|Photo 1: Portrait Of The Jachimowicz Family In Piotrkow Trybunalski
Date: Circa 1937
Binem Jachimowicz (now Ben James) was born in Piotrkow Trybunalski. After living in the Piotrkow ghetto, Binem was sent to a series of concentration and labor camps, including Belzec, Hrubieszow, Czestochowa and Buchenwald. He survived the war.
Aleksander Tytus Kulisiewicz (1918-1982) was a law student when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. One month later he was denounced for antifascist writings, arrested by the Gestapo, and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin. An amateur singer and songwriter, Kulisiewicz composed 54 songs during nearly six years of imprisonment at Sachsenhausen. After liberation he remembered his songs, as well as those learned from fellow prisoners, dictating hundreds of pages of text to his attending nurse at a Polish infirmary. The majority of Kulisiewicz's songs are darkly humorous ballads concerning the sadistic treatment of prisoners. Performed at secret gatherings, imbued with biting wit and subversive attitude, these songs helped inmates cope with their hunger and despair, raised morale, and offered hope of survival. Beyond this spiritual and psychological purport, Kulisiewicz also considered the camp song to be a form of documentation. "In the camp," he wrote, "I tried under all circumstances to create verses that would serve as direct poetical reportage. I used my memory as a living archive. Friends came to me and dictated their songs." In the 1950s, Kulisiewicz began amassing a private collection of music, poetry, and artwork created by camp prisoners, gathering this material through correspondence and hundreds of hours of recorded interviews. In the 1960s, he inaugurated a series of public recitals of his repertoire of camp songs, and issued several recordings. Kulisiewicz's major project, a monumental study of the cultural life of the camps and the vital role music played as a means of survival for many prisoners, remained unpublished at the time of his death. His archive, the largest extant collection of music composed in the camps, is now a part of the USHMM Archives.
The couple perished during World War II.
Pictured from left to right are: Inge, Egon and Gisela Berg. Egon was the cousin of Inge and Gisela and the son of Karl and Rosel (Marx) Berg from Cologne. Gisela Berg (now Jill Pauly) is the daughter of Joseph and Klara (Meyer) Berg. She was born May 1, 1933 and grew up in the small farming community of Lechenich, Germany (near Cologne), where her father earned his living as a cattle dealer. The Berg family had lived in that area since the 1600s. Gisela has one older sibling, Inge (b. 1929, now Inge Katzenstein). After the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, the family hid in Cologne. The following week, Gisela's father, along with his brother, George, and cousin, Ernest, fled to Holland to escape arrest. However, they were imprisoned upon their arrival for illegal entry. Klara's brother, Herman Meyer, who had been living in Holland, contacted the head of the Jewish community in Rotterdam and hired an attorney to secure their permission to remain in The Netherlands. After this experience, the family decided to look for another country of refuge. A cousin named Rosel (Marx) Berg had a close relative who had previously immigrated to England, where he had become a successful businessman. Rosel called him daily from Cologne, asking him to help the family get out of Germany. He, in turn, asked his younger brother, Herman Strauss who worked for a prestigious law firm in Kenya, to help secure visas for the Berg family. Herman Meyer paid the mandatory 50 pounds per person for entry papers to Kenya. After nine months in an internment camp, Joseph, Ernest and George were finally released so that they could leave for Kenya. They were the first members of the Berg family to arrive and rented a large house in Nairobi. That June they were joined by more than a dozen members of the extended family, including Klara, Gisela, Inge, Clara and Marcus Berg (Josef's parents), and Bertha Meyer (Klara's mother). This group sailed from Genoa, Italy to Mombasa, Kenya on board the SS Usambara. In all, seventeen family members fled Nazi Germany for Kenya, the youngest of whom, Egon (the son of Karl and Rosel Berg), was only eighteen months old. After war broke out in September 1939, the British government arrested all adult male foreign nationals, including Joseph Berg and his brothers. They were released a week later on condition that they work on the farms of British citizens conscripted for war service. Throughout the war, the Bergs had the status of enemy aliens and could leave their homes only with the permission of a police commissioner. In the fall of 1939, the Bergs purchased a 375-acre farm in Limuru and an additional 125 acres in Maguga. The large family lived in two farmhouses about a mile apart. Each day Joseph commuted to the Maguga farm, stopping to perform his mandatory farm work on a third farm midway between his own. After the German invasion of The Netherlands in May 1940, the Dutch branch of the family, including Herman Meyer, Adolf and Erna Baum and their daughter Hannah, also fled to Kenya aboard the last ship out of the country. Another member was added to the family group with the birth of Philip Berg (the son of Ernest and Else Berg) in 1942. Gisela and her family remained in Kenya for eight years, immigrating to the United States in 1947.
