Alfred Spreekmeester describes his experience as a child in Westerbork transit camp.
Alfred Spreekmeester was born November 8, 1935 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He was the youngest of the five children of Emmanuel Spreekmeester and Rebecca Rodrigues. His father worked in the Amsterdam office for Warner Brothers film company, and his siblings were all older than him, the closest in age was his brother Philip who was 11 years older. Alfred’s home was not a religious one. Although his parents considered themselves to be part of the Jewish community, they did not attend synagogue or participate in any religious observances or rituals.
Alfred does not remember feeling any antisemitism on Amsterdam when he was young. Starting in 1940, he had to wear the yellow star on his clothes, go to school with only Jewish children, and walk to school because of restrictions that prevented Jews from using public transit. Even though the Germans occupied the Netherlands in May 1940, Alfred did not experience any significant events in his life until 1943.
One night in 1943 Alfred’s family was woken up in the middle of the night and gathered into a theatre. The theatre was filled with people, there were no showers, and people had to sleep in the seats. After three weeks in the theatre Alfred was sent to Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands. He was sent with his parents and older brother Philip. After 7 months in Westerbork Alfred was sent to Amersfoort where he stayed for one month. He was then sent back to Westerbork for 11 more months.
At the end of 1943 Alfred was sent to Bergen-Belsen in Germany. Upon arriving at Bergen-Belsen Alfred was separated from his father and brother. Alfred and his mother were sent to the women’s camp and his father and Philip were sent to the men’s camp. In Bergen-Belsen Alfred was cared for by women in the camp while his mother worked in the kitchens. He was able to see his father and Philip once a week.
On November 18, 1944, Alfred and his family were exchanged for German Prisoners of War and taken out of Bergen-Belsen. They were placed in a German POW camp in Offenburg. Alfred and his family remained there until the camp was liberated by French and French Moroccan army about a week before the war ended.
After the war ended Alfred and his family were placed in a refugee camp in Scotland. In December 1945 Alfred and his family returned to the Netherlands and lived with his older sister and her husband. Alfred migrated to Montreal through his job in 1969 with his first wife and four children. He later divorced his first wife and married Ruth Cheifetz in 1975.
Alfred Spreekmeester currently lives in Montreal, and his full testimony is part of the Canadian Collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. It is preserved in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive and accessible through the Ekstein Library.
I remember walking through that camp totally aimlessly, day in, day out.
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