Author shares story from Holocaust with DuPage Will Hadassah

From the horrors of the Holocaust have emerged stories of heroism, virtue and good. On May 1, DuPage-Will Hadassah will host author/speaker Marty Bronstein, who documented one such story in his book “Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust.”

Bronstein’s interfaith story is about Frans and Mien Wijnakker, a Christian couple, who, at great risk to themselves and their family, saved the lives of at least two dozen Jews during the Holocaust.

The San Francisco-area business consultant has written seven books ­primarily in the area of management and communication. In 2009, he and his wife, who knew the Wijnakkers, traveled to the Netherlands.

“After some serendipitous events, one thing led to another, and we reconnected with the family. It sparked an interest in doing something with the story,” Brounstein said. “I have a meaningful connection to the heroes, which I’ll share during my talk.”

He also will share their story.

“Frans and Mien weren’t very well known outside of the local area,” Brounstein said. “Even though they had an amazing story, they were unsung heroes and most people don’t know about them.”

The Wijnakker’s children provided him with a self-published book written by Frans Wijnakker, which recalled part of how he helped Jews. This was supplemented with historical documentation, and insight provided by Wijnakker’s oldest daughter.

Brounstein also located one of the first people the family took into hiding. She now lives in Israel.

“We were able to meet with her,” Brounstein said. “She had been a teenager when they took her in. In between our live interviews and historical research, the book came together.”

Since the book was published, Brounstein has spoken to more than 250 audiences at churches, synagogues, libraries, bookstores, Rotary clubs, schools and more.

“In baseball language, I’m doing better than the Cubs and the Sox. I’m batting 1,000,” he said. “I hear from the audiences. What they tell me is that they didn’t know there was anything positive coming from the horrific tragedy of the Holocaust.”

Brounstein said that there are lessons from the story that “apply to the world today. It talks about respect and morals and the willingness to help and do what’s right. It’s very educational and inspirational.”

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist organization of America, is a volunteer organization which works to strengthen ties to Israel and promote the continuity of Jewish life. The DuPage Will chapter of Hadassah draws members from throughout the western suburban area.

“Hadassah has something going on every month, including informational speakers,” said Hadassah member Jan Strauss, of Naperville. “This should be an especially fascinating program.”

At a Glance

DuPage Will Hadassah’s free event featuring author Marty Brounstein will be at 7 p.m. May 1 at Congregation Beth Shalom, 772 W. Fifth Ave., Naperville.