A Friend Among Enemies: The Incredible Story of Arie Van Mansum in the Holocaust


163 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55041-045-8
DDC 940.53'18'092





Reviewed by Greg Turko

Greg Turko is a policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and


In recent years, a growing number of Holocaust survivors have begun to
tell their personal stories. Such “history on the small scale”
accounts can add a significant dimension to our overall understanding of
this period.

Keith’s A Friend Among Enemies takes a slightly different approach to
dealing with a personal account of the Holocaust. She recounts the story
of Arie Van Mansum, a young Dutch man who risked his life and freedom
many times in order to assist, and sometimes directly save the lives of,
many Jews during World War II. Van Mansum, who now lives in Ottawa, has
been recognized by Israel for his heroic deeds and actions.

Fortunately, this account of Van Mansum’s heroism, courage, and
altruism survives a writing style more suited to a third-rate
adolescent-market adventure novel. Much of the story is told in a clumsy
“and then this happened” style of narrative. The book is also
littered with irrelevant information—presumably included in the
mistaken belief that it adds human interest—such as details about the
prewar Dutch phone system. Initially, readers will probably assume that
this trivia has future significance. It does not. On the other hand,
there is no effort made to explore Van Mansum’s personality in any
depth in order to help the reader understand what motivated him to
undertake such dangerous assignments. This is a particularly serious
oversight, since reference is made to the fact that Van Mansum has been
interviewed as part of a research project on altruism. We yearn to know
about Van Mansum the person; instead we find out about the Dutch phone

Van Mansum’s story has the strength and depth to transcend the
quality of the writing. His is a story that deserves to be read widely,
even if it has not been told with the skill that it merits.


Keith, Janet., “A Friend Among Enemies: The Incredible Story of Arie Van Mansum in the Holocaust,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 16, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/11837.