by Aaron Leibel
Anneke Pleijsier was just 7 years old when her parents
risked their lives to save Jews and others during the Nazi occupation
But Pleijsier, a Gaithersburg resident, remembers Zilpa
Meibergen, one of the Jews whom her parents, Neeltje Pleijsier Van Buren
and Hendrik Willem Pleijsier, had sheltered. The couple were
recognized at the Embassy of Israel on Friday.
In her speech at the ceremony, Pleijsier noted that
Meibergen, "who at that time was about 15 years, helped my mother in
the house, whenever it was safe to do so. On occasion she slept in my
bedroom; it had an unused fireplace, and behind this was a small open
space. Zilpa had to hide there on occasion, when the Germans came into
the house. She lived with us from late 1942 until mid-1943."
Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren presented Pleijsier and her
brother, Robbert-Jacob, the award of Righteous Among the Nations,
which the two accepted on behalf of their parents. The award was
presented posthumously by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and
Heroes' Remembrance Authority of the State of Israel in Jerusalem, and
is given to those who saved the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
"Thank you for bestowing such an honor upon our parents," Pleijsier said in her speech.
Also at the embassy was Mira Goldberg of Rehovot, Israel,
one of Meibergen's children. Pleijsier described their meeting as
"wonderful, very emotional on both sides."
Pleijsier's memories of the period are somewhat vague. Her
father was the sexton of The Remonstrant Reformed Brotherhood, a
Protestant church, and the family lived in the complex surrounding the
church. She recalls that there were usually people hiding in her home
and in the complex during the Nazi occupation -- Jews, German
deserters, members of the Dutch underground.
The process to have the Pleijsiers named Righteous Gentiles started by accident, according to Goldberg's sister, Roni Thome.
Interviewed by telephone from Holland, she said in 2007 she
was researching the archives of The Hague, the Dutch city where she
lives, when she stumbled upon the name of Hans Pleijsier, brother of
Anneke and Robbert-Jacob. She recognized the name from her mother's
stories, e-mailed him and thus began the process that ended almost
three years later at the embassy on Friday.
Pleijsier said her parents didn't discuss what they were
doing during the war for fear that the children might talk and their
secret get out.
Even after the war, they didn't talk about what they had
done, she says, because they felt their experiences had been
In 1944, the Nazis had raided her home, arresting her
father and uncle. They were sent to a work camp, but both escaped and
After the war, Pleijsier noted in her speech, Queen
Wilhelmina wanted all members of the Dutch resistance to be
acknowledged. To that end, her father was offered the "Resistance
Cross," but didn't accept it.
"My father was a very humble man and politely refused,
saying, 'This is something we had to do, and we don't need to receive a
royal honor.' "
Thome said her mother "spoke a lot about the war, but told
us only shreds of stories. My mother said the Pleijsier family was
very nice to her."
Meibergen died in 2000, having refused her children's
entreaties to go to Yad Vashem because she thought she had endured
relatively little suffering during the Holocaust compared with Jews
who had been in concentration camps.
Pleijsier's father died in 1991, her mother in 1997.