Stamp Photo Reunites Survivor with Prewar Berlin Schoolmate

Because of a postage stamp, Robert Engel, a 73-year- old Holocaust survivor, was recently reunited with a former schoolmate from prewar Berlin.

The reunion came after Engel’s wartime identity card was reproduced on a Holocaust stamp issued last year by Canada Post. When the stamp appeared, Engel inadvertently became the only known living Canadian to be depicted on a Canadian postage stamp.

John Prince, an avid philatelist in Sarasota, Fla., saw Canada’s Holocaust stamp in Linn’s Stamp News, recognized Engel and felt certain that he had found a former high school classmate from the Wilhelms Ave. Oberrealschule.

After finding Engel’s address in Toronto, Prince wrote him a letter that read, in part:

“I hope that I am addressing the right Robert Engel, a fellow who used to go to the same school I did 60 years ago while my dad was posted to Berlin for his company.”

He wrote, “I used to chum around with a Robert Engel who was one class ahead of me, but because he was Jewish, he disappeared one fine day and I never saw him again. Nobody at the time could explain to me what had happened to him. I do remember very vividly that I had asked various teachers of his whereabouts but never got a satisfactory answer.”

Prince recalled in his letter that the events took place “in 1937, when all of a sudden, various Jewish classmates of mine also suddenly disappeared. Only much later did we as a class realize what had happened.”

Transported to Holland with other Jewish youths in 1938, Engel subsequently spent several years in Westerbork and other concentration camps. Although he did not remember Prince, he said he was ready to meet him, even while suspecting that Prince might have “fought for the wrong side” in the German army during World War II.

Last month, Engel and Prince met when the latter attended CAPEX ’96, an international stamp conference in Toronto. It was only then that Engel learned that Prince, a 72-year-old retired communications specialist who was born in Holland, had lived in Berlin only a few years when his father had been stationed there, and later battled the Nazis as an Royal Air Force pilot in England.

Issued in mid-1995, Canada’s Holocaust stamp bears a montage of lean, desperate faces with a yellow Jewish star, part of a blue-and-white-striped prisoner’s uniform and a Jewish identity card with a photo of Engel when he was 17.

Engel, a retired fashion buyer and immediate past chairman of the Holocaust Remembrance Center of Toronto, had donated the identity card to the center, which in turn had lent it to the design firm commissioned to create the stamp.

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