Only Samuel (the little boy in front) survived the Holocaust.
Joseph Schadur (later Shadur) is the son of Manja Hasenson and Michel Schadur. He was born April 23, 1928 in Riga, Latvia. His parents had moved to Berlin in 1927 soon after their marriage, but Manja returned briefly to Riga to give birth to him. Joseph has one sister, Benita (b. 1932). The family remained in Germany through the first years of the Nazi regime, where Michel supported the family through the international wholesale fruit trade. By the fall of 1935, however, Nazi policy had undermined his ability to do business and Michel was traveling abroad to evade arrest. After much effort, Manja acquired temporary tourist visas for Belgium and arranged to meet Michel in Antwerp on January 1, 1936. There, Michel was able to reopen his fruit business. The German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, however, forced them to flee once again. The family escaped by private car to France, reaching Bordeaux shortly before the French defeat. For the next seven months they lived a tenuous existence in the rural village of Bruges (Gironde) near Bordeaux, while waiting for their travel documents to the United States. The visas were arranged with the help of Michel's sister, Gitta, who had left Germany for America in August 1939, and was living in Minnesota. After securing the immigration visas and the necessary transit visas for Spain and Portugal, the Schadurs set out for the border on December 14, 1940. Their timing was fortunate and they crossed from France to Spain by fluke of luck, but met with serious difficulties at the Portuguese border. Once the Schadurs reached Lisbon, they had to wait another two months before securing passage aboard one of the American liners that sailed weekly from the last free port in western Europe. Finally, on February 21, 1941 the family departed aboard the SS Exeter arriving at Ellis Island in New York. From there, they proceeded on to their new home in St. Paul, Minnesota. At war's end Michel Schadur joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. He was sent to Germany, where he served as a supply officer for UNRRA teams in the district of Wurttemberg, and later as the director of the Jewish displaced persons camp in Backnang (Baden-Wuerttemberg).
Pictured from left to right are Shmuel (Miles) and Yona Lerman. Shmuel (Milek, later Miles) Lerman is the son of Israel and Jochevet Lerman. He was born January 20, 1920 in Tomaszow Lubelski, where both his parents ran successful, large businesses and were among the most prosperous members of the Jewish community. Israel Lerman owned and leased a string of flour mills throughout eastern Poland (including one in Belzec, across the road from what became the death camp). He also ran separate wholesale liquor and gasoline businesses. Jochevet owned and managed a wholesale import company that specialized in tea, coffee and spices. Shmuel had four older siblings: Shlomo (b. 1904), Esther (b. 1906), Peshe (b. 1908) and Yona (b. 1910). He grew up in a religiously observant, Hasidic home. Israel and Jochevet were prominent members and financial backers of the Belzer Hasidim, who often hosted members of the rebbe's extended family. Despite his parents unwavering adherence to Jewish law and custom, Shmuel (like most of his siblings) moved away from religious tradition in his youth. He joined the socialist Zionist Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and participated in the local Jewish sports clubs, Maccabi and Hapoel. Shmuel spent the last two years of high school (1936-1938) at a secular, Hebrew junior college in Lvov. It was his intention to immigrate to Palestine (as his brother Yona had done in 1934) after graduation and enroll at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. However, his plans went awry after the sudden death of his father from a stroke in 1938. Though he had only a year and a half left to graduate, the family insisted Shmuel return to Tomaszow to help his mother. While his older brother Shlomo took over his father's businesses, Shmuel helped his mother with the import business. On the second day of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Lerman family home was destroyed by a German bomb. Shmuel then took his mother and moved to Lvov, in what became the Soviet sector of Poland. Though they had lost all of their possessions, they were able to scrape together enough money to rent a small apartment. Shlomo and Peshe and their families soon moved to Lvov as well. Shmuel found work as an assistant manager in the state office of supply. In 1940 both Shlomo and Peshe and their families were deported