Rescuer of Jews from Nazi Era Dies

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Designer who rescued Jews in Nazi era dies

Sun Jul 2, 4:52 PM ET

NEW YORK - Jaap Penraat, an architect and industrial designer who helped 406 Jews sneak out of Nazi-occupied Netherlands and withstood torture to protect fellow members of the resistance, has died. He was 88.

Penraat died June 25 at his home in Catskill, N.Y., of esophageal cancer, said his daughter, Noelle Penraat.

Penraat was in his 20s when he began forging identity cards for Jews. He was arrested, imprisoned for several months and tortured, but refused to tell his captors anything.

After his release from prison, Penraat and other resistance members disguised Jews as construction workers hired to work on the defensive wall that Nazi forces were building along France's Atlantic Coast. He made 20 trips accompanying groups of refugees to Lille, France, where the Jews were met by the French underground and sent on to neutral Spain.

Speaking about his wartime experiences years later, Penraat said he had simply done what seemed necessary.

"You do these things because in your mind there is no other way of doing it," he told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2000.

Of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands before the Nazis invaded, only about 30,000 survived. Poland was the only nation that lost a larger percentage of its Jewish population.

After the war, Penraat became a noted designer in Amsterdam, then moved to the United States in 1958.

He is survived by three daughters, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
 




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