Frank's town of Trest in western Moravia had a small Jewish community of 64 members in 1930, and Frank was sometimes beaten up in grade school because of antisemitism. When the Meissners' wooden shoe factory closed, Frank's father turned to the furniture industry. But due to post-World War I economic uncertainty, he lost his livelihood. To support the family, Mrs. Meissner worked as a secretary.
1933-39: Trest was small and didn't have a secondary school, so Frank studied during the week in the neighboring town and returned home for weekends. He was active in the Zionist youth movement, and went to Prague for a few months to a Zionist training program for young people. In October 1939 he went with a group of Jewish youth to Denmark, where they worked on farms. Frank stayed with a family called the Nielsens and got weekly letters from his family.
1940-44: In 1941 Frank earned a scholarship to attend an agricultural high school in Denmark. Afterwards, in 1943, he began studies at the Agricultural College of the University of Copenhagen. In October of that year the president of the university received a tip that the Gestapo was starting to round up Jews. A friend arranged Frank's passage to Sweden. While in Sweden he learned his family in Trest had been sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto; in fall 1944 he found out they'd been deported to Auschwitz. Frank joined the Czechoslovak army-in-exile.
After the war, Frank went to Prague to search, unsuccessfully, for his family. He completed university in Copenhagen, and later settled in the United States.
Michael was born in a village in the southeastern part of Galicia, an Austrian province before it became a part of Poland in 1918. Raised by Jewish parents, Michael served as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army until the end of World War I. After the war, Michael and his Hungarian-Jewish wife settled in Paris, where he became known as Michel. They raised three children there.
1933-39: Michael's family was better off in Paris than they had been in eastern Europe. In Paris, Michael was a successful businessman with two dry-goods stores, and his children had better educational opportunities. The family also felt sheltered in Paris from the antisemitism that was raging in Germany.
1940-42: Germany defeated France in 1940. Because Michael was not a French citizen, he was in danger of being immediately deported with other foreign-born Jews. In 1941 he lost his stores and market stall and was arrested and imprisoned in Drancy for six months. In July 1942, one month after Jews were required to wear a Jewish star in public, Michael was grabbed on the street by the French police and sent back to Drancy. Six days later, the Germans loaded Michael and other Polish-born Jews into a cattle train.
Michael was gassed shortly after arriving in Auschwitz on July 24, 1942. He was 53 years old.
The second oldest of six children, Emma was raised by observant Jewish parents in a small town in southwestern Germany and they settled in the industrial city of Mannheim after World War I. There she had two children, a son in 1924, and a daughter in 1930. Emma helped her husband in his business.
1933-39: After the Nazis came to power, Emma's husband lost his business. Her sister Linnchen immigrated to South Africa, and the Nazis deported her brother Arthur to Dachau. When the Nazis burned down the local synagogue and Jewish school in November 1938, Emma and her husband decided to send their 14-year-old son to Britain. They remained behind; her husband felt that the Nazis would not harm them any more than they already had.
1940-42: On October 22, 1940, the Freunds were ordered to prepare to leave Mannheim and to assemble near the train station. They disobeyed the order and tried to hide with a Jewish family living outside of Mannheim, but were discovered. The family was deported to Gurs, a camp in southern France. Emma and her daughter were separated from her husband and then transferred to yet another camp, Rivesaltes. Emma fell ill, but was relieved when a Jewish children's aid society managed to get her daughter out of the camp.
The second oldest of five children, Robert was raised by Jewish parents in a suburb of Mannheim. He was wounded while serving in the German army during World War I. Married after the war and making his home in the industrial city of Mannheim, Robert and his wife Emma raised two children, while he made a living as an interior decorator.
1933-39: The Nazis came to power in 1933; Robert's children were forced out of public school and he lost his business. When the Nazis burned down the local synagogue and Jewish school in 1938, he and his wife decided to send their 14-year-old son to Britain. They thought their daughter was too young to be sent abroad. Robert believed the Nazis' persecution would not get worse, and decided to remain in Mannheim. War began in 1939.
