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Righteous Among the Nations honoured in Vancouver

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Matthew Kalkman, left, and Peter Kalkman. (Rhonda Dent Photo)

VANCOUVER – The Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem held a special ceremony at the Norman Rothstein Theatre in Vancouver on Nov. 7, to honour some of the Righteous Among the Nations.

The evening was full of inspiring and timely statements on the courage and moral clarity of those who stand against anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobic violence.

The honour was given to Dirk Kalkman and Klassje Kalkman and was received on their behalf by Peter Kalkman, Dirk and Klassje’s grandson, and Matthew Kalkman, their great-grandson. It was handed out by Consul General Galit Baram on behalf of the State of Israel and Josh Hacker on behalf of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.

Dirk Kalkman was a Dutch Reformed pastor who, together with his wife Klassje, hid a Jewish woman in their family’s household from 1943-1945, at great personal risk to themselves and their children. At the request of a fellow reverend who was the brother of the famous Dutch resistance worker Johannes Post, the couple protected and concealed Catharina Six tot Oeterleek-Kuijper at their home in Moordrecht, Netherlands.

Oeterleek-Kuijper was a Jewish widow whose husband had been a member of a noble family in Holland. She lived with the Kalkman family for the duration of the war, until the Netherlands was liberated in May 1945. The family created a false identity for her, calling her Tanta Ina from Den Haag, and as a result, she was able to play a role in the Kalkman’s family life and the community.

Tanta Ina was involved in the community life of Moordrecht, to the extent that she even won an award for her own charitable activities in the community. She died in her 90s in the city of Soest, Netherlands, in 1978.

READ: THE RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS – WHY DID THEY DO IT?

Many members of the Kalkman family were present at the emotional ceremony, where Peter and Matthew Kalmkam told the rapt crowd the story of their righteous grandparents. Peter Kalkman’s father, Wim (Dirk’s son), had long wished that his parent’s heroism be recognized, but he died in 2013, before he could see his dream come true. Matthew Kalkman undertook the task after Wim died. Together with researchers in the Netherlands, he was able to find evidence of what had happened – a task made difficult by the clandestine nature of the Kalkman family’s operation.

Peter Kalkman told the audience a harrowing tale that was recorded by his father, Wim, who recounted the night that the Nazis surrounded their neighbourhood and searched house by house for hidden Jews and members of the resistance. Dirk Kalkman was hiding Tanta Ina, as well as two resisters, who were squirrelled away beneath the floorboards, through a trapdoor underneath a large carpet.

Wim Kalkman remembered being questioned by Nazis about anyone being hidden in the house, while they stood directly above the hidden men and in front of Tanta Ina, who was seated with the rest of the family on the couch. Wim Kalkman’s sister, who was also in the room, had diphtheria, which frightened the soldiers, making them rushed and sloppy. They left without finding anyone and, as a result, the Kalkman family and their endangered friends survived.

“The State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, sees honouring these courageous individuals and their acts of human decency and mercy as an almost sacred duty,” said Baram. “The people of Israel and Jews the world over will forever be grateful to them for bringing light and hope during mankind’s darkest hour.”

“Righteous Among the Nations were ordinary men and women who demonstrated extraordinary courage during the Holocaust,” Ester Driham, the national director of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, told The CJN. “These individuals from various backgrounds across Europe had a common characteristic: conviction in the responsibility to help, guided by moral choices.”