The honours continue for Brother Sam!
by John Derrick, Chancellor Commander, Syracuse Lodge #9, Domain of Quebec.
Picture: Brother Sam Schryver, P.C. (left) being offered congratulations from the Consul General of the Netherlands, André Brouwer, after he received a medal and a knighthood from the Queen of Holland.
For 25 years I have known brother Sam Schryver, P.C. a member of Syracuse Lodge Number 9, the Domain of Quebec. Brother Sam has a great sense of humour, a natural leader, a man all of our lodge looks up to, but few of us knew that our Pythian brother was a true hero.
To many of us, it was quite a surprise to pick up the Montreal newspaper and read that the Queen of Holland has bestowed the highest honour that her country could give on our very own Brother Sam, and to call him a genuine war hero. Brother Sam rarely talked about the war, but when so many individuals came forward and denied that the Holocaust ever took place, Brother Sam had to talk out and relive his own experiences.
Brother Sam, passed away at the age of 92 years old, was a Dutch born Jew. He was nearly 18 when the Germans invaded his native Holland. When it became clear that the Nazi aimed to exterminate the Jews, he survived by thinking fast and daring to fight back.
After the Nazis invaded, they forced most Jewish men into work camps, many far from their homes. Brother Sam watched in horror as Nazis dragged Jewish hospital patients from their beds and onto trucks. He sneaked food to Jewish families in the night and forged ID cards for them. He escaped several captures by the secret police. Being a member of the Dutch Resistance would mean his immediate execution if he was ever discovered or betrayed to the Gestapo.
When he was finally caught for good, he spent three full days without food or water in a railway boxcar with around 90 other Jews. The car was so crowed that people on the edges could not reach the toilet barrel in the middle. Brother Sam found himself in transport to Westerbork camp, a place where Jews were shipped before facing their deaths at other camps. By the time he arrived at Westerbork, the war was ending. Jews were no longer being taken to the death camps because Hitler needed the trains to bring back his troops. He and the 900 other inmates at Westerbork could hear the booming artillery coming closer to the camp. They knew the Allies were near.
He also knew the Germans might, any any time, open fire on the prisoners as a act act of desperation. He did not want to wait to be killed.
Under the cover of night, he sneaked out of the prison and swan across a canal to what he hoped would be his freedom. After a long, a nearly fatal swim, when he got to the other side of the canal, he felt a rifle barrel stabbing at his neck. But the man behind the gun spoke English and he was a Canadian.
Brother Schryver was brought to General Jean Victor Allard, commander of the 6th Brigade, 2nd division of the Canadian army. He told the general that 900 Jews were in the Westerbork camp, but the commanders did not believe it. Military intelligence has pegged this camp as a German military barrack. They were preparing to send bombers to destroy it. After many countless, frantic hours of arguing and pleading with the Canadian forces, they sent six patrolmen back to the camp with Brother Sam to verify his story. These soldiers were under strict orders: one suspicious move, and it's shoot to kill.
In a letter dated August 14, 1990, Jean Victor Allard, then chief of Canadian defense staff wrote: "Due to the intervention and action of Mr. Schryver, the total annihilation of the Westerbork camp and it approximate one thousand inmates was prevented." Brother Sam saved the Jews in the very nick of time.
For his extraordinary courage, more than 55 years later, Brother Sam Schryver, P.C. received the highest award the Dutch Government gives out to civilians, and was Knighted by the Queen Beatrix. Congratulations, Sir Sam Schryver.