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world war I

  • Carl Heumann

    ID Card

    Carl was one of nine children born to Jewish parents living in a village near the Belgian border. When Carl was 26, he married Joanna Falkenstein and they settled down in a house across the street from his father's cattle farm. Carl ran a small general store on the first floor of their home. The couple had two daughters, Margot and Lore.

    1933-39: Carl has moved his family to the city of Bielefeld, where he is working for a Jewish relief organization. Requests from this area's Jews to leave Germany have multiplied since a night last November [Kristallnacht] when the Nazis smashed windows of Jewish stores and burned synagogues all over Germany. Unfortunately, the United States and other countries have immigration quotas so that only a fraction of the Jewish refugees can get visas.

    1940-44: Carl and his family have been deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. As a special privilege, they have been sent here rather than to a concentration camp further to the east because Carl earned the German Iron Cross in World War I. Still, the threat of deportation to a camp hangs over them daily, and they are always hungry. Their 15-year-old, Margot, has been assigned to a detail that leaves the ghetto each day to work on a farm: Sometimes she smuggles back vegetables to them by hiding them under her blouse.

    In May 1944 Carl was caught stealing food, and he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. Everyone is believed to have perished there except Margot, who survived the war.

    Carl Heumann
  • Zalie Waldhorn

    ID Card

    Zalie was the second of three children born to immigrant Jewish parents. Her Polish-born father was a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian army who had met and married her Hungarian-born mother during World War I. Shortly before Zalie was born, her parents settled in Paris. There, Zalie and her brother and sister grew up in a religious household.

    1933-39: Zalie's mother said it was better in Paris than in the poor village in which she grew up. Her mother spoke broken French, but Zalie grew up speaking French fluently. At elementary school they learned all about French history. She wasn't afraid of Hitler. Her father said that the terrible things happening to Jews in Germany wouldn't happen to them in France.

    1940-44: Zalie was almost 13 when the Germans occupied Paris in 1940. In 1942 her father was deported with other Polish-born Jews. Then her mother was deported. After that, Zalie left Paris with false papers that hid her Jewish identity. She became 16-year-old Zalie Guerin. With her light hair, blue eyes and fluent French, she passed as a non-Jewish French citizen. In the town of Alencon she worked as a secretary, but after a year, she was discovered to be a Jew and arrested. The Germans beat her up; they seemed ashamed she'd fooled them for so long.

    Zalie, 17, was deported to Auschwitz in a children's convoy on July 31, 1944. She survived the concentration camps, and returned to live in Paris after the war.

    Zalie Waldhorn
  • Chaje Isakovic Adler

    ID Card

    The youngest of 11 children, Chaje was raised by religious, Yiddish-speaking Jewish parents in a village in Czechoslovakia's easternmost province. At the age of 12, she was apprenticed to a men's tailor. In the 1920s she married Jermie Adler from Selo-Solotvina. Together, they moved to Liege, Belgium, where they raised three daughters and she continued to work as a tailor.

    1933-39: Chaje's customers called her the "Polish tailor." Raising her children as Jews in the largely Catholic city of Liege did not pose a problem. The family spoke Yiddish at home, and Chaje made sure that her children studied Hebrew. When war broke out in Poland in September 1939, Chaje was fearful because it brought back troubling memories of her village being overrun during World War I.

    1940-44: The Germans conquered Belgium in May 1940. Two years later, Chaje's family was ordered by the Nazis to register. Catholic friends managed to obtain false papers for the Adlers and rent them a house in a nearby village. On Sunday, March 5, 1944, while her husband and eldest daughter were away, the Gestapo came to the door at 5 a.m. They had been told there was a Jewish family at that house. Chaje tried to insist that the children were not hers, hoping they would be spared, but the Gestapo arrested them all.

    On May 19, 1944, Chaje was deported from the Mechelen internment camp to Auschwitz with her two daughters and a nephew. They were gassed two days later.

