Johan van Hulst

Johan Willem van Hulst (28 January 1911 – 22 March 2018) was a Dutch school director, university professor, author and politician.[1] In 1943, with the help of the Dutch resistance and students of the nearby University of Amsterdam, he was instrumental in saving over 600 Jewish children from the nursery of the Hollandsche Schouwburg who were destined for deportation to Nazi concentration camps. For his humanitarian actions he received the Yad Vashem distinction Righteous Among the Nations from the State of Israel in 1973.

Johan van Hulst
Johan Willem van Hulst.JPG
Van Hulst in 1980
Leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal in the Senate
In office
8 June 1977 – 10 June 1981
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJan Christiaanse
Leader of the Christian Historical Union in the Senate
In office
10 December 1968 – 8 June 1977
Preceded byJ. C. Bührmann
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Chair of the Christian Historical Union
In office
5 October 1968 – 19 February 1972
LeaderJur Mellema (1968–1970)
Berend Jan Udink (1970–1971)
Arnold Tilanus (1971–1972)
Preceded byArnold Tilanus
Succeeded byOtto van Verschuer
Senator of the Netherlands
In office
3 July 1956 – 10 June 1981
Member of the European Parliament
In office
16 October 1961 – 30 September 1968
Personal details
Johan Willem van Hulst

(1911-01-28)28 January 1911
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Died22 March 2018(2018-03-22) (aged 107)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Political partyChristian Democratic Appeal
(from 1980)
Other political
Christian Historical Union
Spouse(s)Anna Jannetta Donker (m. 1936–1998; her death)
Children2 children
ResidenceAmsterdam, Netherlands
Alma materVrije Universiteit Amsterdam (MPhil, PsyM, EdM, MLitt, PhD, PsyD, EdD, DLitt)
OccupationPolitician, author, teacher, pedagogue, professor

Van Hulst served as Senator of the Netherlands from July 1956 to June 1981. He was elected to be the parliamentary leader of the Christian Historical Union (CHU) in the Senate from December 1968 until June 1977, when the CHU merged into the Christian Democratic Appeal CDA. He then became the first CDA Leader in the Senate. Van Hulst previously served as the party chair of the CHU from September 1969 until February 1972. He also was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Christian Democratic Group from October 1961 until September 1968.

He later was an emeritus professor of pedagogy at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a prolific author with more than a hundred publications. He was also a noted chess player.

Early lifeEdit

Van Hulst was born on 28 January 1911 in Amsterdam, the son of Gerrit van Hulst and Geertruida Hofman. He studied psychology and pedagogy at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

In the meantime he worked as a teacher and mentor in Oudewater, Utrecht and Purmerend.

Rescue of Jewish childrenEdit

In 1942 van Hulst was the director of the Reformed Teacher Training College, a Protestant religious seminary at Plantage Middenlaan 27, Amsterdam.[2][3] Across the street at Plantage Middenlaan 24 was the Hollandse Schouwberg theatre, the main clearing site for the Jews living in Amsterdam who had been issued deportation notices by the Nazi government.[4]

Children who arrived at the Schouwberg were separated from their families and sent to the neighbouring crèche at Plantage Middenlaan 31 run by Henriëtte Pimentel.[3][5] The créche shared a back garden with the college that van Hulst directed.[3]

Starting in January 1943, Pimentel and Walter Süskind, a German Jew who had been appointed by the Nazis to run the Hollandsche Schouwberg operation,[6] began canvassing potential adoptive families for physical descriptions of children who could fit into their families without detection.[7] Once the children's parents had agreed, the names of the children to be rescued were removed from the Nazi's registry of Jews who had passed through the Schouwberg theatre.[8]

Then, working with Pimentel, Süskind and dozens of other volunteers, Van Hulst arranged for the children to be spirited over the hedge separating the neighbouring back yards of the crèche and the teachers' college, often assisted by the teachers-in-training or local university students.[8][9] When the time came to move the rescued children and babies away from the school, they would be hidden in containers such as bags, sacks or laundry baskets.[3][10]

Numerous methods were used to move the hidden children from the school. In one method, the operation's helpers would wait for the moment a tram passed, blocking the view of Nazi guards at the facing Hollandsche Schouwberg, to cycle away with the hidden child.[11]

The operation came to a halt on 29 September 1943 when the Nazis sent Pimentel and 100 children from the crèche to Nazi concentration camps.[7] Decades later, Van Hulst described his experience: "Now try to imagine 80, 90, perhaps 70 or 100 children standing there, and you have to decide which children to take with you. [...] That was the most difficult day of my life. [...] You know for a fact that the children you leave behind are going to die. I took 12 with me. Later on I asked myself: ‘Why not 13?'"[2] Van Hulst thought twelve was the right number, otherwise the Germans would notice his plan and shut it down. In total, the operation had rescued between 500 and 1,000 Jewish babies and children.[4][12]

Van Hulst received the Yad Vashem distinction in 1973.[13] During a visit to the Netherlands in 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Van Hulst: "We say, those who save one life saves a universe. You saved hundreds of universes. I want to thank you in the name of the Jewish people, but also in the name of humanity." Van Hulst replied, talking about the children he could not save: "I only can hope the angels may conduct you into paradise."[14]

In 2016, the former Reformed Teacher Training College became the Dutch National Holocaust Museum.[6][15]

Shortly before his 107th birthday in 2018, Van Hulst gave an interview on Dutch television, talking about his experiences during the war.[16]

Political careerEdit


Van Hulst speaking in the Senate, February 1963
Van Hulst (centre) in 1969

Van Hulst served a member of the Senate of the Netherlands from 1956 to 1981 and from 1961 until 1968 he was a Member of the European Parliament. He also was Chairman of the CHU from 1969 until 1972.

