Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Journey of Exploration into a Family’s Righteous Past

Peter and Rineke Hetem at Yad Vashem December 18, 2013
"If they want to come here, let them do so." Almost 70 years since his grandparents Petrus (Pieter) and Adriane Kleibroek spoke these words, agreeing to their daughter Nelie’s request to provide shelter for the Jewish Drukker family, Peter Hetem and his wife Rineke came to Yad Vashem to see the story of the rescue activities of his grandparents and mother told in the special temporary exhibit: “I am my Brother’s Keeper: 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nations”. The new exhibition is made up of five different documentary films describing five central rescue paradigms: each describing a myriad of dilemmas and situations that involved both the non-Jewish rescuers and the Jews they attempted to help. The film focusing on the Kleibroek and Drukker families, entitled “Paying the ultimate price”, narrates one of the many tragic stories of those Righteous who paid for their rescue attempts with their lives. Featured in the film is Peter’s recent discovery of his family’s courageous role in hiding Abraham and Juliette Drukker and their 13-year-old daughter Marjan during the Holocaust. 
Righteous Among the Nations Pieter and Adriane
Kleibroek and daughter Nelie Hetem-Kleibroek

family of farmers from Warmenhuizen in the Netherlands, the Kleibroeks took in the Jewish Drukker family in February 1944, who after several months of hiding in Amsterdam, managed to contact Nelie pleading for a place to take refuge. Nelie turned to her parents who bravely agreed to share their small farm with the Drukkers and provide shelter from the Nazis and their collaborators during the Shoah. Providing an account of their lives with the Kleibroeks in his diary, Abraham Drukker recounted, “Our life here on the farm was so much better than earlier in Amsterdam – with air! – even though we could not go outside – and a view. Moreover, we were not always nervous about each sound and we were resigned to our fate, which was bearable.”
The Drukker family before the war: Abraham and Juliette Drukker and
daughter Marjan
Unfortunately their safe haven was temporary. In May 1944, some 700 German forces, assisted by Dutch collaborators, searched the area and discovered the Drukker family hiding in a haystack on the farm. All three members of the Jewish family were immediately arrested and sent to the Westerbork transit camp, then deported to Theresienstadt and finally to Auschwitz where they were murdered in October 1944. Pieter Kleibroek was also incarcerated and sent to the Vught concentration camp and later to the Sachsenhausen camp in Germany. A couple weeks before the end of the war, Pieter was shot and killed while on a death march from Sachsenhausen to Luebeck after stopping due to extreme exhaustion. Adrianus Bruin, a fellow inmate of Pieter described the scene: "After he stopped and lay down at the side of the road, I saw that one of the guards approached him, charged his revolver and killed him with a shot in his neck."
Peter and Rineke Hetem watch the completed film for the first time in
the "I am my Brother's Keeper" exhibiton at Yad Vashem
While visiting the “I am my Brother’s Keeper” exhibit at Yad Vashem, Peter and Rineke Hetem became noticeably emotional as, for the first time, they watched the completed film portraying Peter’s journey of exploration of his grandparents and mother’s exceptional role in aiding the Drukker family. Until receiving a phone call from Nannie Beekman, from the Righteous Among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem, Peter, who is named for his late grandfather, knew very little concerning the details of his family’s history during World War II and the rescue story of the Drukkers. “It was something we did not speak of in our family and I knew almost nothing about.” After the recognition of his grandparents and mother as Righteous Among the Nations, film producers went to the Netherlands to follow along and document Peter’s personal discovery and exploration into his family’s past to be included in the exhibition at Yad Vashem. “The two days of filming for the documentary project gave me a sense of closure regarding my family’s story. I got the opportunity to talk with the neighbors’ children and a young farmhand of my grandfather. Even learning small things, such as the revelation that my grandfather was musical, was very important to me. I came to know and understand who my grandfather was, something of which I knew very little.”
On November 8, 2011, Yad Vashem recognized Pieter Kleibroek and Adriane Kleibroek-Nannes as well as their daughter Nelie Hetem-Kleibroek as Righteous Among the Nations.
For more information about the rescue story and others featured in the exhibit I am my Brother’s Keeper: 50 Years of Honoring Righteous Among the Nations”:

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