Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fallen champions: Story of '28 Dutch women gymnastics team

Five of the gymnasts, as well as their coach Gerrit Kleerekoper, were Jewish. Only one of those six survived the Holocaust.
It was known that Kleerekoper died at Sobibor on July 2, 1943, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the fortunes of Estella Agsteribbe, Helena Nordheim, Anna Polak, Elka de Levie, and Judikje Simons were finally established. 
The Netherlands Olympic Committee found no trace of them – despite many years of searching – due to the fact that the Nazis, who kept very systematic records, did not bother to include the maiden names of their female victims.
 
The gymnasts had all likely married after 1928, and without their maiden names, it seemed to be almost impossible to track them down.
 
However, thanks to one relentless Dutch engineer, Fred A. Lobatto, who as a schoolboy saw the 1928 Games, the fates of the five Jewish members of the women’s 1928 Dutch gymnastics team were finally brought to light.

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