    Chaje Isakovic Adler
  • Herman Judelowitz

    ID Card

    Herman was the oldest of nine children born to a Jewish family in the Latvian village of Aizpute. He was a World War I veteran, and after the conflict, in 1918, he fought for the establishment of a free Latvian republic. Two years later he married Sarah Gamper and they settled in the city of Liepaja, where they owned a shoe store. By the late 1920s they had two daughters, Fanny and Jenny.

    1933-39: Herman designed patterns for the uppers of shoes, which he used to fashion into finished shoes. His shoe store was in front of the workshop. In 1935 Herman and Sarah had a third daughter, Liebele. Both Sarah and Herman were Zionists and they often collected money to help Jewish settlers purchase land in Palestine.

    1940-41: In June 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Latvia. The Soviets seized Herman's business and nationalized it, but Herman was forced to continue running his business. In June 1941 Germany invaded Latvia, and quickly reached Liepaja. The Germans immediately began roundups of Jewish males in the city, ostensibly for conscript labor details: none of these men ever returned. A month later, an order was issued for men of working age to report to the city square. Herman reported to the city square.

    In late July 1941, Herman and the rest of the men in his group were taken north to the village of Skeden. There they were shot and dumped into mass graves.

    Tags: Latvia
    Herman Judelowitz
  • Betty Leiter Lauchheimer

    ID Card

    Betty was one of 14 children born to a religious Jewish family in Aufhausen, a village in southwestern Germany. Her father was a successful cattle dealer in the area. On May 8, 1903, at age 20, Betty married Max Lauchheimer, a cattle merchant and kosher butcher. They lived in a large house by an orchard in the village of Jebenhausen. Betty and Max had two children, Regina and Karl.

    1933-39: In late 1938 Betty and Max were visiting their daughter in Kippenheim when police arrested Max and their son-in-law. Hoodlums stoned the house, shattering the windows. Betty, her daughter, and granddaughter hid until it was quiet. Later, they learned that the town's Jewish men had been deported to the Dachau concentration camp; three weeks later, Max and his son-in-law returned home. That May, Max died of a heart attack.

    1940-41: Regina's family moved into Betty's home in Jebenhausen. Many anti-Jewish laws went into effect: Jews couldn't use the bus; Jews had to wear yellow stars; Jews couldn't travel. In late 1941 the household was ordered to report for "resettlement in the east." Betty's son-in-law appealed to the local Gestapo to spare them, hoping they might listen sympathetically because he was a disabled World War I veteran. Though they granted his appeal, it did not extend to Betty. She was forced to report for the transport.

    Betty was deported in early December to Riga, Latvia. In the Rumbula Forest near Riga, Betty was shot in a mass execution of Jews.

    Tags: Dachau Riga
    Betty Leiter Lauchheimer
  • Wilhelm Edelstein

    ID Card

    Wilhelm was the oldest of two children in a Jewish family living in the Habsburg capital of Vienna. Shortly after Wilhelm was born, World War I broke out. Because of food shortages, Wilhelm and his mother left for her hometown of Hostoun, near Prague. After the war they returned to Vienna where his father had remained to run his shoe business. As a young man, Wilhelm worked for his father.

    1933-39: In March 1938 Germany annexed Austria. Soon after, the Germans arrested Wilhelm because he was a Jew dating a Christian woman, an act forbidden under Nazi law. Released on the condition that he leave Austria within 30 days, Wilhelm, with a Jewish friend, traveled to the Czechoslovakian border. After several aborted attempts he crossed the frontier illegally. Wilhelm went on to Prague where he stayed with relatives.

    1940-44: In 1941 Wilhelm was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, and then to Riga, Latvia, where he was put in charge of a group of prisoners peeling potatoes in the ghetto's "German section" for Jews from the Reich. He was then deported to several other camps and eventually to Troeglitz, a subcamp of Buchenwald. There, he made contact with a Christian villager from outside the camp. The man often traveled to Vienna and managed to bring back bread from Wilhelm's aunt and smuggle it in to Wilhelm.

    In March 1945 Wilhelm was deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. He died only a few weeks before the camp was liberated by the British army on April 15, 1945.

