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world war I

  • 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
  • David Klebanov

    ID Card

    Born in the town of Volkovysk when it was part of Russia, David was the son of middle-class Jewish parents. When the family's life was disrupted by World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917, they moved to Borisov and Kiev before finally settling in the Polish city of Bialystok. After completing secondary school in 1925, David studied medicine at Stefan Bathory University in Vilna.

    1933-39: After medical school David served one year in the Polish army. Then he practiced obstetrics at a beautiful hospital in a small Polish town. When war broke out on September 1, 1939, he was called up for service and was captured by the Germans on September 3. The Germans had him treat wounded Polish prisoners. After a month, David was allowed to return as a civilian to Bialystok, which by then was occupied by the Soviets.

    1940-44: David joined his fiancee in Kovno. On June 22, 1941, the day after their wedding, the Germans invaded. Deported to Riga, he treated the ghetto's few survivors as best he could with no medicine. Secretly, David tried to contain a typhoid epidemic--the Germans would have sooner killed typhoid patients. His SS commandant valued him because David knew how to perform abortions--on women the SS commandant had slept with. Meanwhile, David tried to save other women by terminating their pregnancies; the Nazis killed pregnant women and newborn children.

    After the war, David worked in a hospital treating concentration camp survivors and later specialized in the effects of hunger and severe emotional stress on women.

    Tags: Riga Kovno
    David Klebanov
  • Leon Anderman

    ID Card

    Leon was born to Jewish parents living near Tarnopol, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. During World War I, he was an officer in the Austrian army. Following his enlistment, Leon attended medical school in Vienna. After graduating in 1923, he opened a general medicine practice in Kolbuszowa, a town in south central Poland. He was one of the town's two physicians.

    1933-39: Leon had never been active in Jewish affairs, but when the Germans deported Jews from their country in 1938, he felt compelled to do something. He organized a local relief committee and appealed to the Jews in town to contribute money. Just before the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, he was drafted into the Polish army and later captured by the Germans and imprisoned near Tarnow. Leon was released in December.

    1940-42: Leon returned to Kolbuszowa and resumed his practice. When the Germans ordered the Jews to form a council, he was asked by the community to serve as its president. He accepted, reluctantly, hoping he could stand up to the Germans. When asked to provide a list of wealthy Jews whose homes they would loot, he gave only his name. When the Gestapo commandant demanded money to remodel Leon's house so he could live there, Leon answered defiantly, "If I can live in that house the way it is, you certainly can."

    Leon and most of the Jewish council were arrested in late September 1942, and replaced with a new council. Leon was deported to Auschwitz, where he perished.

    Leon Anderman
  • Gert Laske

    ID Card

    Gert was born to a Jewish family settled in northeast Berlin, known as one of the city's "red" (largely communist) districts. They lived in a large tenement building. Gert's parents were from the eastern part of Germany, which had been ceded to Poland in 1919. His father, proud of his Iron Cross, Second Class, earned in World War I, was active in an association of Jewish veterans.

    1933-39: After Hitler came to power, a neighbor told Gert's mother that they couldn't greet each other on the street anymore--it would hurt her husband's career. Gert's father said the Nazis wouldn't harm them as he was a war hero; he'd have joined the Nazis if they'd let him. In 1935 his father was briefly arrested for "becoming too friendly with an Aryan female." Four years later, in 1939, Gert immigrated to the Netherlands and settled in the town of Wieringen.

    1940-44: In Wieringen Gert was with other German refugees working at an agricultural camp for Jews preparing for Palestine. The SS closed down their camp in March 1941, but he was allowed to work as a farmhand elsewhere in the Netherlands. Later he was rounded up and deported to the Westerbork transit camp. Luckily, farmhands were scarce and Gert was assigned to work on farms outside the camp. He managed to be out of Westerbork whenever people were being deported "to the East." He even smuggled some people out of the camp.

    Gert was one of 900 Jews liberated in Westerbork by the Canadians in 1945. After the war, he remained in the Netherlands.

    Gert Laske
  • Johanna Gerechter Neumann describes anti-Jewish measures in Hamburg, Germany

    Oral History

    Amid intensifying anti-Jewish measures and the 1938 Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom, Johanna's family decided to leave Germany. They obtained visas for Albania, crossed into Italy, and sailed in 1939. They remained in Albania under the Italian occupation and, after Italy surrendered in 1943, under German occupation. The family was liberated after a battle between the Germans and Albanian partisans in December 1944.

    Johanna Gerechter Neumann describes anti-Jewish measures in Hamburg, Germany
  • 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
  • Heinrich Himmler
  • Beer Hall Putsch (Munich Putsch)


    On November 8–9, 1923, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party led a coalition group in an attempt to overthrow the German government. The plotters hoped to march on Berlin to launch a national revolution. But the insurrection failed miserably. Units of the Munich police force clashed with Nazi stormtroopers as they marched into the city center. The police killed more than a dozen of Hitler’s supporters. This attempted coup d'état came to be known as the Beer Hall Putsch

    Beer Hall Putsch (Munich Putsch)
  • The Nazi Party


    The National Socialist German Workers’ Party—also known as the Nazi Party—was the far-right racist and antisemitic political party led by Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Party came to power in Germany in 1933. It controlled all aspects of German life and persecuted German Jews. Its power only ended when Germany lost World War II.

    The Nazi Party
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt


    Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the 32nd president of the United States (1933–1945). He faced immense domestic and international challenges, struggling to restore an economy shattered by the Great Depression, respond to the worldwide threat of fascism and an international refugee crisis, move the nation from isolation to victory in a global war, and prepare the United States as a leader in the postwar world. 


    Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Postwar Trials


    After World War II, international, domestic, and military courts conducted trials of tens of thousands of accused war criminals. Efforts to bring to justice to the perpetrators of Nazi-era crimes continue well into the 21st century. Unfortunately, most perpetrators have never been tried or punished. Nevertheless, the postwar trials did set important legal precedents. Today, international and domestic tribunals seek to uphold the principle that those who commit wartime atrocities should be brought to justice.

    Postwar Trials
  • SS and Police


    Combining the SS and the police into one institution was an important step in the Nazi regime’s transformation into a powerful dictatorship. This SS and police system had the ideological radicalism of the SS and the executive authority of the police. During World War II, SS and police leaders were responsible for perpetrating the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

  • Röhm Purge


    The Röhm Purge was the murder of the leadership of the SA (Storm Troopers), the Nazi paramilitary formation led by Ernst Röhm. The murders took place between June 30 and July 2, 1934. The ruling elites and ultimately Hitler saw the SA as a threat to their hold on power. The purge demonstrated the Nazi regime’s willingness to go outside of the law to commit murder as an act of state for the perceived survival of the nation.

    Röhm Purge
  • The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936


    The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were more than just a worldwide sporting event, they were a show of Nazi propaganda, stirring significant conflict. Despite the exclusionary principles of the 1936 Games, countries around the world still agreed to participate.

    The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936
  • Writing the News


    Shortly after taking power in January 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis succeeded in destroying Germany’s vibrant and diverse newspaper culture. The newly created Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda handed out daily instructions to all German newspapers, Nazi or independent, detailing how the news was to be reported.

    Writing the News

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