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April 11: Jaap Penraat, Rescuer

April 11, 2014

0602stWWII2Jaap Penraat, who rescued 406 Jews from the Nazis by smuggling them from the Netherlands to Spain on twenty separate trips, was born in Amsterdam on this date in 1911. Penraat was an interior designer, architect and sculptor who began his resistance work by forging identity papers for Jews. After he was jailed for several months, he intensified his rescue work, using his forgery skills to convince the Nazis that his charges were slave laborers being transported to build Nazi fortifications in France. Ultimately Penraat was captured and tortured, but survived the war. He came to the U.S. in 1958, where he designed the Dutch Mill Cafe at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Yad Vashem recognized him in 1988 as among the Righteous Among the Nations, and Hudson Talbott wrote a children’s book about Penraat, Forging Freedom: A True Story of Heroism During the Holocaust.

“You’re there, a woman [clerk] walks away and either she comes back with papers or she comes back with soldiers.” -Jaap Penraat