Born: September 6, 1921
Why you should know her: Andrée Geulen is a Belgian woman whose actions helped save more than 30,000 Jewish children during the Holocaust.
In the summer of 1942, Belgian schoolteacher Andrée Geulen was shocked as her students arrived for class. Some of the students were wearing 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.
This incident was Andrée’s first encounter with the anti-Semitism that would only grow during the Holocaust, but it is the moment she decided to act. While still teaching, she became a part of 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 would hide them.
In May of 1943, the Nazis raided Andrée’s school, where 12 Jewish students were being sheltered. The teachers were interrogated and the students were arrested. 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?”
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.Tags: Advocates and Allies