to the remote regions of Soviet Asia. His mother would have suffered the same fate, but Shmuel was able to pull her off the train at the last minute after prevailing upon a NKVD officer at the railroad station. Shmuel and his mother lived through the Lvov pogrom (June 30-July 3, 1941) that took place just prior to the formal takeover of the city by the Germans. At the time, Shmuel was working for the railroad authority and had a certificate of employment from the Wehrmacht. Not trusting that the document would protect him from the roving bands of Ukrainian nationalists, who were grabbing Jewish men off the street and from their homes and shooting them en masse in the prison courtyard, Shmuel went into hiding for a few days in the basement of his apartment building. When the situation settled down, he went back to work for the railroad, where he was now paid only a token amount. As of July 8, Shmuel and all Jews 14 years and older were forced to wear white armbands with a blue Star of David. Later that summer, amid the confiscation of Jewish property, synagogue burnings and cemetery desecration, the Germans established a Jewish council, labor bureau and police force, and on November 8, set up a ghetto in the Zamarstynow and Kleparow quarters of the city. In December 1941 Shmuel was stopped on his way home from work by a member of the SS and a Ukrainian auxiliary, who tore up his work certificate and forced him onto a truck with 60-70 other Jewish men. He was taken to the Viniki labor camp, where he was put to work building a highway between Lvov and Viniki. To obtain gravel for the roadwork the Jewish forced laborers were instructed to dismantle the ancient Lvov Jewish cemetery and break up its tombstones. Shmuel got word to his mother about his whereabouts through a friend of his girlfriend Lucia. In mid-March 1942 the first large-scale action took place in the Lvov ghetto, resulting in the deportation of 15,000 Jews to the Belzec death camp. Shmuel's mother was among those taken. She did not survive. Lucia, who managed to evade the round-up, smuggled her way to Viniki and delivered the news to Shmuel. Subsequently, Lucia was captured and sent to the Janowska concentration camp. One day in the spring of 1942 Shmuel and four other prisoners were instructed to move deeper into the quarry they were working in to find a harder type of stone. They were guarded by two Ukrainians. Realizing they had an opportunity to gain their freedom, the five prisoners jumped their guards and killed them with their picks and shovels. After taking their weapons, the Jews fled into the forest. Within a period of six to eight weeks, Shmuel and his group had gathered around them 200-250 Jews, including some women and children. The group organized itself into a partisan family camp. Shmuel and several other young men took command of the group. The Jewish partisans developed a loose alliance with local bands of Polish Home Army partisans, who sought their support against anti-Polish, Ukrainian resistance forces operating in the area. For 23 months Shmuel lived as a partisan in the forests, surviving by trading with, or stealing from, local villagers and raiding German supply depots. After the liberation, Shmuel returned to Tomaszow, but was warned to leave before he was killed. He then went to Lublin, where he established a leather business with a fellow survivor, Leon Feldhandler from Izbica, who had played a leadership role in the Sobibor uprising. However, shortly thereafter, Feldhandler was killed by a Pole. Shmuel then decided to move on. He settled in Lodz, where he opened a nightclub with a friend. There, he met his future wife, Rozalia (Krysia) Laks, who came in one evening with another young man. After dating for a time they were married in Lodz by the chief rabbi of the Polish army. While in Lodz, Shmuel made contact with his brother Yona in Palestine and learned that Shlomo and Peshe had survived, while Esther and her family had not. Shmuel made use of his contacts in the Polish government to establish a business in which he supplied certain foodstuffs (which he purchased on the black market) to the government to feed its workers in exchange for textiles, which he sold on the open market. After a time, Shmuel and Rozalia decided to leave for Germany so as to be able to get to Palestine. Taking Rozalia's younger sister Regina with them, they fled to Berlin, where they found a temporary home in the Schlachtensee displaced persons camp. Fear of ending up in a detention camp in Cyprus, led the young couple to abandon their plans to join the illegal immigration to Palestine, and to apply for visas to the U.S. They