1940-42: On October 22, 1940, the Freunds were ordered to prepare to leave Mannheim and to assemble near the train station. Robert disobeyed and tried to hide his wife and daughter with a Jewish family living outside of Mannheim, but they were discovered. In front of his family, Robert was beaten. When he asked them to get it over with and just kill him, the beating stopped. The Freunds were deported to Gurs, a camp in southern France where Robert was separated from his wife and daughter.
Kornelia was known as Nelly. She was the older of two daughters raised by Jewish parents in the Hungarian capital of Budapest. Her father fought in the Hungarian army during World War I. Kornelia attended public school and later worked as a bookkeeper for a soap factory. In 1928 she married Miksa Deutsch, a businessman who sold matches.
1933-39: Kornelia's husband was religious and the Deutsches' three children attended Jewish schools. Miksa and his brother were the sole distributors in Hungary of Swedish-made matches, and the business prospered. In May 1939 the Hungarian government began to limit the number of Jews who could be employed in a business, forcing the Deutsches to fire some of their Jewish employees.
1940-44: In 1940 Miksa was conscripted into the Hungarian army's labor service. Later, he was forced to surrender control of the family business to a brother of the Hungarian prime minister. After Germany occupied Budapest in March 1944, Jews were ordered to move to special houses marked with a Jewish star. In October 1944, Hungarian fascists began rounding up Jews from these houses. Kornelia was offered a job at an orphanage through the Swiss embassy. But on November 15, before she could take the job, she was rounded up.
Kornelia escaped detention, but was recaptured and deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp in Germany, where she perished. Her three children survived the war.
The younger of two children, Irene was born to Jewish parents in the industrial city of Mannheim. Her father, a wounded German army veteran of World War I, was an interior decorator. Her mother was a housewife. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Irene's older brother, Berthold, was attending public school. Three-year-old Irene was at home with her mother.
1933-39: Celebrating Jewish holidays with all of Irene's aunts and uncles was really nice. One of her favorite places was the zoo; she especially liked the monkeys. When the Nazis forced Jewish children out of public school, she began attending a Jewish school. Irene was "a daddy's girl," and her father would take her home from school on his bike. After the Nazis burned their school, her older brother left for safety in Britain--she was too young to go with him.
1940-44: In 1940, when Irene was 10, her family was sent to Gurs and then Rivesaltes, terrible camps in southern France. The food was awful. The Jewish Children's Aid Society took Irene away and placed her in a Catholic convent along with 13 other Jewish girls. She became Irene Fanchet and studied under Sister Theresa. One day, the SS came to their convent looking for hidden German-Jewish children. One of the girls, who was fluent in French, did the talking for everyone else. It worked. The Germans left, and they were safe.
Thirteen-year-old Irene was freed by Allied troops in July 1944. After being transferred to several children's homes in France, she immigrated to the United States in 1947.
Yennj and her husband Heinrich were two of a few Jewish residents in Ruchheim, a small town in the Rhine River valley. Yennj helped Heinrich run their dry goods store that was on the first floor of their house. In the summer she liked working in the garden out back. Their son, Kurt, had immigrated to America after World War I. Ida, their daughter, helped them in the store until she married.
1933-39: The Nazis have come to power, and many Jews have decided to leave Germany. Yennj and Heinrich's niece, Luise, recently sailed for America. Luise used to visit them every summer and was like a younger sister to their Ida. Yennj and Heinrich have thought about leaving Germany, but can't do it without taking Ida and their granddaughter, Freya. Anyway, Ida's husband doesn't want to leave his business. And who would sponsor them all to come to America?
1940-42: Yennj and Heinrich, with Ida and her family, have already been deported to two detention camps in southern France. When they arrived at the first one, Gurs, it was winter--cold and rainy--and they had only straw to sleep on. Six-year-old Freya came down with a high fever and severe earache and almost died. Now, at Rivesaltes, there's a chance to get Freya out of the camp to safety through an aid society (Children's Aid Society) that arranges to hide children with French families in the countryside. They all say goodbye to Freya.
