The student news site of Everett Community College in Everett, Washington

A Sense of Injustice: Holocaust Forum

May 11, 2017

 

As many as six million Jewish people were murdered during the Holocaust. However, some survived with the aid of people like Ingrid Steppic-Kanis and her family. They sheltered 38 Jewish people in hiding.

On April 26, Steppic-Kanis came to EvCC to tell her family’s story.

The Kanis family moved to the small town of Amersfoort, Netherlands on May 9, 1940. Just one day later, before they could settle into their new home, German soldiers invaded.

After two years of occupation, all political parties except the Dutch Nazi Party were outlawed. Every Jewish person over the age of four years old had to wear a yellow star and register with the government.

Jan, Steppic-Kanis’ father, worked in the Amersfoort post office. He saw death notices of Jewish citizens pouring in. According to Steppic-Kanis, “it didn’t take him long to figure out what was going on. He didn’t know how, where or why, but he knew they were being killed.”

He warned people not to register, but most didn’t listen to him. In the summer of 1942, the mass-deportations began. People were forced on to trains and sent to concentration camps in Germany. “They didn’t want to go,” Steppic-Kanis said, “but if they didn’t, they would be severely punished.”

To protect the Jewish people in hiding, the Kanis family hid them behind the attic walls. It was a tight fit, and food and water were extremely limited. At night, Jan walked with them to the next village over 15 miles away.

There, they would get on a train and flee to the countryside to be unofficially adopted into a new family.

But with so many people living in their house, the Kanis family was running low on food. In 1944, Jan tried to steal food stamps from the distribution center but his plan failed. He was caught, arrested and sent to Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany. The prison wasn’t designed for executions like others, but most prisoners didn’t survive. Jan grew very ill with Typhus.

Jan’s wife then had to provide for the family on her own and the situation continued to worsen. As many as 22,000 Dutch people starved to death in what became known as the Hunger Winter.

In December of 1944, each person was limited to two pounds of food each week. By February of 1945, it was limited to only one pound per week. The daily ration was only 340 calories. Many resorted to eating tulip bulbs to survive.

It wasn’t until May 5, 1945 that the people of the Netherlands were liberated. Steppic-Kanis said, “people were dancing on the street. They were sort of going crazy.” The Kanis family was reunited with Jan, who managed to survive.

Steppic-Kanis met a U.S. Army soldier and, many years later, married him. They moved to America together and her parents came to visit.

Jan was lucky enough to find the American soldiers who liberated him and the thousands of other Dachau prisoners. They met and celebrated so that Jan could give thanks to those who saved his life.

But Jan received thanks as well. In 1971, the efforts of the Kanis family earned them recognition from Yad Vashem in Israel, a Holocaust memorial museum dedicated to honoring those who fought back against the Nazi regime. Steppic-Kanis spoke fondly of her parents, saying “they felt a sense of injustice. It wasn’t right, so they had to do something.”

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