Dora Zylberberg was the sister of Chaim Michael Zylberberg, a leading figure in the Mizrachi group of religious Zionists in Bedzin. She and her sister-in-law Tauba were close friends. They supported the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel. Neither Dora nor Tauba were able to see that dream become a reality, as they did not survive the Holocaust.
The Mizrachi began meeting at a prayer house in Bedzin at the end of the 19th century. After World War II, the prayer house was converted into an apartment. In 2004, Adam Szdlowski discovered the remains of the prayer house. After three years, the building was entered into the heritage register. In it, there are decorations that show the Holy Land and symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel. The colorful art had been buried under coalfor many years. There are plans to begin restoration of the prayer house.
Robert Vermes grew up surrounded by the arts. His father was a photographer and his mother was an opera singer. In 1942, members of the Slovakian fascist Hlinka Guard rounded up the Jewish men in his town. Robert and his father were sent to Majdanek, a concentration camp where they were killed. Like many others who died at the hands of the Nazis, little is known about Robert's time at Madjanek and his last days. This photo is the last portrait taken of him before he was deported to the camp.
Two months later, the Hlinka Guard came back for the Jewish women, including Robert's mother and his little sister, Erika. One of the guards knew Robert's father so he allowed the women of the Vermes family to escape. They sealed their home and fled into Hungary. Erika's mother went to work, and Erika was sent to a Jewish orphanage for girls, where she stayed until 1944.
But when another fascist group, the Hungarian Arrow Cross came along, Erika was captured along with other Jewish people in Budapest. They were taken to be shot along the banks of the Danube River. Somehow, Erika was able to slip away.
After liberation, Erika was reunited with her mother by chance on the streets of Budapest. Erika eventually immigrated to the United States, where she married and became an interpreter for Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. She donated this photograph of her brother to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Fela, Last name unkown
The back of this photo is inscribed in Polish, "Bedzin in April 21, 1920 as an eternal keepsake, Fela." The photo was found at Auschwitz, the largest concentration camp of the Nazi regime. It is a reminder of a loving couple about whom we have no other information. Many of the people who were deported to Auschwitz brought photographs with them, precious reminders of home. Most of these photographs were destroyed by the Nazis.
In the 1930s nearly half the population of Bedzin was Jewish—about 21,000 people. The German army invaded Bedzin on September 5, 1939. Five days later the Great Synagogue and about 50 houses around it were burned down by anti-Semitic Poles and "Volksdeutsche" (Polish citizens of German descent). By late October the Jews of Bedzin had to surrender their radios. In November they had to pay a ransom in gold and silver and begin wearing a blue Star of David on their arms. Next Germans took over Jewish businesses and the finest homes. As of September 1941, the Jews had to wear a yellow badge and were forbidden to use public transportation. In May and June 1942, the first groups of Jewish people were deported from Bedzin and sent to their death at Auschwitz. The deportations continued throughout the war. We have no record of Fela's last name nor the name of her fiance.
Stanislaw and Regina Swida were responsible for the life of one small Jewish boy. They did everything they could to make sure that he would survive the Holocaust.
Avraham Horowitz was born in the Warsaw ghetto, a place where Jews were forced to live under appalling conditions. In April 1943, the Nazis began to remove everyone from the ghetto and send them to concentration camps. Avraham's family split up in order to survive. His mother, Tatiana, got forged papers and went to live with a Polish family. His father, Benjamin, went into hiding. Avraham, who was a baby, ended up at the Swidas home.
Stanislaw and Regina knew it would be difficult to hide Avraham's Jewish identity because he was circumcised. But Stanislaw ingeniously went to the Gestapo, the secret police of Nazi Germany and succeeded in getting a certificate stating the Achmet Kraczkiewicz, Avraham's new name, was a member of the Muslim community. Muslim boys are also circumcised.
Stanislaw and Regina raised Avraham as if he was their own. Tatiana visited, but Avraham didn't remember that she was his mother. In 1944, when the Poles rebelled in an attempt to liberate Warsaw from Nazi Germany, Stanislaw and his son disappeared. Regina escaped through the ruins of Warsaw with Avraham. Tatiana took him back shortly before liberation. Avraham did not find out that she was his mother until after the war ended. They stayed in touch with Regina until they moved to Israel in 1950. Regina passed away in 1979.
Anna Maria, who was also called Settela, grew up in a large family with eight brothers and sisters in the Netherlands. The Steinbachs were Sinti, nomadic people who lived in wagons and moved from village to village looking for work. The Sinti and Roma tribes of the Romani were looked down upon by many people. They were known as "gypsies," which is a derogatory and insulting word.
In Germany, the Nazis were passing laws against the Romani. They were stripped of their German citizenship. They were forced to get operations that would prevent them from ever having children. They were rounded up and locked in concentration camps. In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.
Over time, the Sinti and Roma in the Netherlands were rounded up and taken concentration camps. In May 1944, Settela and her family were labeled as "gypsies" and forced to board a train headed to Auschwitz. A Nazi filmed Settela looking out from the train that was headed to the concentration camp. They were put in a special section of the camp for Sinti and Roma people. Dr. Josef Mengele performed horrible experiments on many twins and children in this section. Settele and her family were probably gassed to death on the night of August 2-3, 1944.
