Hidden by the Dutch underground, Joe Koek and his sisters lost nearly all in the Holocaust Print
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Written by Timothy Holubik   
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 10:43

The 32nd Annual Quad Cities Holocaust Remembrance, known as Yom HaShoah, will be held
Sunday, April 7, at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanuel, 1115 Mississippi Avenue in Davenport. The speaker
for this year’s community-wide commemoration, Joe Koek, was born in 1930 in The Hague, Holland.
Joe, his parents and two sisters were hidden by the Dutch resistance in a secret apartment, until his parents were arrested and sent to Auschwitz. Fearing the parents might be tortured to give up the children’s location, the underground separated them, sending Joe to a farm in a hamlet known as Zevenhuizen.

Joe changed his name and lived as a Protestant, the teenager posing as the farm couple’s “distant
cousin visiting from Amsterdam.” In the fall of 1944, Joe broke his leg and was sent to a hospital, where he was recovering when the Nazis – now being pushed east by advancing U.S. and British forces – liquidated the town.

Thanks to Joe’s “lucky break,” he was saved from the liquidation and later moved twice, landing
finally in Oosterzee, where he lived until liberation. After the war, Joe spent six years at a Jewish
orphanage, where he was reunited with his sisters. Today, one of Joe’s sisters lives in Amsterdam and the other in Chicago, not far from Joe. Both of their parents were killed in Auschwitz.

In conjunction with this year’s Remembrance, the Yom HaShoah Committee is again partnering
with the Geifman Endowment in Holocaust Studies at Augustana College to present a public lecture by
Joe Koek on Monday, April 8, beginning at 7:00 p.m. in Augustana’s Wallenberg Hall, located in the
Denkmann Memorial Building, 3520 7th Avenue in Rock Island. Whereas during the Yom HaShoah
Memorial Mr. Koek will share a message of remembrance and hope, in the Geifman Lecture he will
present a more complete account of his experiences during the Holocaust.

Also during this year’s Remembrance, the Yom HaShoah Committee of the Quad Cities will present
its Richard A. Swanson Hope for Humanity Award to Ida Kramer, former executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities and longtime Holocaust educator. The Hope for Humanity Award has only been presented six times in the 32-year history of the Remembrance, most recently in 2008 to Alan Egly, executive director of the Doris and Victor Day and Rauch Family Foundations.

(The following background information was compiled from a variety of sources, including Every Person’s Guide to Judaism by Stephen J. Einstein and Lydia Kukoff, 1989, UAHC Press, New York.)

Prior to World War II, approximately 8.7 million Jews lived in Europe. By war’s end, some six million of them had been systematically murdered by Nazi Germany and its allies.

A crime of such horrendous proportions could not have been perpetrated in a vacuum. Centuries of anti-Jewish teachings – either promulgated or countenanced by churches and states – created fertile ground for the seed of Nazi hatred to flourish. The people of Europe had been conditioned to despise Jews and see them as something less than human. Thus, many could rationalize the elimination of the Jews not as murder, but as the removal of an unwelcome element of their society.

Millions of people from many ethnic backgrounds were killed in Nazi extermination camps, but Adolf Hitler ordered that ferocious intensity be brought to bear in reaching his goal of destroying the Jewish people. In his terminology, it was the “final solution to the Jewish problem.” The murder of six million Jews, including one and a half million children, has branded the names of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Majdanek and many more camps into the memories of the generation that witnessed the Holocaust and those who have learned of it since.

Yom HaShoah, or “Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust,” occurs every year in communities around the world. While it is primarily observed by Jews, it is by no means an exclusive commemoration, as witnessed by the community-wide event held here in the Quad Cities.

We remember the Holocaust not simply because it is a Jewish tragedy. We talk about it because we
believe the world must not be allowed to forget that twelve million innocent human beings, six million of them Jews, were murdered by the Nazis. Yom HaShoah seeks to ensure that a crime of such proportions will never be allowed to happen again. We keep the memory of the Holocaust alive to guard against the wanton destruction of any people.

In the Quad Cities, Yom HaShoah has been observed annually since 1982. The committee which organizes the observance was initially formed by representatives of the Quad Cities’ Jewish and Christian communities, and has maintained ecumenism in its membership and mission ever since. Sponsors of the 2010 Yom HaShoah service include the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities, Temple Emanuel, Tri-City Jewish Center, Churches United, Augustana College and St. Ambrose University. It is believe to be the oldest continuing interfaith Yom HaShoah commemoration.

All persons of faith are encouraged to attend.

Media: For more information, please contact Allan Ross at 309.793.1300, or Kai Swanson at 309.794.7419.

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