Partner Theodora Jacomina Petronella "Do" Versteegh
Van Beuningenstraat 75, 2582 KL Den Haag, Netherlands
Pr. Mariestraat 10, 2514 KE Den Haag, Netherlands
Rú Paréstraat, 2552 CP Den Haag, Netherlands
Ru Parésingel, 2642 DL Pijnacker, Netherlands
Ru Pare School, Chris Lebeaustraat 4, 1062 DC Amsterdam, Netherlands
Henrica Maria "Ru" Paré (July 14, 1896, Druten - February 25, 1972) and 'Do' Versteegh (1889-1970) got to know each other when Ru moved to The Hague in 1919. In The Hague she registered at the Royal Academy for Visual Arts, where she met the painter Jan Toorop. Theodora Versteegh studied singing with Cornélie van Zanten and Tilly Koenen and had already started her career as an alto. Do and Ru had a lesbian relationship. During the war both refused join the 'Kulturkammer'. With Ru's resistance group the couple saved over fifty Jewish children and also a number of adults. Ru Paré, nicknamed 'Aunt Zus', coordinated the resistance work, wich consisted mainly of finding foster families, contacts and providing falsified identity cards. With her concerts Theodora Versteegh provided the necessary money.
Henrica Maria Paré was the daughter of Nicolaas Paré (1857-1931), stone manufacturer, and Helene Henriette Hoogeveen (1859-1928). The family was mediated: her father had a number of brickworks in the Betuwe, her mother was from a Zeeland patrician family. Henrica was soon called Sister (Zus), and that became the name she would keep. She spent her earliest childhood in Druten, but from 1899 the family lived in Nijmegen.
It was clear that Zus Paré was good at drawing, so she already took drawing and painting lessons with Jan van Vucht Tijssen in Neerbosch as a young girl. In 1919, now 23 years old, she moved to The Hague, where she studied with the Hague figure and portrait painter Albert Roelofs. That same year she met the singer Do Versteegh , who was more than eight years older - they would remain close friends throughout their lives. In 1920 Zus Paré moved to the Van Beuningenstraat (no. 75), where she had bought a house for her parents. She set up her own studio on the second floor .
After the death of Roelofs (1920), Zus Paré took painting lessons with Willem van Konijnenburg, with his stylized and symbolically charged work a kindred spirit of Jan Toorop. She also participated as a free student in the painting class of the Royal Academy of Art. From 1930 she signed her work with Ru Paré - it is unknown where this name came from. Paré drew and painted portraits, harbor views and plants and flowers. She worked in different styles, mostly figurative, but sometimes inclined to abstraction, where she was inspired by, among others, Jan Toorop. In the twenties and thirties she regularly exhibited in The Hague and Amsterdam. She grew into a well-known figure in The Hague's artistic life and was a member of leading artist groups such as The Hague Art Circle, the Independents and the Club of Ten.
During the occupation, Ru Paré, a painter, lived and worked at Pr. Mariestraat (10) in The Hague, South Holland. Ru was friendly with Nico van der Veen, who pointed out to Ru the urgent need to assist the Jews. Since the first deportations in the summer of 1942, Nico had been in regular contact with the Utrecht Children’s Committee (UKC)*. After she was approached, Ru immediately agreed to help with the task of saving Jewish children. She adopted the alias “Aunt Zus” and, together with van der Veen and his fellow student Guusje Hondius van Herwerden from nearby Voorburg, contacted all of her friends and acquaintances in an effort to find safe hiding places. Quite a few people whom she contacted promised to shelter fugitives. During the years 1942 and 1943, she helped about 50 Jews find refuge and provided them all with forged documents. Gradually she became independent of the UKC. She developed her own wide-ranging plan of action. In one instance, she found a foster family in Haarlem, North Holland, for six-year-old Stella Barendse. Ru was also involved in helping her and other Jewish children escape from the crèche in Amsterdam. Ru’s friend, Do Versteegh, occasionally helped her. Among other joint efforts, the two women regularly visited the Jewish girl Ellen Frankenhuis at her hideaway with the Jonkers-Wijgh family in Haarlem.
When Ru Paré received a letter from the Haagsche Kunstkring on 20 June 1942 asking whether she wanted to register with the Kultuurkamer, she immediately canceled her membership. The first children Zus Paré helped hide were the two children of FH Lankhout, a printer from The Hague with whom artists could lithograph their work - she had been in a relationship with their grandfather before the war. In total she helped 52 Jewish children to go into hiding. By train and on her Fongers bicycle she drove through the country to visit the children, bring presents, deliver food stamps and money to the "parents" and - if necessary - take the children to a new address. She had made a double bottom in her paint box in which she hid the food stamps and letters. Aunt Zus was a household name for these 52 children, who all survived the war. Sister Paré also provided false identity cards. She operated relatively autonomously: she had contacts with the National Organization for Help to People in Hiding (LO), but was not really part of it.
The resistance group of aunt Zus searched for hiding places throughout the country. During dangerous situations priests and vicars often played an important role in finding new addresses. One of them was the Frisian vicar Sipkema. Aunt Zus also took care of changing Jewish identification cards into normal looking documents. The visual artis Chris Lebeau removed the stamped 'J' from the card. He was arrested at the end of the war and died in concentration camp Dachau (2 April 1945).
After the war, Paré and Versteegh moved into the parental home in the Van Beuningenstraat, which she had rented out from the death of her father in 1931. They each ran their own household. After the war, Paré immediately resumed painting. She mainly exhibited at home, where she also had her studio.
In 1945 Ru Paré was awarded the Gerrit van der Veen medal on the occasion of the exhibition Art in Freedom at the Rijksmuseum, and in 1968 she received the Yad Vashem award 'just among the peoples' in Jerusalem - the children had provided Levin for this.
She kept in touch with most of the people in hiding. On March 19, 1968, Yad Vashem recognized Henrica Maria Paré as Righteous Among the Nations. Nine children orphaned in the war were adopted by the Levin couple, who immigrated to Israel in 1949. Do Versteegh died in 1970. Eighteen months later, on February 25, 1972, Ru Paré was found lifeless by a friend in the bathroom. Part of her legacy went to the Levin children, another part to the Theodora Versteegh Foundation, which is committed to voice research.
In 1986, some of her paintings were donated to the National Office for Visual Arts. A Ru Paré Foundation was also set up to preserve her work. Yet Ru Paré is nowadays mainly known for her resistance work. The politician Hanneke Gelderblom, granddaughter of printer Lankhout and one of the 52 children of Tante Zus, ensured that a street was named after Ru Paré in The Hague in 1988.
The archives of Theodora and Ru are kept at the Dutch Music Archives. In the town of Pijnacker there is a Theodora Versteegh street and a Ru Paré boulevard. In The Hague is a Ru Paréstreet. The old Marius Bauer School in Amsterdam-Slotervaart (merged with the nursery school De Grutto) is now the Ru Paré School (1988). The school is situated at the Chris Lebeau Boulevard, named after a member of Ru's resistance group. The painter Hugo Kaagman made two mural paintings on the building.
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