Oral history interview with Renee Fink
Renee Fink (née Renate Gabriele Laser), born December 12, 1937 in Scheveningen, Netherlands, describes how throughout her life she has had an "odyssey of names": three first names and five last names, reflecting how often she has moved; being an only child; her refugee family leaving Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) in 1933; losing her parents to Auschwitz and the survival of her grandmother and aunt; the Nazi invasion in 1940; her family fleeing to Bilthoven, Netherlands; taking in boarders; not remembering many details; hiding in Laren, North Holland, Netherlands; her aunt and uncle working in the resistance; being given to a stranger in the summer of 1942 when she was four years old and living in a large home in hiding until the war ended; living with eight other children in a Catholic family; her new name, Rita van den Brink; living on a farm without electricity; her memories of the bombs and being sent to kindergarten for three years; knitting in her spare time; being eight years old when the war ended; going to live with her grandmother in Bilthoven; making friends and playing with dolls; her aunt moving to the US in 1947 and going to the US the following year with her grandmother; being met in New York by her uncle, Walter Leipzig; her name changing to Renee Leipzig; moving to Queens, NY and attending P.S. 99 and Forest Hills High School; going to live in Chestertown, NY and changing her last name to Schrenk; attending the University of Vermont; getting married and living for 30 years in Bergen County, NJ; becoming a medical staff coordinator; living in Martinsville, VA and North Carolina; her children and grandchildren; keeping silent about her story until she heard of the Hidden Child Foundation in 1991 and attending an international conference of Hidden Children at the Marriott Hotel in Manhattan; keeping in touch now with the children of the van den Brink family and how the family has since been honored as Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem; giving a copy of her Shoah testimony to each of her children; and her mission "to sensitize and to create awareness."
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- Renee Fink
- Dr. Marcia Horn
2006 October 30
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Marcia Horn
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:55:05
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn607950
Also in Oral history interviews of the Marcia Horn collection
Oral history interviews with Holocaust survivors, liberators, veterans, a rescuer, a witness, and the child of a Holocaust survivor produced by Dr. Marcia Horn.
Cantor Allen Levin, born June 26, 1924 in Cleveland, OH, describes growing up in a family of teachers, musicians, and specialists in rabbinical studies, and were originally from Lithuania; studying Hebrew from age six on and graduating from Hebrew College; attending the Ohio State Conservatory and graduating from Ohio State in 1943; earning degrees in theology and music education after the war and becoming a cantor in Ohio in 1948; moving to Roanoke, VA in the mid-1950s; the loss of his family members who remained in Europe during WWII, except for one family who escaped to Israel; being drafted into the military and trained for a year in the OTC at Ohio University; leaving the US on January 16, 1944 and returning on January 16, 1946; discovering, along with the other nine men in his squadron, a concentration camp in Munchen-Gladbach (Mönchengladbach), Germany in April 1945; how his company (Cannon Company) was in charge of searching for weapons, cameras, and film in row houses; his memories of the camp; staying in the area for a month and how few of the prisoners were alive in the camp; the drawings he did of the camp; how after WWII ended he was in charge of supervising the German-Russian living quarters and represented the Polish-Spanish office in Bremen, Germany; meeting a German judge, Shultz, and visiting the judge and his family; learning of the judge's son-in-law, Karl Ewald, an engineer who had been captured by the Americans; and seeing Karl years later on a PBS program.
James Bryant, born December 24, 1924 in Southampton, VA, describes his volunteer work at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA; being drafted at age 18 as a private into the infantry in Norfolk, VA; receiving training for a year; spending several weeks in early 1944 in Camp Pickett then Camp Myles Standish; being shipped overseas to Liverpool, England; signing on to the 325th glider infantry; landing in Normandy on D-Day and the danger of his mission; going to "jump school" and became a paratrooper in Normandy; how at the age of 19, in mid-December 1944, in the midst of snow and fog during the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge his platoon was told to seek an isolated crossroads near Bastogne, Belgium, and they came under heavy fire from the Germans; almost being shot by Germans then Americans while retrieving a jeep with supplies and hiding all night before returning to the 82nd Airborne; getting leave time and going to Pepinster, Belgium and befriending a Belgian family; being promoted to First Sergeant of his company; crossing the Elbe from Cologne and heading toward Ludwigslust; the German Army surrendering to the 82nd Airborne; his unit learning of a nearby concentration camp in the village of Wobbelin and how this made a deep impressions on him; the conditions in the camp when they arrived; his commander requiring all of the civilians to view the dead and bury them in the town's palace grounds; revisiting Ludwigslust and Wobbelin in 1994 and the memorial that had been erected; returning to the US in October 1945; reenlisting in the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, NC, and subsequently serving in the Korean War; how his war experiences have shaped his views; and lessons he learned from the Holocaust.
