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Distorted Memories of the Past

Levie Kanes and his mother (Photo: Courtesy of the Kanes family)

While the Holocaust stands as the darkest chapter in history, and one that we will remember on April 12 for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), we are always heartened to hear stories of those who were saved, and the brave and selfless souls who rescued them. Haaretz's Ofer Aderet brings us one such story, of an Israeli man who only recently learned the true identity of the woman who saved him from the Nazis when he was only a baby:

A year ago, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Levie Kanes of Kfar Haroeh, north of Tel Aviv, received a surprising email with a question that took the 75-year-old lawyer back to his infancy: “Are you baby Jantje de Ridder, who was taken off a train in mid-journey that departed The Hague on April 23, 1943?”

Kanes couldn’t believe his eyes. Jan de Ridder was the name he was given when he was hidden from the Nazis with a Dutch family that had adopted him. Jantje was his nickname. Choking back tears, Kanes called the phone number listed in the email. His call was answered by Nina Gilead-Roelofs of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael, a half-hour’s drive north of his home. The information that she provided required him to make some changes to what he had thought he had gone through during his childhood.

He had lived his life with the mistaken belief that he had been saved from the Nazis by an unidentified Dutch Christian nurse who had snatched him at the last moment from a Nazi deportation train and then turned him over to the Dutch underground. Now 75 years later, the woman who actually saved him had a name, a biography of her own and a picture. She wasn’t a nurse, wasn’t Christian and was no longer anonymous.

It turns out she was a Jewish physician named Nelly Roelofs and she was the mother of Nina Gilead-Roelofs of Kibbutz Ma’agan Michael. “I was in shock – a nice kind of shock,” Kanes recounted last week.

This Holocaust Remembrance Day, pledge today to stand with Israel against another Holocaust.

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