Dutch actor and Holocaust survivor Bram (Abraham) Van der Vlugt passed away on Dec. 19, 2020, as a result of COVID-19. He was 86 years old.

During his 60-year acting career, he played many prominent roles, and in 2000 won the Louis d’Or, the top annual award for Dutch stage actors. Van der Vlugt was well-known among Dutch audiences for his role in the 1990s hit hospital drama “Medical Center West” as Dr. Victor Brouwer, a physician fighting for his innocence in court after euthanizing some of his patients.

Van der Vlugt was most famous in the Netherlands for his portrayal of Santa Claus on the NPO Dutch television show “The National Arrival of Sinterklaas” from 1986 to 2000.

Born in 1934 to a Jewish mother and non-Jewish father, Van der Vlugt was 6 when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. In August of 1943, he returned from a friend’s house to discover that his mother, Ellen, was arrested by the Germans; he never saw her again. She was betrayed by a forger who had provided her with a false Aryan identity card, according to JTA.

Van der Vlugt said he had imagined his mother’s return for many years. “We thought she’d come back. For years after the war, I had always hoped to run into her; I would look around for her. Maybe the Russians liberated her. And she had amnesia, and I’d get to take her home,” he recalled during a 2018 interview with NPO. “I never really mourned my mother. Because I never knew that she was dead,” he added.

Van der Vlugt said he knew little about his mother beyond what he learned from the death certificate that his father received before he remarried in 1948. The fact that his father was not Jewish was most likely a factor that spared Bram and his brother from deportation to a concentration camp, and a fate similar to that of his mother and millions of other European Jews.

Soon after his mother’s arrest, Allied planes bombed Van der Vlugt’s home while the family was inside. They survived unscathed, but remained homeless for years and stayed with relatives.

“In theater school and in the theater business, I very much did not want to be known as the actor whose mother was murdered by the Germans,” he explained during an interview, adding that he didn’t want to be set apart by that fact at a time when “it wasn’t accepted to speak about what happened in the Holocaust.”

However, in 2018, Van der Vlugt created a musical act, together with his five children, telling his mother’s life story. It was the end result of a process that he began in 1983, when Van der Vlugt finally began researching his family history.

“I decided they cannot be forgotten again, which is an old Jewish principle,” he said. “That if they are forgotten again, they will die a second time.”

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