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Medal honoring soldiers killed during the invasion issued to a Dutch resistance leader

Object | Accession Number: 1990.23.240.3

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    Medal honoring soldiers killed during the invasion issued to a Dutch resistance leader

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Medal honoring soldiers who died in the May 1940 invasion, with shield and broken sword, awarded to Piet Brandsen by Stichting 1940-1945 for his bravery and resistance activities during the German occupation of the Netherlands from May 1940-May 1945. The six medals in the series honor the following: 1. For the soldiers who fell in the May 1940 invasion [this medal, 1990.23.240.3]; 2. For those who endured the bombardments and attacks (1990.23.240.3; 3. For victims of torture and betrayal (1990.23.240.3]; 4. For those who suffered in the concentration camps (1990.23.240.3; 5. For those who were imprisoned (1990.23.240.3; 6. For all of those who have been oppressed by tyranny (1990.23.240.3. Stichting 1940-1945 foundation was created during the war to provide aid to resistance members and their families. After Netherlands was invaded by Germany in May 1940, Piet and his wife Dina, devout Christians, joined the resistance. Piet helped many Jewish people go into hiding and provided false identities and food coupons. He was arrested by the Gestapo on January 21, 1944. He was jailed, often in solitary, and was tortured and starved. He gave up nothing and was released for lack of evidence after nine months. He resumed his resistance work. After Piet passed away in 1978, his medals were given to Felix and Flory Van Beek, a Jewish couple hidden by Piet and Dina, so the Van Beeks could donate them to a Jewish museum. In June 1942, Piet found Flora crying on the street and convinced her to come hide in his home. He found her boyfriend Felix and married the couple so they could live together in hiding. After Piet's arrest, they hid with Hank Hornsveld and family. The Netherlands was liberated in May 1945.
    Date
    commemoration:  1940 May
    commemoration:  1940-1945
    Geography
    issue: Amsterdam (Netherlands)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Felix and Flory Van Beek and their Estate
    Markings
    front, around edge, embossed : EEN EEUWICH RIJCK VERWERVEN ALS EEN GHETROUWE HELT · [and gain an eternal realm as a faithful hero]
    front, embossed : MCM / XL· / W [1940 / Wenckebach]
    back, embossed : JE MAINTIENDRAI [I will maintain]
    Contributor
    Subject: Piet Brandsen
    Subject: Mrs. Flory Van Beek
    Subject: Mr. Felix Van Beek
    Issuer: Stichting 1940-1945
    Designer: Ludwig O. Wenckebach
    Biography
    Petrus Franciscus (Piet) Brandsen was born on December 29, 1903, in the Netherlands. He married Alberdina Johanna Geertruida (Dina) Truyers, who was born on September 1, 1902. The couple settled in Amersfoort and had four daughters. etherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany on May 10, 1940. The Germans set up a civil occupation administration under the auspices of the SS. Piet and Dina joined the resistance. Piet arranged hiding places for Jewish persons persecuted by the new regime. He also provided them with supplies and false documents. In June 1942, Piet found Flora Cohen, a young Jewish woman, crying while walking to the train station to report in to German authorities. He stopped her, had her remove her Star of David badge, and tld her that he would help her. He offered to hide her in his home. At her request, he found Flora’s boyfriend, Felix Levi, and brought Felix to his home as well. He also arranged a hiding place for Felix’s sister, Nelli, and mother, Jette, with Jacobus and Gezina van der Hoevens. In July, Piet went to Amsterdam to retrieve Nelli’s fiancé, Curt Gutsmuth, and his mother Bertha. He gave both couples and their mothers false identity cards. Because Piet and Jacobus were devout Christians, Piet arranged for Felix and Flora and Nelli and Curt to be married before they lived together in hiding. Piet was active in the Landelijke Knokploeg (National Assault Group), called the LKP. He delivered arms for raids on distribution centers and supplied Allied forces with secret documents about German targets. He got Felix and Flora involved with Het Parool, an illegal resistance newspaper that brought world news to the Dutch people. Felix was born in Germany and could pass as a German soldier, so Piet found him a Dutch mailman’s uniform and added insignia so it looked like a German uniform. Felix could then safely leave the home. On January 21, 1944, Piet was arrested by the Gestapo. He was imprisoned for nine months, spending the first six weeks in Amersfoort camp. He was tortured, starved, and kept in solitary confinement, but never gave up any information. After Piet was released due to lack of evidence, he returned home to Amersfoort and resumed his resistance work. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Piet was awarded a set of six medals from the Dutch government for his bravery and resistance work. Piet and Dina remained in close contact with Felix and Flora Cohen, and visited them several times after they immigrated to the United Statas. Dina died on March 7, 1971. Piet died on March 16, 1978, in the Netherlands. On October 22, 1980, Piet and Dina were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
    Flora Cohen was born on December 3, 1914, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Abraham and Alijda (Aleida) Van Beek Cohen. Flora had three older siblings, Izak (1900-1965), Salomon (1904-1981), and Elisabeth (1906-1996), and two siblings who died before she was born, Moses (1901-1901), and Rosina (1902-1903). Flora’s father Abraham was born on January 23, 1874, in Rotterdam, to Isaac and Elizabeth van Lier Cohen. Flora’s mother Alijda was born on July 23, 1880, in Amersfoort, to Mozes Hartog and Rozina (Annegje) Van Esso Van Beek. Alijda had two sisters: Roosje (Rosa) (1876-1939), and Flora (1878-1943). Alijda and Abraham were married on October 11, 1899. When Flora was 5 years old, Abraham died on May 6, 1920. The family moved to Amersfoort to be closer to Alijda’s family. They were Orthodox and Flora attended services on Friday nights with her grandfather. She attended grammar school, where she learned three languages. After her grandparents died, Flora’s family moved to Amsterdam, then Rotterdam, where they had other relatives, including Flora’s paternal grandmother. In the 1930’s, many German Jewish refugees fled to the Netherlands after Hitler rose to power in 1933. Flora met Felix Levi, a German Jewish refugee who was born on May 2, 1912, in Sennfeld, Germany, to Maier and Jette Aufhauser Levi. He worked for an international import-export grain business.

