Author tells of Catholic couple who saved two dozen Jews in Holocaust

| May 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

Longtime management consultant Marty Brounstein stumbled upon the home of a Catholic couple in Dieden, Netherlands, who hid and saved two dozen Jews during the Holocaust.

Marty Brounstein, author of “Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust.” Courtesy Brounstein

Since the 2009 encounter on a summer trip with his wife, Leah Baars, Brounstein has immersed himself in sharing the story of Frans and Mien Wijnakker saving Jews in the Holocaust.

The Wijnakkers have been recognized in the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel, which has an area dedicated to those who saved Jews in the Holocaust.

Brounstein, who lives in San Francisco, has written a book, “Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust” (Tate Publishing, 2011). He researched the Wijnakkers’ story and learned more through their five living children. Brounstein also speaks about the Wijnakkers around the U.S. and has four talks lined up in the Twin Cities May 11-23.

He said that the story has appealed to both religious and secular audiences alike. Though the Wijnakkers were Catholic, Brounstein said their children couldn’t confirm what impact or role faith had in them shielding Jews from the Nazis. The Wijnakkers were regular Sunday Massgoers, though, Brounstein said.

Cover of “Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust.” Courtesy Marty Brounstein

Hiding Jews in the Netherlands had high risks since the country had one of the largest Nazi occupations. They also faced anti-Semitism among other Catholics. The Wijnakkers’ parish priest didn’t support their housing Jews, Brounstein said.

For two years, the Wijnakkers hid Jews in their country home. At least a couple of the Jews who hid there are still alive today, including Shulamit Schwarz, whom Brounstein interviewed for his book.

Brounstein, a Jew, discovered he had a personal connection to the story, although he grew up in Canada and has no close relatives who were in the Holocaust. He said  he reserves sharing about that link to the Wijnakkers for his presentations.

Brounstein spoke 7 p.m. May 11 at Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill in St. Paul, and will speak 7 p.m. May 15 at St. Stephen Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake, 1 p.m. May 17 at University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis and 1 p.m. May 23 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in St. Paul.

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