Pinchas Schumacher was Zayde, the Yiddish word for grandfather, to Estera Ajzen. He was patriarch of a Jewish family that lived in the city of Chelm, in eastern Poland. Before World War II, Jewish people made up more than half the population of Chelm. Throughout Europe, roughly nine million Jews lived in the countries that would be occupied by Germany during World War II.
This photograph captures a way of life that the Nazis tried to destroy. By the end of the war, two out of every three of Jewish people in Nazi-occupied countries would be dead. After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Estera Azjen and her family fled to the Soviet zone. In January 1940, they were deported to a labor camp in the most northern part of European Russia. They were released in April, 1941. Ester and her family moved to Gorky, where she met a Soviet Jewish soldier from the Ukraine. They were married and settled in Poland after the war, later moving to the U.S. in 1956.
Edit Schechter was a member of a resistance movement in Hungary. The group was composed of young Zionists— European Jews who wanted to re-establish a Jewish homeland in what was then Palestine. They were doing all they could to resist the German oppression of Jews. During World War II, Hungary was one of the last countries that the Nazis invaded. So in the early years of the war, the Hungarian Zionist Youth Movement helped resist the Nazis and rescue other Jewish people.
In 1942, when Germany was sending Slovakian Jews to Auschwitz, this group reached out to Jewish refugees and gave them a place to live and food to eat. This was illegal under Nazi rule, and 40 activists were caught and sent to prison or work camps. In 1944, after Germany invaded Hungary, the movement decided that its members would have to pretend to be Christians in order to continue their work. Activists like Edit created fake documents such as birth certificates and identity cards. They warned other people when they were in danger of being deported and created false papers that could be used for safe travel. They smuggled young people across the border into Romania and Slovakia. They set up more than 50 safe homes for children. Edit and her fellow activists helped to save the lives of thousands of Jewish people.
Shulim Saleschutz was a nine-year-old boy living with his family in the town of Kolbuszowa when the Germans invaded Poland. Polish soldiers on horseback tried to fight, but they couldn't defend themselves against the German tanks. Shulim's father, known for his incredible strength, helped bury the dead horses after the battle.
Life changed dramatically for all the Jewish people in town. Neither Shulim nor his brother, Shlomo, or sister, Rozia, were allowed to go to school. No Jewish children were. In 1941, Germans forced the Saleschutzes and other Jewish families to move into one small section of Kolbuszowa. Shulim lived in a crowded apartment with his parents, siblings, grandparents, an uncle, and two aunts. On his birthday in 1942, Shulim had to start wearing an armband with a Star of David, like the other Jewish men. He felt proud. The Germans forced Shulim and other men to work, clearing snow and fixing the roads.
In July of 1942, Shulim Saleschutz was sent to the Belzec extermination camp. There, Shulim, Shlomo, Rozia, and their mother were gassed to death. He was 12 years old.
Dora Rivkina had many talents. The middle sister of three girls, Dora was athletic and an excellent swimmer and dancer. She was chosen to dance the lead in a New Year's show when she was only in second grade.
Dora grew up in Minsk, the capital city of Belorussia. Before World War II, more than a third of the residents of the city were Jewish, just like Dora. After the Germans invaded Minsk in 1941, Dora's family was forced into the ghetto, a part of the city where Jewish people were forced to live. Two years later, when everyone in the ghetto was forced out, Dora, then 19, escaped and joined a group of partisans—people who were trying to fight against the Germans. Unfortunately, they were soon captured by the German soldiers. The guards demanded to know who was Jewish. The group answered with silence. Then a guard said he would shoot them all if they didn't speak. One woman pointed at Dora.
The young, beautiful and talented girl died a terrible death. The Germans bound her hands, tied a rock around her neck, and threw her in a river. Then they shot her. Her sister, Berta, the only one of Dora's family to survive the war, learned the story of Dora's death from some girls who were with her.
Prisoner at Dachau 2
This is a detail from a photograph of three men who were prisoners at Dachau, a concentration camp in Germany, established in 1933 by the Nazi government. At first most of the prisoners were political opponents of the Nazi regime. Over time, other groups were also interned there, including Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma, homosexuals and those considered "asocial," many of whom were mentally ill or disabled. When the persecution of Jewish people increased in 1938, the number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose.
After Kristallnacht, a night of widespread violence against Jewish people throughout Germany, Austria, and parts of Czechoslovakia, more than 10,000 Jewish men were imprisoned there. Dachau was a training center for SS concentration camp guards, and it became a model for all Nazi concentration camps. Prisoners at Dachau who were considered too sick or weak to work were killed by SS guards or sent to another camp to be killed. Others were subjected to horrific medical experiments. They were injected with deadly diseases, forced to drink saltwater that could kill them, and left in extreme cold conditions, which led to hypothermia. Hundreds of prisoners died or were permanently disabled as a result of these experiments.
American forces liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. Near the camp, they found more than 30 railroad cars filled with bodies. The three men in the photo are standing in the barracks immediately after being liberated. We don't know any of their names.