Johan van Hulst, Who Saved Hundreds Of Jewish Children During The Holocaust, Dies At 107
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
We're going to take a moment now to remember a man who lived a long life. He was known for his extraordinary efforts during the Second World War, saving hundreds of Jewish infants and children, but he was haunted by not being able to do more.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Johan van Hulst died last week at the age of 107. In 1940, the year Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands, he headed a teachers college in Amsterdam.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOHAN VAN HULST: (Speaking Dutch).
CHANG: That's his voice in a video uploaded by a Dutch news site, Day 6. In that clip, he wonders how he was put in the right place at the right time to do good.
CORNISH: The school he was running was next to a Jewish day care center. When the Nazis took children from their parents, it's where the kids under the age of 12 went. When space ran out there, the Germans asked Johan Van Hulst to house children in his school.
CHANG: He came up with an idea along with two people at the day care. If, for example, 20 children were transferred to his school, he'd only list 10 or 15, and the unregistered kids were then smuggled to safety. It's estimated more than 600 children were saved.
CORNISH: Today, Amsterdam's National Holocaust Museum stands at the site of the teachers college. Emile Schrijver, who directs the museum, says Johan Van Hulst always spoke of what he couldn't do.
EMILE SCHRIJVER: I was never a hero. I had to live the rest of my life with the idea that I've only been able to save up to 600 children rather than saving six, seven, eight or 700, 800, 900 and 1,000 childrens.
CHANG: Schrijver says Johan van Hulst's long life allowed many generations to learn by his example - that under the worst circumstances, there's always an option to choose right over wrong. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.