Advocates and Allies: ‘Mr. Philips Radio’

The Fellowship  |  September 7, 2016

Image of a Holocaust visa with blue and purple ink

Jan Zwartendijk

Life: 1896-1976

Why you should know him: Jan Zwartendijk, known to many who helped him only as “Mr. Philips Radio,” was a Dutch businessman and diplomat who helped save over 2,000 Jews during the Holocaust

Last week, we told you the story of Frits Philips, the Dutch businessman who saved hundreds of his Jewish employees from the Nazis. This week, our Advocate and Ally of the Jewish people is an employee of Philips who saved even more Jewish people during the Holocaust.

As director of the Philips company’s plants in Lithuania, Jan Zwartendijk was witness to the oncoming Nazi threat in Europe. And as a Dutch consul, he was also in a position to help those threatened by the Germans.

In the early days of World War II, Jews in Lithuania asked Zwartendijk if he could grant them visas to the Dutch Indies so that they might escape the Nazis.

In three weeks, this man who was known by many only as “Mr. Philips Radio,” wrote over 2,400 visas allowing Jews to flee to Curacao. Many of these visas were then copied, allowing refuge to even more who would surely have been killed otherwise.

When the Soviets overtook Lithuania, Zwartendijk’s office was closed and he was forced to return to the Netherlands. Until his death in 1976, he remained an employee of Philips, never mentioning his heroic deeds during the war. It wasn’t until two decades after Zwartendijk passed away that his actions were noticed, both with an Israeli honor named for him – the Jan Zwartendijk Award for Humanitarian Ethics and Values – and his naming by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations in 1997.