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world war I

  • Pinchas Galperin

    ID Card

    Pinchas was one of 16 children born to a Jewish family. Only nine of the Galperin children lived to adulthood. Pinchas' father worked as a typesetter for a Jewish newspaper and his mother ran a small grocery store. After World War I, Pinchas married Sara Bernstein and the couple moved to Siauliai, Lithuania, where they raised three children.

    1933-39: Pinchas and Sara owned and ran a dairy store where they sold milk, butter and cheese that they bought from local farmers. Every morning they would rise early to purchase the dairy products for the store. The family attended Siauliai's Landkremer synagogue--kremer meaning "small businessmen" in German. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland. Lithuania, at the time, was still a free nation.

    1940-43: A year after the Soviets occupied Lithuania, German troops entered Siauliai in June 1941 and set up a [Siauliai] ghetto. On November 5, 1943, the Nazis issued conflicting orders on reporting to work. Confusion reigned. Jewish police warned it would be safer to find a work brigade that day. Sara was not in a brigade; Pinchas was, but was home on his day off. He gave her his Jewish star--needed for leaving the ghetto--so she could join a work brigade at a nearby factory, assuring her, "I'm a strong, big man; they won't take me."

    Pinchas was rounded up while Sara was at work that day. She later learned he had been deported to Auschwitz and gassed on arrival.

    Pinchas Galperin
  • David Mendel Petranker

    ID Card

    David was one of eight children born to observant Jewish parents living in the small town of Delyatin. During World War I, David served in the Austrian army. Following the war, he married Frieda Gaenger and moved to Stanislav [Stanislawow]. There, David worked in his father-in-law's lumber business.

    1933-39: David had a post as vice-director of the forestry ministry's regional office. His three daughters attended private schools. David was an ardent Zionist, and looked forward to moving his family to Palestine soon. In August 1939 his oldest daughter married a man from Palestine; just before Soviet forces occupied Stanislav on September 18, 1939, the couple left for Palestine.

    1940-45: The Germans occupied Stanislav in July 1941. Before year's end, they had killed David's wife and youngest daughter, leaving David and his middle daughter, Amalie. In 1942 he was deported on a train headed to the Belzec killing center. He pried boards from the car floor and escaped by lowering himself from the moving train onto the tracks. He ran to a farmhouse where a Ukrainian peasant agreed to keep him if he worked on her farm. Though safe, he felt he had to look for Amalie. He boarded a train for Stanislav.

    En route, David was betrayed, turned over to police, and executed. Unknown to him, Amalie had already escaped from Stanislav and was living near the farm where he worked.

    David Mendel Petranker
  • Lajos Nagy

    ID Card

    The Nagys were one of several Jewish families in Zagyvapalfalva, a town 45 miles from Budapest. They owned a general store that served the many coal miners in the mountain valley town. As a young man, Lajos served with the Hungarian army in World War I. He then studied in Budapest to be a diplomat, but a 1920 law restricting the number of Jews in certain professions kept him from pursuing his career.

    1933-39: Lajos's father passed away. Lajos took over the general store in Zagypalfalva with his bride, Kato. The antisemitic prime minister pushed through a law prohibiting Jews from selling basic items like sugar, tobacco and liquor, and business slacked off drastically. Sometimes at night, hooligans banged on the windows of their home, chanting, "Jews, go away!" One was the son of their good friend, the town notary.

    1940-44: The situation in Zagyvapalfalva got so bad that Lajos and Kato had to rent out their store and house and move to Kato's family home outside Budapest. While they were there Kato gave birth to Sandor Michael. Their Sanyika was just 3 months old when the Germans invaded Hungary. It was only a few weeks later that Lajos received orders—along with hundreds of other men aged 18 to 48—to report for labor service. He has been put to work outside Budapest laying new roads and clearing the rubble caused by Allied air raids.

    That October, Lajos was killed by an Allied bomb. His wife and baby were deported to Auschwitz. Sandor was gassed on arrival. Kato was chosen for forced labor and survived the war.

    Lajos Nagy
  • Nenad Dusan Popovic

    ID Card

    Nenad was the youngest of nine children born to Serbian Orthodox landowners in the eastern Croatian part of Yugoslavia. During World War I the Popovic family was evacuated to Vukovar by the Austro-Hungarian army, which was then at war with Serbia. In 1928 Nenad moved to Belgrade, where he attended Belgrade University, graduating with a law degree in 1932.

