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She refused to be a bystander.

It was an ordinary day in the spring of 1942 – a day that would change her life forever. Marion Binsbergen was a 21-year-old social work student, riding her bike to class in Amsterdam. On the street ahead of her, babies and young children were being removed from an orphanage, literally being picked up by an arm or leg or even their hair and thrown into the back of a truck by Nazi soldiers. Marion stopped, transfixed, realizing that she was a “bystander,” one of those watching the horror surrounding her and doing nothing. In that moment she committed to becoming someone else – a rescuer. She began feeding Jews with forbidden ration cards, obtaining false ID papers, and finding medical care for sick Jewish kids… helping however she could. A few months later she was asked to hide Fred Polak and his three kids, baby Erica, and Tom and Lex, ages two and four. She found safe harbor for them in the servants’ quarters of a villa outside of Amsterdam, where a pit had been dug beneath the floor and stayed with them there. Then came the fateful night when three Nazis and a Dutch collaborator came to call. Their terrifying search failed to discover Fred and the children, and a few minutes later, when Erica began to cry, they came out of the pit. Within minutes, the collaborator snuck in through an unlocked door and found the little boys playing on the very rug that had concealed their hiding place. Marion knew in an instant the fate that awaited them all, and did not hesitate. She grabbed a gun hidden beneath a bookshelf and shot and killed him. A local undertaker took care of the rest, and the collaborator simply disappeared. Marion, Fred, and the children all lived to see liberation.

Marion later married, moved to the US, and became a psychoanalyst. She was honored as Righteous Among Nations in 1981 for her care of more than 125 Jews. Fred Polak was reunited with Marion, 30 years after the night a brave young Dutch girl saved all their lives.


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