Provisions of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany (defeated in World War I) to station armed forces in a demilitarized zone in the Rhineland—a region in western Germany bordering France, Belgium, and part of the Netherlands. The treaty stipulated that Allied forces—including US troops—would occupy the region. In a blatant violation of the treaty, on March 7, 1936, Hitler ordered German troops to reoccupy the zone. Hitler gambled that the western powers would not intervene. His action brought condemnation from Great Britain and France, but neither nation intervened to enforce the treaty. This footage shows German forces entering the Rhineland.
Marcu was born to Jewish parents in a small, ethnically diverse city in east central Moldavia [in Romania], a region known for its wine. He married at the age of 23, and had a son and a daughter with his wife, Anna. After World War I, Marcu followed in his father's footsteps by going into the wine making business.
1933-39: The price of wine was low due to the worldwide economic depression. Because the quality of Marcu's wine was excellent, however, it still fetched a good price. He spent much of his time cultivating his vineyards and then transforming the grapes into wine. In November 1939 his 20-year-old son Ion was drafted into the Romanian army.
1940-44: In 1941 Romania went to war with the USSR as Germany's ally [Axis]. A Yiddish-speaking stranger came to Marcu's door saying that the Soviets were coming to liberate Jews. This was a ploy to catch traitors, and Marcu refused to fall for it. That day he was arrested by Romanian fascists [Iron Guard], who accused him of being a communist just because he was Jewish. He was badly beaten, tried by a military court and acquitted. But then he was held hostage to prevent acts of sabotage. When he was finally released, his vineyards and home had been confiscated.
Marcu was liberated by the Soviet army in August 1944. He continued to live in Romania after the war.
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.
Friedrich-Paul was born in the old trading city of Lübeck in northern Germany. He was 11 when his father was killed in World War I. After his mother died, he and his sister Ina were raised by two elderly aunts. After graduating from school, Friedrich-Paul trained to be a merchant.
1933-39: In January 1937 the SS arrested 230 men in Lübeck under the Nazi-revised criminal code's Paragraph 175, which banned sexual relations between men. Friedrich-Paul was imprisoned for 10 months. In 1938 he was re-arrested, humiliated, and tortured. The Nazis finally released him, but only on the condition that he agree to be castrated. Friedrich-Paul submitted to the operation.
1940-44: Because of the nature of his operation, Friedrich-Paul was rejected as “physically unfit” when he came up for military service in 1940. In 1943 he was arrested again, this time for being a monarchist, a supporter of the former Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Nazis imprisoned him as a political prisoner in an annex of the Neuengamme concentration camp at Lübeck.
After the war, Friedrich-Paul settled in Hamburg.
Born at the beginning of World War I, Wilhelm was patriotically named after Germany's emperor, Wilhelm II. The eldest son, Wilhelm was raised a Lutheran, but after the war his parents became Jehovah's Witnesses and raised their children according to their faith. After 1931, their home in the rustic town of Bad Lippspringe became known as a center of Jehovah's Witness activity.
1933-39: The Kusserows were under close scrutiny by the Nazi police because Witnesses believed that their highest loyalty was to God, not to Hitler. The Kusserows' home was repeatedly searched and some of their religious literature was confiscated. They offered refuge to fellow Witnesses and continued to host Bible study meetings in their home, illegally, even after Wilhelm's father had been arrested twice.
1940: Germany had been at war since September 1939 and Wilhelm had been arrested for refusing induction into the German army, adhering strictly to the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." For Wilhelm, God's law came before Hitler's laws. The judge and prosecutor tried to change his mind. They offered to rescind his execution order if he renounced his "evil and destructive" beliefs. Wilhelm refused. The court sentenced him to death.
According to his defense counsel, Wilhelm "died in accordance with his convictions." He was shot by a firing squad in Muenster Prison, on April 27, 1940.
Rosa was one of 14 children born to religious Jewish parents in the village of Yasinya at a time when it was known as Korosmezo and was part of Hungary. During World War I, she married Michael von Hoppen Waldhorn, an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army who was based near Yasinya. During the 1920s they moved to Paris, where they raised three children.
1933-39: The Waldhorn family's life in Paris was very different from their life in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Rosa's husband made a good living, and he felt that their children had better educational opportunities. Confident that France was strong enough to defend itself from the Germans, the Waldhorns felt safe in Paris.
1940-44: Germany quickly defeated France in 1940 and occupied Paris on June 14. At first, Rosa, who enjoyed the protection of Hungarian citizenship, was safe from the threat of deportation by the Nazis. But after her husband was rounded up in July 1942 and deported along with other Polish-born Jews, Rosa went into hiding in an attic in Paris and her children went into hiding in the countryside.
Rosa was denounced by an informant, and was deported from Paris on September 2, 1943. She was gassed in Auschwitz two days later. Rosa was 56 years old.
