Joe Knypstra celebrated his 100th birthday on Friday. (Jesse Day - Western News)

Concentration camp survivor from Penticton turns 100

100-year-old Joe Knypstra has overcome some of history’s most unthinkable realities

Joe Knypstra is the ultimate survivor.

In 1943, Knypstra was detained by German authorities as a member of the resistance. He spent the next two years confined in a Nazi concentration camp.

Today, Jan. 10, a spry and quick-witted Knypstra celebrated his 100th birthday at the Concorde Retirement Residence in Penticton.

Ask Knypstra what his secret is and he’ll tell you it’s all about balance.

“Everything in moderation; to keep young you need to keep smiling and keep happy,” said Knypstra. “For almost everything, if you’re overdoing it, it won’t work, so do it in moderation.”

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Before being taken into a concentration camp, Knypstra was a member of the Netherlands resistance against German authorities. He spent most of his time helping Jewish people who were hiding from Nazis in the Netherlands. He would bring them food and clothing, often going hungry himself so others could eat.

After two years of detainment, Knypstra escaped weighing a mere 70 pounds. Once the war was over, Knypstra came to Canada and started working at Hargraves Ranch, near Medicine Hat, Alta.

READ MORE: Penticton Salvation Army volunteer rings in the giving season

Sadly, he said he hasn’t seen much ideological changes in society since his days as a Nazi prisoner.

“There is not that much change really. When I was in the concentration camp, with all the torture I went through, you see the same thing yet. People still don’t smarten up,” said Knypstra.

“People should love each other more, instead of the fighting and the shooting. Every time you put on the TV, there is always shooting, fighting, and war.”

Knypstra eventually found his way to Kaleden before making a life for himself in Penticton in 1954. It was the natural beauty that made Knypstra and his late wife, Frances fall in love with Penticton.

“We were always up in the hills, or fishing, camping, taking the motor home out to different lakes. We always had a lot of fun here,” he said.

The now 100-year-old said he’s seen enormous growth in town in his lifetime and doesn’t necessarily think too much development is for the best. To him, Penticton is great, and he doesn’t think it should be any bigger.

Knypstra doesn’t see the development slowing down anytime soon, either.

“I think they’re going to keep building up, they have to go up because there’s not much land anymore. You see it already with the high-rises; they keep building and building so pretty soon you won’t even see the views anymore.”

These days, Knypstra still enjoys spending time in nature as well as giving public presentations about his time in concentration camps. He finds happiness in inspiring people and sharing his firsthand experiences with the darkest times in human history.

Knypstra turned his passion for sharing and inspiring into a book, The Story of Joe Knypstra, that details his experiences during the Second World War, his move to B.C. and what allowed him to eventually forgive his tormentors.

A father of seven, Knypstra said he still feels young.

“I don’t feel one hundred, I feel fine and have fun,” he said.

READ MORE: Penticton Museum to host lecture on the Warsaw Uprising

READ MORE: Landmark gathering of Okanagan Nation members to discuss missing, murdered Indigenous women

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