Practically speaking, "Jacob has opened many doors for us with funding sources, media, construction people, everyone," seconds U.S. National Slavery Museum executive director Vonita W. Foster. "But he's also been a personal inspiration. When I went to the island to see his museum, even taxi drivers and waitresses seemed to know and admire him. He's truly able, as the saying goes, to walk with kings and still keep his common touch."

"Do you know how he got all that stuff in his museum?" Wilder interjects. Answer: Not the way most millionaires acquire art collections, by spreading around money through agents. "He went up these African rivers himself, for several months, in a canoe! I said, 'Where'd you put all that priceless stuff, in that little bitty boat? Where'd you even sleep?' "

"He's a very simple person," Kura Hulanda president Peter Heinen agrees. When Dekker travels (which he does eight months a year), "he goes off to the airport with a backpack. You wouldn't know he had a penny."

Actually, explains Dekker, as a child growing up in WWII-torn Holland, he didn't. His father, a middle-class Jewish real estate developer who went underground, lost his entire fortune - ironically, to the family of Dekker's mother, who were hiding his father. "The farmers who hid people didn't do it because they were humanitarian. They did it for money. After signing over most of his property to my mother's family, he was labeled a shoplifter by his in-laws, and my mother consequently hated my father and wanted nothing to do with me. There was little food anywhere anyway, and since I was a sickly child, skinny like a rat, my mother would always say, 'Oh, I'm not going to waste any food or time on him. He's not going to last.' "