, the Dutch authorities wasn’t very pleased along with her work in any respect. Previous to the struggle, the nation didn’t wish to offend Nazi Germany. Furthermore, in 1938 the Netherlands was already struggling to accommodate a excessive inflow of refugees. Truus, subsequently, relied primarily on her personal community to move the youngsters by the Netherlands. 

Refugee kids housed at Amsterdam orphanage

Though many of the kids have been imagined to go to England, lots of them ended up staying within the Netherlands. From March 1939, these kids have been housed at an orphanage in Amsterdam referred to as the Burgerweeshuis (now the Amsterdam Museum).

Each Truus and her husband Joop spent a lot of their time with the youngsters from the Burgerweeshuis. They even let kids keep at their very own residence for small intervals of time to supply them with extra gezellig environment. Joop additionally took kids with him on journeys to the Artis zoo in Amsterdam.

“The Burgerweeshuis was, due to Mrs Wijsmuller, the one place the place so many kids have been rescued.” — Rita Mayer-Brown (saved by Truus as a baby).

With the quantity of affection that she and her husband devoted, it’s no shock that an obituary after her loss of life in 1978 learn “Mom of 1001 kids, who made saving Jewish kids her life’s job.” 

Nonetheless, in Might 1940 the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany. Truus was in Paris on the time however immediately dropped the whole lot to return to the Netherlands. Time was ticking, however she managed to drag off the spectacular feat of evacuating the Burgerweeshuis kids to England earlier than it was too late.

The youngsters from the Burgerweeshuis. Supply: Overwijsmuller/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

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Continued to work illegally below occupation

Truus moved to Belgium in the course of the German occupation of the Netherlands. From there, she continued her work illegally, although on a unique scale. 

She started working with the Dutch, the Belgian, and the French Pink Cross. Apart from persevering with to smuggle kids to security, she additionally smuggled packages with necessities comparable to medication, meals, and clothes to refugee camps in south France. 

At any time when potential she would reunite the youngsters with their households. 

Arrested by the Gestapo

In Might, 1942 Truus was arrested by the Gestapo upon getting into the Netherlands. They suspected that she was serving to Jews get safely to Switzerland (and also you wager she was!), however they couldn’t show her responsible. Fortunately, the refugees who the Gestapo had gotten maintain of solely knew her by her alias and he or she was launched after just a few days.

An unstoppable girl

Neither struggle, occupation, or being arrested by the Gestapo might make Truus cease her resistance work. All all through the struggle, she continued to do the whole lot in her energy to assist kids in want. 

Even after the struggle ended, Truus continued making an impression. She really devoted her life to serving to kids and social coverage turned an essential focus for her when she returned to an energetic function in politics after the struggle. 

Ignored for many years, Truus Wijsmuller is lastly starting to get the popularity she deserves. A documentary referred to as Truus’ Kids premiered on NPO (Dutch Basis for Public Broadcasting) in Might 2020 and might now even be discovered on Netflix. 

Trailer for the 2020 documentary about Truus Wijsmuller

“Truus didn’t solely save me, she saved the three generations after me as effectively.” — Hannele Scheinowitz (saved by Truus as a baby).

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Characteristic Picture: Ron Kroon (ANEFO)/Wikimedia Commons/CC1.0

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