Micha Schliesser

Visiting Amsterdam or a discourse on cheesecake: I don't really like getting up early in the morning, but I was looking forward to this day. I'm travelling with Anja and Jenny to Amsterdam to visit Eva Weyl and Micha Schliesser. Both are survivors of the Westerbrock camp. They were children and teenagers respectively when they experienced the terrible deeds of the National Socialists.



About Micha Schliesser

When Micha Schliesser fled Berlin with his parents in February 1939, he was not even a year old. The family hoped to continue their journey to the USA via Rotterdam, but were detained and arrested at the German-Dutch border. After several months in refugee camps near Rotterdam and Amsterdam, they finally arrived at the Westerbork camp in February 1940, which was the starting point for deportations to the extermination camps shortly afterwards. Micha spent a whole five years of his childhood there and had to witness, among other things, how his friends gradually disappeared on the train and never returned. However, Micha and his parents were able to escape the deportations and were one of the few to survive the camp.

After liberation, the seven-year-old began the difficult step towards a 'normal' life, which he had previously been denied due to his early escape and camp experience: normality? That was the Westerbork camp for him! He first went to school in Amsterdam and then - just like his parents - successfully gained a foothold in the fashion industry. Until his death, he regularly travelled to schools to pass on his story. His appeal to future generations: "I hope that you learn to live in peace with others".

Micha Schliesser passed away in February 2018.

"I hope that you learn to live in peace with others."

Micha Schliesser

A picture to live on

When asked what helped him to carry on after the war, Micha Schliesser told us the story of a training course on "How to deal with the environment and how to deal with yourself". At the age of 58, after he had stopped working, he accompanied a friend to this training course. There he learnt for the first time that it was okay to think about the worst time of his life, to admit his feelings and to talk about them. The latter was the decisive factor that helped him move on. He had never really talked about this time before and his children didn't know his whole life story either. Through the training, Micha had lost his fear of admitting his feelings, as he had realised that nothing could happen to him except that he might have to cry. Micha Schliesser said that this has made a big difference to his life. We therefore had him handwrite the title of the training as a commentary picture.

Our encounter

With flowers for Eva and cheesecake for Micha in our luggage, we met the two friends in Eva's flat. Their familiarity and their interactions were fun, with Micha not missing out on the odd cheeky joke.

Eva had confessed to us in advance that Micha would kill for cheesecake. I was all the more excited when Micha, who turned out to be a critical cheesecake taster, tasted my homemade cake. He had already eaten many cheesecakes. Only last week he had been given a terrible cake as a present. But I seemed to have passed the test: The cake tasted good!

But I was much happier about Micha's openness and his invitation to be a witness to his story. It seemed unimaginable to me not to be able to experience the things I took for granted as a child: Having toys, eating sweets, discovering the world. Micha was denied all of this in his childhood. Despite his bad experiences, I found Micha to be a very quick-witted, humorous, witty and optimistic person who never shied away from a discussion.