Waldemar Nods | Holocaust Memorial Day Trust – Waldemar Nods was born on 1 September 1908 in Paramaribo, Suriname (a Dutch colony in South America), the son of a gold prospector and the grandson of a slave. He left Suriname to study in the Netherlands, arriving in The Hague in 1927, but found it hard to establish a career due to widespread prejudice towards his dark skin.
In October 1928, Waldemar met Rika van der Lans: white, twice his age and already married with four children. When they began their relationship, it caused a scandal. Rika had already upset her Catholic parents by marrying a Protestant, Willem Hagenaar, in 1913. But by the time she met Waldemar, the marriage had broken down. She had left Willem and taken their children with her to live in The Hague, where she supported them by renting out rooms, which is how she met Waldemar.
Waldemar and Rika soon fell in love and their relationship was healthy and strong, in spite of the social ridicule to which it exposed them. Two of Rika’s children – Willem, 13, and Jan, seven – felt betrayed by the relationship and returned to their father. Willem senior was furious when he heard his estranged wife was involved with a black man, and successfully claimed custody of the two remaining children. In spring 1942, Rika and Waldemar were forced to leave their seafront guesthouse by the construction of the ‘Atlantic Wall’, intended by the Germans to defend occupied Europe from Allied invasion. They moved to a property on nearby Stevinstraat, and it was here, in November 1942, that the couple began to hide Jews from the Nazis.
Waldemar and Rika were sought out by the Dutch resistance as ideal candidates – they were a small family with spare room in their home and they were also free of the antisemitism that occurred among the resistance, which made Jews much harder to hide than other Dutch fugitives.
Their son Waldy was unaware of the hidden guests until the day he was brought home by the police after getting in a fight with a boy who had racially abused him. This frightened his mother, who told him about the Jews and insisted that nobody must find out about them.
In August 1943 the family moved to a house on Pijnboomstraat where they continued to hide Jews and others. The resistance sent them fugitives others were unwilling to accommodate. Among them were Dobbe Franken, the daughter of a leading member of the Jewish Council in Rotterdam, and Gerard van Haringen, a Dutch SS deserter who now regretted running away from home aged 17 to sign up.