Puslinch Resident Relates Personal Story Of Good vs Evil

The personal reason for me being so upset and sickened by the lack of leadership from the President of the USA runs deep. To not condemn the rise in the Nazi, white supremacist and KKK movements 100 % is utterly disgusting. Anyone with moral convictions should feel the same about this spineless man that holds the power of the World in his hands. He is not worthy to hold this office.

Below is a personal story of our family during the brutal occupation of the Nazi regime in Holland. It is only one of many stories that my family had to endure and suffer through. My family lived in the beautiful city of Leiden. Near the end of the occupation their was not a cat or dog wondering the city. Why? Because they were eaten by the starving population. I will keep honouring what my Develing and Knetsch families went through and will keep this memory alive until my last breath. So never forget what bigotry, hate, racists believes can and will do if we allow it to grow.

Bill Knetsch

Ontario families gather to honour Holocaust hero


In early 1943, four-year-old John Sanders arrived at the door of Catharina Develing, in the Dutch city of Leiden, carrying nothing but his birth certificate and 600 guilder in cash. The Dutch Underground had delivered the boy from his Jewish parents’ hideout in Amsterdam, where the danger of discovery was too high to keep him.

Two years later, after Canadian troops liberated the country, John’s father, Ben Sanders, arrived to pick up the boy who had become part of the Develing family.

After inviting Mr. Sanders in, Ms. Develing asked her son to remove the back from the family clock, revealing John’s birth certificate and, to the incredulity of his father, the 600 guilder.
“Why wouldn’t you spend it?” Ben asked. “It wasn’t my money,” she answered simply.

John now lives in the greater Toronto area, where he moved in 1952, and says he owes Ms. Develing his life. “She conscientiously took on this job, knowing full well it was dangerous,” he said.
“Because of her, there are 30 of us here now in my immediate family. It’s all due to her safeguarding me.” On Monday night, in a ceremony at Toronto’s Earl Bales Park for Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem will name Ms. Develing Righteous Among the Nations, an honorary title given on behalf of the state of Israel to non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The focus for this year’s ceremony, which is presented jointly with the UJA’s Holocaust Centre of Toronto, is on child survivors.
Ms. Develing’s daughter, Catharina Knetsch, will accept the award on behalf of her mother, who died in 1986 at the age of 92.

“It was a special honour. My mother would be very proud of it,” she said.

Ms. Knetsch was one of four sisters and a brother who welcomed John into their house. She also now lives in Southern Ontario, in the town of Drayton, near Kitchener, having moved to Canada in 1966.
The two families have remained entwined, making their convergence halfway around the world less coincidental than could be imagined. Ms. Knetsch explained, sometimes in Dutch translated by her son, Bill Knetsch, that Mr. Sanders visited the family whenever he returned to Holland.

“I was 14 when he came to live with us. We accepted him as a younger brother. Even when he came to Canada, he was like a brother,” she said.

Ben Sanders had actually sent his two sons away previously from the secret apartment where he made his home in Amsterdam, behind a revolving closet in the house of a sympathetic neighbour.

After the Nazi invasion in 1940, they had been placed with a family in a safer location, but an informant scare brought John back into his care. The blue eyes and blond hair of his brother had spared him Nazi attention, but John’s looks betrayed his background, and the four-year-old was swept back to the Dutch capital.

In Leiden, his features again gave rise to questions, but this time, neighbours played along. The story the family told neighbours was that his mother was in a sanatorium suffering from tuberculosis and his father had been transported to a German labour camp, as many young Dutch men had been.
“It sounded plausible,” Mr. Sanders said, but when his father came looking for his Jewish son, they all knew which house to direct him to.

“Everybody knew he was Jewish, but nobody said anything,” Ms. Knetsch said.

Mr. Sanders said a recent meeting with Ms. Knetsch’s children prompted the move to have her
recognized by Yad Vashem. He said Ms. Develing’s grandchildren did not understand the significance of her risk in taking him in.

“The children should be aware that she put her life on the line to save a Jewish little boy, not just any little boy,” he said. “I think it’s a crucial time to acknowledge that there are good people around. It’s only 65 years [since the Holocaust], but to a lot of people, it’s already forgotten.”

For Ms. Develing, the decision to harbour John was a straightforward one, according to her daughter. Wasn’t she scared of being caught? “No,” Ms. Knetsch said dismissively, before her son Mr. Bill Knetsch elaborated.

“She was no taller than 4-foot-5, but she was a force. She survived the Depression without a husband and she survived the war,” he said.

“The determination and the inner strength, it’s something to be admired.”

© (c) CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

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