The Limburger. January 24, 2023, by Rob Cobben. Translation: Ineke/John.Posthumous honor for Maastricht resistance woman and mother-in-law of André Rieu: 'Without Nelly I wouldn't have been here anymore'Nelly Eymael has been posthumously awarded a “Yad Vashem,” Israel's highest award for people who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. The Maastricht native was the mother of Marjorie Rieu and mother-in-law of violinist André Rieu. Among other things, she arranged hiding places for Jewish families. “Without Nelly I wouldn't be here anymore,” says Mattie Tugendhaft (85).How many times has he told his life story? Mattie Tugendhaft lost count a long time ago. But he will continue to do it as long as he lives, says the former Maastricht resident who lives in Amstelveen (NL). “Because what was done to the Jews during the Second World War should not be forgotten. Never! Nor do the exploits of people like Nelly. They should be honored….” And so he still gives lectures at schools. He also wants to do that in the war museum of Pierre Rieu's, which will open its doors in the Maastricht district of Amby in a while. Mattie or Majer, as he is called from birth, was five years old when he had to go into hiding. “One evening I was sitting on our father's lap with my sister. We had to leave for a while, he said, because there were German soldiers and they were going to kill us because we were Jews. I had to change my name, but I was allowed to choose it myself. I chose Mattie because I knew a little boy in kindergarten who was called that. By the way, I always kept that name, because I had gotten used to it.”Mattie's sister was taken by a domestic help and taken to a Flemish monastery. The parents went into hiding with the Koole family, who had a well-known pastry shop in the Maastrichtse Zakstraat, where the Germans could eat pastries for free. He himself was picked up by "Aunt Nelly," who would take him to various hiding places in Limburg. Hell At one host family, a farming family in Roermond, he went through hell, he says: “I was regularly abused by the farmer. When the farmer's wife found out, she contacted "Aunt Nelly" and she came to pick me up. I was allowed to live in her house in Maastricht for a while until another hiding place was found, with the Lemlijn family in Klimmen (village in Limburg). There I remained until the liberation.” The Tugendhafts made it through the war relatively well, he continues his story. “My parents and grandparents survived, as did my sister and brother. But my grandmother's family has been completely wiped out. Just like a large part of the family of my wife Myrna, whom I met after the war. Myrna herself survived Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.” Tugendhaft went searching for "Aunt Nelly" at a later age. “The search took years. In 2009, when I was in Israel, I met Pierre Rieu who was there with an American veteran, Frank Towers. We got to talking and it turned out: Nelly – her real name was Petronella – turned out to be the mother of Marjorie Rieu and the mother-in-law of André.” Thankful Without Nelly's help he wouldn't have been there, says Mattie Tugendhaft. “Then I would not have survived the war. And never would have had two sons, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren…”He is eternally grateful to Nelly Eymael, who died in 1973, and has therefore nominated her for Yad Vashem, the highest Israeli honor for non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews. The award was recently presented the Rieu's Castle by Israeli Ambassador Modi Ephraim and Honorary Consul Benoit Wesly. Grandson Pierre received a certificate and medal. Anecdote “The war was hardly discussed by my grandparents,” says Pierre Rieu. “Only once did they tell an anecdote. How they were sitting in a taxi with bags full of food stamps when suddenly a checkpoint of the Sicherheitspolizei (SiPo, Security Police) appeared. Not good!! "The taxi driver and my grandparents exchanged a brief glance, after which the driver decided to turn away. That probably saved their lives.” Because of the story, Pierre Rieu – he was about ten years old when he heard it – became interested in the war. And the seed has been planted for the museum which he and his club friends of Fifty Shades of Green is building. This will be a place where the stories of ordinary people in the Second World War are depicted and kept alive. Lokerman group Nelly Eymael was a member of the Lokerman resistance group. “Two of cousins worked at the telephone exchange and were able to intercept Gestapo conversations. This way they knew exactly when raids would take place. Three courageous women in their twenties who decided to help the Jews…” What Pierre Rieu later discovered: his grandma managed to keep other Jews out of the hands of the Nazis during the war. “To begin with, she helped my grandfather, Edgar Kochmann, go into hiding. And then there was Toni Frailich. In 2018 I was in Tel Aviv with Dad and his orchestra for a concert. A woman, Schlomit Cohen, wanted to speak with us. She turned out to be Toni's granddaughter and had a picture prominently displaying my grandparents. She had found that photo after the death of her grandmother. During that meeting it turned out that my grandmother saved her grandmother. “We live thanks to Nelly,” she told me. That was so touching and beautiful!” Life's work "The story of grandma Nelly and her cousins will certainly recur in the museum," says Pierre Rieu, who is "incredibly proud" of them. And the Yad Vashem certificate and the medal that goes with it will also get a place there. Mattie Tugendhaft has made it his life's work to have people who have saved Jews - "those are real heroes" - crowned with a Yad Vashem. He had already succeeded for the Koole and Mien family and Albert Lemlijn. And now also for Pierre Rieu's grandmother. “I am very happy that "Aunt Nelly" has received the Israeli award. And that her name be added to the Yad Vashem monument in Jerusalem. Like that, she will never be forgotten!”
Marc, Pierre and Marjorie.
From left to right: Son Michael, Myrna and Mattie Tugendhaft, his sister Trinette; Benoit Wesly, the Israeli ambassador Modi Ephraim, Pierre en André Rieu.