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March 3: Judikje Themans-Simons

March 3, 2013

A Dutch Jewish gymnast who shared a gold team medal for combined exercises as part of her country's gymnastics team at the 1928 Olympics, Judikje Themans-Simons was gassed with her husband and two young children at the Sobibor concentration camp on this date in 1943. The couple ran an orphanage that housed 83 children in the city of Utrecht. Warned of Nazi intentions and offered a hiding place by friends, they refused to abandon those children, most of whom ended up murdered as well. Themans-Simons (who did not actually compete in 1928), was one of six Jews on the 1928 team, all of whom are inductees as a group into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame: Estella Agsteribbe, Helena Nordheim, Anna Polak, Elka de Levie, Judikje Simons, and their coach, Gerrit Kleerekoper. De Levie was the only one to survive the war; the others were murdered at Sobibor and Auschwitz — as was Mozes Jacobs, a Jewish member of the Dutch men's gymnastics team (also coached by Kleerekoper).

"Ben Bril was the youngest boxer ever in the Olympics... 15 in Amsterdam in 1928. A 12-time Dutch champion, he boycotted the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin... He and his wife were incarcerated at Bergen-Belsen during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands; both survived.... Attila Petschauer, a Hungarian fencer, won three Olympic medals during the Summer Games of 1928 and 1932. During the Holocaust he was deported to a Nazi labor camp in Ukraine, where he was recognized by a Nazi officer who had been an equestrian competitor on Hungary’s ’28 Olympic team. The two had been friends, but in the camp, the officer ordered guards to taunt Petschauer. In midwinter, he was forced to climb a tree naked and crow like a rooster. The guards sprayed him with water. He died from exposure on January 20, 1943." —Steve Lipman, Jewish Week