After Kristallnacht, Irene and her sister were able to escape to Belgium
where Irene was able to study at the Academy of Art. Ultimately, it was
Irene’s artistic talents that saved her from certain death. When she was
imprisoned in a transit camp near Antwerp in 1943, she was assigned to paint
the prisoner numbers on name cards. Irene survived imprisonment, married,
and moved to Israel with her husband and daughter in 1949. She published her
story, They’ll Have to Catch Me First, in 2004.
Born to a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, Gerhard Beck was considered
to be “Mischling” or “mixed” by Nazi authorities; he was also gay. Both
Gad and his twin sister Margo became members of the Hehalutz Zionist
movement in Berlin when they were denied access to public schools because of
their heritage. In 1943, he joined another resistance movement, Chug Halutzi,
and eventually became its leader. He was arrested in March of 1945 and
injured in jail when the Allies bombed Berlin. On April 24, 1945, Soviet
forces liberated the hospital where he was recovering. After the war, Gad was appointed by the
Soviets as their first representative for Jewish Affairs in Berlin. He
eventually moved to Munich to help in organizing illegal immigration to
Palestine. Finally in 1947, Gad, along with his sister and parents, emigrated to Palestine, where he remained until 1974.
Jill Berg Pauly and Inge
Sisters Jill and Inge Berg and their family fled the city of Cologne,
Germany just prior to the events of Kristallnacht that destroyed their home.
With help from a distant relative, the Berg family moved to a farm in Limuru,
Kenya in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution. In 1947, Jill and Inge, now 13
years and 17 years old, came to America with their family where they
established a chicken farm and dairy in New Jersey. After completing
business college in Philadelphia, Jill married fellow German refugee, Kurt
Pauly. Inge went to business school, became a stenographer, and married
another German refugee, Werner Katzenstein.
Having heard stories of the Nazi regime’s cruelty, Susan Berlin’s father
decided to move his family from Slovakia. With the help of an uncle,
thirteen-year-old Susan and her family came to New York City in 1939.
Susan’s immigrant status often caused her to be the target of ridicule by
her American classmates, but her determination in school ultimately resulted
in a master’s degree earned from the University of Pennsylvania in 1948. She
later worked for the U.S. Army Map Service, married, and became a teacher in
Leo Bretholz was just seventeen when the Nazis annexed Austria and his
mother urged him to flee the country. He survived three separate escape
attempts from authorities that involved swimming across a river, crawling
under a fence, and prying the bars off of a cattle car window in a train
bound for Auschwitz. He eventually escaped to Paris, where he joined an
underground resistance group, La Sixieme, and adopted the false identity of
Henri LeFevre. In 1947, Leo emigrated to the United States, having lost the
rest of his family during the war.
At age seventeen, Masha Bruskina lived in the Minsk ghetto and worked in a
hospital for Soviet prisoners of war. To aid the underground resistance
movement, Masha secretly supplied clothes and false documents to escaping
Soviet officers. Masha and other members of her group were arrested by the
Nazis in 1941. Although faced with torture, Masha never revealed any secrets
of the resistance movement. She was executed by the Nazis in October 1941,
before her eighteenth birthday.
Born in Yugoslavia, Isak Danon lived during the Italian occupation from 1941
until 1943, when Mussolini fell from power and the Germans entered his
hometown of Split. Isak and his father escaped to the mountains and joined a
partisan group. Just before the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944,
the Danon family became part of a group of 1,000 refugees invited by the War
Relocation Authority to come to the United States as displaced persons. Upon
arrival, they were settled in Fort Ontario, in Oswego, New York. At the end
of the war, the United States government tried to send the Danons back to
Europe, but eventually relented and allowed them to settle in Philadelphia,
Alan Davies spent his London childhood running from the Nazis. He was
evacuated from his East-End neighborhood along with other children and teens
by the British government three times during the war to avoid the Luftwaffe
bombings of the city. A native of the city, Alan found himself alone in the
countryside without friends or family during these evacuations. He did not
see his father, who was serving overseas in the army, for four consecutive
years. At the end of the war, at age 14, Alan became a copy boy for a London
newspaper office, then later served in the Royal Air Force. He became a U.S.
citizen and civil servant, eventually going to work in Germany where he met
his wife Julianne. Alan published his memoirs, A Life In Shadows, in 2005.