    Germany annexed Austria in March 1938 and invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and Poland in September 1939. Felix believed that the Germans would invade the Netherlands. His company offered to send him to their offices in South America. Felix offered to take Flora with him to save her life. On November 17, 1939, Flora and Felix sailed on the SS Simon Bolivar. The next day, the ship was hit with two German mines and sunk. It was the first neutral ship to be destroyed by the Germans. Flora and Felix were severely injured and were rescued by a British destroyer. They were brought to Harwich, England, where they recuperated in military hospitals. Felix was a German citizen and was not allowed to stay in England. He wanted to continue to South America, but Flora wanted to return home. In April 1940, Flora and Felix returned to Rotterdam. Felix booked passage on another Dutch ship, which would sail to South America on May 11. On May 10, Germany invaded the Netherlands. After the SS arrived, they began implementing anti-Semitic restrictions. All Jews living on the coast, including Rotterdam, had to move inward. Flora and Alijda returned to Amersfoort. In the fall, they had to turn over their radios, jewelry, gold, and other valuables. In September 1941, they were not allowed to go to public places, including the zoo and parks. They were eventually forbidden from using the train and going into stores. In 1942, the SS led them to believe that they could immigrate to Cuba. They paid for it but never received visas. In January, they were issued identification cards stamped with a J for Jew. Beginning in May, they had to wear Star of David badges. In summer 1942, German authorities began arresting and deporting Jews. Flora’s mother Alijda was taken and her siblings were missing.

    In June, Flora got a summons to report to the train station. On her way there, she was stopped by Piet Brandsen, a Christian who was active in the resistance movement. He offered to hide Flora in his home in Amersfoort. She told him about Felix, so Piet found him and brought him to the home. Piet got false papers for the couple under the names Johannes Jacobus van Ophuizen and Hendrika Helmina Gejtenbeek. Piet insisted that they be married before they could hide in a room together, so he found a rabbi. The rabbi gave Piet seven Hebrew words and told him that if Flora and Felix repeated them, they would be married. Piet could only remember two of the words but married Flora and Felix on July 9. They hid in a small room upstairs and could not come downstairs during the day. In the fall, they received a farewell letter from Flora’s mother, written on September 7. She had been taken to Amsterdam, then sent to Westerbork transit camp. She knew she was going to be deported and believed she would not survive. Piet helped look for Alijda and went to Westerbork, where he learned that she had been sent to Poland. Flora and Felix eventually got involved with the resistance. Felix could pass as a German soldier, so Piet got him a Dutch mailman’s uniform and added insignia to make it look like a German uniform. They listened to BBC broadcasts on a radio, then Felix spread notes from the broadcasts. Flora typed food coupons and the resistance newspaper, Het Parool, which included lists of names of reliable Dutch citizens who could be trusted to hide Jews. Flora dyed her hair blonde and would sometimes leave the house to distribute the news on a bicycle.

