Jakob Hemelrijk

1888 (Winterswijk, Netherlands) - 1973 (Bergen, Netherlands)


"What does it mean that I, of all people, a Jew, felt called upon to save the life – no matter what the cost – of a boy who had cheated and robbed Jews?"

Jacob Hemelrijk was born to a Jewish family in Winterswijk on 14 February 1888. After completing grammar school he studied classical languages and became a teacher at the municipal grammar school of Utrecht. In 1925 he obtained his doctorate with a study of the terms "poor" and "rich" in Greek. In 1926 he was appointed headmaster of the Murmellius grammar school in Alkmaar.

In 1940 the German occupiers dismissed him from his post on account of his Jewish origins and forced him, like all Dutch Jews, to go to Amsterdam. There he taught at the Jewish lyceum. After being arrested in September 1944, the fifty-six-year-old Hemelrijk was deported first to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and then, in early February 1945, to Buchenwald, where he was liberated on 11 April 1945.

Following his return to Alkmaar he was reappointed to his position as headmaster of the grammar school. As early as the summer of 1945 he gave lectures on his experiences in the camps; his supplemented and revised report on those experiences was published in 1965. Until 1962, Hemelrijk was the community member of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of the Netherlands. In addition to his headmaster duties he translated from ancient Greek and Latin. In 1966 he received the Martinus Nijhoff translators’ prize for the translation of Plautus’s comedies into Dutch; in 1968 his translation of Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man was published.

Jacob Hemelrijk died on 10 February 1973.