sailed from Hamburg to New York aboard the SS Marine Perch in February 1947. Upon their arrival in the U.S. Shmuel (Milek) and Rozalia (Krysia) Lerman adopted the names Miles and Chris Lerman. After living and working for the better part of a year in New York, the Lermans bought a poultry farm in Vineland, N.J. They stayed there for four years before returning to the city and establishing a heating oil business. In 1980 Miles was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which became the governing body of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In this capacity, he directed the International Relations Committee and served as national chairman of the Campaign to Remember, leading the initiative to raise the funds needed to build the Museum. He was reappointed to the Council by Presidents Reagan and Bush, and ultimately became its chairman. As a Council member, he negotiated agreements with foreign governments that brought archival materials and artifacts to the Museum. He was also a founding member of the Council's Committee on Conscience, which was established in 1995 to focus attention on, and help stop, contemporary acts of genocide.
Isaac Nehama is the son of Dario (David) and Sarah (Kolonomos) Nehama. He was born April 29, 1927 in Athens, where his father worked as an accountant at a Jewish-owned textile firm. Isaac had two younger brothers, Samuel (b. 1930) and Nehama (b. 1934). His parents, who had both grown up in Monastir (aka Bitola) in Ottoman and later, Yugoslavian-controlled Macedonia, did not possess Greek citizenship and lived in Athens as foreign residents. The Nehamas were traditional, Sephardic Jews who observed all the Jewish holidays. The parents belonged to local Jewish organizations: Dario was a member of the Bnai Brith, and Sarah was active in WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization], but there were no Jewish youth clubs in the capital for the children. While Dario and Sarah spoke Ladino to each other, they conversed with their children in French and Greek. Isaac attended a French Catholic primary school followed by a Greek-speaking gymnasium. He celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in 1940 after six months of preparatory study with his rabbi. Isaac was still in high school when Athens was occupied by the Axis powers in 1941. Because the Greek capital was administered by the Italians, who did not enact racial laws, the Jewish population of Athens did not initially suffer greater hardship than the rest of the populace. Isaac was thus allowed to complete his high school education, graduating in 1942, and his father retained both his position and property. In September 1943, however, the situation took a dramatic turn for the worse. Following the Italian Armistice, German troops immediately occupied Athens and ordered all Jews to register with the authorities. This announcement served as a signal to the local Jewish population to disperse and go into hiding. All were aware of the fate of their fellow Jews in Salonika who had been deported six months earlier. Isaac's father went into hiding with a Christian family in a suburb of Athens, while his mother, brothers and maternal grandmother, Miriam Kolonomos, were taken in by another family. Isaac, who was then sixteen years old, moved in with a Greek friend for several weeks before heading off on his own to the region of Thessaly, which was reported to still be free. When he arrived Isaac was given directions to a partisan enclave in the Pindos Mountains, whose base was located in a monastery. The partisans, realizing that Isaac had no place to go, permitted him to remain with them. This unit of Greek fighters, which was known as the First Regiment of Evzones [mountain soldiers], was part of the ELAS, the Greek Liberation Army. Throughout the war it operated in the Thessaly region, principally around the cities of Trikala and Larissa. Isaac worked mostly as a telephone operator and cipher clerk, but on one occasion, in March 1944, he participated in a sabotage operation against a German convoy. In the fall of 1944 during the German retreat from Greece, Isaac fell ill with pneumonia and was hospitalized in Trikala. Upon his release he was able to return to Athens where he learned about the fate of his family. When he arrived in the capital Isaac found only his father who had survived the war in hiding. The rest of his family had been arrested in late June or early July 1944 in one of their hiding places after being denounced by an informer. Isaac's mother, brothers and grandmother were interrogated at Gestapo headquarters in Athens before being sent to a transit camp in