    On January 21, 1944, the Gestapo came to arrest Piet. They searched the house, but did not look upstairs and did not find the couple. Felix and Flora decided to leave so they did not endanger Piet’s family. They looked for Jacobus and Gezina van der Hoevens, who were hiding Felix’s sister and mother. Jacobus could not take them in because he was already hiding several Jews. He gave them the name of Hank Hornsveld, who would most likely hide them. Flora and Felix walked to the Hornsveld family home on the outskirts of town, with Felix wearing his fake German uniform. The Hornsveld family agreed to let them to stay. Flora and Felix had to stay upstairs because the family had a wood business downstairs with employees. There was a severe food shortage in winter 1943, so Flora, Felix, the Hornsvelds, and their neighbors stole grain from a German silo. When the Allied forces parachuted into the area in September 1944, Flora and Felix thought they were liberated, but the Allies were pushed back by the Germans. In January 1945, Flora, Felix, and the Hornsveld family were ordered to leave the house by German soldiers and evacuated to Soest. Flora and Felix had to leave behind their false papers. They were eventually able to return to Amersfoort in a circus wagon. The Netherlands was liberated on May 5, 1945.

    Flora and Felix went to Amsterdam, then Rotterdam, and were eventually legally married. Flora learned that many of her relatives perished in the Holocaust. Flora’s mother Alijda was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp or Sobibor extermination camp in September 1942, where she was killed. Her paternal uncle Salomon and his wife Sophie, and her paternal uncle Charles and his wife Betsie were killed in a concentration camp. Her maternal uncle Jacob Coster, Rosa’s husband, her maternal aunt Flora, and Flora’s husband Jules Frank were most likely killed in May 1943 in Sobibor. Flora was reunited with her three siblings. Izak and Elisabeth survived in hiding with Christian families. Salomon escaped to Spain and enlisted in the British Army. Flora and Felix decided to immigrate to the United States. On April 27, 1948, Flora and Felix arrived in New York on the SS Nieuw Amsterdam. They settled in Los Angeles and changed their names to Felix and Flory Astrid Van Beek, adopting Alijda’s maiden name. Flory worked at an attorney’s office. Felix worked a variety of jobs until the couple opened a furniture store in 1968. They remained in close contact with the Brandsen and Hornsveld families and helped Hank Jr. and Burt Hornsveld immigrate to California. In 1954, Felix and Flory adopted a son, who died at age 16 of cancer. Felix, 97, died on January 26, 2010, in Newport Beach, California. Flory, 95, passed away on June 30, 2010.
    Felix Levi was born on May 2, 1912, in Sennfeld, Germany, to Maier and Jette Aufhauser Levi. He had several siblings, including two brothers and a sister, Nelli. His mother Jette was born on April 7, 1875, in Hainsfarth, Germany, to Samuel and Babette Munster Aufhauser.

    In January 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany and by summer, the Nazi dictatorship was established. Felix and his family fled Germany and settled in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Felix got a job with an international grain import-export business. He met Flora Cohen, who was born on December 3, 1914, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to Abraham and Alijda (Aleida) Van Beek Cohen. After Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939, and attacked Poland in September 1939. Felix believed that Germany would invade the Netherlands. His company offered to send him to their offices in South America. Felix offered to take Flora with him to save her life. On November 17, 1939, they sailed on the SS Simon Bolivar. The next day, the ship hit two German mines and sunk; the first neutral ship destroyed by the Germans. Flora and Felix were severely injured. They were rescued by a British destroyer and taken a military hospital in Harwich, England. After they recovered, Felix, as a German citizen, was not allowed to stay in England. He wanted to continue to South America, but Flora wanted to return home. In April 1940, they returned to Rotterdam. Felix booked passage on another Dutch ship, sailing to South America on May 11. But on May 10, Germany invaded and it could not depart. The occupation government, under SS auspices, implemented anti-Jewish restrictions. All Jews living on the coast, including Rotterdam, had to move inland. In the fall, they had to turn over radios, jewelry, gold, and other valuables. On November 11, Felix’s family business was taken over by the government, as Jews could no longer operated businesses and he was fired. Curfews were imposed and they were banned from stores. In January 1942, they were issued identification cards stamped with a J for Jew. Beginning in May, they had to wear Star of David badges. In summer 1942, German authorities began arresting and deporting Jews to concentration and labor camps in the east. People could be taken from anywhere, at any time, even from operating tables. Felix’s mother Jette was undergoing an operation. The hospital was warned by that German police were coming, and the doctors released Jette. She was found in an alley in very poor condition and saved a Dutch Christian.