Erika Neuman Eckstut and her family fled Romania when local residents were
forced to murder Jewish citizens. The family was forced into a ghetto in
Czechoslovkia, but Erika and her sister escaped with false papers provided
by their father and a local priest. While in hiding, the girls were often
mistaken for Germans and nearly imprisoned. Erika survived the war and
emigrated to the United States in 1960.
Born in Parma, Italy, Anna Falco grew up in Milan as an observant Jew. In
1942, Anna’s family left Milan. They escaped
to Ferrara where they lived with Anna’s grandfather. However, in late 1943,
Anna and her family were forced into hiding when the Germans began to invade
Northern Italy. Anna’s professor, Arturo Carlo Jemolo, hid Anna’s family
until liberation in 1944. Years after the war, Professor Jemolo was honored
by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations.
One of the most famous victims of Nazi oppression, Anne Frank was born in
Germany but fled to the Netherlands with her family when she was
five years old. Anne was given a diary for her thirteenth birthday, and used
it to chronicle her experiences and feelings during the war. When Anne’s
sister Margot was told by the Central Office for Jewish Emigration to report
to a work camp, the family, including her father Otto Frank and mother Edith
Frank-Hollander, went into hiding in a secret annex above Otto’s factory, Opekta Works. The family was betrayed in August 1944 and deported. Anne died
of typhus in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. After the war, Anne’s
diary was recovered by her father, who published her story. Today, Anne’s
diary has been translated into 67 languages and is one of the most widely read
books in the world.
Born to a Jewish father and a Christian mother, Fritz was considered
“Mischling” or “a mixture” by the Nazis. At the age of 15, the Jewish school
attended by Fritz was closed and he was forced to work in a Jewish cemetery.
Fritz and his father, Georg, were briefly interred in Rosenstrasse, a prison
holding mixed-race men and boys. Fritz was forced to clean up rubble in
Berlin after the Allied bombings and was even taken to clean Adolph
Eichmann’s Gestapo headquarters near the end of the war. Fritz emigrated to
the United States in 1948 and became a veterinarian in 1955.
Although born a Jew, Stella Goldschlag’s appearance allowed her to pass as
an Aryan in Berlins’ Nazi society. In 1943, at the age of twenty, Stella was
arrested when she was betrayed by a Jewish friend. Faced with her own
mortality, Stella chose to become a “Jew catcher” and report other Jews to
the Nazi authorities. After the war, she was arrested by the Soviets and
tried, ultimately serving time in a hard labor camp. Throughout her life she
refused to accept any blame for her actions during the war.
Twelve-year-old Henry Greenbaum and his family were forced into a Polish
ghetto in 1940. Two years later, Henry and three of his sisters were chosen
to work in Nazi slave labor camps. After surviving being shot in the head
during an escape attempt, being sent to Auschwitz, Flossenburg, and on a
three month Nazi death-march, Henry was finally liberated in 1945. He
emigrated to the United States in 1946, where he ran a dry-cleaning
business for 44 years.
Despite her father’s stance against the Nazis, Irme Grese became an ardent
member of the Nazi SS at a very young age. She was assigned as a guard at
Bergen-Belsen, where she was in charge of 18,000 women prisoners. Known as
the “Bitch of Belsen,” Irme had a reputation as a cruel warden who often
beat and murdered some of her prisoners. In 1945, Irme was tried and found
guilty of war crimes and was executed.
Edith Hahn, a Jewish law student, survived the war by posing as a Christian
nurse named Grete Denner and marrying Nazi officer Werner Vetter, who knew
Edith’s secret. When the war ended, Edith presented her true identity papers
to the Soviets and became a judge. Werner left Edith, and she, along with
her daughter, managed to leave Germany for England to live with her sister.
Samuel and Paul Halter
Belgian brothers Samuel and Paul Halter refused to wear the Jewish star when
the Nazis invaded in 1940; instead, they joined the resistance movement.
After a failed attempt to help their parents escape deportation, the
brothers went their separate ways; Samuel escaped to England where he helped
organize a Belgian hospital, while Paul became the leader of the
Partisan Armee in Brussels. Paul later led a mission to rescue fourteen Jewish
children from deportation from a convent. He was arrested and sent to
Auschwitz in 1943. Both brothers survived the war and were reunited in
Belgium, where Samuel worked for the Belgian Ministry of Public Health and
Paul later became head of the Belgian Auschwitz Foundation.
