Johanna was born in Holland in 1915. She married Cornelis Van Schagen in 1937 and gave birth to their first child, Johnny, in September of 1938. When the Netherlands was occupied in 1940, its Jews faced the same fate as those in Germany and other occupied countries. Because of Anna’s conscience and through connections with the underground, the Van Schagens began sheltering Jewish refugees. The first, a woman named Susan, ultimately chose to leave in an attempt to join her husband in England. Though the Van Schagens successfully hid her and protected her even through a serious illness, they learned later that she did not survive. Immediately after Susan left, another woman named Meta arrived. It was during her time with the family that Johanna gave birth to her second child Nell. Meta later moved to another house to help out because the wife was ill. Meta survived the war.
Two more women, a niece and her aunt, came next. They were sheltered by the Van Schagens until the end of the war. They too, survived. In all, the Van Schagens sheltered four total strangers during the years of 1942 to 1944. Anna and Cornelis had three more children, all sons, and emigrated to America, settling first in Dayton and then Vandalia. Anna owned and operated a day care center which still bears her name.
Cornelis died in 1977. In 1992, Anna was honored by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations”.
Germany invaded the Netherlands in the spring of 1940, part of the larger Blitzkrieg that overran western Europe that year. The Dutch government surrendered quickly to avoid reprisals and destruction, and the Queen fled to London. During nearly five years of occupation, the Dutch people suffered many hardships but most did not collaborate, and many worked actively against the Nazis through the Underground. The Netherlands was liberated in the fall of 1944. About 106,000 Dutch Jews, or three-quarters of the Jewish population, died in the Holocaust.