In 1989, the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem recognized Dr. Strobos and her late mother, Marie Schotte, as “righteous among the nations” — people who, without seeking personal reward, risked their lives, freedom and safety to save persecuted Jews during World War II.
To save one person “was an extraordinary feat,” Donna Cohen, executive director of the Holocaust and Human Rights Education Center in White Plains, N.Y., said in an interview. Dr. Strobos, who saved dozens, was “the ultimate rescuer.”
Her story has been recounted in numerous volumes of Holocaust history. About 80 percent of the 140,000 Jewish residents of Holland during the Nazi occupation died in the Holocaust, according to Yad Vashem.
Among them was Anne Frank, the young German-born diarist who hid with her family in another Amsterdam attic just blocks away from Dr. Strobos’s home. The Franks were betrayed by an informant and deported to concentration camps, where everyone in the family except Anne’s father died.
Dr. Strobos retained a lifelong regret about the fate of Anne Frank and her family, whose hiding place lacked an escape route. “If I knew they were there,” she told her son, “I would have gotten them out of the country.”
Dr. Strobos was just shy of her 20th birthday when Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. When she and her university classmates refused to sign an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, the medical school was shut down and many students, including Dr. Strobos, joined the underground resistance movement.
In the beginning, she worked primarily on arming and equipping the resistance fighters. She ran guns, explosives and radios, sometimes hiding them in her bicycle basket during journeys of 50 miles.
But as armed resistance became increasingly dangerous, she turned her efforts to helping her Jewish friends and, later, others seeking a way out of the country. One of the Jews she saved was her then-fiance, Abraham Pais, who became a celebrated physicist and biographer of Albert Einstein. They did not marry but had “ties that will never break,” Pais once said.
Rescue efforts in the Netherlands were especially perilous, given the low-lying Dutch terrain, which offered few forests and no mountains for cover. Dr. Strobos and her mother turned their three-story home, which was just behind the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, into an initial stop on the underground railroad. They provided their guests with food and medical care as well as false passports to replace ones marking them as Jews.
Obtaining fresh documents to falsify sometimes required creativity. Once, at the funeral of an aunt, Dr. Strobos rifled through mourners’ coats. She enlisted the help of train-station pickpockets, who stole travelers’ papers for the cause.