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As part of our Be A Mensch campaign, we are highlighting people whose respectful, inclusive and empathetic actions have made a positive difference in the face of adversity and inhumanity.

Today feature two ‘mensches’ whose stories feature in our collection. Siek and Anna Attema were Dutch farmers who hid Mia Polak and her sister for two years on their farm in Gaast-Friesland, Holland, during World War Two.

Siek and Anna Attema

Mia Polak (centre) with Siek and Anna Attema, SJM Collection.

Mia was born in 1923 in Amsterdam. She and her sister had a Jewish education, the family kept a kosher household and they enjoyed a peaceful life until Germany invaded Holland on 10 May 1940. Jews were picked up from their homes and transported to camps.

Mia explained, “My parents were concerned about us girls and contacted an underground organisation from the north of Holland where we could possibly go into hiding. A good farmer was found who agreed to help and hide us. I worked milking cows and ploughed the fields until the war ended.

“Siek and his wife Anna were the best of people one could ever meet. They kept and fed us for two and a half years and never accepted any thanks or money from us. They risked their own life when German soldiers turned up and we went into haystacks to hide. If they would have found us they would have executed everyone on the spot as that was what they did at that time without mercy.”

The Attemas had no children of their own. No one knew that they were hiding Jews. Mia describes that it was difficult for them with regard to food supply, so to be safe and avoid suspicion, Anna would go to one bakery to buy one loaf of bread, and then go to another bakery to buy another loaf.

Due to the selfless actions of Siek and Anna Teema, Mia and her sister survived the war. They were the only survivors of their family.


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