Hank (born Henek) Brodt, born December 1, 1925 in Boryslaw, Poland (Boryslav, Ukraine), describes living with his mother, father, brother, and sister in Boryslaw; helping to support his family starting at age 14; the town containing a mix of Jews, Poles, and Ukrainians, with little discrimination before World War II; attending Hebrew school; the Nazi invasion and Boryslaw being invaded in 1941 and the formation of a Jewish committee (Judenrat); the draft of Polish citizens beginning February-March 1941; Jews having to wear a star; many dying from typhus; the huge liquidation in September 1942, during which his mother was deported; a forced labor camp in the outskirts of Boryslaw; life in the ghetto; the liquidation of the ghetto at the end of 1943; the death of his sister and losing track of her child, who was put in an orphanage shortly before the liquidation; being sent by cattle car to Płaszów on April 13, 1944; being a messenger in the labor camp; a childbirth in the camp; the music in the evenings; being sent to work in Wieliczka from June-August 1944; being sent by cattle car to Mauthausen concentration camp; being in Mauthausen for two weeks and then sent to Melk; a man who tried to commit suicide; being evacuated from Melk to Linz and then by boat to Ebensee; a forced march of 25km; Americans liberating the prisoners at Ebensee; working with the American Army; immigrating to the US and arriving in New York on March 17, 1949; working in the Bronx then Chicago; enlisting during the Korean War; being sent to Mannheim, Germany; meeting a woman in Czechoslovakia; working for a newspaper in New York; his view of Holocaust deniers; how he didn’t want to talk to his own children about the Holocaust until they were much older; his attempts to locate his niece Adela; his life in High Point, NC; and participating in the March of the Living.
Simone Weil Lipman, born in Ringendorf, France in 1920, describes her family moving to Strasbourg three years after her birth; her father’s work as a shepherd who also owned land in Alsace; living with her parents, brother, paternal grandmother, and a maid; attending public school, specializing in classical studies and early childhood education; also attending Hebrew school, where she had a solid Jewish education; being active as a leader in the Jewish youth movement; being a nursery school teacher in a Paris Montessori school after the war started; the German occupation of France and her family fleeing to a farm in Dordogne, France; selling produce in town and bicycling for transportation; going to help the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) with a friend, Andree Salomon, in Rivesaltes in 1941; organizing children's activities and helping in the infirmary; finding channels to provide children with false papers and homes in Southern France; the closing of Rivesaltes in 1942; having jaundice and hepatitis; getting a job near Limoges in Poulouzat (a village in Condat-sur-Vienne), tutoring children and organizing activities; the OSE organizing an underground network, led by Georg Garel; being given the false name of Simone Werlin, along with false papers, and passing as a non-Jewish nurse; being assisted by some Catholic and Protestant organizations and getting money through Switzerland; being almost arrested once; her father being taken away in April 1944 but being able to escape; opening a preschool near Paris for young children who had lost their parents after the war; opening a training center for teens; being offered a scholarship by the National Council of Jewish Women in the U.S., and leaving in October 1945 to study at Tulane University's School of Social Work; attending Western Reserve in Cleveland, where she met her future husband; earning a master's in social work; her sons and grandchildren; reading Elie Wiesel; moving to Syracuse in 1964 and beginning to talk about her Holocaust experiences; helping create a children-of-survivors group, Le Petite Monde, and talking with other groups; moving back to France for three years in the 1980s; moving to Chapel Hill, NC; telling her story at schools, churches, and synagogues; becoming active in the Hidden Child Foundation; attending OSE reunions; and her reflections on the Holocaust.
