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First-ever posthumous award from the Anti-Defamation League to an Adventist


At its annual meeting in February, the Anti-Defamation League will present the Jan Karski “Courage to Care” award to a man credited for saving over 1,000 Jewish men, women, and children, Allied pilots, and political opponents of the Nazis during the Second World War.

The coveted award will go Johan Hendrick (John Henry) Weidner who, at the age of 29, founded Dutch-Paris which became the largest and most successful underground network rescuing people being persecuted for their faith or race. In its heyday, some 300 people participated in the underground which escorted refugees over the Alps to safety in neutral Switzerland or Spain. For his efforts, Weidner became one of the most sought of the underground leaders of France, and for whom the Gestapo offered five million francs for his arrest.

The underground was eventually penetrated and, of the 150 people arrested, 40 members of Dutch-Paris were either executed on the spot or died from the effects of captivity. This included his own sister, Gabriella, who helped coordinate escapes from Paris. During the Nazi occupation, Weidner, who operated under several disguises, was himself arrested by French gendarmerie and French Milice, including the Swiss border police.  The French gendarmerie beat him brutally but eventually released him for lack of evidence. In his last arrest, while the French Milice also tortured him, he managed to escape before he could be transferred the very next morning to the Gestapo.

After the war, Israel was quick to name John Weidner as a Righteous Gentile. President Truman honored Weidner with the United States Medal of Freedom, England entered him into the Military Order of the British Empire, Holland’s Queen Wilhelmina inducted him into the Order of Orange-Nassau,  France decorated him with both the Croix de Guerre and the Medal de Resistance.

John Weidner grew up in Collonges-sous-Salève in the French department of Haute-Savoie, where his father taught Latin and Greek at the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary. His father hoped that Weidner would also study to become a pastor, but the younger Weidner chose business instead. He died on May 21, 1994 in Monterey Park, California.

The Courage to Care Award, created in 1987, was named after Jon Karski  its first recipient. Jon Karski is credited for being the first to present documented evidence to the Polish, British, and U.S. governments of the widespread extermination of European Jews in German-occupied Poland including the Warsaw Ghetto.

When the Anti-Defamation League presents the Courage to Care Award on February 6 in West Palm Beach Florida, it will be accepted by Dr. Kurt Ganter, Executive Director of the John Weidner Foundation which organizes community and college chapters promoting altruistic behavior. The Weidner Foundation has also funded the publication of “Ordinary Heroes: The Dutch-Paris  Escape Line” which will be on the bookshelves in advance of the 2015 anniversary of the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.

See also this biographical profile from the Adventist Review archives.

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