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Michman, Dr. Joseph
Witness to the fate of Holland’s Jewish community
1961 Quote: 5/10/61: DEPUTY STATE ATTORNEY GAVRIEL BACH: Dr. Melkman, you stated that there were people who hid themselves and were caught. Are you able to say something, from the emotional point of view, about the effects on such people who hid themselves, or on children who hid themselves and were caught – how they behaved subsequently?
MICHMAN: The conditions of a hide-out are somewhat known to the world through the diary of Anne Frank. But perhaps, in order to give some impression of what it means to be in a hide-out, I shall describe one child whom I saw. My wife and I worked in the children’s home in Westerbrook. They always brought to this place children who were seized by the Germans, children who did not have parents, who did not actually have parents, or whose parents had hidden themselves or who had been deported, almost invariably straight away. I remember one case of a child whose name was van Dam – his first name I do not recall. He was ten years old. He had been cooped up for a whole year in a narrow room, he was not allowed to talk in a normal voice – and I do not mean talking loudly. He was not allowed to walk as a child would walk, lest the neighbors should hear him. When he came to Westerbrook, he came to the children’s home and also began speaking in whispers. When we told him that there was no need to do so and he understood that everything was permitted here, he began running around the grounds of the children’s home all the time. He could not stop himself, and he shouted very loudly, for he had been forbidden for a whole year to speak or walk. Thus, the sort of life in a hideout, especially for children who had no understanding at all of their situation, was terrible, and we often asked ourselves, when we were in the camp and we saw that as long as the children in the camp were able to live like children – perhaps it was better than living in hiding. Of course, when it became clear to us, later on, what the fate was of those who were sent to Poland and what was the fate of those who were hidden in Holland, the position of the Jews of Holland was, nevertheless, better, for many of them were saved by the Righteous Gentiles – about 4,000 children were saved. But it was hard to describe the mental agony of a child who was obliged to live through a long time such as this – for two years and sometimes more.
BACH: What happened to the child you were describing?
MICHMAN: He was sent three days later to Auschwitz.
1996 Quote: I was not satisfied with my testimony at the trial because you could say so much more. But when you are testifying there is of course not enough time. There are so many stories I could have told. All the time I ask myself, why did I tell the stories I did, perhaps I could have told other more important things. When I think back to it, I am not satisfied with myself.