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Ordedienst orange armband worn by a Dutch rescuer after the war

Object | Accession Number: 2010.488.3

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    Ordedienst orange armband worn by a Dutch rescuer after the war

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    Brief Narrative
    Ordedienst [Order Service] armband issued in Harderwijk, Netherlands, and worn by Paul Paulus after liberation in April 1945. It identified Paul as an official civilian authority. During the German occupation of the Netherlands, May 1940-April 1945, Paul and his wife, Aaltje, who lived in Ermelo, aided resistance efforts by hiding Jews in their home. In October 1942, they gave refuge to a Jewish couple, Michel and Saartje Nathans, from Amsterdam, whose young daughter, Anita, was hidden in a different home. Paul built a hidden chamber in the attic bedroom where Michel and Saartje stayed. He built three other hiding places: a dugout under their kitchen floor and two deep holes outside in the nearby woods. Paul played a leadership role for the resistance in his area and the hideouts were used frequently. On April 18, 1945, Ermelo was liberated by British, Irish, and Canadian forces. Michel and Saartje reunited with Anita and returned to Amsterdam.
    use:  1945 April
    use: Harderwijk (Netherlands)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the family of Alice and Paul Paulus
    front, top, stenciled, black ink: ORDEDIENST [Order Service]
    front, within stamp, black ink: illegible text / HARD[E]RW[IJ]K
    Subject: Paul Paulus
    Paul Paulus was born on April 29, 1916. He married Aaltje (Alice) Rijskamp, who was born on February 20, 1915, in Stedum, Netherlands. They settled in Ermelo. On May 10, 1940, the Germans occupied the Netherlands, and on May 14, the Dutch Army surrendered. Paul became involved with the Dutch resistance movement. He tried to work for the resistance in England, but the coast already had been occupied by the Germans. Aaltje gave birth to a daughter, Ineke, in May 1942.

    In summer 1942, the German authorities began deporting Dutch Jews to extermination camps. The town doctor, Dr. Holtrop, was active in the resistance and asked Paul and Aaltje to shelter Jews in need of temporary way stations as they awaited more permanent locations. The first person to stay with them was an elderly Jewish man from Amsterdam who insisted upon taking daily walks through the village. This attracted attention and people asked the Paulus’s if their guest was a Jew. After a month, he was moved to another hiding place.

    A few other people stayed briefly in their home. In October, Paul and Aaltje gave refuge to a young Jewish couple, Michel and Saartje (Selly) Nathans, from Amsterdam. The resistance had provided them with new names and identification cards. The couple had sent their two year old daughter, Anita, who was deaf, to live with a non-Jewish family in a different home. They did not wish to move elsewhere. After the two couples talked, the Paulus’s invited them to stay longer. To keep their existence secret, Michel and Saartje stayed all day in a small upstairs bedroom. Michel made small wooden tie racks, which Paul then sold. Saartje mended the family’s clothes and crocheted gloves. The couples spent evenings downstairs together sharing stories, listening to the progress of the war on a hidden radio, or reading the Bible. Paul sometimes put wet clothes over the stove to steam up the windows, so Michel and Saartje sometimes could be downstairs during the day, carefully avoiding windows.

    One evening in 1943, they were warned by one of Paul’s relatives that the German police had arrived in Ermelo and planned to go door to door looking for Jews. Paul constructed a hiding place behind the upstairs bedroom wall for Michel and Saartje. On December 16, Saartje’s birthday, he arranged for Anita to visit her parents. They had not seen her in over a year. On January 7, 1944, Aaltje gave birth to a son, Paul Bernard. As the war continued, resources became scarce and the gas and electricity were shut off. They cut down trees in the nearby forest and used doors and furniture for firewood to keep warm. In early 1944, Paul and Michel occasionally went out after dark to take firewood from a German stockpile across the street. They used candles at night, but when this supply dwindled, they used oil soaked rags. Food supplies were meager. Aaltje’s sister and her husband lived in Groningen and came by train every month with suitcases filled with potatoes, flour, peas, and bacon. They got vegetables from a neighbor’s garden and bought grain from the nearby farmers to bake bread.

    In 1944, Paul and one of his brothers dug out a small crawl space under the kitchen floor for Michel and Saartje to sleep at night. They put down straw, a mattress, and blankets. It was accessed by a wooden trap door that was concealed by a rug and the kitchen table. Paul also dug two holes in the wooded area outside the house to be used a hiding places. They were deep enough to hide several people and were covered with wood slats, grass, leaves, and tree branches. They were used often to hide Jews, as well as resistance members, including Paul, because of his leadership role in the resistance. One night, the families heard boots and voices outside. Michel and Saartje hid under the trap door. Aaltje prayed and answered the door to four armed German soldiers in need of directions.
    German authorities ordered Paul’s brother, Keimpe, to report for a work detail in Germany. He refused, and they threatened to burn down his house. The Jewish couple who were living in hiding in Keimpe’s house was sent to Paul’s house where, for two weeks, they shared a room with Michel and Saartje. Aaltje’s brother, Jan, refused to report for military duty. He was sent to a labor camp in the Netherlands then deported to a concentration camp in Germany. He escaped, and walked back to the Netherlands. Many resistance members and rescuers were caught and sent to concentration camps or killed, but Paul and Aaltje continued to take in people. The resistance eventually infiltrated the local police force, which allowed them to find out about impending raids. On September 17, 1944, Allied airborne operations began in their province. The southern Netherlands was liberated, but the northern region, which included Ermelo, remained occupied. In winter 1944-1945, they suffered a terrible famine because of the German blockade. On April 18, 1945, British, Irish, and Canadian forces liberated Ermelo. Aaltje and Paul did not learn Michel and Saartje’s real names until after the war. The couple stayed with them for a few months then reunited with their daughter and returned to Amsterdam. Seventy of Michel and Saartje’s relatives, many Dutch citzens, perished in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Aaltje and Paul had another daughter, Anneke, after the war. The families remained close. In 1956, the United States offered immigration opportunities to those involved in the resistance, and the Paulus family emigrated to the US the following year. They settled in Westerville, Ohio. Aaltje spoke often of their wartime experiences to civic groups. Paul passed away, age 64, on March 17, 1981. In 1987, Paul and Aaltje were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. Aaltje passed away, age 84, on March 3, 1999.

    Physical Details

    Identifying Artifacts
    Object Type
    Armbands (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular orange cloth armband with edges hemmed in yellow thread. The short ends are unfinished and sewn together to form a band. Dutch text is stenciled near the upper edge in light black ink; below is an indistinct, circular black stamp with Dutch text.
    overall: Height: 4.250 inches (10.795 cm) | Width: 7.250 inches (18.415 cm)
    overall : cloth, ink, thread

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The warden's armband was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010 by Paul B. Paulus, the son of Alice and Paul Paulus.
    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 18:26:31
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