SOMERSWORTH — A longtime Somersworth and Rochester resident who helped protect a Jewish family from the Nazis during World War II is being remembered with the planting of 1,000 tulip bulbs on Saturday.
Wilhelmina Wiegman was 91 when she died on March 31. She is remembered locally as an active volunteer at Frisbie Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in Rochester and at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Dover.
But Wiegman and her family sheltered a family of Jewish exiles from German occupying forces from 1944 to 1945 while she was a teen in the Netherlands, creating a bond that is still strong between the two families and has extended into the greater community.
According to Wiegman’s son Leo, on Sept. 24, 1944, Wiegman’s father sent her to fetch another teenager, Sabine Frohlich, from a farm 10 miles away where the girl, separated from her family, was staying.
Wiegman’s father, Jan Elders, was the mayor of their village and a leader of the Dutch resistance during the war. He had already taken in Frohlich’s parents in what he dubbed “The Elastic House.”
After the war, Wiegman and Frohlich immigrated to America and raised large and vibrant families. Frohlich’s husband, Cor Schipper, was a bulb grower and Wiegman’s was a physician named Joseph. The two women corresponded over the years and shared many memories until Frohlich’s passing in 2017.
Leo Wiegman said the tulip bulbs are a gift from Frohlich’s children. Their family is still in the bulb growing business.
The Rev. Andrew Nelson, pastor at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Somersworth, said on Wednesday that Wiegman’s faith was what motivated her to help people her entire life.
“Her faith motivated her and her family to do what she did to help and hide and keep safe her Jewish brothers and sisters,” Nelson said.
Members of the local Jewish community are expected to help plant the bulbs at the Catholic Church on Saturday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m.
St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish is located at 404 High St. in Somersworth.