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Selma Wijnberg

Groningen, Netherlands

Selma was the youngest of the Wijnberg's four children, and the only daughter. When she was 7, her family left Groningen to start a business in the town of Zwolle [in the Netherlands]. There her parents ran a small hotel popular with Jewish businessmen traveling in the area. Every Friday there was a cattle market, and many of the cattle dealers came to the Wijnberg's hotel for coffee and business.

1933-39: At home we were observant of Jewish tradition because my mother was religious. Our hotel observed the Jewish dietary laws. At the end of Friday evening prayers, we'd gather at home around the table and sing Hebrew songs. We'd also go to synagogue every Saturday and return home to a sumptuous meal. I was very active in Zionist activities and attended Zionist camps every summer.

1940-44: The Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. In 1943 I was deported to the Sobibor death camp, where I was one of a few kept alive to work. At the end of my first day at Sobibor we gathered for roll call in the open area of Camp #1. There was a fire from Camp #3; the stench of burning flesh was overwhelming. Someone asked me, "Do you know what that fire means?" I shook my head. He explained it was the funeral pyre of our transport. Then the Germans ordered us to dance in couples, while a prisoner played the violin.

To her knowledge, Selma was the only native Dutch inmate who survived the Sobibor extermination camp. After the war she married. In 1957 she and her husband settled in the United States.

 

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