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world war I

  • The Vélodrome d'Hiver (Vél d'Hiv) Roundup


    The Vélodrome d'Hiver (or "Vél d'Hiv") roundup was the largest French deportation of Jews during the Holocaust. It took place in Paris on July 16–17, 1942.

    The Vélodrome d'Hiver (Vél d'Hiv) Roundup
  • German Armed Forces High Command


    Established in 1938, the German Armed Forces High Command was theoretically a unified military command controlling Germany’s air force, navy, and army. In reality, the establishment of the High Command allowed Adolf Hitler to consolidate power as commander-in-chief of the German military. 

    German Armed Forces High Command
  • The Nazi Camp System: Terminology


    There has been a long-standing confusion about the terminology used about the Nazi camp system. For example, the term concentration camp is commonly, but inaccurately, used to describe various detention and killing sites established by the Nazis and their collaborators between 1933 and 1945.

    The Nazi Camp System: Terminology
  • University Student Groups in Nazi Germany


    Nazi student groups played a key role in aligning German universities with Nazi ideology and in solidifying Nazi power.


    Tags: students youth
    University Student Groups in Nazi Germany
  • Nazi Party Platform
  • "Degenerate" Art


    Nazi leaders sought to control Germany not only politically, but also culturally. The regime restricted the type of art that could be produced, displayed, and sold. In 1937, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels made plans to show the public the forms of art that the regime deemed unacceptable. He organized the confiscation and exhibition of so-called “degenerate” art.

    "Degenerate" Art
  • Swastika flag rises over Versailles and Paris


    The German western campaign into the Low Countries and France shattered Allied lines. Within six weeks, Britain evacuated its forces from the Continent and France requested an armistice with Germany. Paris, the French capital, fell to the Germans on June 14, 1940. In this footage, triumphant German forces raise the swastika flag over Versailles and over the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Versailles, the traditional residence of French kings, was deeply symbolic for the Germans: it was the site of both the declaration of the German Empire in 1871 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The Treaty of Versailles had imposed humiliating peace terms on Germany after its defeat in World War I. Germany would occupy Paris for the next four years, until 1944.

    Swastika flag rises over Versailles and Paris
  • Josef Edelstein

    ID Card

    Josef was one of seven children born to a Jewish family in the Czechoslovakian village of Hvozdnice. After graduating from school, Josef worked as a salesman in Vienna. In 1912 he married Ida Kohn, and the couple had a son before he left to fight for Austria in World War I. After the war, they had a daughter.

    1933-39: Because of the economic depression of the 1930s, it was difficult for Josef to make a living in his wholesale shoe business. In 1938 the Germans annexed Austria [the Anschluss], and soon after the Edelsteins' children both fled to Prague, where they felt it would be safer. Josef's business was seized and he and his wife were forced to relocate from their large apartment to a one-room flat. Since Josef had no income, he and Ida lived on their savings.

    1940-44: In 1942 the Nazis arrested Ida, and Josef went to the collection point for the deportees hoping to find her. He did find her, and together they were deported to Czechoslovakia. There, in the Theresienstadt ghetto, they found their daughter, Alice, who had been deported there from Prague and whom they had not seen in four years. In late 1943 Alice was scheduled to be deported on a "labor" transport; Josef and Ida volunteered to go so that the family could remain together. The transport was sent to Auschwitz.

    In March 1944 Josef died at Auschwitz from illness brought on by starvation.

    Josef Edelstein
  • Jan Komski

    ID Card

    Jan was born to a Catholic family in the small Polish town of Bircza. His father, a World War I veteran, moved the family to Brzozow shortly after the war. Brzozow was a small manufacturing town in southeastern Poland. After graduating from secondary school, Jan enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

    1933-39: Cracow was a beautiful old city; Jan studied its remarkable churches and synagogues in his classes. By September 1939, however, the war engulfed the beauty of Cracow. He left to escape the advancing Germans, and hoped to join the Polish army, but as he neared the Soviet border he realized the Red Army was also approaching. Jan didn't know which way to go. Since he feared Soviet rule, he returned to Cracow and faced the German occupation.

    1940-44: Jan joined the Polish underground and was arrested near the Hungarian border. In June 1940 he was sent to Auschwitz. Four of them devised an escape plan. Over many months they collected parts of a German army uniform, so one of them could pose as a guard. They stole documents from the camp office to forge an ID and then Jan painted a German uniform on a photo to complete the fraud. Their "guard" got them by the gate as a work detail in December 1942. They then gathered civilian clothing, left for them by the underground, and escaped.

    Shortly after his escape, Jan was re-arrested and spent two more years in various camps. He was liberated from the Dachau concentration camp by U.S. troops on April 29, 1945.

