Robert Devries

Name at birth
Robert de Vries
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Nordhorn, Germany
Name of father, occupation
Moritz de Vries , Owned a clothing store on the ground floor of their house
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Ella (nee Hopfeld) de Vries , Housewife, and helped in their clothing store on the ground floor of their house
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Father: Moritz de Vries Mother: Ella (nee Hopfeld) de Vries Eldest son: Robert de Vries (DOB: Feb. 13, 1924) Second son: Paul (Uri) de Vries (DOB: 1926)
How many in entire extended family?
Father, mother, & 2 sons (above); maternal grandfather lived with them; uncle & aunt who immigrated to U.S. early in the war; another older cousin (referred to as “Uncle”) who immigrated to London, England early in the war; and a few cousins – all lived in Nordhorn
Who survived the Holocaust?
Two brothers (Robert & Paul); uncle & aunt who had moved to U.S.; uncle who had moved to London, and a couple of cousins (one came to Detroit and the other to Rockford, Illinois)
Robert was born in 1924 in Nordhorn, Germany, a small town in northwestern Germany, near Bremen.  Living at home were his parents (Moritz & Ella), his brother Paul (younger by 2 years), and his maternal grandfather.  They lived in a house in which the ground floor was the family’s clothing store.  Robert’s bedroom was in the upstairs attic. Several other relatives lived in Nordhorn, a few of whom left Germany in the early days of the Nazi rise to power. Robert described his early childhood as fairly idyllic. He bicycled across the border to Holland for Bar Mitzvah lessons, and celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in Nordhorn. Life became progressively more restrictive under Nuremburg and other anti-Jewish laws, and eventually, he and his brother were no longer allowed to attend school. On the night of Kristallnacht, the window of their clothing store was shattered, and a large rock was thrown through the attic window onto Robert’s bed (luckily, he was not in the bed at that moment.) His Father was taken away that night, but returned shortly thereafter. Some time later, his family left to Holland. Eventually, they were interred in Westerbork Labor Camp (in Holland). In Westerbork, Robert learned some craftsmanship skills, working with metal and wood.  His parents eventually deported by train to Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Robert and his brother remained at Westerbork until they were liberated by the Canadian Army.  
From Westerbork, they went to live with a family in Holland for a short time, and then to France. An uncle who had previously immigrated to the U.S. and lived in Detroit sent the 2 boys boat tickets to come to Detroit.  A couple of days before they were to depart, his brother Paul – who was always quite Zionistic – found passage on a ship to Palestine. [Paul adopted his Hebrew first name (Uri), married a Dutch survivor that he met in Israel, and became among the founders of Kibbutz Yakum (between Herzliya & Netanya), where they remained for the rest of their lives. They had 3 daughters, all of whom remained in Israel and married, with children and grandchildren. Robert arrived in Detroit – without money or knowledge of English.  He initially lived with the uncle and aunt who had sent him the ticket to come to the U.S., and later, rented a room with a Jewish family in Detroit, who became lifelong friends. He was drafted during the Korean War, and worked as a truck mechanic in the Army. Following Army service, he returned to Detroit.  He studied drafting at Lawrence Institute of Technology, and worked for his entire career as a tool designer / draftsman for General Motors. He met and married a Detroit-born woman of Lithuanian ancestry – Helen Mae Pearlman. They initially lived in Detroit, and, while pregnant with the first of their 2 children, moved to a house in Oak Park, where they lived until Robert’s death in 2003. At the time of his death, their 2 sons had given them 5 grandchildren.   
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
What DP Camp were you after the war?
Briefly in Holland. Then, was sent by Jewish Agency to France.
Where did you go after being liberated?
Briefly to Holland, then France. From there, received a boat ticket to the U.S. from German uncle & aunt who had previously immigrated to Detroit
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
German uncle & aunt who had previously come to Detroit sent boat tickets for Robert & Paul to come to the U.S. and then on to Detroit. At the last minute, the younger brother, Paul, found his way onto a ship that was heading to Palestine, and he went there instead of the U.S.
Occupation after the war
Tool Designer/Draftsman for General Motors
When and where were you married?
In Detroit – June 21, 1953
Married a Detroiter – Helen Mae Pearlman
Jeffrey Devries (1954) – pediatrician Stephen Ralph Devries (1957) – cardiologist
Daniel Joseph Devries (1987) David Elan Devries (1989) Joshua Devries (1990) Rachel Amy Devries (1991) Andrew Devries (1992)
What do you think helped you to survive?
Being together with family at Westerbork, and then, after parents murdered in Auschwitz, being with brother
Biography given by Robert Devries son's, Jeffrey Devries & Stephen Devries
Interview date:

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