Why Did So Many Survive Nazi Onslaught?

Some Safety: Nazis meeting in Dutch province of Limburg. New research shows the province was the safest place for Jews to be in the Netherlands during the Holocaust.

MAASTRICHT, THE NETHERLANDS — (JTA) — In her nightmares, Tilly Walvis pictured German soldiers storming the house where she was hiding and deporting her children and the Christian couple sheltering them.

Walvis had good reason to fear. At the time, her family was living in the home of Albert and Frederika Santing in Hoensbroek, a Dutch town in the southeastern province of Limburg. Next door lived a family of Dutch Nazis, and delivering the hidden Jews to the German occupation forces would have meant praises and a handsome reward.

Fortunately for Walvis, the soldier who entered the house in 1944 was American, and he was looking for Nazis, not Jews. According to an account from the Yad Vashem Holocaust center in Jerusalem, Walvis sought to assure him they were not hostile, so she told him in English that she was Jewish.

“Me too,” he replied, bringing tears of joy to Walvis’ eyes and wild cries of excitement from the other family members. Walvis was among 2,200 Dutch and German Jews who survived the Holocaust in Limburg, a narrow sliver of a province near the Belgian and German borders that recent research has revealed to have been the safest place for Jews in the Netherlands during the Holocaust. Approximately 10 percent of Jews who went into hiding in Limburg were caught, roughly one-third the rate of Amsterdam.

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