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7/25/2011
 
Mother Named “Righteous Among the Nations”
 
Houston-Area Relatives of Jewish Protector to Receive Prestigious Award from Yad Vashem
 
HOUSTON, TX (July 25, 2011) – The Houston-area family of a German national who protected three Jewish men during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam will receive the prestigious “Righteous Among the Nations” award in her memory during ceremonies this September at Holocaust Museum Houston.

Dieter Heymann

 Dr. Dieter Heymann with a photo of his mother, Erika Heymann



Dr. Dieter Heymann, a retired geology professor from Rice University, and other family members will accept the medal and a certificate from Israeli Consul General Meir Shlomo on behalf of the State of Israel in honor of Heymann’s mother, Erika Heymann.

Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial, named Heymann’s mother one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for harboring the Jewish men and enduring more than one year in the Dutch concentration camp Vught.

Heymann and his family will receive the honor at a ceremony co-hosted by Holocaust Museum Houston and the Consulate General of Israel to the Southwest on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater at the Museum’s Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. Admission is free, but seating is limited, and advanced registration is requested. A reception will follow the presentation. Visit www.hmh.org/RegisterEvent.aspx to RSVP online.

Chaja Verveer, a Holocaust survivor and board member of Holocaust Museum Houston who was protected by a family active in the Dutch resistance, will speak about the importance of those like Erika Heymann who stood up against the Nazis to protect Jews and others persecuted by Adolf Hitler’s brutal regime. The family that protected her was betrayed and the father and Verveer were sent to the concentration camps. After the war, the family was recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

Heymann, a German citizen who married a Jewish politician before Hitler’s rise to power, fled to Amsterdam when her husband was arrested in 1933. With the assistance of a British family, she became a permanent resident and opened a boarding house there.

The Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940, upending the family’s world and outlawing assistance for Jews.

Heymann knowingly broke the law by allowing three Jewish men — Erwin Geismar, Albert Keijzer and Chanan Flörsheim — to live in her home beginning in 1942, according to Yad Vashem.

The men disguised themselves and pretended to have jobs in the city in order to fit in; one even attended Catholic Mass on Sundays to dissuade interest in his religious affiliation. Their lives were at stake, and they knew it, but Heymann sacrificed everything in order to resist the injustice.

“To defy the Nazi regime was to risk your life, and to risk your life for a stranger takes an astonishing act of courage,” Shlomo said. “The heroism Erika Heymann displayed and the valor that was demonstrated is truly inspirational. She did what is right not for glory or recognition, but because it was right. The State of Israel recognizes the sacrifices she made that made her a truly righteous person.”

Susan Myers, the Museum’s executive director, described Heymann’s courage in the face of the Nazi regime as inspiring. “As a Museum, we teach that there are only four roles any individual can play in society. If we are not to be victims, then our only choices are to be perpetrators of evil and injustice, indifferent bystanders who allow it to occur or upstanders who do the right thing despite risk or peril. Erika Heymann chose to be an upstander.”

Heymann was arrested by the German intelligence agency and imprisoned in the concentration camp Vught in 1943. Her children were not at home at the time and came back only after the Nazis had taken everything that mattered out of their lives. Their mother was released from Vught in April 1944, but she was very sick and died in 1950 after contracting leukemia in the concentration camp.

“Righteous Among the Nations,” a title taken from Jewish literature to describe non-Jews who come to the aid of the Jews during times of need, was established in 1954 by the Israeli government to honor those who risked their lives to assist Jews during the Holocaust.

Recipients must be nominated by Jewish non-family members and go through an application process — based on signed and notarized testimonies and documentation — that verifies accounts of their actions. Heymann was nominated by Flörsheim, one of the three men who sought shelter in her boarding house. He escaped when the Nazis arrested everyone in 1943 and eventually made his way to Palestine. He currently lives in Kibbutz Yakum, Israel.

Dieter Heymann, who was 16 at the time of her arrest, described his mother as a courageous woman who was willing to risk everything to stand up against evil.

“She was the kind of woman who would stand up and say, ‘I will not bow to evil,’” he said. “We all knew what was going on, but we were trained to deny any knowledge that they were Jews if my mother was ever caught.”

More than 5,100 people from the Netherlands have received the title, making the nation second only to Poland for the highest number of honorees. Recipients are given a medal, a certificate of honor and their names are added to the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous on the Mount of Remembrance at Yad Vashem.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.

Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004. For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.
 
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Holocaust Museum Houston is a member of the Houston Museum District Association and is located in Houston's Museum District.

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Effective April 15, 2014, admission rates for Holocaust Museum Houston will change. Please note the new rates:

Members FREE
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Holocaust Museum Houston is free each Thursday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Memorial Day (May 26, 2014), D-Day (June 6, 2014), Kristallnacht (Nov. 9, 2014) and International Holocaust Remembrance Day (Jan. 27, 2015).

The Laurie and Milton Boniuk Resource Center and Library is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Library is closed Saturdays and Sundays.

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