Dutch Couple Who Saves 25 Jews Bestowed Righteous Among Nations

National CSYV Chair Fran Sonshine (left) and Galit Baram (right) present Medal and Certificate of Honor to Hannah Steynan (centre) bestowing the Righteous Among Nations title to her parents, Bart Rijpstra and Wytske Keverkamp.

On September 24, 2019, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada posthumously awarded Bart Rijpstra and Wytske Keverkamp, the late parents of Hannah Steynan, with the title, “Righteous Among the Nations.” The Righteous Among the Nations are non-Jews who assisted or sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, often at the risk of great peril for themselves and families. The project was established by Yad Vashem in 1963 and to date has granted the award to more than 26,000 people. The ceremony took place at in Toronto at the offices of the Consul General to Israel and Western Canada.

Board members, educators, and staff from CSYV in attendance included: (left to right) Melanie Williams, Debbie Estrin, Norman Gaudet, Fran Sonshine (National Chair), Hannah Steynan (honouree), Shelley Laskin, Faye Minuk, Roy Karo, Barbara Falk, and Josh Hacker. National Chair Fran Sonshine and Consul General Galit Baram presented the Medal and Certificate of Honor.
(from left) Bart Rijpstra, Hannah Rijpstra and Wytske Keverkamp walk out of city hall in Leeuwarden, Holland, following a wedding in August 1945.

Hannah (Hanneke) Steynan flew in from Lethbridge, Alberta to accept the award on her parent’s behalf. Steynen was born in 1942 in the small Dutch village of Zaandijk in the north-west part of the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. During the Holocaust, her father and fellow teachers would hide and protect Jews by passing them off as relatives living in their homes for a period of time. Even their young daughter Hannah did not know that the people living in their home during the war were not related to their family until many years later.

By end of the war, Rijpstra and Keverkamp had saved 25 Jewish refugees. She and her parents remember saving the following individuals: Doris (Dorothea) Berliner, Erna Berliner Schwarz, Lore Zilly Durlacher, Karel Fonteijn, Rita van Rijn, Boela Wackers-Schwarz, Eva van Thijn-Loonstijn, Erna Keulen, Esther Helena Knap, Heinz Martin Silbermann, Levie (Leo) Cohen, Joop Wasterweel, Leo Wasterweel and Els Hamburger. All of those who found refuge in the Rijpstra-Keverkamp household survived and Hannah even managed to remain in touch with some of them after the war. She and her husband Leo immigrated to Canada in 1968.

Righteous Among the Nations were ordinary men and women who demonstrated extraordinary courage during the Holocaust. These individuals from various backgrounds across Europe had a common characteristic: conviction in the responsibility to help guided by moral choices. These are the values the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem aims to convey to the next generation of Canadians through its Holocaust education programs.”

Fran SonshineCSYV National Chair

“All those who hid or gave assistance to Jews during World War II did so at extraordinary personal risk. As the descendant of Holocaust survivors, I feel deeply privileged to take part in this celebration of courage and humanity. The State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, sees honouring these remarkable individuals as an almost sacred duty. 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,” wrote Galit Baram, the consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, in a statement to The CJN.

Galit BaramConsul General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada