Harry remembers being a six-year-old boy in South Africa, and his parents called him into their room and shut the door. They asked the shocking question, “are you aware that we are not your real parents?” He had no idea what they were talking about.
Harry learned that the man he called father was really his uncle who had immigrated to South Africa before the start of World War II. His birth parents were German Jews who had left Germany for The Netherlands, and Harry had been born in 1942 in Nazi-occupied Holland. His mother was in her third trimester when Jews started to go into hiding, however, no one would risk hiding a woman as pregnant as she was. Soon after Harry’s birth, the family was arrested and taking to a holding location in Amsterdam, Harry’s parents learned of a smuggling operation by the Dutch Underground that would switch babies with dolls before deportation. Harry’s parents decided to give him to them. For nine months, the Dutch Resistance moved him from house to house. No one wanted to keep such a young baby who was ill. Finally, the Bakkers, a Protestant family in the small Dutch town of Engwierum took him in. The family created a cover story to tell the neighbors, that Harry was a child from the city that was recuperating from an illness in the country and needed fresh air, this way he could be in the yard and play outside without anyone becoming suspicious. The father was the postmaster of the town and a member of the Dutch Resistance, and he would smuggle pistols, disassembled riles, and ammunition to the warfront. After the war, his paternal uncle, who had been living in South Africa, searched for any survivor relatives in Europe: he found Harry. Harry spent his whole life tracing his family history and unraveling the mystery of his parents he never knew. From the records at the Westerbork Transit Camp, he learned that his parents were murdered at Sobibor in April 1943.
Harry Davids always encourages students to be upstanders and not bystanders, as upstanders saved his life.