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Holocaust survivor, hidden by Dutch underground, to lecture

March  06, 2013

Joseph Koek was separated from his parents as a boy and avoided Nazi troops by hiding in an apartment above a school. Koek will share his tale of survival at Augustana College at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 8, in Wallenberg Hall inside the Denkmann Memorial Hall (3520 7th Ave.).

Koek, who now lives in Chicago, is presenting the annual Geifman Lecture in Holocaust Studies. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Koek says he remembers a happy, idyllic childhood in the Netherlands with his Jewish family before the outbreak of World War II. After the Nazi invasion, his parents had 24 hours to make a decision about whether to send their children into hiding with the Dutch underground. Koek was 11 years old, and remembers being totally unprepared when he and his two sisters were swept away and taken into hiding. His parents were arrested and deported to the concentration camps.

Koek remembers being moved from place to place in small groups to avoid detection. They lived in an apartment above a school. During the day, he and the other Jewish hideaways could not wear shoes or use the regular bathroom for fear of making noise. Koek learned how to knit because it was quiet.

When the war ended, Koek was still a boy when the Red Cross told him his parents had died in the Holocaust. It took him a long time to accept the idea that he would never see them again. “I always thought they were alive and looking for me. As time goes on, you realize the information from the Red Cross must be true, and you eventually understand there is no point in continuing to hunt for them.”

Today he enjoys his family, talking to students to help them understand his experiences in the war, and volunteering at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

Koek’s appearance is sponsored by Augustana’s Geifman Endowment in Judaica, funded by Gerry and Morris M. Geifman. The endowment supports Judaic studies and culture, as well as guest lecturers, student scholarships and awards.

Sam Schlouch
Senior Communication Director
(309) 794-7833