Haidari. There, while awaiting the arrival of a transport of Jews from Rhodes, Miriam Kolonomos died. At the end of July the Nehama family, together with the Jews of Rhodes, was deported to Auschwitz. Though Isaac's mother and youngest brother were sent immediately to the gas chambers, his thirteen-year-old brother Samuel, who was tall for his age, was selected for forced labor. Samuel remained in Auschwitz until its evacuation in January 1945. At this time he was placed on a three-day forced march to a railhead some fifty km. from the camp. There, he and his fellow prisoners were put on trains to various destinations in Germany. Samuel was taken off the train at Buchenwald, where he remained until the liberation of the camp. After recuperating from typhus, Samuel was sent to Bari, Italy. In July 1945 after a broadcast on Greek radio of the names of liberated Greek prisoners who had been interned in German concentration camps, Isaac learned that his brother Samuel had survived. The next day Samuel called from Bari and soon was reunited with his family in Athens. In 1946 Isaac began a course of study in engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Athens, but when he learned later that year that he had been awarded a Bnai Brith scholarship to study in the U.S. (for which his father had initially applied without his knowledge), he quickly prepared for his emigration to America. Bnai Brith arranged for Isaac to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1953, after receiving a master's degree in electrical engineering, Isaac began his career at the Bell Telephone Laboratories. He served in the US Army from 1954 to 1956. In 1958 Isaac married Paulette Mourtzouros, a Jewish survivor from Volos, Greece. Samuel remained in Athens, where he went to work for the Jewish community after a failed business venture with his father. He immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1968. Dario Nehama lived in Athens until his death in 1966
Bedzin, Sosnowiec and Dabrowa Gornicza are three neighboring towns located in the Zaglebie district in southwest Poland. On the eve of World War II, Bedzin and Sosnowiec supported Jewish communities of approximately 28,000 each, while Dabrowa had 5,000. The Germans occupied the towns on September 4, 1939. Five days later they set fire to the Great Synagogue in Bedzin. The flames quickly spread and engulfed fifty adjacent houses. Physical attacks were accompanied by repressive economic legislation which forced the Jewish population to relinquish their businesses and personal property. In the first days of the occupation, separate Jewish Councils were appointed in Bedzin and Sosnowiec, but early in 1940 the Bedzin council was subordinated to the Zentrale der Juedischen Aeltestenraete (Central Office of the Jewish Councils of Elders in Upper Silesia), established in Sosnowiec and headed by the increasingly autocratic Moshe Merin. This council represented some forty-five communities in the area and operated its own Jewish police force.
During 1940-41 the situation in Bedzin, Sosnowiec and Dabrowa was considered somewhat better than elsewhere in occupied Poland. There, the Jews resided in open ghettos and their lives retained a semblance of normalcy. As a result, thousands of Jews from central Poland sought refuge there. In addition to this influx, several thousand Jews from the district were forcibly resettled in Bedzin and Sosnowiec at this time, among them the Jews from Oswiecim, who arrived in the spring of 1941 prior to the opening of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Sosnowiec Jewish Council was responsible for drawing up lists of local Jews to be sent to forced labor camps in Germany and Eastern Upper Silesia established under the Organisation Schmelt program. Jews selected for forced labor had to report to the local transit camp, known as the "Dulag." Failure to comply resulted in their arrest and the withdrawal of their family's ration cards. Transports to labor camps began in 1940 but were greatly expanded in the spring of 1941, after Himmler decided to use labor from the Organisation Schmelt camps for constructing large factories to support German war production. The Jewish Council was also involved in establishing German-owned workshops which employed Jews. The largest of these was the Rosner Fabrik, a network of workshops which produced military uniforms and other goods and services for the German army. From a workshop employing a few dozen people, it grew into a factory complex with three thousand workers. Those fortunate enough to get positions in these enterprises were exempt (for the time being) from deportation to