Alfons Heck and Helen
Born within a hundred miles of each other in Germany, Alfons Heck and Helen
Waterford saw very different sides of the Holocaust. An ardent member of the
Hitler Youth that served in both the Luftwaffe and German infantry, Alfons
became disillusioned by Nazi ideology after the war. He served as a
translator for American forces before being arrested by the French. He
emigrated to Canada in 1951 and began writing about his experiences. Helen
Waterford was deported to Auschwitz with her husband in 1944, having hid her
young daughter with friends in the Netherlands. She was separated from her
husband and survived three “selections” by Dr. Josef Mengele before she was
sent to the Kratzau work camp in Czechoslovakia where she was liberated by
Soviet troops in 1945. She and her daughter came to the United States in
1947. In the 1980s, Helen began reading the articles written by Alfons about
his war experiences. The two came together to lecture about the Holocaust.
Their stories are told in the book, Parallel Journeys.
Traudl Junge was 22 when she was selected over 10 other women to
be Hitler’s private secretary. She worked for Hitler from 1942 to 1945,
following the German leader into the bunker where he committed suicide.
After the war, Traudl was interned in a Russian prison camp. Once freed, she
returned home to become a secretary once again. She remained out of the
public eye until her autobiography, Until The Final Hour, was published in
Jan Kostanski was fifteen when the construction of the Warsaw ghetto
separated his family from their Jewish neighbors and friends. As part of the
relief effort, Jan and his mother smuggled goods from their home on the
“safe” side of the wall to their Jewish friends inside the ghetto. Jan
himself fell in love with Nacha, a girl close to his age, and even smuggled
her outside the ghetto to attend a movie. Even after a brief period of
imprisonment, Jan remained dedicated to the cause; smuggling former
neighbors out of the ghetto and hiding them in a secret room in his home and
hiding in an underground bunker with his friends during the Warsaw Uprising
in 1944. After the war, Jan married Nacha and moved to Australia. In 1984,
both Jan and his mother were given the honor of “Righteous Among the
Nations” by Yad Vashem for their heroic relief efforts during the war.
A German native, Wolfgang Kusserow and his family were targeted by the Nazis
because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Kusserow home was often the
center of the congregation, holding secret Bible studies even after Hitler
banned Jehovah’s Witnesses from worshiping in Germany in 1933. In 1941,
19-year-old Wolfgang refused to enter the German military on religious
grounds. He was arrested and condemned, then executed at Brandenburg prison
at the age of 20.
Gretel Bergman had become the 4th ranked German high jumper at age 16 in
1930. When Jews were banned from athletic clubs and sporting events after
Hitler took over, Gretel fled to London. When the United States expressed
doubts about competing in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin because of Nazi
racial restrictions, Gretel was forced back to Germany to be part of the
women’s high jump team.
Once the athletes for the United States began their trip to Berlin to
compete, Gretel was notified that she wasn’t good enough to compete on the
German women’s high jump team. That year, the gold medal was awarded to the
high jumper that matched Gretel’s previous record. Gretel fled to the United
States in 1937, married, and changed her name to Margaret Lambert.
Murray Lynn was fourteen years old when he and his family were deported from
Hungary and sent to Auschwitz in 1944. When he entered the camp, he weighed
140 pounds. After a death march and liberation in 1945, he weighed a mere 65
pounds. After spending time in a hospital, Murray returned briefly to
Hungary before moving to the Czech Republic to study in a theological
seminary. Murray was brought to England and then to Ireland, where he and
120 orphans who had survived the concentration camps were housed in Clonyn
Castle. He remained there for two years before coming to the United States.
After completing his bachelor’s degree at City University of New York and an
MBA at New York University, Murray moved to Atlanta in 1956 and enjoyed a
successful career in business.
In 1941, Bernard Mayer was 13-years-old and living with his mother and two
siblings when the Germans invaded his hometown of Drohobycz, Poland. His
family was forced to work in a labor camp. When Bernard’s mother learned
that they were to be deported to a death camp, she paid a man who allowed
Jews to build and hide in a bunker beneath his house. Bernard’s family along
with over forty other Jews hid in the bunker and were able to survive until
liberation in 1944.
Miriam and Eva Mozes
Twins Miriam and Eva Mozes were only ten years old when their family was
deported to Auschwitz from their small Romanian village. Once the girls were
identified as twins, they became subjects of Dr. Joseph Mengele’s cruel
and inhumane medical experiments. Miraculously, the Mozes twins survived the
experiments and were liberated in 1945, but suffered physical and
psychological problems from their experiences well into adulthood.
