Dutch WWII resistance hero who saved 600 Jewish children dies at age 96
Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk passed away on Sunday at the age of 96. She was the last living staff member of a kindergarten for Jewish children opposite the Hollandsche Schouwburg in Amsterdam, through which 600 Jewish children were saved from the Nazis, NOS reports.
Goudsmit-Oudkerk was 17 years old when she worked at the daycare center on Plantage Middenlaan in Amsterdam. Until four years ago, she never spoke publicly about it, but she agreed to tell her story at the urging of her children. It was turned into a book titled Betty, een Joods kinderverzorgster in verzet. The first copy of the book was presented to late Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan in 2016.
The Hollandsche Schouwburg building, which had been a theater before the war, became a key processing center used to deport Jewish people from the Netherlands. Under German direction, children were separated from their parents there as the guards did not want to be bothered by them, Goudsmit-Oudkerk said. The children were given to her and her colleagues at the kindergarten.
An obituary written for Amsterdam's Jewish Cultural District noted that the terrified children made a lifelong impression on her. She used any means possible to try and boost their spirits, including songs, dancing, and even the occasional daredevil stunt, like sliding down a rope from the top floor of the building to the ground floor, just to help distract them.
With colleagues, she risked her own life to smuggle six hundred children out of the crèche and on to safety. Nevertheless, the vast majority of children that were in her charge were ultimately deported and murdered. Her obituary noted they were painful memories that she lived with daily.
Goudsmit-Oudkerk's mother and grandmother were deported and killed in early 1943, just over two years following the loss of her father to a cerebral hemorrhage. Her brother, Gerrit, was also arrested in France and was later killed. Another brother, Nol, was rounded up at the Hollandsche Schouwburg where he was deported to Auschwitz, and later killed.
Following the war, she helped care for Jewish children who were orphaned in the Netherlands. She soon met and married Bram Goudsmit, and the couple had five children.
Last year she laid a wreath at the National Monument on Dam Square during the National Remembrance Day commemoration.
In memoriam: Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk (1924-2020)— Joods Cultureel Kwartier (@jckamsterdam) June 15, 2020
Afgelopen zondag overleed Betty Goudsmit-Oudkerk. Een moedige en sterke vrouw die kans heeft gezien kinderlevens te redden, als kinderverzorgster in de Crèche tegenover de Hollandsche Schouwburg.
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