Born and raised in the Netherlands, Johanna Hagedoorn, Ph.D., left medical school in 1940 to join the underground Dutch resistance movement to the Nazi invasion. Along with a group of fellow resistance fighters, she was responsible for sparing the lives of innumerable Jewish children by hiding them in her house and sailing them to safety on her family’s boat in the middle of the night. Years later, she was honored by a Jewish organization as a chasidah, or “Righteous Among the Nations”—non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the holocaust.
After coming to the United States, Hagedoorn received a B.S. degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in anatomy from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She joined the College faculty in 1968. Countless alumni remember her as a beloved and highly esteemed member of the anatomy faculty who skillfully initiated them to the study of medicine and instilled in them a passion for inquiry and caring for the human condition. Eventually, a scholarship fund was established in her name, awarded annually to a second-year medical student who exemplified the concern for fellow students that was a hallmark of Dr. Hagedoorn’s life.
Around 2000 she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and, with no surviving relatives, spent her final years in an assisted living community in Bradenton, Fla. Yet before her memories had completely left her, she was interviewed and her story recorded by a rabbi at a nearby temple she supported, and eventually by a newspaper reporter who revealed many more details of Dr. Hagedoorn’s remarkable past. It was the congregation at this synagogue, Temple Beth El in Bradenton, that engraved a headstone and arranged for the burial and memorial service for Johanna Hagedoorn 18 months after her passing.