    Wilhelm Edelstein
  • Channah Mazansky-Zaidel

    ID Card

    Channah was one of six children born to a Jewish family. In 1914, a year after her father died, the family fled during World War I to Russia. After the war they returned to Lithuania and settled in the village of Pampenai in a house owned by Channah's grandparents. When Channah's three oldest siblings moved to South Africa in the 1920s, Channah helped support the family by sewing.

    1933-39: Channah was working as a seamstress in Pampenai when, in the mid 1930s, she met and married Channoch Zaidel. The couple, who continued to live in Pampenai, had one child. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland. At the time, Lithuania was still a free nation.

    1940-41: Within days of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, German troops had overrun the area around Pampenai. In late summer 1941, German troops approached the village, in an action that was part of a Nazi plan to eliminate Lithuania's Jews. Before the troops arrived, however, groups of armed Lithuanian collaborators herded Pampenai's Jews to a nearby forest and then forced them to dig trenches and strip naked. The Jews were then ordered to climb into the trenches and were machine-gunned.

    Channah, Channoch, and their child were killed, along with Channa's mother, Sara Rachel, her twin brother, Moishe, and her younger brother, Chaim. Channah was 33.

    Channah Mazansky-Zaidel
  • Nikola Mrvos

    ID Card

    The oldest of five children, Nikola was born in a small village in the Croatian part of Yugoslavia. Like his parents, Nikola was baptized in the Serbian Orthodox faith. After receiving his medical degree from Prague University, he married, and in 1912 moved with his wife to Serbia. During World War I he served in the Serbian army, and then settled in Novi Sad where he co-owned a medical clinic.

    1933-39: Nikola and his wife raised three children in Novi Sad. Then difficult times brought on by the 1930s economic depression forced Nikola to close his medical clinic. The Mrvos family moved to the Croatian city of Zagreb, where Nikola found employment as the director of medical services for Yugoslavia's newly established health insurance administration.

    1940-41: The Germans invaded Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941. Four days later, they entered Zagreb and Croatian fascists [Ustase] came to power. Because of anti-Serb discrimination, Nikola was arrested by Croatian fascists on April 12 and imprisoned in Kerestinec Castle outside Zagreb. During the night of July 13, some communist prisoners escaped. As a result, the police closed the prison down and transferred the prisoners to a Croatian concentration camp in the south in Gospic. Shortly after, they were transferred to a camp at Jadovno.

    In August 1941 in Jadovno, Croatian fascists killed Nikola and threw his body into a limestone cave along with those of hundreds of murdered Serbs, Jews and communists.

    Tags: Yugoslavia
    Nikola Mrvos
  • Wolfgang Lachman

    ID Card

    Wolfgang was the only son of observant Jewish parents living in Berlin. Though trained as a mechanical engineer, Wolfgang's father ran a wholesale kerchief and handkerchief business that he had taken over from his father-in-law. Wolfgang's family lived in an apartment above the business. They enjoyed vacationing at their country home in Neuenhagen, a suburb of Berlin.

    1933-39: Wolfgang began school when he was 5; that year Hitler was named leader of Germany. Every morning they had to sing three songs: the German anthem, the anthem of Hitler's party and a song about reclaiming German land lost in World War I. In 1938 his mother died of cancer. That same year, there were riots against the Jews. His father's store was marked with paint and a soldier stood outside telling people not to shop in Jewish stores.

    1940-44: Wolfgang's father died in 1940. He lived with his grandmother until 1942, when they were sent to the Riga ghetto. When he was 14 he was assigned to sort German uniforms. Once he stole shoes to replace the ones he'd worn every day since leaving Berlin, and which had gotten too small and had practically no soles left. But he was caught and taken to the commander, who beat him. He sentenced Wolfgang to be shot, but then changed his mind. Wolfgang was issued wooden shoes, and had to carry an iron bar up and down four flights of stairs 100 times as punishment.

    Wolfgang was deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 16. He was liberated by the British army in April 1945 and immigrated to the United States in 1946.

