Anne Frank has been described as Hitler’s most famous victim. By virtue of her diary, which was in fact a heavily revised memoir that today might be considered to belong to the genre of creative non-fiction, Anne Frank has attained a kind of immortality that the art form of writing frequently provides. This should not, of course, trivialize her fate, nor the suffering of the multitudes of other victims of the Nazi regime, a group comprised of Jews, as well as non-Jews. Some of these stories have been told in great detail, while many others have not. What follows is the story of Elisabeth Rodrigues Lopes de la Peña, a Jewish girl whose family had fled the Spanish Inquisition to settle in the Netherlands. During the German occupation of Amsterdam during the Second World War, this family faced yet another existential threat, one that some of them did not survive. Elisabeth may well have ended up as yet one more entry in the long list of the Nazi’s victims, if not for the intervention and courageous efforts of her non-Jewish neighbors—efforts that were based in large part on their own deeply held religious beliefs and sense of morals. Elisabeth’s rescuers are known to Holocaust historians, and their names are enshrined in the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Israel, as well as in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Along with my Research Assistant Angelica Roman, I have conducted personal meetings and interviews with Elisabeth’s daughter, Carolyn Stewart. Ms. Stewart has graciously shared many heretofore unknown details of her mother’s story of rescue, as well as photographs and documents, including some that have been unseen by anyone in over sixty years. What follows is new insight into Elisabeth Rodrigues’ escape from the list: a true story of courage, sacrifice, and survival.
I would like to acknowledge with gratitude the assistance and support of the following people: Jennifer Crespo, Student Success Coordinator at Pace University in New York City, who generously provided funding for this project as part of the Pace Undergraduate Student – Faculty Research Program; Bonnie and Howard J. Price, without whose help this project would never have seen the light of day; my colleague at Pace University Dr. Maria Plochocki, for reviewing the manuscript and providing valuable suggestions; Gertjan Broek and Karolien Stocking Korzen at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam; Beth Slepian at The Anne Frank Center NYC, and my superbly talented Research Assistant, Angelica E. Roman ‘19, who tirelessly conducted research, helped revise early drafts, and patiently fielded a multitude of my requests while putting up with my numerous anxieties. Special thanks go to Carolyn Stewart, who traveled from Maryland to New York City for interviews, and who spent many hours communicating with Angelica and me over the course of several months. Carolyn shared many details and primary historical artifacts with us, and she relates her mother’s fascinating tale in a captivating and compelling manner. Our hope is that we can do this wonderful, inspiring story justice in the pages that follow.
Hearst, Elliot L. and Roman, Research Asst., Angelica E., "Escape from the List: Courage, Sacrifice, Survival" (2017). Student and Faculty Research Days. 7.