Monday, October 19, 2009

It's The Right Thing To Do

The walls of Dr. Tina Strobos’s light-filled apartment here are dappled not only with paintings but also with the many plaques she has received from Jewish organizations, even though she is not Jewish.

Dr. Strobos, a sturdy 89, is honored every so often for the quietly valiant things she did almost 70 years ago as a medical student during the German occupation of the Netherlands: working with her mother, she hid more than 100 Jews who passed through their three-story rooming house in Amsterdam.

That sanctuary, which included an attic lair that was never discovered, was just a 10-minute stroll from a more famous hideout: Anne Frank’s at 263 Prinsengracht. Indeed, the question of why the Franks did not have an escape hatch for when the Gestapo barged in gets her fairly worked up.

At her home, the Jews were stowed away on the upper floors with quick access to the attic, which had a secret compartment for two or three people to cram into. “A carpenter came with a toolbox and said: ‘I’m a carpenter from the underground. Show me the house, and I’ll build a hiding place,’ ” she recalled.

There was an alarm bell on the second floor so she or her mother, Marie Schotte, could alert those above. They drilled their fugitives in how to scramble out a window to a roof and make their way to an adjoining school, which was not likely to be raided.

She recalled carrying news and ration stamps by bicycle — at great risk, and often cold and hungry — to Jews hidden on farms outside the city. She also ferried radios and stashed boxes of pilfered guns for the Dutch resistance. She was seized or questioned nine times by the Gestapo and was once hurled against a wall and knocked unconscious.

Why would she take such gambles for people she sometimes barely knew?

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said with nonchalance. “Your conscience tells you to do it. I believe in heroism, and when you’re young, you want to do dangerous things.” (NYTIMES)

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