    Jan Komski
  • Bernard Krakauer

    ID Card

    Bernard was one of seven children born to a German-speaking, Jewish family in the small Moravian town of Mikulov in the central part of Czechoslovakia. The family later moved to the town of Hodonin where Bernard opened a dry-goods and clothing store. In 1899 he married Berta Koselova, and the couple had six children. During World War I Bernard served in the Austro-Hungarian army.

    1933-39: In 1938 Bernard retired, and since none of his sons wanted to take over the business, Bernard sold it. He, his wife, and their son Max, who had been born with a heart condition, moved to the Moravian capital of Brno. The Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939 and quickly imposed restrictions on the Jewish population: Jews were required to register their valuables and prohibited from using public transportation.

    1940-45: On April 8, 1942, Bernard, his wife and their son Max were ordered to assemble at a school and to bring no more than 44 pounds of luggage each. They were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. From there, Max was deported to Poland. Bernard and his wife later discovered that a sister-in-law of their daughter worked in Theresienstadt's SS registry office; this woman made sure that the Krakauers' papers remained at the bottom of the pile of documents of those to be deported.

    Bernard and Berta were freed in Theresienstadt in May 1945. They returned to Brno and learned that three of their children, including Max, had died in Nazi camps.

    Bernard Krakauer
  • Wilma Schlesinger Mahrer

    ID Card

    Wilma was the oldest of two daughters born to German-speaking Jewish parents. She married Gyula Mahrer, a Hungarian Jew who had fought in the Hungarian army during World War I. The couple lived in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, where they raised two daughters. The Mahrers lived near their eldest daughter, Kornelia, who had married in 1928.

    1933-39: Wilma's first grandchild, Maria, was born on Wilma's 55th birthday. By 1936 Wilma had five grandchildren, three of whom lived in Budapest with her daughter Kornelia and son-in-law, Miksa. In May 1939 the Hungarian government enacted a law that defined Jews as an alien people and limited their rights.

    1940-44: In 1940 Wilma's son-in-law, Miksa, was conscripted into the Hungarian army's labor service. Two years later, he was forced to give up his business to a Christian. In March 1944 Germany occupied Hungary. That summer, Jews were moved into houses marked by an identifying Jewish star. Many Jews were rounded up and killed. When Wilma's husband died of illness that year, his family envied him. After Kornelia and Miksa were deported to Germany, Wilma found Christians to take care of her three orphaned grandchildren.

    On January 18, 1945, Wilma and her grandchildren were liberated in Budapest by Soviet troops. She remained in Budapest after the war.

    Wilma Schlesinger Mahrer
  • Shlomo Szczupakiewicz

    ID Card

    Shlomo was the youngest of four brothers born to a Jewish family in the northern Polish town of Malkinia. During World War I, Shlomo served as a male nurse. After the war, he worked as a grain merchant in the Malkinia area, just as his father had. In 1929 he married Pesia Ander, and a year later their first child, Ida, was born.

    1933-39: In September 1939, before the invading Germans reached Malkinia, Shlomo fled with his family to the countryside. Exhausted, they returned to their house in Malkinia only a few weeks later. Shlomo then learned that a childhood friend had become a Nazi informant and decided that it would be safer for the family to go to the Soviet zone. Fortunately, Malkinia was close to the border between German- and Soviet-controlled Poland.

    1940-44: Shlomo and his family crossed to the Soviet zone, to Pesia's brother's house in Nur, 12 miles away. Food was scarce so they traveled north to Bialystok. With other refugees who were Polish nationals, the Szczupakiewiczs were deported from Bialystok by the Soviets. The family was packed into a cattle car, and rode for 16 days in the freezing cold with water but no food. They arrived in Sverdlovsk in the Ural Mountains, and were settled in a logging camp in a one-room shack with little food and no fuel.

    Shlomo and his family spent the rest of the war in the Soviet Union, where his daughter Bessie and son Josef were born. In December 1945, Shlomo died from illness.

    Tags: Poland
    Shlomo Szczupakiewicz
  • Kosta (Kojo) Naprta

    ID Card

    Kosta was the oldest of five children born to Serbian Orthodox parents in a poor farming village. Podum was on the slopes of Mount Um in the Croatian part of Yugoslavia. After finishing secondary school, Kosta immigrated to the United States. But when World War I broke out in 1914, he returned to Podum. In 1920 he married Anka, a Serb woman from his village, and they raised eight children.

    1933-39: Kosta would read the newspaper to his friends and neighbors who could not read. He supported his family by raising food crops on his rocky farm and by doing odd jobs. His children all attended school. Podum's Serbs attended Orthodox church services every Sunday. They had good relations with their Catholic Croat neighbors in the larger village of Otocac, two miles away.