Jack Hoffmann, born in 1924 in Stanislau, Poland (Stanislav, Ukraine), describes how his father Marcus, his mother Ernestine, his older sister Leah, and he moved to Austria around 1926; living in a small apartment in Vienna; his family being lower middle-class and his father’s job as an executive in a firm making margarine; his Orthodox father and his assimilated mother; attending gymnasium and Hebrew school and playing field hockey; his family having Jewish and non-Jewish friends and being culturally active, often attending Vienna's opera and theatre; minor incidents of antisemitism; the Jewish refugees who came from Germany after 1933; the social changes in Germany; the Anschluss and the Nuremberg laws; his family being moved to a smaller apartment; seeing Hitler in a parade on April 9, 1938; his father losing his job; changes in his school and being kicked out; his memories of Kristallnacht and the destruction of synagogues; his father being arrested and kept several weeks; taking Zionist courses to prepare Jews for going to Palestine; being sent on a Kindertransport to London, England; attending an intercultural camp, sponsored by a Zionist organization; staying with several families in Wellingborough and Liverpool; going to Boston, MA in July 1940; his parents and sister arriving in New York in February 1940; his younger brother dying in Buchenwald and other family members who died in camps; living in New York, NY and attending Samuel J. Tilden High School; being drafted in 1943 and his father dying while he was away; attending NYU and UNC Greensboro; working at the Kloeckner company and being wary at first about working for a German company; traveling to Germany and being struck by the dramatic change there; getting married in 1982; being active in his community; joining the Kindertransport Association and attending a 1999 reunion in London; speaking to middle and high school students in Greensboro; participating in the Greensboro Holocaust Council; his involvement with politics and organizing several groups; and his belief in the importance of sharing stories of the Holocaust.
Rachel Kizhnerman (born January 16, 1936) and her cousin Shelly Weiner (born August 25, 1937), both born in Rovno, Poland (now Rivne, Ukraine), describe being very young when the Holocaust began; their childhoods; Rachel’s early life in the little village of Miagin; Shelly recounts non-Jews being angry at her grandfather and poisoning his well after which the entire family was sick; the German occupation; having to wear the yellow star; Rachel's father being taken away and not seen again; Shelley’s memories of living in a ghetto with her mother in 1941; many of Shelly’s family being marched to trenches and shot; Shelly's mother escaping with Shelly to Rachel's mother's home; hiding with a neighboring farmer; hiding in his attic for 18 months and leaving in the summer time; hiding in cornfields in August and having no food or water for three days; returning to the farm, where the farmer made a place in the barn for them; playing games and telling stories to pass the time; Rachel's mother contracting pneumonia; the strength of their mothers; Shelly's house being bombed in 1944; being liberated by the Russian Army in 1944; Shelly learning that some of her cousins and her grandfather had been killed by Ukrainian nationalists; the pogroms in Poland after the war; Shelly and her mother staying in a displaced persons camp before immigrating to the US in 1949; Rachel and her mother returning to Ukraine and later Rachel attended school in Leningrad (Saint Petersburg, Russia); Shelly's mother finding Rachel and corresponding with her; Shelly's mother helping Rachel and her family to come to the US in 1980; initially settling in Philadelphia, PA; how Americanization was different for Shelly and Rachel; Shelly’s experience first sharing her story; Shelly becoming an active member in the NC State Council on the Holocaust; Rachel’s experience in the Soviet Union, where she people did not discuss the Holocaust; their children and speaking about their Holocaust experiences; and the lessons they learned from the Holocaust.
Jesse Oxendine, born July 20, 1926 in Pembroke, NC, describes being drafted by the army on September 15, 1944; his three brothers also serving in the army (one brother flew 25 missions) and all returned home safely; attending Native American schools through high school in Pembroke; growing up Native American; being put in charge of a platoon of 48 men; his regiment coming across the labor camp in Wobbelin, Germany in May 1945; how he and his regiment had never heard of concentration camps; seeing the condition of the prisoners; taking the few German guards left as prisoners; going to Ludwigslust, Germany; the local towns people being made to dig graves for the dead prisoners; he and his brothers not sharing their war experiences much with their parents; a cousin of his who was killed in Normandy, France; visiting Ludwigslust in 1994; how he and his friend Henry Hirschmann, a Jewish Holocaust survivor also from Charlotte, visit and share their past experiences with high school students and church groups; learning about the scope of the Holocaust years after the war; his thoughts about war; and lessons he has learned.