Paul was one of three children born to Jewish parents. They lived in a small city with a large Jewish population in central Moldavia. Paul's Ukrainian-born father had been stationed in Romania during World War I, and chose to remain there rather than return to Ukraine after the 1917 Russian Revolution.
1933-39: Paul's household observed the Jewish holidays. He loved Passover with its special meals and the opportunity to show off new clothes. On the radio his family heard about the Nazis in Germany; in their own country, the antisemitic Iron Guard was becoming more popular. One morning in September 1939 Paul saw signs of the war for the first time: retreating Polish soldiers rode down our street, looking hungry and thirsty.
1940-44: The fascist Iron Guard was in power. Being forced out of public school was the first of many measures Paul suffered because he was a Jew. Paul and his friends refused to remain passive. Building a radio and listening to foreign broadcasts were their first acts of defiance. They helped the underground by smuggling news inside soap bars and putting sand in German gas tanks. By cutting electric wires they sabotaged production at a factory where Paul was a forced laborer making uniforms for the German army.
Suspected of sabotage, Paul was arrested and tortured by Romanian police, but was released just before Soviet troops invaded Romania in 1944. He moved to the United States in 1972.
Istvan was born to a Jewish family in the small agricultural city of Torokszentmiklos, about 65 miles from Budapest. Istvan worked for the Hungarian railroads during World War I, and afterwards earned a degree in pharmacology. In the 1920s Istvan married Barbara Nemeth and they settled in Torokszentmiklos. In 1929 the couple had a son, Janos.
1933-39: During the early 1930s, after the onset of the Depression, Istvan helped his father in the family's grain exporting business. In 1933 Istvan and Barbara divorced and their son Janos went to live in Szentes. In 1938 the Hungarian government, which was sympathetic to Nazi Germany, began enacting anti-Jewish laws.
1940-45: In 1940 the Hungarian army forcibly conscripted thousands of Jewish males into labor brigades. Istvan was exempted because pharmacists were needed. In 1941 Istvan married Helena Haas. Three years later, in March 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. Istvan and his family were arrested by Hungarian gendarmes and taken to a makeshift ghetto located at a sugar factory near Torokszentmiklos. From there they were deported, via the Strasshof camp in Austria, to the Lobau labor camp near Vienna.
Istvan, his wife, Helena, and his son, Janos, were liberated in Lobau by the Red Army in April 1945. After the war, they immigrated to the United States.
Shortly after World War II, an American intelligence officer living in Germany uncovered a personal album of photographs chronicling SS officers’ activities at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Museum received this photograph album in 2007. The rare images show Nazis singing, hunting, and even trimming a Christmas tree. They provide a chilling contrast to the photographs of thousands of Hungarian Jews deported to Auschwitz at the same time.
During the Holocaust, the creation of ghettos was a key step in the Nazi process of brutally separating, persecuting, and ultimately destroying Europe's Jews. Ghettos isolated Jews from the non-Jewish population and from other Jewish communities. Living conditions were miserable. Among them was the Vilna ghetto.
On January 20, 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi Party and German government officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss and coordinate the implementation of what they called the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question."
Until recently, many militaries swore their allegiance to their monarchs or rulers. Traditionally, the German military had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Kaiser. This changed during the Weimar Republic, when the oath became one of allegiance to the Constitution and its institutions. In Nazi Germany, German military personnel swore an oath directly to Adolf Hitler. This change had important repercussions during World War II.
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.
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.
Beginning on May 10, 1933, Nazi-dominated student groups carried out public burnings of books they claimed were “un-German.” The book burnings took place in 34 university towns and cities. Works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers ended up in the bonfires. The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship.
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.
Nazi student groups played a key role in aligning German universities with Nazi ideology and in solidifying Nazi power.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bruna was the oldest of two children born to Italian-speaking Jewish parents who had settled in the cosmopolitan city of Trieste. Her father, born in Vienna, served in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He became a naturalized Italian during the 1920s after marrying Bruna's mother. Growing up in fascist Italy, Bruna attended public schools in Trieste and felt proud to be an Italian.
1933-39: In September 1938 Bruna was surprised to see anti-Jewish graffiti. Then anti-Jewish race laws were announced. She was expelled from her public secondary school and her father was fired from his job. Circumstances forced Bruna into a new, private Jewish school organized by fired Jewish professors, with small classes and excellent teachers. Ironically, her exams and diploma were fully accredited by the Italian state.
1940-44: Bruna and her family were glad when Mussolini fell from power in July 1943, but his fall led to the German occupation of Italy. They fled south but were caught in a roundup. Awaiting deportation to Germany, Bruna attended a Christmas Mass in their prison. The Bishop of Rimini told her not to despair and to believe in miracles. Three days later the prison was hit during an air raid. They escaped to a convent south of Rimini and discovered that the bishop had instructed the convent to give shelter to refugees with no questions or payment asked.
Bruna was liberated at the convent by British troops on September 23, 1944, the day after her twenty-first birthday.
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