    In summer 1942, Felix went into hiding with Piet Brandsen, a Dutch Christian active in the resistance. Flora was already in hiding with Piet and she asked him to find Felix. Piet also arranged for Felix’s sister and their mother to go into hiding with a family in Amersfoort. Piet got false papers for Felix and Flora under the names Johannes Jacobus van Ophuizen and Hendrika Helmina Gejtenbeek. He insisted that they be married if they wished to hide in a room together. He found a rabbi, who have gave Piet seven Hebrew words and told him that if Flora and Felix repeated them, they would be married. Piet remembered only two of the words but on July 9, he married the couple. They hid in a small upstairs room and could not come downstairs during the day. They eventually got involved with the resistance. Felix could pass as a German soldier, and Piet got him a Dutch mailman’s uniform and added insignia to make it look like a German uniform. They illegally listened to BBC radio broadcasts, and Felix shared the news with others. Flora typed food coupons and the newspaper of the resistance, Het Parool.

    On January 21, 1944, the Gestapo came to the house to arrest Piet. They searched the house, but did not look upstairs and did not find the couple. Felix and Flora decided to leave so they did not endanger Piet’s family. They looked for Jacobus and Gezina van der Hoevens, who were hiding Felix’s sister and mother. Jacobus could not take them in because he was already hiding several Jews. He gave them the name of Hank Hornsveld, who would likely hide them. Flora and Felix walked to the Hornsveld family home on the outskirts of town, with Felix wearing his fake German uniform. The Hornsveld family agreed to let them to stay. Flora and Felix had to stay upstairs because the family had a wood business downstairs with employees. There was a severe food shortage in winter 1943, and Flora, Felix, the Hornsvelds, and their neighbors stole grain from a German silo. When Allied forces parachuted into the area in September 1944, Flora and Felix thought they were liberated, but the Allies were pushed back by the Germans. During winter 1944, Felix was very ill; the Hornsveld sons, Hank Junior and Bertus, were able to get him milk and eggs from a farm. In January 1945, Flora, Felix, and the Hornsveld family were ordered to leave the house by German soldiers and evacuated to Soest. Flora and Felix had to leave behind their false papers. They later returned to Amersfoort in a circus wagon. The Netherlands was liberated on May 5, 1945.

    Flora and Felix went to Amsterdam, then Rotterdam, and were eventually legally married. They learned that Flora’s mother and most of her extended family had perished, although her siblings survived. Two of Felix’s brothers lived in New York and encouraged the couple to immigrate to the United States. On April 27, 1948, the couple arrived in New York on the SS Nieuw Amsterdam. They settled in Los Angeles and changed their names to Felix and Flory Astrid Van Beek, adopting Alijda’s maiden name. Flory worked at an attorney’s office. Felix worked a variety of jobs until the couple opened a furniture store in 1968. They remained in close contact with the Brandsen and Hornsveld families and helped Hank Jr. and Burt Hornsveld immigrate to California. In 1954, Felix and Flory adopted a son, who died at age 16 of cancer. Felix, 97, died on January 26, 2010.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Dutch French
    Classification
    Awards
    Category
    Medals
    Object Type
    Medals, Dutch (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Heavy, circular, bronze medal with an embossed image of a nude male in right profile, seated with his back bowed, right knee pulled up toward chest, left folded behind it. His head rests on the shield strapped to his left arm. His right arms hangs behind him, gripping a broken sword. The Roman numeral 1940 and a stanza of the Dutch national anthem Wilhelmus are embossed around the rim. On the back is the motto of the Dutch royal family, an embossed Netherlands lion rampant, a left facing crowned lion, with a raised sword in one paw and a bundle of 7 arrows in the other. There are broken shackles on its front legs and a broken swastika below. The edge is smooth, with a stamped oval maker’s mark. All medals in the series have the same design on the back.
    Dimensions
    overall: | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm) | Diameter: 2.375 inches (6.033 cm)
    Materials
    overall : metal

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The medal was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1990 by Felix and Flory Van Beek.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:21:22
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn3181

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