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Belgian Red Cross medal, ribbon, and box awarded to a Jewish Russian nurse

Object | Accession Number: 2007.212.3 a-c

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    Belgian Red Cross medal, ribbon, and box awarded to a Jewish Russian nurse


    Brief Narrative
    Belgian Red Cross medal 2nd class with ribbon and presentation box awarded to Menia Awret-Back in recognition of her work as a nurse for Jewish refugee children in Brussels, Belgium, during the war. Belgium was occupied by Germany in May 1940. Restrictions were placed on Jews to exclude them from society. Jewish children and expectant mothers were not allowed to be treated in existing facilities. Menia, as a Jewish nurse, had to wear an armband with a blue cross in place of the usual red cross. Since 1938, Menia had worked for L'Ouevre Nationale de L'Enfance [National Children's Aid] and the Belgium Red Cross, which now established and staffed special treatment centers for Jewish patients. In summer 1940, the Germans began deporting non-Belgian Jews, which put Menia at risk because she held a Russian passport. The charitable agencies for which she worked successfully requested that she be allowed to remain because of the importance of her work. The Swedish Consulate wrote letters stating that she was a holder of a valid Russian passport and that they were placing her under their protection. Menia's husband Isaac was arrested and jailed for anti-Nazi activity in 1941. He and Menia were reunited after the war ended in May 1945.
    commemoration:  1940-1945
    received: Brussels (Belgium)
    manufacture: Brussels (Belgium)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Serge Back
    b. interior lid, stamped, purple ink : P.V.B.A VAN LAREBEKE S.P.R.L. / r. POTAERDEGAT STR. 22-24 / 1080 BRUXELLES BRUSSEL [Private limited liability company Van Larebeke]
    Subject: Menia Awret-Back
    Menia Awret was born on October 15, 1906, in Odessa, Russia (Ukraine), to Jacob and Golda Davidovitz Awret. Jacob was born in Belogorodka in 1870. Golda was born in Kichinew on March 15, 1874. Menia had a younger brother, Charles. Odessa had long been the site of vicious anti-Jewish pogroms. One took place the year Menia was born and, not long after, the family moved to Łódź, Poland, to live with her paternal uncle. Menia trained as a nurse and, from 1926-1930, worked in the Hospital Poznanski in Łódź. In 1930, her brother Charles decided to attend school in Gand, Belgium. The entire family immigrated there as well and settled in the Forest region.
    Menia married Isaac (Isi)) Back (d. 1968), a Lithuanian engineer, on January 8, 1938. Menia specialized in infant care and worked as a visiting nurse for the Belgium Red Cross, travelling around her region via ambulance. After Belgium was conquered by Germany in May 1940, she worked primarily for L’Ouevre Nationale L’Enfance, as Jews were segregated from the general population and could not use the same medical facilities as non-Jews. In summer 1940, the German began deporting non-Belgian Jews. Her work certificate had to be renewed every year by the German authorities and the agencies she worked with submitted testimonials of the urgent need for her services. The Swedish Consulate in Brussels wrote letters stating that she was a holder of a valid Russian passport and that they were placing Menia under their protection. In September 1940, Isaac joined a clandestine organization, Friends of the URSS (Friends of the Soviet Union). On June 22, 1941, he was arrested for anti-Nazi activity and imprisoned in a series of Belgian and French internment camps. The war ended in May 1945. Isaac and Menia were reunited that summer. They had a son in December 1946. Menia was honored by the Belgium government for her work with Jewish refugee children and her wartime service.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    a. Medal with a silver colored equilateral cross with a pebbled red enamel field. In the center is a gold colored metal crowned lion on a silver colored metal disc. Surrounding the cross is a silver colored cutout metal oak leaf wreath attached to an imperial crown with a bale and suspensions ring through which a ribbon is threaded. The grosgrain ribbon has a vertical stripes: wide white, narrow red, wide white, narrow red, wide white. The ribbon is sewn over a bar at the top and has 2 stick pins in the back.
    b. Rectangular white paper box base covered with treated brown paper resembling leather for lid (b). The interior is padded with white tissue paper with an attached safety pin.
    c. Rectangular white paper box lid covered with treated brown paper resembling leather for base (b), stamped inside with manufacturer information.
    a: Height: 4.000 inches (10.16 cm) | Width: 1.500 inches (3.81 cm) | Depth: 0.375 inches (0.953 cm)
    b: Height: 4.250 inches (10.795 cm) | Width: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm) | Depth: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm)
    c: Height: 4.125 inches (10.477 cm) | Width: 1.750 inches (4.445 cm) | Depth: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm)
    a : metal, ribbon
    b : cardboard, paper
    c : cardboard, paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The medallion was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007 by Serge Back, the son of Menia Arwet-Back.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 17:51:26
    This page:

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