A Memoir of Resistance
Publication Year: 2007
163256: A Memoir of Resistance is Michael Englishman’s astonishing story of courage, resourcefulness, and moral fibre as a Dutch Jew during World War II and its aftermath, from the Nazi occupation of Holland in 1940, through his incarceration in numerous death and labour camps, to his eventual liberation by Allied soldiers in 1945 and his emigration to Canada. Surviving by his wits, Englishman escaped death time and again, committing daring acts of bravery to do what he thought was right—helping other prisoners escape and actively participating in the underground resistance.
A man who refused to surrender his spirit despite the loss of his wife and his entire family to the Nazis, Englishman kept a promise he had made to a friend, and sought his friend’s children after the war. With the children’s mother, he made a new life in Canada, where he continued his resistance, tracking neo-Nazi cells and infiltrating their headquarters to destroy their files.
Until his death in August 2007, Englishman remained active, speaking out against racism and hatred in seminars for young people. His gripping story should be widely read and will be of interest to scholars of auto/biography, World War II history, and the Holocaust.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Life Writing
Title Page, Copyright
There is no way to properly describe the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. Even after all these years much of what I saw and experienced is difficult for me to talk about. But genocide—the mass murder of human beings because of their race or religion—continues to happen long after the defeat of the Nazis. I have come to realize that speaking out ...
Introduction: Words at the Ready
This story of resistance is a modest account of bravery and heroism in a time of tremendous anguish. The time of my resistance is the time of the Holocaust; and although the environment shifts,my roots are in the Netherlands, and in Amsterdam in particular, where Dutch Jewry was very active in the underground movements to free Holland and end ...
Chapter One. Growing Up Jewish in Amsterdam
In the spring of 1940, i lived at the Plantage Muidergracht 63, Amsterdam, with my parents, Levi, fifty-six years old,my mother Rachel, fifty-seven years old, and three of my four sisters.My father was an accountant and my two older sisters were teachers. Anna, who was twenty-nine, taught kindergarten and Duifje, twenty-three, taught languages: Hebrew, ...
Chapter Two. Deportation
When my oldest sister, Esther, and her family were deported,much of our grief came from our feelings of helplessness. There was nothing we could do to prevent it. The lowest class of human beings, the Nazis, were now the masters, and they ruled with terror, including guns.Anyone who spoke out against them was shot on the spot or deported to face a slower ...
Chapter Three. From the Burght to Vught—and Auschwitz
In the Burght, the NSB police questioned Yettie, Rika, and me— the kind of questioning that left me bleeding and bruised all over. In no way was I going to tell them how and where I had gotten my fake ID card. I insisted that it was mine. They decided to send Yettie and me to a concentration camp. Because I had been seen making a false identity card, the ...
Chapter Four. The Coal Mines of Janina and the Buna Works
A couple of days after my arrival in Birkenau, i was moved again, to another section of the vast complex. This time I was taken by transport truck to the Janina camp to work in the coal mine. The work was very hard and we got very little food. Most prisoners did not last more than three months there.Civilians were also working in this coal mine; as far as ...
Chapter Five. The Death March to Dora-Nordhausen and Building the “Secret Weapon”
the Ig Farben factory at Buna never did get into production. every time one of the chimneys began to smoke, it tipped off the Allies that this section of the factory was being used, and bombs would start to fall. In late December 1944, I was once again put onto an army truck and taken to a site close to the city of Krakow, in Poland, where the Russian army ...
Chapter Six. Liberation
At the beginning of April 1945, everything changed. the first hint we got was that one night, without any explanation, we were not taken to work our regular shift at the factory. The next morning, all the German guards had disappeared from the camp, and in their place were Hungarian guards. The German guards had fled because they knew that when the ...
Chapter Seven. Finding the Children
My first promising lead in the search for Katy and Philip came through the Dutch Red Cross. I found the names of two children on their list, Katy and Philip Pelsma, who were the same ages as the children I was looking for. I was anxious to check out this lead, but there was something I had to do first. As soon as I was strong enough ...
Chapter Eight. Picking Up the Pieces
While my family was settling into our new life in Amsterdam, i managed to find out where my friend Ado Broodboom was living. It was not easy to track him down.He’d spent most of the war on the road with the band, travelling all over Holland. In 1944 he’d married Melly Sudy, who sang in several bands, including the one Ado played with. They travelled and ...
Chapter Nine. Canada, Here We Come!
As soon as we arrived in New York, I knew that I could never live in a city like that. It was completely overwhelming. Coming from a small country like Holland, I found walking between the huge skyscrapers to be awe-inspiring, but strangely unpleasant. And our first experience there didn’t help.When we walked off the ship we asked a cab driver where the ...
Chapter Ten. Déjà Vu
Because our store specialized in the repair of televisions, radios, tape recorders, and so on, Bill and I were often visited by police detectives who were looking for stolen goods. One morning in the spring of 1963, five years after Bill and I had started our business together, a man whom I took to be a detective walked into the store and asked to speak to me in ...
Chapter Eleven. Fighting Back by Telling the Truth
So many requests had been made for a central resource for holocaust education that in 1985 the United Jewish Appeal (uja) Federation of Greater Toronto set up the Holocaust Remembrance Committee and the Holocaust Memorial Centre to educate students and other groups about the history of the Holocaust. When the program started
Chapter Twelve. Family Reunion
In the winter of 1994,my son Philip met a dutch girl in Florida and later in the year decided to travel to Holland to visit her. While he was in Holland, he happened to pick up a telephone directory, and to his amazement he found a listing for Engelschman, spelled the same way we spell our name in Dutch. Philip decided to make a telephone call, and sure enough ...
Chapter Thirteen. March of the Living—April 2004
The March of the Living is an annual march between the concentration camps Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland to commemorate the enormous slaughter of people that took place in all the concentration camps during World War II. This annual event is supported by the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). The M.O.L. starts in Poland and after one week there, ...
For years, if any of my grandchildren asked me about the number tattooed on my arm, I would always say, “That’s my old telephone number. I put it there so I wouldn’t forget it.” After a while, they weren’t satisfied with that anymore, and so I started to tell them little bits and pieces about World War II. When they got a little older, they starting hearing ...