From 1972 until 1981 Van Hulst was group leader in the Senate; first for the CHU and from 1977 on for the CDA.[17]

Party chairEdit

Van Hulst was elected as Chairman of the CHU on 5 October 1968 during the CHU party conference of 1968.

Van Hulst was tasked with preparing for the upcoming general election of 1971.

Personal lifeEdit

Van Hulst was an active chess player. At the age of 95 he won the Corus Chess Tournament for former politicians. He won it again in 2010.[18][19][20]

According to René van der Linden, who served as President of the Senate of the Netherlands, Van Hulst was the first former member of the Senate to reach the age of 100 since the establishment of the upper house in 1815.[21]

On 22 March 2018, Van Hulst died at the age of 107.[22][23] Amsterdam's bridge number 233 was dedicated to Van Hulst shortly after his death. The Johan van Hulstbrug is located in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam-Centrum, near the school he managed. U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra stated after Van Hulst died: "Mister Van Hulst is truly an inspiration for how one person can make a real difference, even in the darkest of times."[24] The Senate of the Netherlands commemorated Mr. Van Hulst in its plenary session of 17 April 2018.[25]


  1. ^ Hughes, Roland (30 March 2018). "The teacher who saved hundreds of Jewish children" – via
  2. ^ a b The Righteous Among The Nations, Hulst van FAMILY at, accessed 30 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d "Dutch lawmaker who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Holocaust dies at 107".
  4. ^ a b Mordecai Paldiel (1993). The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. pp. 116–. ISBN 978-0-88125-376-4.
  5. ^ "henriëtte pimentel / wie één mens redt, redt een hele wereld (who saves one person saves a whole world)- joodsamsterdam". Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Where 500 children 'disappeared' from Nazi clutches, a new Dutch Shoah museum emerges".
  7. ^ a b A Companion to Women's Military History. BRILL. 17 August 2012. pp. 534–. ISBN 978-90-04-20682-3.
  8. ^ a b Paul R. Bartrop; Michael Dickerman (15 September 2017). The Holocaust: An Encyclopedia and Document Collection [4 volumes]. ABC-CLIO. pp. 629–. ISBN 978-1-4408-4084-5.
  9. ^ "The Week". National Review magazine. National Review. 30 April 2018. p. 11.
  10. ^ "Johan van Hulst, Dutch schoolteacher who saved hundreds of Jewish children during Holocaust, dies at 107".
  11. ^ Silverman, Ellie (28 March 2018). "Johan van Hulst, Dutch schoolteacher who saved hundreds of Jewish children during Holocaust, dies at 107" – via
  12. ^ "Johan van Hulst, Righteous Among The Nations, Dies at 107".
  13. ^ statistics/netherlands at
  14. ^ "Johan van Hulst, Dutch politician who saved hundreds of Jewish children during Holocaust, dies at 107 - Jewish Telegraphic Agency".
  15. ^ "National Holocaust Museum - Jewish Cultural Quarter".
  16. ^ 107-jarige redde honderden joodse kinderen in de oorloog (107-year-old saved hundreds of Jewish children in the war) at
  17. ^ (in Dutch) Parlement en Politiek Dr. J.W. (Johan) van Hulst
  18. ^ (in Dutch) Johan van Hulst (99 jaar) wint toernooi parlementariërs (Johan van Hulst (99 years old) wins tournament (among?) members of parliament)
  19. ^ Chess Vibes The endgame technique of a 99-year-old Archived 2010-05-29 at the Wayback Machine 3 March 2010
  20. ^ "Max Euwe werd 75 jaar geleden wereldkampioen schaken (Max Euwe was world champion chess 75 years ago)". Man Bijt Hond (in Dutch). 15 December 2010.
  21. ^ (in Dutch) Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal Kamervoorzitter feliciteert honderdjarige oud-senator Van Hulst (President of the Chamber congratulates centenary senator Van Hulst) 28 January 2011
  22. ^ "Johan van Hulst (107), redder van Joodse baby's, overleden (Johan van Hulst (107), savior of Jewish babies, died)".
  23. ^ Sandomir, Richard (1 April 2018). "Johan van Hulst, Who Helped Save 600 Children From the Nazis, Dies at 107". New York Times. Retrieved 2 April 2018.
  24. ^ Statement from Ambassador Hoekstra Honoring Mr. Johan van Hulst, U.S. Embassy and Consulate to the Netherlands. 29 March 2018.
  25. ^ Commemoration of former Senator Van Hulst, Eerste Kamer, 17 april 2018.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Johan van Hulst at Wikimedia Commons

Party political offices
Preceded by
Arnold Tilanus
Chairman of the Christian Historical Union
Succeeded by
Otto van Verschuer
Preceded by
Johannes Christiaan Bührmann
Leader of the Christian Historical Union
in the Senate

Party disbanded
New creation Leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal
in the Senate

Succeeded by
Jan Christiaanse
Preceded by
Marinus van der Goes van Naters
Oldest living member of the States General
Succeeded by
Anne Vermeer