[The following is told from the perspective of George and Ursula Levy, two young siblings (eight-and-a-half and 4-years-old at the beginning of the war, respectively) who grew up in Lippstadt, Germany, and were Jewish. Seeing how Jews were being treated in Germany at the time, their mother paid for them to travel to nearby Holland in 1939, where they were helped by a man named Joseph van Mackelenbergh to hide in a Catholic home, St. Jacobus Children’s Home in Ersel. The nuns and rector knew the children were Jewish, but protected them as long as they could until, eventually, they were discovered by the Nazis and forcibly deported to concentration camps. They did even up surviving the war, later emigrating to America. Here, Joseph van Mackelenbergh surprised them at Camp Vught, the Nazi’s first major concentration camp in Holland. He had been giving the commandant of the camp massive discounts at his general store, and in return for the favor, he was allowed to see the children, where he presented forged documents stating that they had an Aryan American father who currently lived as a doctor in Chicago (their actual father had been killed early in the war). This led to the children being moved to a part of the camp where they were better treated, as prisoners with American, non-Jewish family were often treated better on the off-chance they could later be exchanged to the Allies for captured German citizens. The commandant ordered a woman by the name of Florence to care for the children. Later, Florence’s name was called to be taken to an extermination camp, which is where the following scene takes place.]
One day, while George was at the transit area, he heard officials call the guardian Florence’s name on the transport list. Panic-stricken, Florence pleaded with Eglinger [the commandant] that this was a terrible mistake. “I can’t go,” she begged. “I’m in charge of the Levy children.”
Etlinger dragged Florence over to George and asked him, “Do you need her?”
The flustered boy felt paralyzed and didn’t know what to do. If I say no, they’re going to take her away. If I say yes, they might make Ursula and me go with her.
”Tell him, George,” Florence cried, her eyes pleading for his help. “Tell him how I look after you two and make sure you get fed and stay healthy and safe. Please!”
”Well, answer me!” Etlinger shouted.
Think! Think! Say something before he beats you! Suddenly the words tumbled out in a rush, unleashed by George’s survival instinct. “No, we don’t need her. I am old enough to take care of my sister and myself.”
”George, no! No! How could you? You need me!” Florence shrieked, flailing as Etlinger hauled her away.
George, sick to his stomach, ran off and sobbed. For days he was unable to get Florence’s high-pitched screams out of his mind.
As noted before, George and his sister survived the war, and they frequently returned to Holland to visit those who had helped them. In a 1985, the author points out, he found that Florence had also survived the war. He looked her up, and she forgave him, telling him she did not blame him for her deportation.
Zullo, Allan, and Mara Bovsun. “How Can the Stars Seem So Happy in This Horrible Place? George and Ursula Levy’s Story.” Survivors: True Stories of Children in the Holocaust. Scholastic, 2004. 85-6. Print.