‘What I Did Was Merely My Duty’

The Fellowship  |  August 11, 2020

A black and white photograph of Belgian Schoolteacher, Andrée Geulen
Andrée Geulen

Andrée Geulen saved more than 30,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust.

A Schoolteacher for Jews and Gentiles

In the summer of 1942, Belgian schoolteacher Andrée Geulen was shocked as her students arrived for class. Some of the students wore a yellow star on their clothes – required by the country’s Nazi occupiers. Andrée would not have her beloved pupils humiliated in such a way, so she had all of her students – Jews and Gentiles – wear aprons, in order to cover the yellow stars.

Andrée’s first encounter with the anti-Semitism that would only grow during the Holocaust convinced her to act. While still teaching, she took part in Belgium’s secret Comité de Défence des Juifs (Jewish Defense Coffittee), which hid Jewish children to save them from the Nazis and certain death.

Because of her role as a schoolteacher, Andrée had the unpleasant responsibility of convincing Jewish parents to part with their children. After doing so, Andrée then took the children to the families who hid them.

In May of 1943, the Nazis raided Andrée’s school, which sheltered 12 Jewish students. The Nazis interrogated the teachers were interrogated and arrested the students. One of the Nazis asked Andrée if she was ashamed to teach Jews. The teacher defiantly replied, “Aren’t you ashamed to make war on Jewish children?”

A Righteous Gentile

Andrée left the school that night, evading arrest and warning her other Jewish students. Afterwards, she began to do even more for the resistance efforts, living under an assumed name. Until the Allies defeated the Nazis, Andrée Geulen continued to hide Jewish children. While doing so, she kept coded records of each, which enabled them to be returned to their families at war’s end.

For her efforts during the Holocaust, Andrée Geulen was not only named Righteous Among the Nations, but was also awarded honorary citizenship by the state of Israel. At the ceremony, she humbly explained her actions: “What I did was merely my duty. Disobeying the laws of the time was just the normal thing to do.”

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