Surrounded by Love and Laughter
Stand for Israel | January 9, 2023
From the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands
Born in 1898 on the island of Java in the Dutch East Indies, Tole Madna immigrated to the Netherlands as a teen, staying there when his family returned to Indonesia. And it was in the Netherlands where Tole Madna would prove himself a hero of the Holocaust.
In 1942, Tole learned of a neighboring Jewish family who were hiding from the occupying Nazis. Simche and Gitla Munzer, along with their three children Eva, Leah, and baby Alfred, were on the run from the murderous Germans. Eva and Leah were hidden with a friend. Simche was hidden on the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital. But ten-month-old Alfred needed a hiding spot, too. Tole agreed to take the little boy in.
The Helplessness and Innocence of a Baby
Together with his own two daughters and their housekeeper, Mima Saina (seen holding little Alfred in the photo above), Tole Madna treated the Jewish child as part of his family. Alfred would remember:
They shared their meager food allowance with me because I did not legally exist and was not entitled to ration coupons. They made sure I did not ever come near a window for fear that passersby might see a very different looking child. I slept in Mima’s bed and she kept a knife under her pillow vowing to kill any Nazi who might come to get me. But what I remember most is being surrounded by love and laughter.
Tole’s own son remembered his father as “a peaceful man… he could not turn away from the helplessness and innocence of a baby.”
And later, when Tole Madna was asked why he saved Alfred, Tole simply said, “What else was I to do?”
Alfred stayed with the Madna family for three years, even as the Nazis searched for him. The rest of the Munzer family were not so lucky. Alfred’s sisters Eva and Leah were betrayed by a neighbor and sent to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Alfred’s parents were also found, with only Gitla surviving the Holocaust. When the war ended in August 1945, mother and son were reunited.
A Hero of the Holocaust
After the war ended, Tole Madna kept in touch with Alfred, who moved to the U.S. and became a renowned physician, working as an internist and pulmonologist in Washington, D.C. When Alfred last saw the man who saved him, an elderly Tole Madna told him, “Take good care of your mother.”
For the care they showed a little Jewish boy as true heroes of the Holocaust, Tole Madna and Mima Saina were named the first (and to date, only) Righteous Among the Nations from Indonesia.