27 January 2022
There could be no more fitting visitor to Woldingham on Holocaust Memorial Day, Thursday 27 January, than the extraordinary Selma van de Perre. A Jewish Resistance fighter in the Netherlands during World War II, Selma – who will be 100 years old this year – is also a survivor of the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
With the end of World War II being nearly 80 years ago, opportunities to hear first-hand from those who experienced life under the Nazi regime are now few and far between. Woldingham’s Year 9 students, who will study the Holocaust next term, were lucky enough to have that privilege today. Selma’s remarkable memoir, My Name is Selma, is part of Year 9’s recommended reading and Head of History Mrs Anna Housden read a compelling extract from the book before Selma answered questions students had submitted in advance.
The questions were put to Selma by Lower Sixth Former Sophie, who has a family connection with Selma. Selma’s vivid recollections and anecdotes described life for Dutch Jews under German occupation, her brave work for the Resistance, being arrested and her time in prison and, later, in Ravensbrück. Selma shared stories of secretly transporting illegal newspapers around The Netherlands as part of her Resistance work and playing a part in an operation to free other Resistance fighters from prison.
Selma’s parting advice to students was that they never just follow a person or a cause unthinkingly: “For goodness sake, use your brains and be careful”. Wise words from someone who knows.