October 22, 2018

The IRWF celebrates the birthday of a great Belgian Rescuer

Johan Hendrik Weidner Jr. born on October 22, 1912, participated in the life-saving efforts of around 1,000 people during the Holocaust.

John Hendrik Weidner was born 106 years ago in Brussels, Belgium, to Dutch parents. His father was a minister.

In 1940 he was living in Paris, working for a commercial firm. In that same year, the Nazis invaded Holland. He tried to reach England to joined the Allied forces, but was unable to do it and he fled Paris and moved to Lyon. There, in 1941, he founded “Dutch-Paris”, an underground organization, headquartered at his new textile business in Lyon. He also set-up a second business in Annecy, to facilitate the issuance of passes to go in and out of the Swiss frontier zone.

His underground network became a major rescue player for persecuted people, including Jews, Allied airmen and Dutch dignitaries. It is believed that “Dutch-Paris” saved the lives of some 1,000 people, including 800 Jews, many of whom made it to Switzerland or Spain.

In its peak, “Dutch-Paris” had 300 members. Half of them were apprehended and 40 were killed by the Nazi captors, including Weidner’s own sister.

The Gestapo put a 5 million Francs reward for Weidner’s arest and in February 1944 and eventually he was arrested and brutally tormented by the French gendarmerie and the Milice, but he managed to escape before being transferred to the Gestapo.

After the war, Weidner was awarded the United States Medal of Freedom, the Order of the British Empire and the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau, while France bestowed upon him the Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance.

He was recognized as Righteous among the Nations in 1978 and passed away on May 21, 1994.

Baruch Tenembaum, founder of the IRWF underscored his legacy, stating that ” Johan Hendrik Weidner was a remarkable rescuer. A person of true courage who did not hesitate to risk his own life to save other. We shall always remember him”.