labor camps. Unlike the typical German overseer, Rosner treated his employees with respect and fought to protect them. He even warned them of impending actions. The Rosner Fabrik remained in operation until Rosner's arrest and execution in January 1944. When the schools were closed the local Zionist youth organizations took over the task of instructing the children. They also engaged in agricultural training on small plots on the outskirts of town. In Bedzin the local Zionist youth were allocated a hundred acre plot which was known as the "Farma" and became a focus of youth activity. The first round of deportations to death camps occurred in May 1942, when 1500 Jews were sent to Auschwitz. The following month another 2,000 were deported. Then, on August 12, all the remaining Jews in the three towns were ordered to report to the soccer field in Sosnowiec, ostensibly to have their papers revalidated. Instead, a large selection ensued resulting in the deportation of 8,000 to Auschwitz. The youth movements under the leadership of Hashomer Hatzair activist Zvi Dunski, conducted a campaign urging their fellow Jews not to report for the deportations. They also began to organize underground resistance units. The "Farma" became the headquarters of the Jewish underground and was the site of clandestine meetings with Mordechai Anielewicz, Arie Wilner and other leaders of the Jewish Fighting Organization in the Warsaw Ghetto. The underground concentrated its efforts on acquiring weapons and constructing bunkers in preparation for a revolt. But opinions were divided between those who favored resistance in the ghetto and those who stressed the search for escape routes out of the ghetto. In the spring of 1943, the remaining Jews in Bedzin were confined to a ghetto set up in Kamionka, while those remaining in Dabrowa and Sosnowiec were concentrated in Srodula. The two sites bordered on one another and operated as a single ghetto. On August 1, 1943 the final liquidation of the ghetto began. Zionist youth offered armed resistance in several bunkers which hampered the Germans and forced them to spend almost two weeks clearing the ghetto. Some one thousand Jews remained after the liquidation. Most were settled in the Sosnowiec labor camp, established on the site of the Srodula ghetto. These Jews labored in workshops as tailors, cobblers and carpenters. The camp was finally liquidated on January 13, 1944 and its prisoners sent to Auschwitz.
Pictured are members of the Klein/Kupfermann family. Seated in the front row from left to right are: Blanka and Aurel Kupfermann, Julius and Milan Klein. Standing behind from left to right are: Zlatan, Zdenko and Rosa Klein, Marta Kupfermann, and Dragan and Bruno Klein. Marta Kupfermann (now Elkana) is the daughter of Beno and Blanka (Klein) Kupfermann. She was born April 26, 1928, in Rastolica, Romania, a village in Transylvania. She had one brother, Aurel (b. 1925). Both of her parents had come from Yugoslavia. Marta's father was born in Senta (Serbia) and grew up in Budapest. Her mother was born in Kula (Croatia) and lived in several Croatian towns in her youth. Soon after finishing school in Budapest, Beno found employment with a Swiss wood manufacturing firm called Survey. While working for the company in Pozega (Croatia) he met Blanka Klein, and the two were married in 1924. Beno was subsequently appointed the company's representative in Romania, where he was put in charge of buying up stocks of wood and establishing factories to produce wood products in towns throughout Romania. For the next decade the Kupfermanns moved from place to place in Romania, always hoping to return one day to Yugoslavia. After living for brief periods in Rastolica, Brasov, Targoviste, and Moroeni, the family moved to Bucharest in 1935 in order to find suitable schools for the children. Marta attended a British, Anglican missionary school, while her brother went to a French school. While the Kupfermanns kept the Jewish holidays and went to synagogue, they were not involved in Jewish cultural or political organizations. However, in the spring of 1935 Marta's parents did go on a month-long sightseeing excursion to Palestine by way of Egypt. In 1938 an extensive project to build five new factories in southern Moldova required Beno to move to Gugesti. Not wanting to disrupt the children's education, it was decided that Aurel and Marta would remain in Bucharest. Aurel boarded at the French school, while Marta went to live in the home of a Jewish widow along with two other children. This situation continued for two years until the fall of 1940 when the National Legionary State was installed in Romania. At