Peter was born in Amsterdam in 1935. In 1942, when Peter was 7, the Nazis seized Peter's entire family except for Peter and his mother. Peter's mother contacted the Dutch Underground for help. The Underground found Klaas and Roefina Post who agreed to shelter Peter and his mother on their small farm in northern Holland, putting their own lives at risk. For two years they lived with the Posts until it became too dangerous and they found another hiding place with two women in The Hague. Peter, his mother, and his aunt were the only survivors of his family. Klaas and Roefina Post have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
After the war, Peter and his mother immigrated to the United States in 1949, arriving in New York. Peter was 13 and didn't speak any English, but was placed in the 8th grade. Peter had a long career as a radiology technologist. He and his wife Bea raised two children from Pete's previous marriage and had a third son in California. The Metzelaars moved to Seattle in 1997. Peter continues to be an active member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau.
"My mother and I slept together in a bed that was inside a closet. I remember lying in that bed trembling in fear at times." - Peter Metzelaar
Survivor Encyclopedia: Washington State - Peter Metzelaar. Read more about Peter, view photos and watch video clips.
Josh was born in Tomaszow, Poland in 1936, where his family had lived for almost a century. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, his family was incarcerated in the Ghetto. They made their way to Siberia and Uzbekistan, where life was incredibly harsh but not as dangerous for Jews. After liberation, Josh and his family found refuge in a displaced persons (DP) camp in Berlin.
In 1951, the Gortlers came to America, and Josh arrived with no formal education or English skills. He persevered, graduating from a Jewish high school before earning Bachelor’s and Master's degrees in Social Work. Josh then moved to Seattle and worked at the Kline Galland Jewish nursing home for almost 50 years. He began telling his story when his grandchildren asked what happened to him during the Holocaust, and he is now an active member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau and Board of Directors. In 2014 Josh was honored by Yeshiva University with a doctoral degree for his leadership in elder care in Seattle and on a national level.
"There’s a time to think, and there’s a time to talk. And I feel that now is the time to talk and retell these stories for the future generations to come. Because, if we don’t learn from the past, we will make the same mistakes in the future." - Josh Gortler
Survivor Encyclopedia: Washington State - Josh Gortler. Read more about Josh, view photos, and watch video clips.
Joe Lewinsohn was born in Berlinchen, Germany on May 16, 1937. On Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938), the family’s store was vandalized. His father Edwin and 10,000 other Jewish men were arrested and spent weeks in Buchenwald, a German concentration camp. In 1939, scared for their lives, the Lewinsohns fled Germany for Shanghai, their only option. For six years, Joe’s family shared a room with three other refugee families in the decrepit Shanghai ghetto. When the war ended, they went to Chile to live alongside over 10,000 Jews who had spent the wartime years there.
Determined to make a better life for the family, Joe’s mother Berta joined her brother Leo in Seattle in 1947. Leo had accompanied the family in 1939 when they fled to Shanghai, but he was able to continue to America. In 1949, the rest of the family joined Berta, sponsored by Seattle bakery owner Harry Lippman. Joe graduated from Garfield High School and joined the Army. Upon his discharge, he earned Bachelors and Master’s Degrees from the University of Washington and began a teaching career in the Seattle School District that would last 35 years. He married Janet Altaras in 1965, and they have two sons (Joel and Peter), numerous grandchildren, and a dog named Mollie. Since 2017, Joe has been a member of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau. As a refugee himself, Joe finds it important to reach out to students in similar situations.
Survivor Encyclopedia: Washington State - Joe Lewinsohn. Read more about Joe and view photos of Joe and his family.
Carla Peperzak was born in Amsterdam in 1923 to a Jewish family. Although Carla's mother was not born Jewish, she had been adopted by a Jewish family, and as a teen and adult came to embrace the faith. Carla was a typical youth of the time. She played field hockey, skated on Amsterdam’s canals, and went to parties. She also attended synagogue and Hebrew school where one of her fellow students was Margot Frank, the older sister of Anne Frank. In 1940, the year Carla graduated from high school, Germany invaded the Netherlands. By 1941 the Nazis forced Dutch Jews to register with the state, and they were issued identification papers marked with a “J.” Thanks to a sympathetic SS member, and perhaps due to Carla's mother's background, Carla's father arranged to have her papers changed to remove the J.
That year, at the age of 18, Carla joined the Dutch resistance. She helped save her aunt, uncle, and two cousins, hiding them at a farmhouse in the Dutch countryside. Later, disguised as a German nurse, Carla rescued her young cousin from a train bound for Westerbork, a transit camp for Dutch Jews who were then sent to killing centers in Nazi-occupied Poland. Throughout the war, she continued to secure hiding places for Jews, published an underground newspaper, and created fake identification papers and ration cards. While Carla and her immediate family survived the Holocaust, 18 members of her family did not. In the aftermath of the war, she met her husband Paul, a Dutch Catholic. In the ensuing decades, Carla lived and traveled across the world with her husband, who worked for the United Nations. In 2004 she moved to Spokane and has been actively engaged in sharing her story as part of the Holocaust Center for Humanity's Speakers Bureau.
“I was 18, 19, 20. I was not married. I did not have any responsibility–only for myself–and that made a big difference...I felt I could help. I had the opportunity.” - Carla Peperzak
Survivor Encyclopedia: Washington State - Carla Peperzak. Read more about Carla, view photos of Carla and her family, and watch video clips.