Man who helped Jewish kid in WWII returns medal to Israel over Gaza bombing

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Dutch resistance hero, the 91-year-old Henk Zanoli, has received and returned a high distinction from Israel. Zanoli earned the Righteous Among the Nations medal for saving a Jewish child from being deported to a concentration camp during the German invasion in the Second World War, but said that keeping the medal would be an "insult to the family", Israeli paper Haaretz reports. 

The reason for Zanoli's refusal to keep the medal is that six members of the hero's family were killed during an Israeli bombing on Gaza last month.

Zanoli's second cousin, a Dutch woman working in Oman, married a Palestinian man from the refugee camp al-Bureij in Gaza. His mother still lived in Gaza, with three sons and their families. The home that they lived in was struck with an Israeli bomb on the 20th of July. The mother, her three sons, one of their wives and their 12-year-old son were killed. Apart from this son, the family had five other children who are now orphans. The two other families, with two and four children respectively, lost their father. A visiting friend was also killed.

The now-91-year-old Henk Zanoli hid the then-8-year-old Jewish boy Elhanan Pinto from the Germans. He received the highest distinction for a non-Jew from Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. Because his family was killed by Israeli action, Zanoli has decided to return the medal.

Henk Zanoli's family suffered many losses at the hands of the Germans during the war. His father was in the resistance, and died in the Mathausen concentration camp in February 1945. Henk's brother-in-law was executed because of his ties to the resistance movement, as was a brother with a Jewish fiancé. Zanoli still risked his life to protect the young Jewish boy from the Germans. The boy, Pinto, survived the war. His parents were killed in concentration camps.

His efforts awarded him the Righteous Among the Nations medal three years ago. Now, he returns the medal to the Israeli embassy with a letter explaining the high price his family paid for the protection of a Jewish child from the Nazi's. His mother also got the distinction medal.

"Seeing our history, it is very shocking and tragic that we are hit with the murder of our family members in Gaza four generations later. Murders committed by the Israeli state", Zanoli writes. "Keeping the medal that my brave mother and I received for our fight against the oppressor would be an insult to her and my family in Gaza."

According to Haaretz, the Israeli army will not react to the accusations of war crimes from Zanoli. The army says that every bombing is investigated to see if it was an accident and if the killing of citizens was preventable.