LEX Menco and his four sons would never have been born if not for the bravery of Marinus and Marie Zwart, who hid his mother Bela during the Holocaust.
Last week, Menco travelled from Israel to Nambour, Queensland, to witness Marinus and Marie be posthumously honoured as Righteous Among the Nations for their bravery in hiding his mother along with another teenage girl, a couple and their child in their home in the Netherlands.
Their son Gerry Zwart, who resides in Nambour, accepted the award on their behalf from Israeli ambassador Mark Sofer.
“We were doing it because it had to be done,” Zwart, now 90, told The AJN.
“I’m one of a family of 12 so there was nothing unusual to have a lot of people in the house,” he continued, though noting at that time, “There was no food to go around, we had to beg, borrow and steal whatever food you could get and having the extra mouths to feed made it a bit harder.”
The other challenge, he said, was not getting caught.
“A couple of times we had raids, so we had to put them into hiding places. We had double walls upstairs in the house and we had a trapdoor downstairs so they could get into the floor,” he said.
At one point the girls hid under the floorboards for 12 hours during a Nazi raid.
“If they had caught a few Jews in our house, we would get the same treatment as the Jews, which was [to be] sent off to the concentration camps,” Zwart said.
Lex Menco said the Zwarts “stood up against the evil Nazi killing machine”.
“The Zwarts risked their own lives by this heroic humane act,” he said.
“Not only did they save my mum, they saved her complete offspring of three children and seven grandchildren.”
Speaking via video from Israel at the ceremony, Bela Menco said she remembered Marinus saying “it is the same if they kill me for one, or for two”.
“Gerry I want to thank you and your family very much for saving me and I’m very happy that Yad Vashem recognises your parents as Righteous Among the Nations,” she said.
Sofer said, “The bravery, compassion, and selfless heroism of the Zwart family is deserving of the deepest gratitude of the Israeli people and the State of Israel.
“No less important is the legacy they leave us all – that standing and fighting for the humanitarian values we hold so dear is an imperative, even in the face of unspeakable evil.”