• Beth Hildebrand

Dora’s Story

It was Christmas Eve Eve and our family had blankets covering us on the sofa and popcorn popped. We watched the classic musical the Sound of Music.

I watched the entire movie when I was a child and then parts here and there every so often since. I remember seeing the breathtaking valleys and mountain as the children sang, “Do a deer, a female deer…” and remember the mansion and all of the children lined up in a row, according to height, while their militant father spoke with them. I remember how Maria, the Austrian nun, who became a governess, and Georg von Trapp, the Naval officer widow, fell in love with each other. But I don’t remember the part after they got married. I forgot how they were chased by the Nazis in Austria because Georg no longer wanted anything to do with them. He was about to be drafted into the Nazi German Navy and forced to fight against his own country.

And the story continues. The new vonTrapp family had to hide. Those children had to have been scared knowing the “bad guys” were hunting for them. They had to hide to save their lives. They wanted to hide to save other innocent people’s lives. We hid under warm blankets on the sofa watching the movie and I started thinking of the story a 93 year young woman recently told me a month or two ago.

Dora has a story and just listening to it, I might have learned more about the Holocaust from her stories than I ever did in history class. To hear the story from someone who actually experienced it adds new meaning.

She experienced it. She hid. She saved. She had a heart for others. She was raised in a Protestant Christian boarding school in Holland. She loved Jesus, and still does. She also loved her only sibling, her brother Jan, dearly. Their father died when she was seven and Jan was six. They were very close and both had the heart…or passion… to help others and risked their lives doing it.


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The people they helped were the Jews during World War II. Dora’s brother was passionate about helping save lives, and she supported him 110%. He led a group of rescuers to help the Jews and other groups hide from the Nazis.

So, here’s Dora’s story. Here in her own words (and Swedish accent)…

“Jan was passionate about wanting to help save the lives of Jewish people, and other people who were discriminated, including Christians, during the Holocaust. I respected him for being that way and for sacrificing his life for other people. Like my brother, I also believed it was so horrible to mistreat and kill the Jews, Christians and others the Germans were looking for. I thought it was sad that people had to hide.

As young adults, in our mid-twenties, we were very much against the Nazis taking the Jews and putting them into concentration camps. We felt it was against human rights. We thought it was a terrible thing. I believed they were people that God made. I had made a good friend while I was living at the boarding school and she was Jewish. I felt terrible that her family was suffering because they were Jewish. During the war, the Jews had to wear a special coat so the Germans could see who the Jews were. I remember my friend’s mother never wanted to put on that coat. Because she was a very good friend of mine, I got to know many Jewish people.

My brother was very involved in saving people’s lives and leading others to do the same. Along with Jan, several others and I would “lose” our identity cards on purpose but really give our card to other Jews who would take our names and use our cards. We were trying to help save their lives. The Jews had different identity cards than we had, so it would be very obvious if someone was a Jew or not. I remember when Nazis came to our houses and looked for Jews because they were searching to capture them and send them to the concentration camps. I ‘lost’ my card several times and I was never scared to do what I was doing to help them.

To help the Jewish people from getting caught by the Nazis, Jan, along with a few others would tell the Jews to go to “the Underground”, a secret hiding place. The Americans would send messages to my brother and other American allies including Canadians, telling what was happening in France, Germany and other countries. We had a radio but the Jews were not allowed to listen to it; they were taken away from them. So, we would get messages by the Americans and they told us information we needed to know, including when they were about to deliver us letters and supplies for the Jews. The American and allies would drop papers out of the airplane with the latest news. But sometimes the Nazis would get them. The messages were sent in cloth bags. My brother and his friends would go and collected them. Then the girls, including me, would make clothes out of the material from the bags. During the war, we could not buy any material to make dresses so we made do with what we could find. The letters in the bag informed my brother what the enemies were doing. He would go up and down the streets when he knew the Germans were coming and would tell the Jews to go to the Underground.

Near the end of the war, my brother and a few of his friends were supposed to meet up with some Canadians to go and help some Jews get to the Underground in a special part of town. They went to meet at the border of our home town because the Canadians were coming from that side. But the Canadians changed their minds and did not come and my brother and the others were discovered by the Germans who found out what my brother and the others were trying to do. Therefore the Germans wanted to kill them.

But one of the German soldiers was ordered by another German soldier to kill my brother and the three others. But he refused to kill them because he was a father and had children of his own who were the same age as my brother. So, the other German soldier shot him because he refused to kill them. Then he killed my brother and the other two boys and girl.

Even though that was so painful to me, it was still hard to hate the Germans because I knew there were still kind people who were German. A German soldier refused to kill my brother because underneath his uniform hid a caring heart. It wasn’t a matter of the people; it was a matter of the government. Something I admire the most about my brother was how he helped Jews and others from our country, Holland, escape and hide from the Nazis during World War II. Those years were very difficult for most people in the world, and it really was for me, too. I was living in the midst of the Holocaust and I cared for many people who lost their lives, especially my brother. I was brought up to love one another, even people with different beliefs than mine. So when the Holocaust happened, I thought it was such a terrible thing.”


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So, that’s just a tiny part of Dora’s story. I usually hide to escape my fears, or hide to cover my feelings, or hide to avoid unattractive situations, or hide in the depths of my comfort zone. The only thing Dora hid were other people so she could save their lives. The only time Dora hid herself, was when she was saving the lives of others and she had no fear doing it. She had a heart to be bold. She had to heart of Jesus to save lives.

(This is an expert from her life story book I created for her. If you’re interested in getting more information about Life and Faithbooks contact me! I’d love to help!)

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