    Wolfgang Lachman
  • Jenine Gutman

    ID Card

    Jenine was the younger of two daughters born to Jewish parents. They lived in a small city with a large Jewish population in central Moldavia. Her father, a veteran of World War I, came from a large family and Jenine had more than 15 aunts and uncles, all living in Bacau. This extended family helped raise Jenine and her sister Sofia while their parents ran a grocery store.

    1933-39: Just like every child her age, Jenine belonged to a national youth organization headed by Prince Michael. They wore special uniforms with berets and leather belts, and held patriotic rallies in the stadium. Jenine's father became ill; business suffered and he lost his store and everything that they owned. In 1938, they moved to the national capital, Bucharest, where her father got a new job as a factory clerk and Jenine went to a new school.

    1940-44: The fascist Iron Guard was now in power, but Jenine's patriotism no longer made any difference. Because she was Jewish, she was forced out of public school. Although makeshift, their Jewish schools had excellent teachers; Jenine chose to study bookbinding. After Jews were excluded from public hospitals, a Jewish clinic was organized in Bucharest. Jenine worked in its cafeteria. New restrictions were imposed. There were pogroms. The government made her family provide clothing and bedding to the Romanian army.

    Jenine was liberated by the Soviet army in August 1944. She continued to live in Romania until 1976, when she immigrated with her family to the United States.

    Jenine Gutman
  • Wladyslaw Tadeusz Surmacki

    ID Card

    Born to Catholic parents, Wladyslaw attended schools in Warsaw and earned a degree in survey engineering in Moscow in 1914. After fighting in World War I, he commanded a horse artillery division in Warsaw, worked for Poland's Military Geographic Institute, and taught topography courses. He started a family in 1925, and after he retired from the army in 1929 he founded a surveying company.

    1933-39: When war with Germany became imminent in the summer of 1939, Wladyslaw volunteered to fight but was rejected as too old. In early September, when Germany overwhelmed Poland's western defenses, he fled, hoping to fight in the defense of eastern Poland. In mid-September, a day before the Soviets invaded Poland, he was given a chance to leave the country and go to Great Britain but chose to stay and fight with the Polish resistance.

    1940-42: Wladyslaw became chief of staff of TAP, one of the groups of the Polish underground. In the summer of 1940 he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. As prisoner #2759 he worked as a surveying engineer in the camp's construction office. His work enabled him to go outside the camp. He used his status to smuggle letters and, by October, to help organize a military underground. In November 1941 he was released on the intercession of a former German engineering colleague, but was immediately rearrested and put in Warsaw's Pawiak Prison.

    Wladyslaw was taken to a forest near Magdalenka and machine-gunned along with 223 Poles on May 28, 1942. They were buried in mass graves and later moved to the local cemetery.

    Wladyslaw Tadeusz Surmacki
  • Julian Noga

    ID Card

    Although Julian's Polish Catholic parents had immigrated to the United States before World War I, his mother had returned to Poland and Julian was born in a village not far from the large town of Tarnow in southern Poland. Julian was raised in Skrzynka by his mother on her four-acre farm while his father remained in the United States.

    1933-39: At 16 Julian left home and worked as a dishwasher in an elegant Jewish club in downtown Tarnow. When the Germans invaded in September 1939, he returned to his village. There, 27 of Skrzynka's Jews--people Julian knew--were forced to dig their own graves and then shot. In some nearby woods he found and hid a rifle abandoned by a retreating Polish soldier. But Julian was betrayed, and deported to Austria to do farm labor for a rich landowner near Linz.

    1940-44: Julian fell in love with Frieda, the landowner's daughter, and she loved him too. When her father objected, she moved to another farm. They continued to meet secretly even though Nazi law forbad romance between Poles and Germans. The Gestapo warned Julian, "If you see Frieda again, you're going to be hanged." He was reassigned to another farm, but they continued to see one another until he was arrested on September 19, 1941. He was imprisoned nearby, then transferred to Flossenbürg to do backbreaking work at a quarry.

