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Menzer and Steiner family photograph collection

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2004.446.1

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    The collection consists of three photographs of members of the Menzer and Steiner families from Nitra, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) who were killed in 1942.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Iris Herta Avni-Menzer
    Collection Creator
    Iris H. Avni
    Herta (Iris) Menzer was born December 11, 1928, in Nitra, Czechoslovakia (Nitra, Slovakia), to Eduard, born January 29, 1889, in Racisdorf and Aurelia Zlata Lamm, born April 7, 1899. Herta had an older brother, Yehuda Alfred Miron, born April 3, 1927, and a younger sister, Mirka, born January 5, 1938. The family lived in Bratislava. Eduard was a wealthy wine importer and exporter. The family shared a large house with Eduard’s brother, Gyula, and his family. The family was Jewish Orthodox and spoke German at home.

    In September 1938, Nazi Germany annexed the Sudeten border region and, in March 1939, the Bohemia-Moravia area of Czechoslovakia. A pro-German fascist regime took control of the Slovakia region where the Menzer family lived. The Menzer's were forced by the government to sell their home at a huge loss to non-Jewish owners. The family moved in with Herta’s maternal aunt, Luisa Schlesinger, in Nitra. They were slated to be deported to Auschwitz concentration camp, but Luisa saved them from the transport train at the last minute.

    In mid-1942, Slovakia began transferring its Jews to German custody for deportation to concentration camps. In 1943, Herta attempted to escape to Hungary. She was caught and imprisoned for six weeks and then sent to Novaky labor camp, where her parents and Mirka were interned. The Slovak Jewish Center had persuaded the Slovak government to set up work camps where Jews could go instead of being deported. Cultural activities were an important part of camp life and Herta, who was trained on the piano, and Mirka performed in concerts. Alfred was arrested in Budapest and sent to a labor camp in Hungary. In August 1944, Slovakian rebels, including fighters from the Novaky camp, attempted to overthrow the pro-Nazi, Tiso government. During the rebellion, Novaky was liberated and Herta, Mirka, and their parents fled to the Tatra Mountains. German troops invaded to suppress the rebellion, and by October 27, the Slovak National Uprising was quashed.

    In late October 1944, partisans convinced the family to return from the mountains to the village of Kaliste. During the day, about eighty village inhabitants hid in the mountains and came down at night to stay in the village school. One early morning in December, German soldiers surrounded the school. They forced everyone outside to stand four in a row. After many hours, the commander ordered them to be taken to the Banska Bistrica prison. The family managed their release and fled to the village of Priechod. Each night they stayed in a different place, as the peasants were afraid to keep them any longer. On the morning of December 13, 1944, Herta went outside the hut where the family was staying. She saw soldiers in the distance and thought they were partisans. She went inside and told her father. Then Aurelia went out, recognized the soldiers as SS (Schutzstaffel), and hid behind the hut. Herta heard the soldiers yell, “Joden, Joden, Raus, Raus” [Jews out]. They burst inside while Eduard was saying his morning prayers. The soldiers tore off his tallit ( prayer shawl) and threw his tefillin (prayer boxes) to the ground. Herta told a soldier that she and Mirka were not Jewish, had no mother or father, and had escaped from the Russians. The soldier gestured with his finger that the girls could go. Herta found her mother and told her to stay hidden until the Nazis left, taking Eduard as a prisoner.

    Aurelia recovered the discarded tefillin and fled with the girl to Podkonice. The Germans occupied the village on December 24, 1944. Aurelia hid the tefillin in a feed bag in a guarded stable where the Germans kept the horses they stole from the villagers. At the end of March 1945, the Soviet Army liberated the area. Aurelia recovered the tefillin and bag and she and the girls returned to Nitra where Alfred rejoined them. He had been deported to Auschwitz in 1944, then transferred to multiple camps and liberated from Bunzlau concentration camp, a subcamp of Gross Rosen in Lower Silesia. They learned the Eduard had been executed on January 9, 1945, with 746 other prisoners in Kremnicka, Slovakia, and buried in a mass grave. Their Aunt Luisa had been deported to Auschwitz in August 1944 and died in Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1944. Herta was active in Hashomer Hatzair, a Zionist youth group, and with other members, soon emigrated to Palestine and joined a kibbutz. Alfred emigrated illegally to Palestine with a Jewish religious youth movement. Mirka and Aurelius emigrated to Israel in 1949. Herta changed her name to Iris and married Yehuda Steiner Avni, a Holocaust survivor from Nitra. The couple had two sons. Mirka married, changed her name to Miriam Frenkel, and had two children. Alfred joined the Israeli military and was a deputy minister in the Ministry of Defense. Aurelia died on September 17, 1986, at age 87. Alfred died in 1992 at age 65. In 1995, Herta made an appeal to have a Jewish symbol added to the monument marking the mass grave in Kremnicka where her father was buried. Because of her efforts, a stone lamp engraved with the word Yizcor was added.

    Physical Details

    1 folder
    System of Arrangement
    The collection is arranged as a single series.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Topical Term

    Administrative Notes

    The photographs were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Iris Avni, the daughter of Eduard Menzer.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 14:21:39
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