Dordt College News

The Reckoning premiere showing here October 12

October 12, 2007

The Reckoning

A premiere showing of a powerful new prizewinning documentary, The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance will take place Friday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Dordt College’s B.J. Haan Auditorium.

Advance reservations will not be taken for this unique film event, with free admission for the 1,500 available seats.

The Reckoning’s original script was written by James C. Schaap, Dordt College author and professor. Produced by Storytelling Pictures, it features the Resistance stories of six Dutch survivors, men and women who came to the aid of Jews during the brutal WW II Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

The Reckoning was the second place documentary at the New York International Film Festival this year, and has won or become an official selection at the Hollywood, Waterfront, and Washington film festivals.

Red carpet guests who will be available to meet with Dordt students from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the Humble Bean and at a reception in the Campus Center following the 7:30 show include Diet

Eman, a WW II Dutch resistance and concentration camp survivor featured in the documentary (and who many people regionally remember from local speaking engagements); Corey Niemchick, president of Storytelling Pictures; John Evans, creative director for the film; and James Schaap, writer of the original script and of the book/theater production, The Things We Couldn’t Say.

“Part of our mission as a college is to insure that important stories and events are discussed and analyzed, not only in our classrooms, but in the broader context of the community,” said Dr. Schaap. “This film honors the Dutch resistance to a brutal Nazi occupation and relates a story of religious faith. It’s a story of ordinary people performing extraordinary acts of heroism and faith, helping to preserve freedom, sometimes at great personal cost.”

Schaap noted that the documentary has a great deal of local interest because of the area’s Dutch heritage, and the fact that Sioux Center people were instrumental in bringing the story of Diet Eman (the central story in the film) to the rest of the world. Fifteen years ago, some of Diet Eman’s first large public audiences were in Sioux Center and Sioux County.

A movie trailer, movie reviews, and other information about the documentary are available at Following the show, the Dordt College Bookstore will have DVDs of the movie and the book Things We Couldn’t Say available for purchase in the lobby.

The Making of the The Reckoning

Why does an ordinary Sioux Center chicken farmer befriend a Dutch concentration camp survivor?

After hearing the story of survival, why does a Dordt English professor and author feel compelled to spend thousands of hours sifting through memories to bring it from a dusty box of love letters and journals to the rest of the world?

James C. Schaap
James C. Schaap

And more than 60 years after it all happened, why does a motion picture studio pick up that story and create an international award-winning documentary film?

Because, says James Calvin Schaap, this is the biggest Christian story of the 20th century: people willing to die for people they didn’t know, whose religion they didn’t particularly agree with, but whom they felt called to protect from an unspeakable evil.

Ordinary people called to do extraordinary things: that is the story of The Reckoning: Remembering the Dutch Resistance.

It is a story that will premiere in the unlikely location of Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, on Friday, Oct. 12, due to a strange set of circumstances that brought together a chicken farmer, a WW II survivor of occupied Holland, an author, and a movie maker.

Ordinary people

The Reckoning tells the lives of six “ordinary people,” living in the Netherlands in 1940 when Hitler’s troops invade and occupy their country:

Ordinary People

Diet (pronounced Deet) Eman, an 18-year-old bank employee, who put marriage plans on hold as she and her fianceé joined the Dutch underground to rescue Jews destined for Nazi concentration camps;

John Muller, a 19-year-old navy recruit and also a secret participant in the Dutch resistance against a brutal Nazi occupation, whose best friend was shot and killed just as Holland was being liberated;

John Knight, a school boy whose innocence was lost as starvation overtook Holland and the neighborhood children speculated on who would be the next to die;

Jan Van Driel, a 24-year-old plumber who refused to stand idly by as the Jews were rounded up and shipped away for execution;

Frieda Menco, a 14-year-old Jew spared from the first round of death camps by her parents rubbing her skin raw with sandpaper and claiming she had contagious scarlet fever. Menco was on the last transport train to Auschwitz;

Hans Zilversmit, a Jewish child whose mother pushed him out a window to escape the Nazis storming their home, then was placed in a Catholic home in Belgium for safekeeping during the five year Dutch occupation.

The Sioux Center connection

The Diet Eman story, which is the central story of the film, may never have been told, but for a chance connection between a Dutch immigrant and a Sioux Center chicken farmer.