    Julian was liberated on April 23, 1945, while on a forced march out of Flossenbürg. Reunited after the war, Julian and Frieda married and immigrated to the United States.

    Julian Noga
  • Erzsebeth Buchsbaum

    ID Card

    Erzsebeth was raised in Budapest, where her Polish-born Jewish parents had lived since before World War I. Her father, a brush salesman, fought for the Austro-Hungarian forces in that war. The Buchsbaums' apartment was in the same building as a movie house. There was a small alcove in the apartment, and Erzsebeth's brother, Herman, made a hole in the wall so that they could watch the films.

    1933-39: Every summer Erzsebeth, Herman, and their mother took a special trip to Stebnik, Poland, to visit Grandma. Their father stayed back to work. Erzsebeth loved Grandma's village. They'd walk near the train station and smell the flowers. Erzsebeth would play with Grandma's dog, Reyfus, and sometimes they would travel by horse and buggy to the nearby spa, where a band played and people sat and sipped drinks. In 1938 when Germany annexed Austria [the Anschluss], Herman immigrated to America.

    1940-44: Since they were Polish-born, Erzsebeth and her family had to leave Hungary in 1941 when all "foreigners" were forced out. They went to Kolomyja [Kolomyia], Poland, where a ghetto was imposed in 1942. Thousands were killed, and by summer Erzsebeth decided to escape back to Hungary. A smuggler took their small group through the woods. They slept by day and walked all night. On the 12th day, they heard a German shout: "Get up!" After Erzsebeth crawled into a hollow tree trunk, she heard shooting and voices crying "No!" Then it was silent. The smuggler had been wounded. The others were dead.

    Erzsebeth escaped Hungarian work camps and many brushes with death before liberation in 1945. She moved to the United States in 1951.

    Erzsebeth Buchsbaum
  • Lutz Haase

    ID Card

    Lutz was one of two children born to religious Jewish parents living in Wrzesnia when it was still part of Germany. After World War I, Wrzesnia became part of Polish territory. Preferring to remain as German citizens, Lutz's family moved to Nuremberg. There, his father opened a kosher butcher shop. In 1926 the Haases relocated to Berlin and reestablished their butcher shop there.

    1933-39: Like many of Berlin's Jews, Lutz was assigned by the Gestapo to a work detail in 1937. He laid electrical cable for which he received a pittance--only 37 cents a day. After the Nazis rampaged on November 10, 1938, destroying synagogues and holy books and smashing Jewish store windows during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"), Lutz was deported with many other Jews to a forced-labor camp outside Berlin. There, they were kept in leg irons and put to work repairing train tracks.

    1940-44: After two years of forced labor, Lutz became too weak to work. The commandant condemned him to an underground bunker where few survived more than a day. An SS general who was present when Lutz was condemned had been a classmate of his before the war. Privately he told Lutz, "I remember you. You helped me start my stamp collection. Now I'd like to help you." "General," Lutz said, "Do what you have to." He replied, "If I do that, you'll never see daylight again." Through his connections, he arranged his way to Shanghai.

    Lutz arrived in Shanghai in late 1940. There, he published a newspaper with war information obtained from the Soviet news agency and radio reports. He immigrated to Canada in 1949.

    Lutz Haase
  • Beno Helmer

    ID Card

    Beno was the oldest of three children in a Jewish family. His mother, originally from Austria, came to Czechoslovakia after World War I. Beno's father, a Swedish Jew, arrived there in search of work and became a successful merchant. The German-speaking Helmer home was frequently full of guests. Every day some students from the local rabbinical academy were invited to join the family for a meal.

    1933-39: Beno's parents sent him to Budapest to attend high school. Later, because of his talent with languages, Beno got a job as an extra in movies. Each scene was shot in German and Hungarian; since Beno was fluent in both, he was always on the set. After his parents fled to Budapest to evade the Nazis, they tried to bribe a Hungarian official to help them. But this backfired; Beno and his parents were deported to Poland. He ended up in Lodz, just before war broke out.