In September 1942, a few days after Freya left the camp, 55-year-old Yennj, her husband and her daughter were deported to Auschwitz, where they perished. Freya survived the war.
A Jewish merchant, Heinrich ran a dry goods business with his wife, Yennj, in Ruchheim, a small town in the Rhine River valley. Their son, Kurt, had immigrated to America after World War I. Their daughter, Ida, had helped them in the business until she married. The Baehrs' store took up the first floor of their comfortable two-story brick house. In the summer, they enjoyed their garden in the back.
1933-39: The Nazis have come to power, and many Jews have decided to leave Germany. Heinrich and Yennj's niece, Luise, recently sailed for America. Luise used to visit them every summer and was like a younger sister to Ida. Heinrich and Yennj have thought about leaving Germany, but couldn't do it without taking Ida and their granddaughter, Freya. Anyway, Ida's husband doesn't want to leave his business. And who would sponsor them all to come to America?
1940-42: Heinrich and Yennj, with Ida and her family, have already been deported to two detention camps in southern France. When they arrived at the first one, Gurs, it was winter--cold and rainy--and they had only straw to sleep on. Six-year-old Freya came down with a high fever and severe earache and almost died. Now, at Rivesaltes, her parents have a chance to get Freya out of the camp to safety through an aid society that arranges to hide children with French families in the countryside. They all wish Freya goodbye.
In September 1942, a few days after Freya left the camp, 64-year-old Heinrich, his wife and his daughter were deported to Auschwitz, where they perished. Freya survived the war.
Helene lived in Herne and Bochum in western Germany, where she was married to a coal miner who was unemployed between 1927 and 1938. Following their disillusionment with the Lutheran Church during World War I, Helene, who was a nurse, and her husband became Jehovah's Witnesses in 1926. Together, they raised their two children according to the teachings of the Scripture.
1933-39: Under the Nazis, Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted for their missionary work and because they believed their sole allegiance was to God and His Commandments. Some of the Gottholds' neighbors refused to have anything to do with them. Helene's husband was arrested in 1936. After searching her house, the Gestapo arrested her in 1937; she was beaten with rods and lost her unborn baby. The court gave her an 18-month sentence.
1940-44: Helene and her husband were released and the Gotthold family was reunited. Helene and her husband were rearrested in February 1944. They were imprisoned in Essen, but when the prison was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid, they were transferred to a prison in Potsdam. On August 4, the People's Court sentenced Helene and five other Witnesses to death for illegally holding Bible meetings and undermining the nation's morale. Before her execution, Helene was allowed to write a letter to her husband and children.
Helene was executed by guillotine in Berlin's Ploetzensee Prison on December 8, 1944. Her family survived and resumed their Jehovah's Witness missionary work in Germany.
Ernst was an only child born to atheist parents in southern Austria during the middle of World War I. Raised in Austria's second largest city, he loved the outdoors, especially skiing in the Alps. In the early 1930s Ernst became a Jehovah's Witness. Although Austria was then in a deep economic depression, he was fortunate to find a job as a sales clerk in a grocery store.
1933-39: Austria's Catholic government was hostile towards Jehovah's Witnesses. When the Germans annexed Austria in March 1938, their activities were banned. Following God's commandments, Ernst refused to give the Hitler salute and to serve in the German army. He was arrested for this on September 6, 1938, and sentenced to six months imprisonment. When he again refused to serve, he was imprisoned in the Bayreuth penitentiary in Germany.
1940-44: When Ernst's second prison term ended in November 1939, he was transferred to the relatively new Flossenbürg concentration camp. His number was 1935; he was forced to be a stonemason, and subjected to brutal treatment, including attempts to break his faith in God. But Ernst believed God's power was far greater than anything the Nazis could do to him. He felt the Jewish, Polish, and Soviet prisoners had it far worse than he did. The only way the Jewish prisoners got out of there was "through the chimney."
Ernst survived Flossenbürg and a forced march in April 1945. He was liberated by American troops and bicycled back to his home in Austria during the summer of 1945.
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