Let me tell you a story of kindness in a time of war, about a man whom we’ll call Colonel N. because all I know is that he was an officer in the Belgian Army, a veteran of the Great War of 1914-1918. After the Germans released him from the POW stalag where he’d been imprisoned in 1940, Colonel N. returned to his apartment in Brussels, which he shared with his “fully Jewish” aunt. He himself qualified as “half Jewish,” which was hazardous but manageable.

A Jewish woman whose name is unrecorded came to that same apartment building with her three children after her husband was killed in Amsterdam. When the Germans hauled her away from her hiding place, they left behind the four year old, the two year old and the six-month old baby. The concierge asked the Colonel’s advice about what to do with the children; he said he would take care of them. He had photographs taken of each of the children so that their mother could find them again.

Eventually all five of them had to leave the Colonel’s apartment for a safer place with friends in another neighborhood of the city. The couple who shared their home helped to care for the children, to find them food and clothing. But the Colonel worried about their safety. He found a family in the city to take the two girls and a family in the country to take the boy. The extra food in the country may have consoled the boy for the separation from his sisters. Everyday, the Colonel bought extra milk and cheese for the children. What with ration cards, shortages and inflation, that involved much more than a quick trip to the market.

In 1944 the local Resistance found out that the Colonel was trying to sell securities on the black market. Concerned that he would fall prey to swindlers (in which black markets abound), they sent a man we’ll call H to talk to the Colonel. While H visited N at his hiding place, it came out that the Colonel had used up the entirety of his savings in supporting himself, his aunt and the three unrelated children. H estimated that it must have cost the Colonel at least 1,000 Belgian francs per month and at least 50,000 Bfrs per year (the math is his) to take care of the children.

Because H worked for Dutch-Paris as a “house visitor,” he had a good sense of the costs of hiding people. Given that the children were Dutch, he arranged for the Colonel to receive a monthly stipend of 450 Bfrs per month per child through the Comité tot Steun van Nederlandse Oorlogsslachtoffers in België ,which was the Brussels branch of Dutch-Paris.

The children survived until the Liberation, when, like all Dutch citizens hiding in Belgium, they would have become the responsibility of the Dutch consulate. The report doesn’t give their names. It’s possible that their names were lost with their mother. We can hope that she came back; although, the report doesn’t say one way or the other. In fact, the report doesn’t make much of the story at all.