    1940-44: They were always hungry in the Lodz ghetto. People were dying all around them. In the ghetto Beno worked scooping out cesspools with a cooking pot. One day the Nazis took them into a home. They lined them up in a semicircle. One lady had a child. A Nazi asked, "Whose child is this?" Terrified, the mother did not admit that he was hers. He took the child by the legs and swung him against the wall, killing him. Paralyzed by fear, the mother looked on as if the child belonged to someone else.

    Beno survived the Theresienstadt ghetto, and the Auschwitz and Buchenwald camps. After the war he helped track down war criminals in Europe. In 1947 Beno settled in the United States.

    Beno Helmer
  • Karl-Heinz Kusserow

    ID Card

    Karl-Heinz was born during World War I, while his father was in the German army. After the war, his Lutheran parents became Jehovah's Witnesses and gave their children daily Bible lessons. When Karl-Heinz was 13, the family moved to the rustic Westphalian town of Bad Lippspringe. Their home became the headquarters of a new Jehovah's Witness congregation.

    1933-39: Because of the Jehovah's Witnesses' missionary work, and because their sole allegiance was to God and His commandments, their activities were banned by the Nazis. After 1936 the Kusserow's home was repeatedly searched and religious literature seized, and Karl-Heinz's parents were arrested more than once. The family continued to offer refuge to fellow Witnesses, and also continued to host Bible studies, illegally, in their home.

    1940-44: Karl-Heinz's brother was executed in April 1940 for refusing to serve in the German army, contending that such service violated God's commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." The Gestapo attended the funeral; seven weeks later they arrested Karl-Heinz because of a prayer he had said during the funeral. When he refused to give the Hitler salute, he was knocked down and beaten. He spent two months in prison, where he was tortured, and then was transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After two years, he was sent to Dachau.

    Karl-Heinz was released from the Dachau camp in June 1945. Gravely ill with tuberculosis, he died in Bad Lippspringe the following year. He was 28 years old.

    Karl-Heinz Kusserow
  • Helene Waldhorn

    ID Card

    Born in her grandmother's house in a village in the eastern tip of Czechoslovakia, Helene was the oldest child of religious Jewish parents. Her father had been an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army and had met and married her mother in Yasinya during World War I. When Helene was a young child, her parents emigrated to Paris, where they made their home.

    1933-39: Helene is glad that her parents moved to Paris. Life here is more comfortable and more exciting for her than in Yasinya. Her mother speaks broken French, but Helene, her younger sister and brother speak French fluently because they've grown up here. In her high school they also learn German. The French history lessons make her think that the French won't let themselves be pushed around by Hitler, and so they'll be safe from the Nazis.

    1940-44: Helene has been deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women. After Germany defeated France in 1940, she managed to avoid the deportations of 1942 by hiding her Jewish identity with false papers. With her new identity and her high-school German she got an office job with the German military stationed in the town of Alencon. She also began collaborating with the French resistance, but was denounced for this by an informant in 1944. Now Helene is a political prisoner--the Germans still don't know she's Jewish.

    Helene was liberated when Soviet troops entered Ravensbrueck in April 1945. After the war she returned to France.

    Helene Waldhorn
  • Pinchas Galperin

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Pinchas Galperin
  • David Mendel Petranker

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    David Mendel Petranker
  • Nenad Dusan Popovic

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Nenad Dusan Popovic
  • Eszter Mendel Braun

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Eszter Mendel Braun
  • Jeno Gabor Braun

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Jeno Gabor Braun
  • Jermie Adler

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Tags: Belgium
    Jermie Adler
  • Terez Goldberger Kalman

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Tags: Hungary
    Terez Goldberger Kalman
  • Shaye Rothkopf

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Shaye Rothkopf
  • Bernard (Green) Greenspan

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Bernard (Green) Greenspan
  • 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
  • Axis Alliance in World War II


    The three principal partners in the Axis alliance were Germany, Italy, and Japan. These three countries recognized German domination over most of continental Europe; Italian domination over the Mediterranean Sea; and Japanese domination over East Asia and the Pacific.

