The Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity course at WDHS motivates students to understand their own place in history by encouraging them to investigate their own roots.

Matthew Lang’s Story

An August 2017 reunion with Ralph Berets (left), Matthew Lang and his grandfather Tom van Roon.  

“Matt tenaciously pursued the story of his great-grandparents who hid Jews in the Netherlands during World War II. He found the Jewish family they hid, and a reunion was set up in Washington, D.C.”

Rob Flosman

Watch the August 2017 reunion at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

“The Berets family began hiding from the Nazis in late 1942; first in Germany, and later after fleeing the country, in Amersfoort, Netherlands. February of 1945 was around the time the Berets children arrived at my great-grandparents. The family was forced to split up until something more permanent could be found for them. Otto Berets hid in a garage behind a house and his wife Hilde lived with a butcher and his family.

My Opa remembers one day there were 2 extra children in the house. He had no idea where they came from or how they got there. They were kept under strict rules and supervision. During the weeks that they lived there, Hilde, their mom would come to visit at night, usually once a week. They stayed with my great grandparents about 4-5 weeks. If they had been found at any point during that time the entire family would have been sent to a concentration camp and disappeared, never to be heard from again.

When they left, the family went to live out the last few months of the war with other hidden Jews in a large chicken coop until the Canadian Army freed Amersfoort. After the war ended, the Berets family lived in the Netherlands until the late 1940s when they moved to the United States. Marion (Ralph’s sister) married and moved back to Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her wedding was the last time my great grandparents had contact with the family, until now.”

The final piece of Matt’s history project was to get his great-grandparents recognized as Righteous Gentiles. Matthew’s Opa, two of his Opa’s brothers and Marion and Ralph Berets submitted their testimonies. The application was approved and they will be honoured at a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem in Spring 2023. 

Matthew presenting his story to Menno Metselaar, Project Manager, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam
Representation of Berets hiding in the van Roon’s attic