Jack Polak met Ina Soep in June 1943, in Nazi-occupied Netherlands. They both ended up in Westerbork transit camp, from which prisoners were sent to camps across Europe. Against all odds, Jack and Ina continued on to the notorious Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They communicated largely through secret love letters written on whatever paper could be found. In April 1945, days after Ina was liberated by the Americans, Jack was liberated by the Russians. They were among the “lucky” ones; most never came home. In January 1946, Jack married the girl who he had met and cour ted in the camps, and they remained in Holland until in 1951 when they emigrated to Eastchester, NY, where they raised their three children, Fred, Tony and Margrit. In 2000, their love letters were published as Steal a Pencil for Me, which also became a documentar y film in 2007.
What Jack and Ina witnessed in hardship forever shapes their outlook on life and marriage. They take nothing for granted and appreciate the small things—a bed, a shower, the beauty of the day—and share three simple truths to keep marriage strong and happy: love, tolerance and compromise. They work tirelessly to teach the lessons of the Holocaust. Jack is a founding member of the board of the Westchester Holocaust Education Center, Purchase, NY, and is a past president and indefatigable voice for The Anne Frank Center USA. He has spoken to tens of thousands of people across the U.S., urging audiences to work for peace and to value life. Jack has received numerous awards, including being knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for his work. In 2006, at the first annual International Day of Commemorating victims of the Holocaust, Jack and Ina were honored by the United Nations General Assembly for their life commitment to educating people, especially young people, about the consequences of intolerance.
The Anne Frank Center USA will forever appreciate Ina and Jack’s dedication to our mission.