The Importance of Family during the Holocaust:
The Holocaust was one of the most trying times in history—particularly for the Jewish people. Over 6 million Jews died at the hands of anti-Semitism. Yet, through it all, God and family were always at the forefront—a lifeline to sanity.
While not all families chose to stay together, most tried to remain a unit as long as possible. Sometimes a family member would be sent away for their safety—commonly children who had the greatest number of escape routes. While other times an entire family would chose not to flee because one member was reluctant to go… and while this loyalty often ended in tragedy, their love for one another could not be denied.
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”—1 Corinthians 13:13
The Verdoner Family:
Hilde Sluizer was born in Amsterdam on November 28, 1909 to middle-class Jewish parents.
While in school, she was a bright student who did particularly well in languages, yet chose, upon graduating, to take two years of ‘homemaking’ before accepting a secretarial position in Rome. Still, within a few years, Hilde found that she missed her home in Amsterdam and chose to return to the place she’d been raised.
Upon returning Hilde met Gerrit Verdoner, whom she grew fond of, and in December of 1933 they were married.
Almost immediately the couple moved to Hilversum, also located within the Netherlands, and lived in a beautiful, spacious home, situated along a tree-lined street.
They lived happily in Hilversum and had three children: Yoka, born in 1934, Francisca, born in 1937, and Otto, born in 1939.
Yet, growing anti-Semitism was cause for concern and when the Nazi’s invaded Poland, September 1, 1939, the Verdoner family knew the Netherlands might not be far behind…
In May of 1940 their suspicions came to pass. The Netherlands was overrun in a mere five days—the Nazi party had arrived.
Soon the Nazi’s confiscated their home and the Verdoner’s were forced to return to Amsterdam and live with Gerrit’s family, only to face one of the hardest choices any family could… they had to decide if they would place their children in hiding—to break up their family unit.
After deliberation Hilde and Gerrit chose to place their children in hiding via the underground… this choice leaving their family in pieces, but their children safe.
When mass deportations began to occur in the summer of 1942, Hilde and Gerrit were sent to the Westerbork transit camp, while their children remained in hiding.
There, at Westerbork, Gerrit was given a position as part of the Nazi-appointed camp administration… a position the Nazi’s pushed as a way to appease their prisoners and lighten their own workload.
This appointment allowed the Verdoner’s temporary protection against further deportations, but Hilde wasn’t in a vital position herself, and on February 8, 1944 she was deported for “resettlement in the East…” a fancy way of hiding the true destination those being loaded onto trains were bound for—Auschwitz.
Three days later Hilde was gassed—she was 34 years old. Gerrit Verdoner and their children are believed to have survived.
What we can take away is that love is not selfish or self-serving. Love between us and God, love between us and our neighbors, friends, and earthly family… these, when pure, are without spot or blemish—not because we’ll never make mistakes or hurt someone we love—but because “…perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18).
We see this love over and over again throughout the Holocaust, but we also see it in God’s Word. The book of Ruth has perhaps one of the strongest examples of love… specifically, Ruth’s love for Naomi—her mother-in-law—her love for God, and subsequently her love for Boaz.
Ruth was like many of us, a Gentile, foreign to the ways of our father Abraham, but through her love she found God and redemption. She was blessed because of unfailing love… and God found her love precious enough list her name, not only into the lineage of the kings of Israel and Judah, but in the very lineage of His Son—Jesus Christ! Ruth, a Gentile, was brought into the fullness of God; into His family…
Family is perhaps the closest form of love any of us know. Even if we are not blessed with loving families on earth, our heavenly Father is always right beside us, ready to shower us with His love if we are willing. We need to take a page from our Father’s book and learn to love, not only our family of blood, but our brothers and sisters in Messiah!
At My Olive Tree we continually strive to be the light and love God desires. Through our Holocaust Victim’s Legacy Package we are bringing this light and love to people who have suffered beyond imagination.
When YOU support the planting of an olive tree, you are not only remembering a victim of the Holocaust, YOU are also giving a survivor a warm blanket—a loving hug from God—reminding them that they are not forgotten and that their grafted-in family is there for them!
Additionally, when you sponsor an olive tree, YOU provide jobs and beauty to the people of Israel for generations to come… showering the children of Abraham with God’s love!
Let us learn to love as Jesus loved… let us be a light and a united family!
“…for wherever you go, I will go;
and wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God, my God.”—Ruth 1:16