that time the British staff of the Anglican missionary school left for India, and Marta's Jewish landlady went with them. Twelve-year-old Marta then moved in with friends and began attending a new Jewish school that was opened after the Romanians barred Jewish students from studying in the public school system. Marta and her brother lived through the Bucharest pogrom that took place from January 21 to 23, 1941, which was perpetrated by the fascist Iron Guard. Fearful for the safety of their children, Beno and Blanka moved back to Bucharest in March and Marta was moved to the same French school as her brother. At this time the Kupfermanns were considering returning to Yugoslavia, but the German invasion of that country in April brought an end to those plans. While many Jewish families in Bucharest fell victim to the anti-Semitic policies of the Romanian government, the Kupfermanns enjoyed the protection of the Swiss firm that continued to employ Beno at its regional headquarters in the capital throughout the war. Beno, however, did have to submit to an anti-Semitic regulation that disqualified him from signing business documents, a function that he turned over to a Romanian assistant. During the last five months of the war in Romania, from April to August 1944, Bucharest was subject to fierce bombardment by the Allies, and the Kupfermanns were forced to take cover in bomb shelters many times a day. Soon after the Soviet liberation of the capital, Marta's brother left home to join Tito's partisans in liberating Yugoslavia. He returned six months later and then left again to study in Paris. Life under the new communist regime in Bucharest soon became oppressive, and in 1947 the Kupfermanns began making plans to immigrate to Palestine. They had to wait until August 1949, however, before they could secure the necessary papers to leave. Marta's mother was able to maintain contact with her family in Croatia until late 1941. Through her brother Bruno she subsequently learned that in January 1942 her parents, Julius and Rosa (Gruenwald) Klein, and four of her five brothers (Zlatan, Zdenko, Milan and Dragan) were deported from Zagreb to the Jasenovac concentration camps. All but Rosa perished there. The fifth brother, Bruno, was a physician who had been stationed by the Croatian authorities at a hospital in Banja Luka (Bosnia), where he was kept as a prisoner when not working. Sometime in 1942 under unknown circumstances, he was able to locate his mother who had been transferred to a camp in Djakovo, and remove her by stretcher to Banja Luka, where he nursed her back to health. For the next two years Bruno and Rosa remained in Banja Luka until they were killed during an Allied bombing raid in April 1944.
Robert Hofmekler (1905-1994) was the son of Motel and Bertha (Blinder) Hofmekler (spelled variously as Hofmekleris and Gofmekler). He grew up in a highly musical Jewish family in Vilna, where his father was a well-known cello player. Robert had three siblings: Zelda, Michael (b. 1898) and Leo (or M. Leo, b. 1900). In the fall of 1920 the family fled from Vilna to Kovno. Michael was a gifted violinist, who was decorated by the Lithuanian president in 1932 for his cultural achievement in propagating Lithuanian folk music in performances, recordings and transcription. Leo served as the conductor of the Lithuanian state opera in the 1930s. After the Soviets occupied Lithuania in 1940 he was appointed music director and conductor of the National Radio Orchestra in Vilna. Robert emigrated to the U.S. in the fall of 1938. Following the German occupation of Lithuania in the summer of 1941, Leo, his wife and two children were forced into the Vilna ghetto, where they all perished in 1942 or 1943. Motel and Bertha and Michael and Zelda were forced into the Kovno ghetto. Motel played in the ghetto orchestra. He and Bertha perished in the ghetto early in 1944. Zelda's husband, David Kovarsky, was dragged from his home and shot by Lithuanian nationalists during the early days of the German occupation of Kovno. Zelda and her daughter perished in an underground malina (bunker) during the final liquidation of the ghetto. Michael served as the conductor of the ghetto orchestra. He was probably deported to Stutthof during the liquidation of the ghetto and then transferred to Dachau or one of its satellite camps. In late April 1945 he was evacuated and ultimately was liberated in the vicinity of Landsberg, Bavaria. Robert, who was drafted into the U.S. Army in January 1941 and served in Europe with the 9th Infantry and 10th Armored Division, found his brother at the St. Ottilien displaced persons hospital camp in June 1945.
