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The Teacher Who Hid a Jewish Family and Paid with His Life

Benjamin Blankenstein (1914-1945), a Dutch schoolteacher who sheltered a Jewish family from the Nazis and who then died at Bergen-Belsen (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Benjamin Blankenstein

Life: 1914-1945

Why you should know him: Benjamin Blankenstein was a Dutch schoolteacher who risked his life to hide a Jewish family.

Benjamin Blankenstein was a teacher at a Christian school in a small town in the Netherlands. Having married Maria, a housewife, the couple welcomed a baby girl in 1940.

When the Nazis invaded he Netherlands, Benjamin took on a role greater than that of a schoolteacher, however. In 1943, he became part of a movement that harbored Jews who had escaped the Nazis, as well as resistance members who the Nazis sought to arrest.

Benjamin heard that the hiding place of a Jewish family, the Bernsteins, had been betrayed. He and Maria, who had just given birth to a second daughter, agreed to hide the family in their own modest home. Henry and Martha Bernstein and their 14-year-old son Rolf were hidden in the space beneath the Blankenstein's roof. Not just a conscientious person, but ever the conscientious teacher, Benjamin also taught young Rolf each evening so the boy wouldn't fall behind in his education.

But just like Anne Frank's family would find out that same summer, the Bernsteins' hiding place was betrayed. Nazis broke into the Blankenstein home on June 5, 1944, and arrested the Jewish family. Benjamin, who was away teaching at his school, was arrested there. He was deported to a concentration camp, and would die at Bergen-Belsen on February 24, 1945, close to the time when Anne Frank would also perish there. The Bernstein family was deported to Auschwitz, where Henry and Rolf would be murdered. Martha survived the war, and upon liberation she returned to the Blankenstein home where she was taken in by Benjamin's widow, Maria.

For their selflessness, both Benjamin and Maria Blankenstein were named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 2005.

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