Utrecht, Netherlands

In May 1945, the Canadians liberated the Netherlands from Nazi Germany. Philip was asleep in his foster home while there were guns firing and much yelling and screaming while the people of Utrecht were celebrating the news of the liberation. One night a few weeks later, Jopi was sitting in the living room, looking outside through the window, and saw a woman walking towards the house with a big bouquet of flowers. The woman was Mina Pach, Philip’s mother. She was thirty years old and weighed seventy-five pounds at that time. She had survived thirteen death and labor camps and returned home to Amsterdam from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which was liberated by the British in mid-April 1945. Following a stay at a DP camp in Germany during May, Mina finally returned to Amsterdam in early June 1945. She learned of her son’s survival with a family in Utrecht. Of course she wanted to be reunited and eventually make plans to bring her son back to Amsterdam. The day arrived when Philip would return to Amsterdam with his mother, but he refused. He no longer remembered his mother—which of course Mina understood. There were five more trips from Amsterdam to Utrecht in an attempt to bring Philip back with his mother, but still he refused to leave the Spier family in Utrecht. On the sixth visit Jantje Spier told Jopi to go to Amsterdam with Mina and Philip to help him transition. Mina and Philip brought Jopi back to Utrecht by barge. Philip finally returned to Amsterdam with just his mother.

Years later Jantje Spier was deservedly awarded the Netherlands’ Memorial Cross for her sacrifice and bravery during the war years.