Risking His Life, This Dutch Teacher Saved 600 Jewish Children From Nazi Death Camps During WWII

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It was the summer of 1943 in Amsterdam, falling under the Nazi-occupied territory. Several Jewish children, between infancy to 12 years of age, were found to be smuggled secretly from a nursery to a day-care centre.

The centre was adjacent to the Reformed Teacher Training College where 32-year-old Johan van Hulst was the principal at that time. He was rumoured to be supervising the entire operations of smuggling these children to the countryside and cautiously removing some of their names from the list – the dreaded list of Jewish children to be deported to concentration camps.

Putting his own life at risk, van Hulst rescued over 600 Jewish children who would otherwise have been brutally choked to death in the poisonous gas chambers, under the regime of Hitler.

Johan van Hulst, who passed away last year at 107, was recognised as a hero by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre. Efforts For Good takes a walk down the tainted memory lanes of Nazi Germany to celebrate a true braveheart.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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Jewish children were forcibly separated from their mothers

The Netherlands came under German occupation in 1940, and by 1942, the Nazi authorities started deporting the Jewish people to the death camps in Poland. The next two years saw over 1,07,000 Jews being sent to the death camps, of whom merely 5,200 survivors were left in the end, as per the records of U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

At that time, Jewish children younger than 12 years of age were forcibly taken away from their parents at the transit camps. Babies were snatched from the breasts of nursing mothers, and the muffled cries of separated young toddlers soon died down within the nurseries where they were temporarily kept before being sent to death camps.

How van Hulst decided to save the children

A detention centre for the Dutch Jews was set up in a theatre hall across the street from van Hulst’s college. From there, the separated Jewish toddlers were sent to the crèche next to the college, managed by Henriëtte Pimentel.

When the number of children in the crèche became too large, the Nazis demanded some of the children be shifted to parts of van Hulst’s college. That was when a dangerous idea crossed Hulst’s mind that ended up saving the lives of hundreds of innocent kids.

An ingenious yet dangerous plan

He coordinated with the crèche owner Pimentel and Walter Süskind, a German Jew leading the unfortunate lot at the Amsterdam transit camp. Together, they secretly started smuggling the children, one by one, over the hedge that demarcated the boundary between the college and the crèche.

Evading the stringent eyes of the Nazis, van Hulst hid these children inside a classroom for days, providing them with optimum care and comfort, until they were handed over to Dutch Resistance Groups to be transferred to safety in the countryside.

A few seconds to save hundreds

Süskind and van Hulst ensured to surreptitiously remove names of children from the official Nazi list. Thus, they could be transferred to safety without any hindrance. He devised an ingenious and quite foolproof plan for the same.

Every day at a specific time, a tram used to stop on the street between van Hulst’s college and the detention centre, blocking the college entrance from the view of the Nazi guards. In that flash of a moment, van Hulst would transfer the children away, hidden in baskets and sacks, and take them to safer places underground. Over the course of a few months, he managed to save more than 600 Jewish children this way.

The regret that stayed with him

Afterwards, in the September of 1943, the crèche was shut down, with around 100 children still inside it, who, unfortunately, were a few of the millions of victims of history’s most horrifying genocide. Though van Hulst managed to escape with 12 children, he always regretted the fact that he failed to safeguard the others.

Years later, after the war, as the world showered van Hulst with honours and awards, the aged man quietly rued the death of the children whom he could not save. Throughout his lifetime, he never liked the portrayal of him as a hero, as he always reiterated his wish to have saved more.

Efforts For Good will continue to bring you more unheard stories of the world’s unsung heroes, in an attempt to preserve their names in bright letters in the pages of history.

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
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- Mother Theresa Quote
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