- Category : 1896-births
- Type : ME
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Small (36)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX The Alpha 1
Dutch businessman and diplomat who helped Jews escape Lithuania during World War II.
Zwartendijk directed the Philips plants in Lithuania. On 29 May 1940 he was approached by Dutch ambassador to Latvia, L. P. J. de Decker, to become consul of the Dutch government-in-exile. The Philips plants were not assembling any radio's then, as the Red Army prepared for an attack on Lithuania. The Phillips shop in the main street of Kaunas would become the consulate. And this would be the case until the Soviets nationalized all foreign property on 3 August 1940.
When the Soviet Union took over Lithuania in 1940, some Jewish Dutch residents in Lithuania approached Zwartendijk to get a visa to the Dutch Indies. With Decker's permission, Zwartendijk agreed to help them. The word spread and Jews who had fled from German-occupied Poland also sought his assistance. Ambassador de Dekker had said that entering Curaçao in the West Indies did not require a visa, while omitting the part that the Governor's permission was required. Told of this, Zwartendijk followed suit and in a few days, with the help of aides, produced over 2,200 visas for Jews to Curaçao.Well, Curaçao was not an end in itself, but it was an opportunity for the Jews to flee Lithuania, where they were trapped as rats between Hitler and Stalin, who had then a pact.
Then refugees approached Chiune Sugihara, a Japanese consul, who gave them a transit visa through Japan, against the disapproval of his government. This gave many refugees an opportunity to leave Lithuania for the Far East via the Trans-Siberian railway. "Very special", said Rob Zwartendijk (79) in 2018 , the only living son of Jan Zwartendijk, "Because actually Japan was also the enemy." Like our father, Sugihara decided to help, and together they are responsible for all those human lives. that are spared. "
In the three weeks after 16 July, Zwartendijk wrote up over 2400 de facto visas to Curaçao and some of the Jews copied more. Many who helped only knew him as "Mr Philips Radio". When the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania, they closed down his Philips office and the embassies and consulates in Kaunas on 3 August 1940. Via Sweden he returned to the occupied Netherlands to work in the Philips headquarters in Eindhoven, later in Greece until his retirement.
He did not talk about the matter. Actually he only told his wife about his help to the Jews. He waved everything away," his son Rob said, "It was not special, he said, I just did what everyone had done. The only thing he wanted to know was how many people had actually escaped." Something that, among other things, was being researched in Israel. For Zwartendijk the answer came too late. He died on September 14, 1976 and a day later the post brought a list of 2,132 names that fled successfully in 1940. His son Rob regretted this: "He would have liked to know that."
In 1996 Boys Town Jerusalem, an orphanage and vocational training school in Jerusalem, honored Zwartendijk at a tribute dinner in New York City and announced the establishment of the Jan Zwartendijk Award for Humanitarian Ethics and Values. The award has since been bestowed on other Holocaust-era saviors, including President Manuel Luis Quezon and the people of the Republic of the Philippines.
In 1997 Yad Vashem bestowed the title "Righteous Among the Nations" on Zwartendijk. On 10 September 2012 Zwartendijk was awarded with The Life Saving Cross of the Republic of Lithuania, a decoration to award the persons who, despite danger to their lives, attempted to save life.
In the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon, it is implied that the protagonist Josef Kavalier receives visas from Zwartendijk and his ally Chiune Sugihara. Though the novel does not mention these men by name, it describes a "Dutch consul in Kovno who was madly issuing visas to Curaçao, in league with a Japanese official who would grant rights of transit" (p. 65).
His parents Jan Zwartendijk and Johanna Cornelia Montijn belonged to the Dutch patriarchate. His father had a tobacco and tea business at the Middensteiger 28 at Rotterdam. The whole district was destroyed on 14 May 1940 by German bombs, while he was in Kaunas. The family survived the bombing. He had a twin brother, Pieter Anthonie, who was born 2 PM according to the BC. They were close even when miles away, as when Piet had a flue, Jan started sniffing. At age 17 and 18 Jan went to a boarding school in Reading, where he learned fluent English and how to dress well.
He married the German speaking Erna Maria Christianus (13 July 1905, Hohenstadt) in Prague. In Prague they got a daughter Edith (9 March 1927) an a son Jan (25 March 1929) when he was director of Phillips there.