    Axis Alliance in World War II
  • Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany


    In the first six years of Adolf Hitler's dictatorship, Jews felt the effects of more than 400 decrees and regulations on all aspects of their lives. The regulations gradually but systematically took away their rights and property, transforming them from citizens into outcasts. Many of the laws were national ones issued by the German administration, affecting all Jews. State, regional, and municipal officials also issued many decrees in their own communities. As Nazi leaders prepared for war in Europe, antisemitic legislation in Germany and Austria paved the way for more radical persecution of Jews.

    Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar Germany
  • Joseph von Hoppen Waldhorn

    ID Card

    Joseph was the youngest of three children born to immigrant Jewish parents. His Polish-born father was a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian army who had met and married Joseph's Hungarian-born mother during World War I. Joseph was raised in a religious household and grew up speaking French.

    1933-39: Joseph's mother says it's better here in Paris than in the poor village where she grew up. Unlike his mother, who speaks broken French, Joseph and his older sisters have grown up speaking French fluently. He attends a special public school funded by the Rothschild family. His father says that the terrible things happening to Jews in Germany won't happen to them here.

    1940-44: Joseph has fled Paris and is staying with the sister of a friend who is letting him hide on her farm in Sees in western France. About a year ago, when he was 9, German troops occupied Paris. At first, he wasn't in danger. Unlike his foreign-born parents who were subject to being immediately deported, Joseph was a French citizen. He fled Paris after the Germans deported his father in 1941. Joseph has false papers; his new name is Georges Guerin. His sisters also have false identities and have gotten office jobs in nearby Alencon.

    Joseph's sisters in Alencon were discovered and arrested. Joseph managed to remain concealed until the end of the war, and immigrated to the United States in 1949.

    Joseph von Hoppen Waldhorn
  • Nazi Propaganda


    The Nazis effectively used propaganda to win the support of millions of Germans in a democracy and, later in a dictatorship, to facilitate persecution, war, and ultimately genocide. The stereotypes and images found in Nazi propaganda were not new, but were already familiar to their intended audience.

    Nazi Propaganda
  • Lajos Nagy

    ID Card

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

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

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

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

    Lajos Nagy
  • Arrests without Warrant or Judicial Review


    Arrest without warrant or judicial review was one of a series of key decrees, legislative acts, and case law in the gradual process by which the Nazi leadership moved Germany from a democracy to a dictatorship.

  • Culture in the Third Reich: Disseminating the Nazi Worldview
  • Nazi Party Platform
  • 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
  • Third Reich
  • 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
  • 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
  • Oranienburg


    Millions of people suffered and died in camps, ghettos, and other sites during the Holocaust. The Nazis and their allies oversaw more than 44,000 camps, ghettos, and other sites of detention, persecution, forced labor, and murder. Among them was the Oranienburg camp. 

  • Public Humiliation


    During the twelve years of the Third Reich (1933-1945), Nazi officials and organizations perpetrated public humiliations of individuals in Germany and Nazi-occupied  countries. The Nazis singled out Jews and other victims who violated racial laws as targets for humiliation. For example, Jewish men often had their beards forcibly shaved and endured  physical punishment.


    Public Humiliation
  • Joseph Goebbels
  • Yonia Fain describes leaving Warsaw after the German invasion of Poland

    Oral History

    After World War I, Yonia's family moved to Vilna. Yonia studied painting and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilna. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Yonia was living with his wife in Warsaw. They fled to Brest-Litovsk in eastern Poland, occupied by Soviet forces in mid-September 1939. Then Yonia and his wife escaped to Vilna. After the Soviets occupied Vilna in June 1940, Yonia and his wife forged Japanese transit visas and left for Japan. In Japan, they were unable to obtain valid visas for another country and were forced to remain. Japanese authorities required them to relocate to Shanghai in Japanese-occupied China in the fall of 1941. They remained in Shanghai for the duration of the war. In 1948, Yonia and his wife immigrated to Mexico. In 1956, Yonia immigrated to the United States.

    Yonia Fain describes leaving Warsaw after the German invasion of Poland
  • 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
  • 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

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