INSPIRING STORY OF THE WEEK
“I AM A JEW”
by Ian Schagen
“I Am a Jew” is an inspiring story, especially relevant today.
Some background to this inspiring story
When we think of concentration camps, we normally think of Poland and Nazi Germany. But did you know that in the 1940s there were concentration camps in Spain that were almost as bad? Ian’s father spent two months in a camp at Miranda de Ebro, after escaping from Nazi-occupied Europe and crossing the Pyrenees into Spain. Eventually, he and about 130 other Dutchmen were locked up in appalling and degrading conditions.
Ian only heard details of this hellhole after his father, Piet, had died. It’s a story to inspire and give courage to those who vow to stand up to hatred and oppression. This is that story.
Ian’s father Piet was a soldier in the Dutch army, over-run by the Germans in 1940 and then disbanded. The soldiers were allowed to return to civilian life for a while. But in 1943 the Nazis decided to round them all up again and send them to forced labour camps in Germany. When Piet got wind of this, he and his companion Frans secretly made their way south, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain.
This inspiring story shows the way to all those who want to make their voices heard.
Although Piet and Frans were not Jewish, many of those who crossed the border into Spain at this time were Jews, trying to escape Hitler’s ‘final solution’.
The Spanish dictator Franco had guards stationed along the border to capture the many escapees. Piet and the other males of military age who crossed the border without proper papers arrived by crowded cattle truck at Miranda de Ebro. Conditions there were indescribable – so horrific that when Piet later wrote to his family, he refused to describe them.
This story does not come from Piet’s account, but from a letter Ian received from Israel after his father’s death. This letter was written by Alfred Frank, a companion of Piet in Miranda, one of the few Jews in the group of about 130 Dutchmen incarcerated there.
Inspiring story of Piet, a man of courage
An offer too-good-to-refuse . . . Or was it?
One day some representatives of the German embassy visited the camp. A Spanish guard ushered in a German officer and ordered the prisoners to stand up and listen to his speech. His proposal was enticing. “You can be released right now and taken back to Holland, with a guarantee of no reprisals and freedom from any forced labour. You will have two weeks in Madrid at a five-star hotel paid for by the German embassy, and then be given rail tickets home.” That was the deal – but it did not apply to any Jews. “They could rot there forever!”
What Would You Do?
Can you guess what Piet and his non-Jewish companions did next? Here is a hint: Piet was raised to believe in respecting all people, irrespective of creed, colour or race.
This inspiring story might just motivate others to stand up against hatred and oppression.
Tales2Inspire ~ The Topaz Collection
Stories of Personal Awakenings