My Name is Selma

My Name is Selma


Selma van de Perre was seventeen when World War Two began. Until then, being Jewish in the Netherlands had been of no consequence. But by 1941 this simple fact had become a matter of life or death. Several times, Selma avoided being rounded up by the Nazis. Then, in an act of defiance, she joined the Resistance movement, using the pseudonym Margareta van der Kuit. For two years 'Marga' risked it all. Using a fake ID, and passing as Aryan she travelled around the country delivering newsletters, sharing information, keeping up morale - doing, as she later explained, what 'had to be done'.

In July 1944 her luck ran out. She was transported to Ravensbrück women's concentration camp as a political prisoner. Unlike her parents and sister - who, she would later discover, died in other camps - she survived by using her alias, pretending to be someone else. It was only after the war ended that she was allowed to reclaim her identity and dared to say once again: My name is Selma.

Now, at ninety-eight, Selma remains a force of nature. Full of hope and courage, this is her story in her own words.

Our Review

My Name is Selma is an honest account of a Jewish resistance fighter. What I liked about her account was the fact that it opened my eyes to something I had never considered – the fact that there was a Jewish resistance.

This is not a sensationalised account so not every element is fast-paced action. This was something I liked though because it was true to life.

Her account, and others like it are incomprehensible to us but that is why I think it is important that books like this continue to be published.

“I’m sitting here in my quiet house in London and looking at a photo taken in 1940. It’s of my mother, younger sister and me. We’re relaxing in Aunt Sara’s garden in Amsterdam, which, at that moment, was my perfect peaceful spot…A model image of family time: loving, secure, comfortable, predictable. There’s no hint in our faces of what was to come in the following three years: the deaths of my father, mother and Clara; my grandma; Aunt Sara, her husband Arie and their two sons; and so many other family members.

None of these deaths were due to natural causes or accidents. They were the results of the atrocities that were already spreading across Europe when the photo was taken, and which would soon infiltrate the Netherlands. Before these catastrophic events, we hadn’t comprehended what a privilege it was to lead an anonymous life. I can still hardly believe that people who should have remained unremarkable ended up memorialised on lists and monuments – because they had fallen victim to the most systemic mass murder the world has ever known.”

I think the passage above is reflective of Selma’s style without and shows her unflinching approach to their topic of her families murders.

Selma tells us how before the Nazis being Jewish wasn’t really part of her identity because she and her family weren’t practicing Jews. During the war Selma found herself participating actively in the resistance movement at great personal risk. My Name is Selma tells of her extraordinary bravery even when she was arrested as a political prisoner and sent to a concentration camp.

What is striking about Selma is her focus on positivity and enjoying life despite the deep sadness she must feel at times.

An exceptional lady.  


Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 4.5/5

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