On September 18 – the day on which Eindhoven was liberated by allied forces – the Visas to freedom exhibition about Jan Zwartendijk will open at the Philips Museum. In his role as Dutch consul in Lithuania, ‘Mister Philips Radio’ saved the lives of thousands of Jews by issuing them with ‘modified’ visas in 1940. This enabled them to flee the country just in the nick of time. The Visas to freedom exhibition about this exceptional man also includes eyewitness accounts from survivors.
Jan Zwartendijk, who was director of Philips and acting Dutch consul in Lithuania in 1940, ended up playing a crucial role in the escape of thousands of Jews. He spent days issuing visas to Jewish refugees so they could make the long journey to a safer land. Jan did not think his actions were in any way heroic, he simply felt he was doing what anyone else in his position would have done.
It was not until after his death when the stories of survivors came to light that he received the recognition he deserved. Yad Veshem awarded him posthumously the distinction ‘Righteous Among the Nations’, for example. In June of this year, in the presence of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, a monument to him was unveiled in Kaunas, which was the capital city of Lithuania at the time.
Official opening by Mayor John Jorritsma
The Visas to freedom exhibition can be seen at the Philips Museum from September 18, 2018, until January 18, 2019. The Mayor of Eindhoven, John Jorritsma, will declare the exhibition officially open on Monday September 17.
Author Jan Brokken will also give a short presentation about his book entitled ‘De rechtvaardigen’ (‘The Righteous’), which is due to be published by Uitgeverij Atlas Contact in October. In this compelling epic he paints a true picture of a desperate time as he describes the life of Jan Zwartendijk and the fates of many of the Jews who survived. De rechtvaardigen is a lesson in courage and in making the right decisions at the right time.