NEW YORK -- As the Nazi war machine swept through Europe in the late 1930s, European Jews found their lives suddenly thrown into chaos. It was during this time that individuals like Elisabeth (Elly) Rodrigues Lopes de la Peña, a young Jewish girl living in the Netherlands, found themselves confronted with the horrors of the Third Reich. Thanks to the research of Pace University professor Elliot Hearst and student Angelica Roman '19, one of the Holocaust's most powerful stories of survival has been brought to new light.
In their research paper, ' Escape From The List: Courage, Sacrifice, Survival ,' Roman and Hearst tell Rodrigues' incredible story of luck, bravery and survival. Remarkably, the discovery of this untold story began as sheer happenstance, said Hearst.
On a trip with Roman's class to the Anne Frank Center in Manhattan, Hearst's interest in the Holocaust introduced him to a representative of Amsterdam's Anne Frank House. Through the museum and with the help of a serendipitous connection, Roman and Hearst met Carolyn Stewart, Rodrigues' daughter, and first heard her mother's tale.
“Carolyn and I started corresponding, and that’s how I learned about Elly’s story," said Hearst. "Carolyn traveled from Maryland to New York just to meet with us.” Hearst ultimately traveled to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and uncovered a number of artifacts and details surrounding Elly’s story, which he and Roman drew upon extensively during their writing.
Among the stories they heard was that of Bert Bochove, a Dutch pharmacist who hid 37 Jews in his home over the course of the Nazi occupation. Bochove and his wife took in the Rodrigues family as Amsterdam grew more and more dangerous under Hitler's rule. The family lived in hiding above the Bochove's store, forced to lie motionless during the day as the store operated below. Hearst and Roman share this and many other tales during their investigation, describing Rodrigues' hiding and eventual freedom.
For Roman, her experience researching one of humanity's darkest moments reinforced her desire to pursue a career in law. “I came to Pace wanting to go to law school, and after researching with Professor Hearst, I definitely want to continue that pathway to law school,” she said.
'Escape from The List: Courage, Sacrifice, Survival' can be read in full here.