The grandchildren of two Righteous Among the Nations are continuing their grandparents’ legacies in the Israeli army, reported Yisrael Hayom in Sunday’s Hebrew edition. Noga Peter, 21, and Hadas Avraham Weisbecker, 22, are descendents of heroes who saved many lives in the Holocaust.
Cpl. Peter serves as an IDF Human Resources NCO Course Commander in Training Base 11. Her maternal great-grandfather, Johan “Joop” Westerweel, was recognized as a Righteous Gentile in 1964 by Israel’s Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum. Westerweel was considered one of the most daring leaders of the Dutch Resistance until his execution in 1944.
Westerweel was born into a strict Christian sect which promoted morality and justice. He was a firm pacifist himself, and was expelled from the Dutch East Indies for refusing to serve in the army. He was a teacher, and married fellow teacher Wilhelmina (Wil) Dora Bosdriesz, with whom he had four children.
The pair moved to Rotterdam, where they began actively working to save Jews. They sheltered Jewish youth in their home three times, each time moving to a new location, before getting involved with the Jewish pioneer movement in 1942. When the pioneer group faced deportation in 1943, Westerweel and his friends hid its 50 members, 33 of whom survived the war.
The remainder of the group was betrayed, convincing Westerweel that hiding Jews was not enough to ensure their safety. He began to assist Jews in escaping Holland altogether. Westerweel was ultimately caught and executed on August 11, 1944. All told, the Westerweels saved some 300 Jewish youth.
The Westerweel survivors arrived in Israel and founded Kibbutz Gilad. Eventually, their daughter Marta arrived at the Kibbutz, falling in love with survivor Yehuda Peled. Noga Peter is their granddaughter.
“I grew up on this story,” she told Israel Hayom. “They couldn’t bear the situation watching what happened from the sidelines. I did a year of volunteer service in the Scouts and community involvement flows in my blood.”
Peter added, “It is important to me to tell this story in the army. It was bravery, which motivated me and caused me to give of myself. I was a human resources NCO in the Druze Herev unit. I decided to support a different population and that caused me to be exposed to an amazing population. It’s important to come in with an open mind and accept those who are not exactly like me.”
Like Peter, Weissbecker’s maternal great-grandfather, Jan Abraham Broer, was born in Holland. He was married to a Jewish woman, and in the early years of the war, was able to use his influence as a postal worker to shield her and their three children from some of the Nazi restrictions.
As it became apparent that things were getting worse, however, he kept his family members inside, away from the prying eyes of neighbors, and began sheltering others, as well, including his wife’s relatives. The Broer home, located in the shadow of the Vught concentration camp, where Joop Westerweel met his fate, miraculously avoided appropriation by the Nazis, and Jan was able to keep his family safe until the war ended. He was officially recognized by Yad VaShem in 1979.
Jan Broer made his way to Israel, where he eventually converted to Judaism himself. He bequeathed a book to Yad VaShem, which contains the story, along with drawings and maps, of his efforts to save Jews in the Holocaust.
Sgt. Weissbecker, who serves as a company sergeant in the engineering corps. 603 battalion, is named for his great-grandfather, who died mere months before his birth. He told Yisrael Hayom, “Much of my decision to serve significantly in the army came from family tradition. It is a great source of pride. As a commander in the Israel Defense Force, I believe that if we are here now, it will prevent the next battle.”