The remarkable story of how a consul and his allies helped save thousands of Jews from the Holocaust in one of the greatest rescue operations of the twentieth century.
Jan Zwartendijk was just a businessman who worked for Philips, a manufacturer of lightbulbs and radios—until he became Dutch consul and concocted a secret plan that would ultimately save over 2,000 Jews from the Holocaust. An unsung hero, those he saved knew him only as “Mr. Philips Radio.” This is his story.
In the capital of Lithuania, desperate Jewish refugees faced annihilation in the Holocaust. That was when Zwartendijk—with the help of Chiune Sugihara, the consul for Japan—chose to break his country’s diplomatic rules. Together, the two officials opened a route to freedom. Zwartendijk issued thousands of visas to the Dutch colony of Curaçao on the other side of the world, and Sugihara ensured a clear path, allowing refugees to travel on the Trans-Siberian Express all through Soviet Russia to Vladivostok, further to Japan, and onwards to China.
Many of these Jewish refugees survived, but Zwartendijk and Sugihara were both shunned by their own countries after the war, their courageous actions left unheralded.
In The Just, renowned author Jan Brokken wrests this story from oblivion and traces the journeys of a number of the rescued Jews. This epic narrative shows how, even in life-threatening circumstances, some people make the right choice at the right time.
“He [Zwartendijk] filled desperate lives with hope during a period of great darkness, and his actions will remain a beacon of decency and righteousness for generations to come.”
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“The Just documents a rescue operation to save Jews from the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Lithuania… Deep dives into archives, and documented encounters with people who were involved in the operation, contribute to a strong narrative about ordinary people performing extraordinary deeds at great risk to their personal safety. The lives of some of the people who were saved are chronicled, as are the struggles of Zwartendijk’s family and friends to have him officially recognized for his work on behalf of Jewish people, an experience of which he was robbed during his own lifetime. In telling the life story of Jan Zwartendijk, The Just adds one more piece to the memory of the Holocaust.”
Foreword Reviews, starred review