    1933-39: Nenad's specialty was law related to economics and he found a job in the economic research department of the Yugoslav central bank in Belgrade. Also, he served as an editor for the daily newspaper, Time. Nenad was openly anti-fascist and was alarmed by the rapidity with which fascist ideas were spreading in Europe. When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, Yugoslavia declared itself neutral.

    1940-44: On March 27, 1941, two days after Yugoslavia concluded an alliance with Germany, Serbian army officers overthrew the Yugoslav government. On the morning of April 6, the Germans bombed Belgrade in a punitive attack. Nenad had just left his apartment when, minutes later, he saw his building get blasted away. He tossed his keys, and with nothing but the clothes on his back, set off to join the resistance. He never made it. In Sarajevo he was captured by the Germans, and ended up in Germany as a political prisoner.

    On April 16, 1945, Nenad was liberated in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. After the war, he returned to Yugoslavia and served as a diplomat. He immigrated to America in 1961.

    Nenad Dusan Popovic
  • Eszter Mendel Braun

    ID Card

    Eszter was one of 11 children born to religious Jewish parents in the small town of Hidegkut in eastern Hungary. During World War I her family became refugees and only three of her brothers and sisters survived the war. After the war, she married Jeno Braun, a refugee from the town of Sighet. They settled in the town of Cristuru-Secuiesc in Romania and had six children.

    1933-39: Since Eszter could speak many languages, including Hungarian, Yiddish, Romanian, Italian, French, and Hebrew, she felt at home in Cristuru-Secuiesc, which was located in the multi-ethnic Romanian region of Transylvania. During the 1930s Cristuru-Secuiesc was renamed I.G. Duca in honor of a slain Romanian leader. While her husband, Jeno, ran a jewelry and watch shop, Eszter stayed at home raising their young children.

    1940-44: The Hungarians marched into Cristuru-Secuiesc in September 1940 and annexed it to Hungary. New laws were instituted limiting the rights of Jews. Eszter's children were expelled from public school; her husband was forced to keep his shop open on the Jewish sabbath and, finally, to surrender control to a non-Jewish employee. In the spring of 1944 the Braun family was forced to move into a ghetto established by Hungarian officials and the couple's two eldest sons were drafted into the Hungarian army as conscript labor.

    In May 1944 Eszter and the rest of the Braun family were deported to Auschwitz, where Eszter and her youngest daughter, Aranka, were gassed shortly after arriving.

    Eszter Mendel Braun
  • Jeno Gabor Braun

    ID Card

    The son of a rabbi, Jeno was raised in the town of Sighet in Transylvania. The region was multi-ethnic, and Jeno grew up in a family that knew Yiddish, Hungarian, Romanian, German and Hebrew. During World War I, when Sighet was near the front, Jeno's family fled to Hungary. There Jeno met Eszter Mendel, whom he married after the war. The couple settled in the town of Cristuru-Secuiesc in Romania.

    1933-39: As a jeweler, Jeno is one of only two watchmakers in Cristuru-Secuiesc; the other is a German who resents him as a competitor. Jeno can handle the competition and does reasonably well. This town was part of Hungary until 1918 and his language skills are useful here. He has his own shop and customers from every ethnic group. Jeno and his wife have six children, one of whom, little Sandor, takes after him because he loves the violin.

    1940-44: It's been almost four years since the Hungarians marched into Cristuru-Secuiesc and annexed it to Hungary. Jeno's children were thrown out of public school because they were Jewish. He was forced to keep his shop open on Saturdays, the Jewish sabbath, and then to surrender control to a non-Jewish employee. In the spring of 1944 Jeno was forced to close the shop and his family was moved to a ghetto. His two eldest sons were drafted into the Hungarian army as conscript labor. And now, what's left of his family is being deported.

    Jeno was deported to Auschwitz, and then to the Kochendorf camp, where he was beaten to death on his 42nd birthday when he failed to wake up [for roll call] in time for a 5 a.m. work detail.

    Jeno Gabor Braun
  • Jermie Adler

    ID Card

    The second of seven children, Jermie was born to poor, religious Jewish parents at a time when Selo-Solotvina was part of Hungary. Orphaned as a young boy, he earned a living by working at odd jobs. In the 1920s he married a woman from his village. Together, they moved to Liege, Belgium, in search of better economic opportunities. There, they raised three daughters.

    1933-39: In Liege the Adlers lived in an apartment above a cafe, and Jermie and his wife ran a successful tailoring business. Their children attended the French-language public schools. When war began in Poland in 1939, his wife was fearful, even though Belgium was a neutral country. It brought back troubling memories of her village being overrun during World War I.

