Women Who Rescued Jews

A 93-year-old great-great-grandmother, Wilhelmine Asbeek Brusse, who sheltered many Dutch Jews in her home during World War II, received a Yad Vashem Medal of the Righteous, with four generations of her descendants attending the ceremony at the Israel Consulate in New York.

Asbeek’s underground activities started as early as the beginning of the war in Holland, when she took Jewish refugees into her home. She hid not only people but their possessions. After the war, she returned to Jewish friends the valuables she had hidden for them in her attic.

Asbeek, whose code name was ‘Tante Cos” or “Oma,” was arrested for her activities. After escaping from Westerbork Concentration Camp on September 3, 1944, she continued to shelter Jews until liberation in May 1945.

One of Asbeek’s two daughters, Marian Leisen, had married a Jewish doctor before the war. In an act of defiance against the Nazis, Marian and her sister Wilhelmine (later Esther) converted to Judaism in 1941.

After the war, Asbeek’s daughter Esther married Manfred Klafter, one of the Jews her mother had hidden. The couple’s adopted son, an orphaned concentration camp survivor, made aliyah in 1967. The Klafters followed him and moved to Israel, where Esther died six years ago.

Asbeek now lives in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, as do her daughter Marian, her granddaughter Daisy Wexler, and some of her five great-grandchildren and six great-great-grandchildren. As all of the generations watched, Asbeek, the only non-Jewish member of the large family, accepted her Yad Vashem medal.