Johannes and Margarethe Feenstra


Born in Bonn, Germany, Margarethe married a Dutch citizen. The couple were living in Amsterdam when the war broke out. Johannes was arrested by the Nazis only days after Margarethe gave birth to their daughter, Marilou, and for six months she did not know where he was. Margarethe went to the German headquarters hundreds of times to get information about her husband, which eventually helped in his release. Interned at a satellite camp near Sachsenhausen, Johannes was allowed to work in Berlin as a “volunteer” – digging out live bombs that had fallen on the capital. “His pay was coming away from it alive,” his daughter says. The Feenstras were reunited when Marilou was only a year old. They later came to the United States. After the war, Johannes had a difficult adjustment to normal life and worried about his friends’ survival. The Feenstras live in the Dayton area and have two daughters and three grandchildren.

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.