Steffa (Shifra) Horowitz (later Majranc) is the daughter of Rabbi Tuvia and Ita (Spira) Horowitz. She was born February 3, 1921 in Rzeszow. In 1932 she moved with her family to Sanok, where her father became the town rabbi. Steffa had three siblings: Menahem Mendel, Malka and Rivka (b. 1936). In December 1938 Steffa married Tadek (Nehemiah) Majranc, a rabbinical student in Lodz who came from a wealthy family of Gerer Hasidim. The young couple gave birth to their first child, Marylka, on April 12, 1940 in Sanok. Not long afterwards, Steffa and Marylka were accosted in the park by a distressed German soldier who confided that he had just witnessed something terrible involving children and was not sure he could continue to perform his duties. This encounter convinced Steffa that the family must go into hiding at once. Soon after, an old Jewish friend named Marysia, who was working for the Polish underground, offered to shelter Steffa's family until more suitable accommodations could be found. Marysia put Steffa in touch with a member of the Polish underground named Wladek who secured false papers for Steffa and two apartments for her family in Rzeszow. Steffa paid for housing and living expenses for the next two years with the proceeds from a diamond ring that she sold, and later from her earnings as a maid. Steffa also worked for Wladek in the underground as a courier. She always brought Marylka with her wherever she went both to protect her daughter and to appear less suspicious. Her husband Tadek, who could not pass for a Pole, hid for these two years inside a closet in their apartment. After securing shelter for her immediate family, Steffa worked to find hiding places for her parents and three siblings. Because her parents spoke no Polish, Steffa was relieved when they managed to get papers from the Agudat Yisrael to travel to Hungary. They left on foot, leaving their younger children with a Polish friend in Sanok until Steffa could retrieve them. However, they were forced to return after Ita broke her leg, and subsequently, were deported to their death in Sobibor. Steffa delivered false papers to her three siblings in Sanok and instructed them to take the train to Krakow, where she would meet them and escort them to Rzeszow. Their plans went awry, however, when Menachem Mendel refused to shave his beard and was arrested upon his arrival in Krakow. The two girls were also arrested when they got off at the wrong station. 15-year-old Malka was taken away by the Gestapo and subsequently murdered, while 5-year-old Rivka was turned over to the Jewish police and taken to the Krakow ghetto. There, Rivka was taken in by her cousins, the Teitelbaums. The following year, in 1943, after accidentally discovering her sister's whereabouts, Steffa arranged with her cousin, Ratza Teitelbaum, to smuggle Rivka out of the ghetto and bring her to Rzeszow. Steffa also worked to smuggle her husband's mother (Brocha Majranc) and brothers (Levi, Yisroel and Mordechai) out of the Lodz ghetto. (Tadek's father, Tzvi, had died earlier in the ghetto.) All made it to Rzeszow except Yisroel, who was arrested along the way and killed. For the remainder of the war, Steffa, Tadek and the two young girls lived in one apartment, while Brocha and her two sons lived next door. With the exception of Tadek, all of the members of the family were able to walk freely between the two apartments. During the final days of the fighting, Tadek was arrested when he was spotted in the basement of his building during a bombardment. He was taken away with other Poles for forced labor. However, four days later he escaped and returned home to a liberated Rzeszow. In 1945 the Majranc family left Poland with the Bricha, traveling first to Hungary and Romania, before arriving in Italy. There Brocha and the boys were put on one legal immigrant ship to Palestine, while Steffa, Tadek and the girls waited for another. In the meantime, however, they received American visas, courtesy of Rabbi Horowitz' contacts in the Agudat Yisrael organization. So in 1947 Steffa, Tadek and the two girls immigrated to the U.S. Later, Steffa gave birth to a second daughter, Ita (now Ita Mond), the donor.
Pictured are Zigmund and Berta Budlovsky.