Preben Munch-Nielsen’s valiant efforts during the war helped transport 1,400
Danish Jews safely into Sweden. When the Nazis invaded Denmark in April
1940, Preben, only fourteen-years-old, joined the resistance as a courier.
In 1943, Preben became more active in the resistance by smuggling Jews in a
boat across a four-mile strait between Copenhagen and Sweden. Preben
survived the war, and in 1997, Preben was honored for his heroism by
President Bill Clinton.
Isaac Nehama was still in high school when the Italians invaded his hometown
of Athens, Greece. Two years later, in 1943, Italy signed an armistice with
the Allied forces, leaving the Germans to occupy areas of Greece. Fearful of
the Nazi treatment of Jews, Isaac’s family went into hiding, and Isaac went to live with a classmate in another city. Isaac eventually traveled
north and joined an anti-Nazi partisan group where he served as a telephone
operator and cryptographer. Isaac emigrated to the United States in 1946,
where he earned a master’s degree in engineering, working at Bell Telephone
Laboratories, the Rand Corporation, and NASA before establishing his own
company in 1968.
On the eve of Solly Perel’s bar mitzvah, his town was attacked by the Nazis.
Solly fled to an orphanage operated by the Soviets in Poland. When Poland
fell to the Nazis, Solly used his fluency in German and Russian to adopt the
false identity of Josef Perjell. He joined the Nazis as a translator and was
eventually sent to an elite Hitler Youth school where he learned Nazi
ideology and feared that his Jewish identity would be discovered. Solly’s
Nazi military unit was captured by American forces in 1945, on his twentieth
birthday. His true identity revealed, he was released. He emigrated to
Israel in 1948. The German film Europa Europa chronicles Perel’s
extraordinary experiences during the war.
A member of the Hashomer Hatzair Zionist underground in Poland, Rosa Robota
remained politically defiant of the Nazis even after she and her family were
deported to Auschwitz in 1942. In 1944, Rosa and other women forcibly
employed at a Nazi munitions plant smuggled gunpowder to members of the
Sonderkommando who used the supply to destroy Crematoria IV in the Auschwitz
uprising. Because of Rosa’s efforts, another teenager featured in this
exhibition, Alice Lok, was saved. Rosa was arrested and executed in January
1945 after refusing to divulge information about the uprising.
Polish born Charlene Schiff was forced into a ghetto with her mother and
sister after her father was taken away by the Germans in 1941. A year later,
Charlene’s mother learned of the impending liquidation of the ghetto and
found two hiding places for her family. Twelve-year-old Charlene and her
mother escaped by hiding in the river where they were trapped for several
days. While in the water, Charlene’s mother disappeared. For the next two
years, Charlene survived on her own in the forest until she was found by
Russian soldiers who took her to the hospital. Charlene was the only
survivor of her family and only one of two survivors from her hometown.
Eugen Schoenfeld was born in 1925 in Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia. He was educated at the Hebrew Gymnasium, finishing his baccalaureate degree in 1943. Eugen was interned by the Germans from 1944 to 1945 in four camps: Auschwitz, Dachau, Muehldorf, and Warsaw. Upon liberation on May 2, 1945, he attended Charles University Prague Medical School and completed his M. A. in sociology at Washington University in St. Louis and his Ph.D. in sociology at Southern Illinois University. In 1970, he joined the faculty at Georgia State University and is now a retired professor and chair emeritus of the department of sociology. Additionally, he serves as a contributing writer for the Atlanta Jewish Times from 1995 to 2000. He authored My Reconstructed Life: A Journey from Shtetl to the University (published by Kennesaw State University Press) and is currently working on Reflections of a Holocaust Survivor. He is an honorary scholar in residence at Kennesaw State University.
In 1939, fourteen-year-old Gerald Schwab was sent to live in Switzerland as
part of the Kindertransport program to rescue children from Nazi tyranny. He
was reunited with his family in 1940 when they emigrated to the United
States. In 1944, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the 10th
Mountain Division in Italy. After the war, Gerald worked for a year as a
translator and interpreter for a commission that heard evidence for the
International Military Tribunal (IMT) during the Nuremberg Trials.
William A. Scott, III
William A. Scott III moved with his family to Atlanta at the age of five in
1928. His father founded the Atlanta Daily World, one of the most influential
African American newspapers in the nation. W. A., as he was known, studied
business administration and mathematics at Morehouse College. Drafted into
the army, W. A. served as a reconnaissance sergeant, photographer, and
part-time historian in the intelligence section of the 183rd Engineer Combat
Battalion. In April 1945, he was one of the first Allied soldiers to enter
and photograph survivors of Buchenwald concentration camp. In 1991, a year
before his death, W.A. was honored for his valiant service in World War II
and was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by
President George Bush.
