Shalom Life | October 19, 2015

Dutch Man Returns Yad Vashem Medal Over Israeli Operation

Henk Zanoli, who was honoured for saving a Jewish child during the Holocaust, returns his Righteous Among the Nations medal after six relatives were killed in the Gaza conflict

By: Emma Mazerall

Published: August 18th, 2014 in News » World

A 91-year-old Dutchman who was honored by Israel and Yad Vashem for hiding a Jewish boy in his home during World War II and the Holocaust has returned his medal, claiming that six members of his family were killed in an Israeli air strike on Gaza.

Zanoli wrote to the Israeli embassy to say he could no longer accept his Righteous Among the Nations medal, which is given to those non-Jewish men and women who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. Zanoli stated that an Israeli bomb had destroyed his great-niece’s family home in Gaza, killing everyone inside.

In the letter, published by Haaretz , Zanoli stated that “to hold on to the honor granted to me by the State of Israel under these circumstances would be an insult…to those in my family, four generations on, who lost no less than six of their relatives in Gaza.”

Zanoli and his late mother were given the Righteous Among the Nations medal by the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in 2011.

Along with his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, Henk Zanoli saved the life of Elhanan Pinto during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Pinto, born in 1932, was kept hidden inside the Zanoli home from 1943 until the Allied liberation of Holland in 1945.

At the time, the Zanoli family were already under Nazi scrutiny for opposing the German occupation. As a result, Zanoli’s father was sent to Dachau concentration camp, and later to Mauthausen where he was killed in 1945. His brother-in-law was also executed due to his involvement in the Dutch resistance.

Zanoli’s great-niece, Angelique Eijpe, is a Dutch diplomat who was serving in Oman. Her husband, Isma’il Ziadah, had a family home in al-Bureij.

Haaretz reports that on July 20th, an Israeli fighter jet bombed the Ziadah’s home. The bombing killed Ziadah's mother, three of her sons, her daughter in law, and 12-year-old grandson. According to claims from the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, a houseguest who was also killed during the bombing was a member of Hamas.

In his letter, Zanoli expressed grief on behalf of his late mother, “who risked her life and that of her children fighting against suppression and for the preservation of human life.”

“The great-great grandchildren of my mother have lost their [Palestinian] grandmother, three uncles, an aunt and a cousin at the hands of the Israeli army,” Zanoli stated.

Thus far, the Israeli embassy has made no reply.

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