Friday, July 07, 2006

Sadness: Jaap Penraat

"He who saves a single human life saves the entire universe."
-- From Jaapp Penraat's medal, The Righteous Among Nations

Jaap Penraat was the subject of Hudson Talbott's moving Forging Freedom. Penraat died this past week. The Chatham Courier has a tribute to him.

His good friend and neighbor, Hudson Talbott, had know him for many years before discovering Penraat's role as rescuer during the Holocaust.

"Jaap started by trying to forge one I.D. card," said Talbott. "Then he did another and another as he tried to get people out of the country (Holland) to safety. He snuck into Paris and asked for work and travel permits. In a year and a half, he got out over 400 people. When he stopped, the British had destroyed all of the railroad tracks and Jaap and the Dutch knew that D-Day was imminent. He had to walk back to Holland from France because there were no more train lines."
As the Nazis dug in for the Allied invasion, they began recruiting Dutch men in droves for slave labor in their munitions factories. Talbott said Mr. Penraat went into hiding for a year in the barn of a country doctor where he survived in part on a diet of sugar beets.

Forging Freedom is a terrific introduction to the Holocaust for kids. The story and illustrations detail the approaching Nazi menace. The first pages show a sky filled with German paratroopers descending over the Dutch landscape. Another page seems to be aflame as book burnings are depicted.

The centerpiece picture, in particular is a great starting place to talk about the subject with kids. Talbott has sketched a map of Europe with tentacles of barbed wire stretching out in all directions. Hitler's head is at the center of the tentacles, in Germany, like a horrific octopus. You can see images from the book here.

Jaap Penraat forged documents for people trying to escape the nightmare.
Thank goodness Hudson Talbott has preserved his story for us all.

Hudson Talbott's website

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