    1940-44: On April 6, 1941, the Germans invaded Yugoslavia. Four days later, Croatian fascists came to power, aided by the Germans. The Croatians began pogroms against Serbs. Many Serbs fled their villages; some joined Serbian or Communist resistance groups. Kosta remained in Podum with his family. One evening in March 1944, a German officer was found dead on Podum's outskirts. The next day, Croatian fascists and German soldiers burned the village and killed all the Serbian men in the village they could find.

    That same day, as the Naprtas stood in the snow watching their house burn, a German officer fired six bullets into Kosta, killing him in front of his family.

    Tags: Yugoslavia
    Kosta (Kojo) Naprta
  • Helene Melanie Lebel

    ID Card

    The elder of two daughters born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Helene was raised as a Catholic in Vienna. Her father died in action during World War I when Helene was just 5 years old, and her mother remarried when Helene was 15. Known affectionately as Helly, Helene loved to swim and go to the opera. After finishing her secondary education she entered law school.

    1933-39: At 19 Helene first showed signs of mental illness. Her condition worsened during 1934, and by 1935 she had to give up her law studies and her job as a legal secretary. After losing her trusted fox terrier, Lydi, she suffered a major breakdown. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and was placed in Vienna's Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital. Two years later, in March 1938, the Germans annexed Austria to Germany.

    1940: Helene was confined in Steinhof and was not allowed home even though her condition had improved. Her parents were led to believe that she would soon be released. Instead, Helene's mother was informed in August that Helene had been transferred to a hospital in Niedernhart, just across the border in Bavaria. In fact, Helene was transferred to a converted prison in Brandenburg, Germany, where she was undressed, subjected to a physical examination, and then led into a shower room.

    Helene was one of 9,772 persons gassed that year in the Brandenburg "Euthanasia" center. She was officially listed as dying in her room of "acute schizophrenic excitement."

    Helene Melanie Lebel
  • Gregor Wohlfahrt

    ID Card

    Gregor was born in a village in the part of Austria known as Carinthia. During World War I, he served in the Austro-Hungarian army and was wounded. Raised a Catholic, Gregor and his wife became Jehovah's Witnesses during the late 1920s. Gregor supported his wife and six children by working as a farmer and quarryman.

    1933-39: The Austrian government banned Jehovah's Witness missionary work in 1936. Gregor was accused of peddling without a license and briefly jailed. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Gregor led his congregation in a boycott of the plebiscite ratifying Austria's union with Germany. Because of Gregor's anti-Nazi stand, the mayor of his town had Gregor arrested on September 1, 1939. Gregor was sent to Berlin to be tried by a military court for opposing military service. He was sentenced to death. On December 7, 1939, Gregor was executed by guillotine in Berlin's Ploetzensee Prison.

    1940-45: During the war, Gregor's entire family was arrested for refusing to cooperate with the Nazis. Two of Gregor's sons were killed: one son was beheaded in the Ploetzensee Prison, where Gregor had been beheaded in 1939; another son was shot. Gregor's oldest son, Franz, refused to participate in military training, would not salute the Nazi flag, and was sentenced to five years of hard labor in a camp in Germany.

    In addition to Gregor and two of his sons, other members of Gregor's Jehovah's Witness congregation were persecuted by the Nazis.

    Gregor Wohlfahrt
  • Remy Dumoncel

    ID Card

    Remy was born in a small French town to Catholic parents. In 1913, after studying law at the University of Paris, he joined the Tallandier publishing house in Paris. During World War I he served in the French army and was wounded five times. He returned to work at Tallandier after the war, and in 1919 he married Germaine Tallandier, the daughter of the owner. They had five children whom they raised as devout Catholics.

    1933-39: In 1935 Remy became the mayor of Avon, a small town about 35 miles southeast of Paris. Remy was proud of his town, which was famous for its royal palace and nearby forest of Fontainebleau. A strongly patriotic Frenchman, he distrusted Germany after Hitler came to power there in 1933.

    1940-44: In June 1940 the Germans defeated France and occupied Avon on the 16th. Remy resolved to remain mayor and became active in a resistance group called "Velite Thermopyles." He gave financial support to Jewish and other writers whose works could no longer be published. He sheltered some Alsatian Jews in Dordogne, where he owned a home. Using his office as mayor to protect Jews and other fugitives, he provided them with false papers, and helped them flee south to the unoccupied part of France, or to safe houses.

    On May 4, 1944, Remy was arrested in Avon by the Gestapo upon returning from a business trip to Paris. He died in the Neuengamme concentration camp on March 15, 1945.

