Sam Schryver was born on May 7, 1922 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Sam describes pre-war Amsterdam as the “most beautiful Jewish area ... so warm ... [the] most beautiful place to live for a Jew ... this is gone and will never, never come back." Sam went to public school, but also attended religious school where he learned Hebrew. He had a traditional Jewish upbringing.His father was on a committee to help clothe the poor; and the entire family belonged to various synagogues and Jewish organizations. Most of the Jews in Amsterdam were concentrated in the centre of the city. Sam explains that he never experienced any antisemitism growing up and that many of his close friends were non-Jews.
The Germans entered Amsterdam in May 1940. The Dutch Nazis began to organize more openly. One night 150 Dutch Nazis approached the Jewish quarter of the city. They were met, however, by 1 500 Dutch gentiles who came to defend the Jews. One Dutch Nazi was killed in the skirmish. As a reprisal, the German Nazis rounded up 400 Jewish boys and took them to concentration camps, either Mauthausen or Buchenwald. The Jewish neighbourhood was demarcated and all Dutch, Jews and non-Jews, had to register with the Nazis. Sam was able to get a job at a hospital, allowing him to be exempted from work camp. In September/October 1942, his father was taken to a concentration camp. Sam joined the resistance - he obtained false I.D. and ration cards for fugitives. During the great raid of May 1943 the Germans emptied all the hospitals and senior's homes - all patients (including his mother) and hospital employees were thrown into trucks to be taken to concentration camps. Sam managed to survive the great raid by going into hiding in The Hague. He spent 18 months in an attic until he was discovered and taken to a gestapo jail, "The Orange Hotel," where he was held from January 22 to February 2, 1945. He was then taken to Westerbork concentration camp. At Westerbork he worked in a factory that recycled batteries. He escaped and was picked up by the Orange Brigade - the allies thought Westerbork was a German army camp and was going to bomb it. Due to Sam's intervention, they delayed the bombing and sent a reconnaissance mission which confirmed his report that this was actually a concentration camp. The Canadian forces liberated Westerbork. Sam immediately joined the armed forces and volunteered to guard the German soldiers. He was relieved of his duties on June 22, 1945. He returned to Amsterdam where he joined a Zionist organization. Sam found out his parents had both been killed in Sobibor. One sister survived. Then he travelled the country looking for "Hidden Children,” preparing them for Aliyah. He did this until the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948. He went into the textile industry and got his B.A. in Holland. In 1954, Sam immigrated to Canada because he had been liberated by Canadian forces. He did not want to create a family after seeing what had happened to his parents. His girlfriend was persuasive, however, and they have been married for 42 years.
Ellen Samuel (née Stern) was born on the November 15, 1926 in Paderborn, Germany. Ellen recalls her first awareness of antisemitism in April 1933 when she was in grade two. Children would punch in her bicycle tires; she was never invited to birthday parties; some friends stopped walking home with her; and there were places she could not enter. On November 9, 1938, the Stern family experienced Kristallnacht. They realized it was time to leave. They spent two weeks in Vohermar trying to get visas to go to the Central American republics, as Ellen’s father had previously done business with the Americas as a grain merchant. A very distant relative in California guaranteed five hundred dollars for each family member to ensure they would not be a burden on the government. When it was their turn to emigrate, it was wartime and there were no more ships for civilians. Ellen was sent to England via the Kindertransport program. Along with 600 other student, Ellen landed in Dover where Jewish volunteer women gave the children oranges. She was taught English by the local synagogue and was integrated to a London school. When the war broke out, she was evacuated to the countryside and lived with a family who was paid to take in city children. As there was no bombing, she returned to London just as the bombing started on February 3, 1939. Her parents arrived in London on July 7, 1939. The following year, her parents were interned at Isle of Man. Ellen was shipped to Isle of Man, then Liverpool, and then returned to the Isle of Man to be with her mother. After internment ended in May 1941, the family returned to London; Ellen went to school during the weekends and worked with her mother doing peace work during the week. Her father became an office manager. On V-E Day, the family was in on vacation in a small village called Mousehole in Cornwall. On V-J Day, she was downtown. Once the war was over, they started sending packages to British soldiers who were liberating the camps. Ellen found out about her other relatives who survived the war: one of her uncles in Germany survived; another relative lived in a cave under a barn near the German border; and two aunts from Holland came to London. After the war, Ellen worked for export/import companies due to her multi-lingual abilities. In April 1951, Ellen decided to come to Canada when her uncle died and her aunt in Canada could not cope with the lawyers or paperwork; it took five years to settle everything. She ended up working in estates from this learning experience. Her future husband, whom she married in 1955, did not follow until later. When Ellen’s father passed away in London in 1955, her mother came to Canada; she passed away in 1958. Ellen states that this project is very important because the only way to prevent a horror like the Holocaust is to neither keep it from being forgotten or trivialized nor be a chapter in history but, rather, be a lesson.