My Name is Selma
The Exceptional Story of A Jewish Resistance Worker
When 97-year-old Selma van de Perre appeared on the Netherlands’ most popular talk show, she became an immediate sensation. The memoirs of this eloquent Ravensbrück survivor went straight into the bestseller list. ‘We were normal people thrown into extraordinary circumstances. This book was written as a testimony to our fight against inhumanity,’ she writes. Her page- turning story offers a valuable new witness account of Jewish experience within the resistance movement.
When the Second World War broke out, Selma Velleman was seventeen, an intelligent girl who had hoped to go to university. She lived with her mother, two older brothers, her younger sister and her father, who worked in the theatre. Until then, being Jewish had never played a large role in her life — like many, her family were non-practising Jews. Now suddenly it became a matter of life or death. Sum- moned to register for a work camp in 1942, she managed to evade it by adopting a false identity. She became Margareta van der Kuit, Marga for short, and left her family to live undercover in Utrecht. The people housing her belonged to the resistance and before long she had joined the cause herself, forging documents and delivering them throughout the country.
Selma escaped the Nazis on multiple occasions, but in July 1944 she was arrested, held for questioning and convicted as a political prisoner. She was sent on to Ravensbrück women’s camp and set to work in the Siemens factory, making (and sabotaging) arms for the Germans. Unlike her sister and parents, she survived the horrors of the war. The whole time no one knew she was Jewish, nor her real name. It was only after the war, before being repatriated from Sweden, that she man- aged to admit to her true name.
‘In no other Western European country was the persecution of the Jews as efficient and the death toll as high as it was in the Netherlands. At least three quarters of the Jewish population was murdered, among them my father, mother and little sister Clara, my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins. In this personal testimony I have recorded the small details that made up our lives, the sheer luck that saved some of us and the atrocities that led to the deaths of so many. It is a tribute to all those who suffered and died, and to my courageous friends and colleagues in the resistance who risked their own lives to try and save others. The horrors of World War II and the bravery of the people who defied them must never be forgotten. I hope this book will contribute to their lasting memory.’