    Remy Dumoncel
  • Ernest G. Heppner

    ID Card

    Ernest was one of three children born to a Jewish family in the commercial city of Breslau, which had one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany. His father, a World War I veteran, owned a factory that made matzah, the unleavened bread used during the Jewish holiday of Passover. Ernest was 12 when Hitler took power in 1933.

    1933-39: Ernest often got in trouble at school because people called him names. "Christ-killer" and "your father kills Christian babies for Passover" were common taunts. Many thought the Nazis were a passing political fad but by 1935 their laws were menacing. Signs appeared declaring, "Jews are forbidden." In 1938, after his synagogue was burned (during Kristallnacht), his family realized they had to flee Germany. Since his family could only get two tickets, Ernest and his mother boarded a ship for Asia, leaving their family behind.

    1940-44: Ernest ended up in Japanese-controlled Shanghai, the only place refugees could land without a visa. There, as a volunteer driving a truck for the British army's Shanghai Volunteer Force, he got meals and was better off than many other refugees. After Pearl Harbor, in December 1941, conditions among the city's refugees worsened--American relief funds, the refugees' lifeline, could not reach Shanghai. In 1943, under pressure from Germany, the Japanese set up a ghetto.

    Ernest spent two years in the Shanghai ghetto before the city was liberated in 1945. After the war, he worked for the U.S. Air Force in Nanking, China, for several years, and later immigrated to the United States.

    Ernest G. Heppner
  • Iosif Rivkin

    ID Card

    Iosif was born to a Jewish family in the Belorussian capital of Minsk. He fought with the Tsarist troops in World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans. When he returned to Minsk after the war, he began working in a state-owned factory building furniture, an occupation in which a number of his relatives also made a living.

    1933-39: By the early 1930s, Iosif was married and had three daughters, Hacia, Dora and Berta. The family lived on Novomesnitskaya Street in central Minsk, near the Svisloch River. Throughout the 1930s, the girls attended Soviet state schools and were involved with the Soviet youth organization the Young Pioneers. By the late 1930s Minsk was filled with Polish refugees fleeing the German invasion.

    1940-43: On June 27, 1941, the invading Germans reached Minsk. The Rivkins' home was bombed the next day, and they were forced into the street. They slept by the river with numerous other refugees, until German guards threatened to shoot them all. German posters in Minsk declared that the Nazis had come to liberate the Soviet Union from Communism and the Jews. In August the Germans set up a ghetto, where Iosif was put to work as a carpenter. When the ghetto was liquidated in October 1943, Iosif and his family were deported.

    Iosif's daughter, Berta, escaped from the ghetto before it was liquidated. Iosif and the rest of his family were never heard from again.

    Tags: Minsk ghettos
    Iosif Rivkin
  • Hilda Kusserow

    ID Card

    Hilda was born in a territory ruled by Germany until 1919. A teacher and a painter, she married Franz Kusserow and moved to western Germany before World War I. There, she gave birth to 11 children and became a Jehovah's Witness. After 1931 the Kusserow home in the small town of Bad Lippspringe was the headquarters of a Jehovah's Witness congregation.

    1933-39: The Nazis repeatedly searched Hilda's home because her family remained openly steadfast in their devotion to Jehovah. Hilda continued doing missionary work even though it was banned. In 1936 she was arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. When she was released she continued hosting Bible study meetings in her home, even after her husband was imprisoned. In 1939 the police took away her three youngest children to be "reeducated" in foster homes.

    1940-44: Two of Hilda's sons were executed for refusing induction into the German army. Her husband returned home on August 16, 1940. Because they kept hosting Bible studies, Hilda and her husband were arrested along with their daughters Hildegard and Magdalena in April 1941. Hilda served a two-year term. When released she was told that she could go home if she signed a statement renouncing her faith. Hilda refused and was deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp, where she was reunited with two of her daughters who'd already been there a year.

    During a forced march from Ravensbrueck, Hilda and her two daughters were liberated by the Soviets in April 1945. When the war ended, they returned to Bad Lippspringe.

    Hilda Kusserow
  • Frank Meissner

    ID Card

    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.

    Frank Meissner
  • Michael von Hoppen Waldhorn

    ID Card

    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.

    Michael von Hoppen Waldhorn
  • Emma Freund

    ID Card

    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.

    Emma was transferred to the Drancy transit camp in August 1942. She was deported to Auschwitz on August 14 and gassed upon arrival. She was 48 years old.

    Emma Freund
  • Robert Freund

    ID Card

    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.

    Robert was transferred to the Drancy transit camp in August 1942 and was deported to Auschwitz on August 14. He was gassed upon arrival.

    Robert Freund

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