Benjamin Blankenstein-Teachers Who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust
Benjamin Blankenstein was a teacher at the local Christian elementary school in the town of Soestdijk (prov. Utrecht) in the Netherlands. His wife Maria was a housewife and the couple had a baby daughter, born in 1940.
In 1943 Benjamin became active in a local resistance cell, part of the countrywide Landelijke Organisatie (LO), an organization that assisted both Jews in hiding, and non-Jews wanted for resistance activity or evading forced labor in Germany. Despite the great danger, the Blankensteins decided to hide Jews in their own home.
When Benjamin Blankenstein heard that the Bernstein family from nearby Soest had been betrayed at an earlier hiding place, he suggested that they come and hide in his home. Maria, who had just given birth to their second daughter, agreed. Henry Bernstein, his wife Martha and their 14-year-old son Rolf, Jewish refugees from Germany, were given a room under the Blankenstein’s roof. Relations between the two families were excellent, and Benjamin taught Rolf in the evening hours so that he would not fall behind in his studies.
Since there were many cases of betrayal in the area, the Blankensteins suggested looking for a more secure hiding place for the Bernsteins in the southern province of Limburg. However, before another address could be located, they were given away and the police broke into the Blankenstein home on June 5, 1944, while Benjamin was teaching at school. The police arrested the Bernsteins and looted the entire house. About half an hour after the raid on the Blankenstein home, Benjamin was arrested at the school, and taken to prison in Amsterdam and then to the Vught concentration camp. On September 5, 1944, with the Allied Forces approaching, Blankenstein was moved to camps in Germany and perished in Bergen-Belsen on February 24, 1945. The Bernsteins were taken from the Blankenstein home and deported. Henry and Rolf were murdered in Auschwitz; Martha Bernstein survived the war. Upon her return from the camp, ill and alone, she was again welcomed by Maria Blankenstein.
On March 27, 2005, Yad Vashem recognized Benjamin Blankenstein and Maria Suzanna Blankenstein-van Klingeren, as Righteous Among the Nations.