It was in the late 1980s that Rich Van Regenmorter, Sioux Center, took a mission trip to the Dominican Republic to lay groundwork for a poultry complex that would feed starving Haitian refugees. One night a flash flood prevented him from returning to his home base, so a pastor invited him to spend the night in a missionary guest house. There he met another volunteer mission worker: Diet Eman.

In another of many coincidences, Rich and Diet soon discovered they had common acquaintances in the small Dutch town where Diet had grown up. That night they sat at the kitchen table long into the night as Diet told Rich her life story. Van Regenmorter was determined to bring her story to the rest of the world.

After returning to Sioux Center, Rich arranged for Diet to be a guest speaker for a mission fundraising event he planned at Dordt Colllege’s B.J. Haan Auditorium.

Dr. Jim Schaap did not attend, but he heard the glowing response of those who had.

So in 1991, when a “Suffering and Survival” conference speaker at Dordt was a no-show, Diet came to mind as a fill-in. Schaap invited her, she came and told her story, and the seed to a book had been planted.

“I told her if you ever want someone to help you write your book, I’d help,” recalls Schaap. But Diet’s immediate response was that six other authors had already asked, that she was just an ordinary person who didn’t want to be portrayed as some kind of hero.

The following spring, a sermon and hymn at a Sunday night worship service convicted Diet that she must share her holocaust story for the sake of the next generation. She wanted a Christian author to do the writing, and that very night she called Jim Schaap.

That summer, Schaap spent a week in Michigan interviewing Diet at her home, as well as hearing her reading from her journals and love-letters she had secreted away in a box she’d locked up when her fiancée didn’t return from the Dachau extermination camp.

“There have been tons of war stories written, but I was really attracted to this one because it was also a love story, and a story of faith overshadowing fear and even the greatest loss one can suffer,” says Schaap.

In 1993 the manuscript was completed, but although it was a potent and emotionally-filled manuscript (told in the voice of the woman who had lived it) no one was interested in publishing the story 40-plus years after the war.
Then came the opening of a Holocaust Museum in 1993, and an outbreak of new interest in stories from the Holocaust. With interest in this slice of world history reignited, two publishers that had previously rejected the book draft called back asking to publish it.

Schaap’s book, Things We Couldn’t Say, was published in June 1994 by Eerdmans Publishing Company in Grand Rapids. Almost 50,000 copies have been printed over the years, and Diet’s story is still very much in print. Schaap also turned the story into a readers theater presentation which a Dordt tour group performed all across the U.S., in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps.

Fast forward to 2004
Corey Niemchick
Corey Niemchick, Producer

Twelve years after the release of Things We Could Not Say, Jim Schaap received a phone call. A movie producer, Corey Niemchick with Storytelling Pictures in Grand Rapids, had read the book and wanted to capture on film the stories that would soon be lost forever, of WW II Dutch citizens who participated in underground resistance to the Nazi occupation of their country.

After some resistance to the idea (he told them he didn’t have much experience writing film scripts) Schaap wrote the original script and Niemchick and John Evans took it from there. Storytelling Pictures brought Diet Eman back to the Netherlands for filming, found additional stories, and put together the funding for the making of the film.

The result is a powerful documentary, with outstanding cinematography and a blend of art, history, archive footage and riveting interviews.

“It’s just outstanding, done with compassion and an immense heart, captivatingly put together and a powerful testimony to the stories and the film company,” says Schaap. “I’m so impressed, and thankful for having been asked to be a part of it.”

The Reckoning has been presented at 10 film festivals throughout the U.S. and the world, and was a second place winner in the documentary category at the New York International Film Festival this year. It has also won or become an official selection at the Hollywood, Waterfront, and Washington film festivals.

John Evans
John Evans, Director

The Oct. 12 showing at Dordt College is one of about a dozen premiere events before the film goes into general release. Attending the premiere will be producer Corey Niemchick, director and cinematographer John Evans, and Diet Eman. All will speak at the premier screening, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. in the B.J. Haan Auditorium. Dr. James Schaap and Rich Van Regenmorter will also be attending the movie premier and will be honored at a public reception following the film presentation.

“The audience will leave with the question ‘would I have been among them, what would I have done,’ running through their heads,” says Schaap. “It’s a life-changing story that you won’t want to miss.”

Admission to The Reckoning’s premiere showing is free and open to the public, with no advance reserved seating. A movie trailer, movie reviews, and other information about the documentary are available at

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