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Holocaust Memorial Day: Reflection on Lieut-Colonel Alida Bosshardt

27 January 2016 - 9:32am
| by rebecca
|

As The Salvation Army remembers those who lost their lives in this genocide, we remember the journey of Dutch Salvation Army minister Lieut-Colonel Alida Bosshardt, who fled occupying German forces in The Netherlands to protect the scores of Jewish children in her care.

In 1940, the then Captain Bosshardt worked in The Salvation Army’s children’s home in Amsterdam in the middle of the Jewish quarter.

The Germans forbade the Army in 1941 to carry on with its work. Uniforms could not be worn and money and buildings were confiscated. But the Army did not surrender. To be able to continue its work, all children’s homes became private homes. The Salvation Army refused to become a part of ‘Winterhulp,’ an organisation initiated by the Germans.

Captain Bosshardt took three Jewish sisters – Hendrina, Dimphina and Helena Terhorst – into the Army’s care because of their circumstances at home. The girls’ mother was pregnant and also found shelter with The Salvation Army. Not long after baby Roos was born, the home was ordered to become part of Winterhulp. Captain Bosshardt fled with the 70 children, of whom many were Jewish, to the northern part of Amsterdam.

They made their way by train and on foot to another part of the country, where the children were homed in ten different places. During the many times they had to move, baby Roos was covered by blankets because of her Jewish looks.

Without enough money to buy food for the children, Captain Bosshardt went out to collect food, despite this being forbidden. Although she was betrayed and captured by the German forces she escaped two weeks later after her interrogator “forgot” to lock the door behind him.

The Dutch resistance provided the captain with addresses to home the children and she found safety for more than 75 Jewish children. No names or addresses were written down, so the Germans could not trace them in the files.

In 1944, the captain often cycled into the country to find food. Often, she was given cigarettes, which she exchanged for potatoes. Although, Alida did not tell the Army leaders, as The Salvation Army prohibits smoking so accepting cigarettes was forbidden.

During the Second World War Captain Bosshardt succeeded in keeping the four sisters together and under her wing. They later wrote to the Yad Vashem committee: ‘Although she had nothing, Major Bosshardt has been able to give us a feeling of warmth and protection in this period. The major is like a mother for us and she still calls us “her children”. We thank our lives, our children and grandchildren to her.’

On 30 August 2004, the Ambassador of Israel in The Netherlands, Eitan Margalit, awarded Lieut-Colonel Bosshardt the Yad Vashem Award – the highest award given by the State of Israel – at the Army’s headquarters in The Netherlands.

After Alida’s death in June 2007, her friend and colleague Colonel Margaret White wrote a fitting tribute to her in the UK Salvationist magazine. She said of Alida’s later life: ‘With indefatigable energy and great love, she was the chaplain and social worker to the diverse population of the red-light district. For many years she lived, slept and had her office in one room in the building that housed the Goodwill Headquarters. Through a network of centres she served the homeless and those with alcohol problems. She was instrumental in helping to formulate laws to safeguard the health of those in the trade of prostitution.’

Adding: ‘It is not hard to imagine the young Alida in occupied Holland, working to keep safe the 80 children in her charge. At risk to her own life she would cycle past the Nazi soldiers with Jewish babies hidden in the wicker baskets on her bicycle, taking them to safe houses. For saving the lives of many Jewish children she was honoured with the Yad Vashem Award.

‘It is hard to imagine what Alida Bosshardt would have been had she not joined The Salvation Army. The Army was the rich soil which nurtured and gave opportunities and fulfilment to her remarkable and gifted life. It matched her and she matched it. To God be all the glory.’

Photo credit: Ruud Tinga

Comments

Submitted by Alexandra Hughes on

An amazing lady and officer. That made me cry reading it. i think a film should be made about her life and activities...i would st rongly suggest SA public rrealtyions encourage this..
It would be good to se3 photos of the children and theri familes she protected in the War too?
RIP.

Submitted by Kathy Kerslake(... on

Lieut Col Bosshardt was a truly amazing lady. I remember meeting her in Amsterdam in 1966, when a group of then Corps Cadets went to Holland. We were privileged to visit her in the d'Leewenburgh, the oldest brick building in Amsterdam, which she was able to use as her "Goodwill Centre" and to where everyone received a welcome. I remember also going into the Red Light district with the Col, to take part in an open air service. She was always welcomed as a friend and although we spoke no Dutch, I can still recall singing the English version of the song chosen.."God's way is the best way, the best way of all." i didn't know about her connection with the Jewish families in Holland until I read about her life a little later. Ever since she has become one of my true heroines. I always think of her and Corrie ten Boom walking side by side in what they were prepared to do for humanity. remembering both with great gratitude for their sacrifice.

Submitted by Jackie Tolan on

I am so glad to read another story of brave Salvation Atmy Officers. We should never wonder why we are held in high regard, may our work, and those who come after LOVE enough to go 2nd and 3rd mile.

Submitted by mildred wallace on

What a wonderful lady, what faith, knowing that God would protect her and the chidren. One of many who helped the Jewish people in their time of need.

Submitted by Rockeng on

This story has to be filmed. Amazing story. This could be a great Hollywood movie.

Submitted by Ruth Vickers on

I feel privileged to have the opportunity of reading the story of this wonderful Dutch Christian Lady, I am sure she heard her Saviour say'Well done they true and faithful servant, enter into the place I have prepared for you', Sure she is rejoicing with the angels and all the little children who never allowed to grow up and learn of His love in this world, but who He surely took to Himself.

Submitted by Stephen Lucas on

What a wonderful woman, in times of need she went the extra mile. This story of what she did is a very touching story which has had me in tears. Thank you God for a wonderful officer.

Submitted by Paul Perryman on

An incredible story of the Colonel showing Christian compassion without fear for her own safety. Servant of God Well Done.

Submitted by Patricia Owen on

A truly remarkable story. As I have a keen interest in The Holocaust I have often wondered how Salvationists survived WWII and if any helped Jews escape or hide from the Nazis. I knew this lady was involved with the residents of the red light district but did not know she did so much to help and protect Jews from the Nazis.

Submitted by Heather Goffin on

I remember the Colonel also. I went to the Netherlands with a Youth Group in a mini-bus and we were taken by the Colonel to the Red Light District, took part in Open-Air meetings and generally got a real insight into the work there. However, I had no idea of what she achieved during WWII. God will have richly rewarded her and rightly so. Bless you Col Bosshardt. Heather

Submitted by Theo Wolterink on

If you come to Amsterdam, don't forget to visit the Leger des Heils Museum. The museum tells the story of The Salvation Army in The Netherlands, including 'Major' Bosshardt. Check the website for opening hours: www.legerdesheils.nl/museum.

Submitted by Ann Maxwell on

Thanks be to God for such a wonderful courageous lady as Lieut-Colonel Ali da Bosshardt . She was Gods instrument in saving all those children from certain death.It is a privilege to read her story I salute such a wonderful Salvationist .

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