Johan (Joop) Westerweel was a Dutch schoolteacher who discovered a passion to help Jewish refugees from Germany during World War II. Westerweel strongly believed in and fought for justice. He helped many refugees and others find freedom through the “Westerweel group.”
While working at a Montessori school in Rotterdam, Westerweel met several Jewish refugees from Germany and discovered their plight under the Nazi regime. Westerweel had been hiding several refugees in his home when he came across an organization whose mission was to prepare young people for a life in agricultural work in Palestine. The organization had a training farm near Amsterdam. About 50 of the organization’s trainees and staff were going to be deported to concentration camps when Westerweel formed a plan to temporarily hide them with various families, which became known as the Westerweel group. Westerweel directed the process, sending a group of underground activists to help the staff and students get to neutral areas like Switzerland and Spain so that they could continue on to Israel.
Westerweel was arrested by the Nazis in 1944 and sent to a concentration camp. He was tortured and abused for not giving up the names of his associates. He was executed a month after entering the camp.
CENTERED ON CHRIST
Because of his strong Christian background, Westerweel believed in justice for everyone and in the basic goodness of humankind. His faith prompted him to help anyone in need.
While he was imprisoned, Westerweel was a spiritual leader and a light to those in the concentration camp. He often prayed to God in the camp and sought His guidance. In a letter to a friend just before his execution, Westerweel wrote: "There they are … all my comrades, standing side by side with me; together we have advanced along this road to confront the enemy... Whether I die or live is now all the same to me. A great light has dawned within me, enriching me. It is time for silent thoughts. The night is dark and long. But I am fully aglow from the splendor within me."