An Abbotsford man recently accepted an award presented posthumously to his grandparents, who hid a Jewish woman in their home in the Netherlands to protect her from the Nazis during the Second World War.
Peter Kalkman and his son Matthew received the Righteous Among the Nations award on Nov. 7 during a special ceremony in Vancouver held by the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.
The honour is given to non-Jews who demonstrated extraordinary courage during the Holocaust.
Several members of the family were also in attendance for the presentation.
Kalkman’s grandparents Rev. Dirk Pieter Kalkman and Klassje Kalkman concealed a Jewish woman – Catharina Six tot Oeterleek-Kuijper – from 1943-45 in their home in Moordrecht, Netherlands.
Oeterleek-Kuijper was a widow whose life was in danger – most of her family members had died in concentration camps – and a fellow reverend asked the Kalkmans to take her in.
They did so despite great danger to themselves – in Nazi-occupied Europe, the risk of punishment was high to those who helped Jews.
The Kalkmans, who had five children, presented Oeterleek-Kuijper to the outside world as an aunt, calling her Tanta Ina.
Towards the end of the war, the Germans were short on people to work in factories and other places, and they would have roundups to look for young men who could be taken to Germany to work.
During these roundups, they also looked for Jews in hiding and Dutch resistance workers.
A harrowing experience for the family took place during one of these roundups, when the Kalkmans had two boys around the age of 16 hidden beneath the floorboards of their home and Tanta Ina sitting with the rest of the family on the couch.
Soldiers stood above the trap door where the young men were hidden as they questioned the family.
One of the Kalkmans’ daughters was ill from diphtheria at the time and this prompted the soldiers to hasten their search of the home and of the family’s documents. They left without discovering anyone.
Oeterleek-Kuijper went on to live into her 90s in the Netherlands, passing away in 1978. Klassje died in 1959, followed by Dirk 10 years later. They remained in the Netherlands, as did all four of their daughters, two of whom are now deceased.
Their only son, Wim – Peter Kalkman’s dad – moved to Toronto in the 1950s and later Vancouver. He died in 2013, but had begun the process of having his parents recognized for their bravery.
Peter, a radiologist who has lived in Abbotsford for 25 years and has four sons with his wife Bonnie, continued the process and worked with researchers in the Netherlands to find proof of the family’s history.
This resulted in a 111-page document being submitted in 2017 as a nomination for the award.
The Righteous Among the Nations is considered one of the most prestigious honours granted by the State of Israel.