Jacob Trompeter, born August 22, 1955 in Radford, VA, describes growing up in Pulaski, VA; his father’s bakery; being the only Jews in town and keeping kosher; he and his sister receiving a Jewish education at home from their father; being sent for Talmudic schooling in Baltimore, MD when he was 12, but being unhappy and returning to public school nearer home; attending New River Community College; working at a Volvo dealership for 30 years before retiring; the antisemitism he experienced growing up; his father, who was a Holocaust survivor born in Berlin, Germany on February 2, 1921 as Aharon ben Yaakov; his father’s survival of seven concentration camps (Radomysl-Wielki, Wieliczka, Mielec, Flossenbürg, Litomerice, Mauthausen, and Gusen); his father’s immigration to the US; his vivid memories of his father Max's talking to him and his two sisters directly of his Holocaust accounts when they were young; his father's nightmares; his father’s faith throughout the war; his father’s account of his survival; the death of Max’s father; the danger of children being taught to hate; and the lessons he has learned from the Holocaust.
Regine N. Archer (née Nozyce), born in December 5, 1924 in Krakow, Poland, describes moving to Liège, Belgium when she was 5 years old to live with her aunt and her husband; her mother and sister moving to Liège one-and-a-half years later; her parents’ fur business; her Jewish education; the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940 when she was 15 years old; the restrictions placed on Jews and the start of deportations; her father being head of the Jewish council in Liège; going into hiding with her sister in a convent in Wavre, Belgium; the mayor of Wavre working in the underground and helping to issue false papers; receiving the false name Renee Nogis and her sister received the name Jaqueline; learning shorthand and typing in the convent; no one knowing their true identities except Mother Superior and a priest; seeing their parents during vacations; taking a job with a lawyer in early 1944; the Allied bombings and providing medical care in a Carmelite convent; the lack of morphine; the area being liberated in September 1944; returning to Liège; becoming a head typist and interpreter at an army quarter master depot; meeting her American husband, James Archer, in Liège in 1944; immigrating to the US in January 1947; her life in the US; James dying in 1972 and remarrying; working at Blue Ridge Beverage Company in Salem, VA; visiting her sister in Belgium and traveling through Germany; her strong faith; lessons from the Holocaust; and her gratitude for the Christians who helped her family.
Nathan Kranowski, born September 26, 1937 in Paris, France, describes his Polish parents, Mala and Wolf Kranowski, (both born in 1907); living in a Jewish immigrant neighborhood; antisemitism; the German occupation of France and Jews having to register at French police stations; his father’s arrest and transfer to Drancy in 1941 and his later deportation to Auschwitz, where he was killed; his mother’s similar fate in 1942; staying with his aunt for a while before being sent to a Christian family in Brittany; receiving a false identity and the new name Pierre; going to church and learning the catechism; his life on the farm with the Christian family and not attending school; returning to his aunt at the end of the war, but her inability to keep him; spending time in orphanages run by the OSE (OEuvre de secours aux enfants); being sent to live with his aunt’s sister in New York City in 1948; the story of his cousin Jack avoiding deportation; living with his aunt and uncle Esther and Paul Turletsky; attending school (P.S. 47 in the Bronx); learning English; attending City College and earning a Ph.D. in French literature at Columbia University; teaching French at Rutgers University and Hollins College; earning an MA in accounting and became a CPA until he retired; his observant wife; his religious views and how they changed; investigation what happened to his parents; and speaking to groups about his experience.
Libuse Pavova discusses living under the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia; her background as a Catholic; the disappearance of a young Jewish girl with whom she was friends; her memories of a Jewish neighbor who refused to wear a Star of David badge and hid in nearby homes until the end of the war; witnessing the destruction of synagogues; and her life under Communism during Soviet rule.