Regina Gutman Spiegel and Sam Spiegel
Although living in separate towns, both 13-year-old Regina Gutman and
17-year-old Sam Spiegel were forced to move into ghettos after the Nazis
invaded Poland in 1939. Regina was smuggled from the ghetto and went to live
with her sister in Pionki, but was soon forced to work in the town’s
munitions factory. Sam was transferred to the same munitions factory in
1942, where he met Regina. Both Regina and Sam were deported to Auschwitz in
1944. Regina went to work in a succession of labor camps, ending up at
Bergen-Belsen. When the evacuation train she was on was bombed en route to
Dachau, Regina escaped to the woods where she lived in hiding until
liberation in 1945. Sam was transferred to the subcamp of Gleiwitz. He was
forced to participate in a four-day death march from the camp as Allied
troops approached. When the prisoners stopped for rest, Sam and other
inmates escaped into the woods, where they hid until they were liberated by
Soviet soldiers. Sam and Regina were reunited after the war and were married
at a displaced persons camp in Bavaria.
Mathilda Wertheim was born in Lauterbach, Germany, and emigrated to the
United States as a teenager in 1934, a year after Adolf Hitler came to
power. She made her home in New York, taught herself English, attended
college, and met her future husband, Max Stein, on a hiking trip on Long
Island. During World War II, Mathilda and Max, as with many Jews in America,
learned about the horrors of the Final Solution from relatives in Europe,
newspapers, and newsreels. In the 1970s, the Steins moved to Atlanta, and
Mathilda began writing The Way It Was: The Jewish World of Rural Hesse,
which was published in 2000.
Within two years of his high school graduation, David Stolier was forced to
work in a Nazi labor camp near his hometown in Romania. David’s father
bought his release from the labor camp and secured a space for him aboard
the escape ship, Struma in 1941. When the Struma received a torpedo hit off
the coast of Istanbul, Turkey, David was the only survivor. Nineteen-year-old
David was sent to a Turkish hospital and a prison before he was able to
immigrate to Palestine. In 1943, David joined the British Army. In 1946, Stolier returned to Palestine, remaining until 1954 when he took a position
with an international oil company in Japan. He finally made his home in the
United States in Bend, Oregon.
Born the same year as Anne Frank, this Czechoslovakian girl and her parents
were deported to Auschwitz in 1942. Thirteen-year-old Kitty did not survive,
but a diary kept by her father that chronicles her life remained safe with
her aunt. It remains a powerful and poignant document of daily life in
Europe on the eve of Hitler’s Final Solution.
A well-known author and lecturer, Elie Wiesel was deported by the Nazis at
the age of fifteen. He survived the horrible conditions at both Auschwitz
and Buchenwald before liberation in 1945. In order to make sense of his
wartime experience, he published his most famous book, La Nuit (Night) in 1958. Wiesel has received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of
Freedom, the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Liberty Award,
the Nobel Peace Prize, and the rank of Grand-Croix in the French Legion of
Born in Belgium, Jan was just twelve-years-old when he left home in search
of a group of Roma (gypsies) known as the Lovara, who lived on the
outskirts of town. For the next six years, he traveled widely and was
informally adopted by a Lovara family. When the war began, Jan joined the
British army and recruited his Roma to assist Allied intelligence units in
smuggling arms to the resistance. He and his Roma friends were arrested and
sentenced to death, but a case of mistaken identity set Jan free after six
months. With assistance from the Allies, Jan impersonated an S.S. officer
and helped rescue many intelligence officers, pilots, and others from behind
enemy lines. He was arrested again and sent to the Miranda concentration
camp until the end of the war. In 1950, he established an art studio in New
York City. He published four books, including The Gypsies in 1967.
Sabina Schwartz Zimering was 16 when her family was forced into a Polish
ghetto. At great risk, Sabina’s Catholic friend and her family provided
Sabina, her mother, and her sister with false identity papers. Just hours
before the Nazis rounded up the Jews in the ghetto, Sabina and her sister
escaped. They hid in plain sight for two years, passing as Polish maids at
Hotel Maximilian in Regensburg, Germany. Sabina survived the war and
eventually made her home in Minnesota. When she retired as an opthamologist
in 1996, she began to write her story, which was published as Hiding in the
Open in 2001.