Longtime friend, mentor, and supporter of Facing History and Ourselves Dr. Maurice “Ries” Vanderpol died on October 19, 2014. Ries shared his story with countless Facing History students across the state and around the world. He will be greatly missed throughout the Facing History community.
Ries was born on July 12, 1922, in Amsterdam, Holland, into a middle-class Jewish family. When he spoke to students, he would say that his parents worked very hard to give their children a secure existence and future. He attended public schools and had many friends of various religious and ethnic backgrounds. He never remembers experiencing any overt antisemitism and, while clearly having a Jewish identity, he identified himself as a Dutch citizen first and foremost.
When the Nazis invaded and occupied Holland in 1940, his father was abroad in Antwerp on a business trip and could not return home. Ries was left with his mother and brother to weather the storm of persecution and deportation. At the time, Ries was attending his second year of medical school and very soon was forced to leave the university because he was Jewish. In response to the expulsion of all Jewish students, the dean of the medical school started an underground but accredited medical school where the Jewish students went to the homes of Jewish professors to continue their courses.
By 1942, when deportations were going full speed, Ries and his family decided to go into hiding with the help of friends who were not Jewish. One of his friends gave Ries his own identity card without the “J” for Jew on it, and later reported Ries’ card as lost. Ries was in hiding for about two years, until liberation on May 5th, 1945.
In 1946, Ries emigrated to the United States and completed medical school. He went on to a successful practice in psychiatry and psychoanalysis, and lived in Massachusetts with his wife, Netty, a survivor herself who shared her experiences through her art.
- Full bio of Dr. Maurice Vanderpol [pdf] from The Holocaust Center, Boston North.
- The Little Kettle: a Memoir of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam is a 29-page, illustrated children's book written by Ries, which tells the story of the water kettle given to him by his grandfather.
Ries Vanderpol's Story from Secret Courage - The Walter Suskind Story
Making Suskind's story known to the world has been a mission of Ries' for decades and was realized when the film "Secret Courage: The Walter Suskind Story" was made in 2005.
- Read an article about Ries' childhood city, Amsterdam, during the Holocaust from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website, which offers a media-rich, comprehensive history of the Holocaust.
Ries Vanderpol was a friend to Facing History and Ourselves for many years. He enriched the lives of Facing History teachers and students by sharing his story in classrooms and at Facing History professional development workshops and seminars. The following video excerpts are from 2002, when Ries spoke at a Facing History and Ourselves summer seminar for educators.
Ries and Netty Vanderpol: A Life Before, During, and After the War