Selma Wijnberg

Selma Wijnberg

Born: May 15, 1922

Groningen, Netherlands

Selma was the youngest of the Wijnberg's four children, and the only daughter. When she was 7, her family left Groningen to start a business in the town of Zwolle [in the Netherlands]. There her parents ran a small hotel popular with Jewish businessmen traveling in the area. Every Friday there was a cattle market, and many of the cattle dealers came to the Wijnberg's hotel for coffee and business.

1933-39: At home Selma and her family were observant of Jewish tradition because her mother was religious. Their hotel observed the Jewish dietary laws. At the end of Friday evening prayers, they'd gather at home around the table and sing Hebrew songs. They'd also go to synagogue every Saturday and return home to a sumptuous meal. Selma was very active in Zionist activities and attended Zionist camps every summer.

1940-44: The Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. In 1943 Selma was deported to the Sobibor killing center, where she was one of a few kept alive to work. At the end of her first day at Sobibor they gathered for roll call in the open area of Camp #1. There was a fire from Camp #3; the stench of burning flesh was overwhelming. Someone asked Selma, "Do you know what that fire means?" She shook her head. He explained it was the funeral pyre of their transport. Then the Germans ordered them to dance in couples, while a prisoner played the violin.

To her knowledge, Selma was the only native Dutch inmate who survived the Sobibor killing center. After the war she married. In 1957 she and her husband settled in the United States.