    1940-44: The Germans occupied Belgium in 1940. To bypass the rationing system, Jermie would buy butter and eggs from the local farmers, who then pretended to the authorities that they'd been robbed. When Liege's Jews were forced to register in 1942, Catholic friends helped the Adlers obtain false papers and rented them a house in a nearby village. Jermie fell ill and on Friday, March 3, 1944, he checked into a hospital. While he was in the hospital, the Gestapo arrested his wife, two daughters, and a nephew.

    Jermie returned to Liege after it was liberated by U.S. troops on September 8, 1944. All but his eldest daughter were killed during the war.

    Tags: Belgium
    Jermie Adler
  • Terez Goldberger Kalman

    ID Card

    Terez came from a religious Jewish family. She and her husband, Samuel, raised eight children in Satoraljaujhely, in northeastern Hungary. The Kalmans lived on the outskirts of the city, and in the 1920s they ran a canteen for the soldiers who lived in the nearby barracks. The Kalmans were proud Hungarians; one of their sons had died in World War I.

    1933-39: Since Samuel died a few years ago, Terez has been alone here in her house in Satoraljaujhely. Many of her children live nearby, though, so her home is often filled with the chatter of grandchildren. Right now, her son Ferenc's 10-year-old daughter Judith is visiting her. Terez doesn't see her very often because her parents live in another town. She is a sensitive girl who loves to recite Hungarian poetry and sing Roma (Gypsy) songs.

    1940-44: It's been four weeks since German troops occupied Hungary. The roundup of Jews into ghettos in northeastern Hungary began one month after the occupation, on the first day of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Officials have publicly justified the operation on grounds of military security. When the Hungarian gendarmes came to Terez's house earlier tonight to tell her she'd have to leave tomorrow for the ghetto in Satoraljaujhely, she told them that the country ought to be ashamed to be afraid of a 93-year-old woman.

    The following morning, the gendarmes went to take Terez from her house and found her dead. She was buried next to her husband's grave in Satoraljaujhely.

    Tags: Hungary
    Terez Goldberger Kalman
  • Shaye Rothkopf

    ID Card

    Shaye's town in the province of Lodz had a Jewish community that comprised almost one-third of the town's population. Shaye was very young when his father died during World War I. Afterwards, his grandparents helped to support his family. When Shaye was a teenager, his mother died. He and his siblings then lived with their grandparents.

    1933-39: Swimming was Shaye's favorite pastime and he'd go with his friends to the banks of the Vistula River on every possible occasion. He worked in Lodz for a company that sold housewares. He went there to live because his wife was from that city. He loved to talk with his customers and to get to know new people. Shaye and his wife celebrated the birth of their beautiful son. On September 8, 1939, the Germans entered Lodz.

    1940-44: Lodz's squalid ghetto had been blocked off since April 30, 1940. Many people were dying of typhus. The Nazis set up factories where Jews worked for meager food rations. Shaye's wife and 7-year-old son were taken away, brought to the outskirts of Lodz, and shot to death. Shaye was deported to Auschwitz, and then to the concentration camp at Dachau.

    Shaye was liberated on April 29, 1945. He spent four years in Germany, recuperating from illnesses contracted in the camps. In 1949 he immigrated to the United States.

    Shaye Rothkopf
  • Bernard (Green) Greenspan

    ID Card

    Bernard was one of five children born to a Jewish family in the southern Polish town of Rozwadow. His father, a World War I veteran incapacitated as a result of the war, supported his family on his military pension. In the early 1930s Bernard completed high school and worked on the family farm.

    1933-39: In 1934 Bernard was recruited into the Polish army and stationed in Lvov, where he ran a canteen. After three years there he returned to his family's farm outside Rozwadow to work. On September 24, 1939, the town was captured by the Germans. Some in Rozwadow were happy to see the Germans; soon afterwards some townspeople began looting Jewish stores, while the occupying forces looked on. The Germans even made films of the robberies.

    1940-44: In 1942 Bernard used false papers to get to the town of Stryj [Stry] where, posing as a gentile Pole, he got a job in a sawmill. While at work one day he heard gunfire. He watched trucks carry Jews to a nearby clearing bordered by bushes; German machine-gun nests were concealed in the brush. Jews were run off the trucks and onto bridges spanning a huge ditch. Then guns ripped, catching the people in the cross-fire. The shooting went on all day. After work, Bernard saw the clearing's freshly-turned earth move. Were some still alive?

    Bernard joined the Polish partisans in late 1943. After the war he remained in Poland until immigrating to Israel in 1957. He moved to the United States in 1960.

    Bernard (Green) Greenspan

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