Michel Velleman

Michel Velleman (5 January 1895 – 2 July 1943),[1] known by his stage name Professor Ben Ali Libi, was a Dutch magician who was murdered in the Sobibor extermination camp during World War II.[2] Dutch poet Willem Wilmink wrote a poem about his being murdered by the Nazis.[3]

Michel Velleman
Ben Ali Libi.png
Professor Ben Ali Libi during a show at the Old Men's and Women's almshouse in Amsterdam in 1933
Michel Velleman

(1895-01-05)5 January 1895
Died2 July 1943(1943-07-02) (aged 48)


He was born in Groningen in the Netherlands and later moved to Amsterdam.[2]

Velleman was a well-known magician, performing for notables such as the Dutch prince consort and the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II.[4][5][6] He wrote a booklet of simple magic tricks that was published in 1925.[7][8]

His precise politics are not known, but he supported workers' rights, including giving free magic performances to striking workers during the 1920s.[9] Besides paid work in variety shows, he often performed for charity, including at almshouses.[8]

During World War II, Velleman worked for the Cultural Department of the "Jewish Council," the Nazi administrative structure imposed on Jewish communities in occupied territory.[4]

Velleman and his wife Anna (née Speijer) were living in Amsterdam when they were abducted during a razzia on June 2, 1943.[1][9][4][10] His family was sent through the Westerbork transit camp before arriving at the Sobibor extermination camp.[11] His daughter Aaltje, who had Down syndrome, was murdered at Sobibor in May 1943.[9][12] Velleman and Anna both died in 1943 at Sobibor.[10][13] His son Jacques survived the war.[9]

In 2017, a memorial to Velleman was established in his birth town of Groningen.[14][4]

Wilmink's PoemEdit

Wilmink's poem, titled "Ben Ali Libi," was written sometime after the war, as it concerns Wilmink's experience in reading Velleman's name on a list of those murdered in camps in a book by Dutch resistance member Henk van Gelderen.[3][15][9]

The penultimate verse of the poem reads in English translation:

And always when there’s a shouter to see

with an alternative for democracy

I think: your paradise, how much space is there

for Ben Ali Libi, the magician?[15]

The poem became more well-known after Dutch actor Joost Prinsen recited it on television.[4][16] Herman van Veen set the poem to music in 2009.[4]

In 2015, Velleman was the subject of a Dutch documentary film titled Ben Ali Libi, Magician, directed by Dirk Jan Roeleven.[4][17] The film was released in the Netherlands and shown in international film festivals.[18][11][19]


  1. ^ a b Michel Velleman in Joods Historisch Museum monument to victims of the Shoah
  2. ^ a b "Michel Velleman". Oorlogsgravenstichting (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  3. ^ a b Wilmink, Willem. "Ben Ali Libi". Poezie-Leestafel (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Ben Ali Libi – In Sobibor vermoordde goochelaar". Historiek (in Dutch). 2017-09-02. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  5. ^ Jansen, Ronald Wilfred. Anne Frank Silent Witnesses Reminders of a Jewish Girl's Life. Berlin. no page number given, see chapter titled "Amsterdam, " footnote 57. ISBN 978-3-7375-5664-4. OCLC 916058034.
  6. ^ Hummel, Ben. Ben Ali Libi : handelaar in illusies. Hamond, Fons van. [Amsterdam]. ISBN 978-94-021-7073-3. OCLC 1019707510.
  7. ^ Een serie goocheltoeren en kunstjes met eenvoudige hulpmiddelen, by Professor Ben-Ali-Libi (Pseudonym of Michel Velleman, Amusementsbureau Ben-Ali-Libi, 1925
  8. ^ a b "About Michel Velleman". Joods Monument. April 7, 2016. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Boek over Ben Ali Libi, de goochelaar van Willem Wilmink". Regio (in Dutch). January 23, 2018. Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Anna Velleman-Speijer". Joods Monument (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  11. ^ a b "Ben Ali Libi, Magician". Brown Paper Tickets. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  12. ^ "Aaltje Velleman". Joods Monument (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  13. ^ Wallach, Kurt (2020-03-04). Man's Inhumanity To Man. Lulu.com. p. 606. ISBN 978-1-6781-0462-7. The non-Polish victims [of the Sobibor uprising] included ... magician Michel Velleman. [Note: no other source indicates that Velleman died in October 1943, when the Sobibor uprising occurred.]{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  14. ^ Brouwer, Marijke (May 4, 2017). "Overleden joodse artiest krijgt monument". Dagblaad van het Noorden (in Dutch). Retrieved December 19, 2020.
  15. ^ a b van Cappelle, Jan (2016-03-20). "Ben Ali Libi". The Dutch Luthier. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  16. ^ "Ben Ali Libi de goochelaar voorgedragen door Joost Prinsen". YouTube (in Dutch). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  17. ^ "Ben Ali Libi". Zeppers. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  18. ^ "Washington Jewish Film Festival | Ben Ali Libi". Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  19. ^ "Ben Ali Libi [Netherlands Film Festival Archive]". Nederlands Film Festival. 2015. Retrieved 2020-12-20.

External linksEdit