State of Israel honours northern Ontario family for role in saving Jewish man during Holocaust
Nora Visser of New Liskeard honoured with award. Oct. 15/20 (Eric Taschner/CTV Northern Ontario)
NORTH BAY -- A northern Ontario woman has received one of the most prestigious honours from the State of Israel and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, for her family's role in saving a Jewish man's life during WWII.
Thursday night, Nora Visser, of New Liskeard, was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations award for her family's efforts. The medal and certificate are given to non-Jewish people who risked their lives and their families to rescue Jews during the Holocaust.
Visser’s parents hid a Jewish man in Holland during the Second World War. During the dark times in the 1940s, families like Visser’s were a light of hope taking in scared Jews and hiding them.
"You never knew whom you could trust," said Visser.
She lived in Holland in 1940 when German soldiers invaded. A Dutch Jew by the name of Dik Biet looked for help from a colleague, Jos Asselbergs, who helped him and his wife, Alida Clara, go into hiding with some others.
"There were so many of them. There were 14 of them and they would sit in a big circle. They didn’t know what to do," said Visser.
Later on, Biet went to stay at the home of the Asselbergs’ friends, Visser's parents, Rein Hulsker and Cornelia Hulsker-Scheiss. Visser was 10-years-old at the time.
While he was staying with her family, Biet would often visit his wife and newborn daughter at the other house.
The young Visser would have to visit the Asselbergs’ house frequently to deliver "paperwork," which was likely forged documents.
"I was scared when I went to the other house," she said. "I thought they might see me. It felt like a long walk."
In early 1945, as the war was ending, the Asselbergs were betrayed and the Nazis arrested everyone, including Biet who was there at the time.
The Jews that were found there were sent to the Westerbork transit camp, but fortunately, trains were no longer leaving for Germany or Poland. Eventually, they were liberated by the Allied Forces.
The Righteous Among the Nations project was established by Yad Vashem in 1963. To date, the award has been granted to more than 26,000 recipients. Its Canadian Society presented the certificate to Visser.
"It’s a great honour," Nora said.
Jonathan Allen, executive director of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, said what they did was a huge risk.
"You go back to that time and it wasn’t just you’re forgotten about, there was physical threat to your life if you were ever caught doing what they did," said Allen.
The medal was presented by the Consul General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada Galit Baram, on behalf of the State of Israel.
"She knew the risks and she knew the repercussions and still she did what was right and this is admirable," said Baram.
For Visser, she wants the events of the Holocaust to be remembered forever so things like that never happen again.
"There are still so many people in the world that do not like the Jews," Visser said.
Nora and her parents’ names will be engraved at the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Visser's parents hid Dik Biet during WWII and helped Jos Asselbergs with 14 Jews in hiding. Nora Visser received the award for her family's role in saving Dik Biet.