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Haganah War Ribbon bar awarded to a Belgian Jewish resistance fighter for his postwar support in Palestine

Object | Accession Number: 2012.473.14

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    Haganah War Ribbon bar awarded to a Belgian Jewish resistance fighter for his postwar support in Palestine

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Haganah War ribbon bar awarded to Menachem Konkowski, a World War II Belgian Jewish resistance fighter, between 1958 and 1966, for his support of Haganah during the fight for Independence in Palestine. During World War II, Belgium was conquered by Nazi Germany in May 1940. The Germans enacted anti-Jewish legislation to persecute the Jewish population. Beginning in late 1941, Menachem, under the alias, Moliere, organized a Jewish resistance group, also called Moliere, part of the 9th Brigade of the Belgian Nationalist Movement in Uccle, a civil resistance organization. His unit committed acts of sabotage against the German occupiers, as well as assaults on German soldiers, and warehouse raids to acquire large weapons caches. The Moliere Group also gathered information on and arranged for the elimination of collaborators. Menachem placed his two young daughters, Renee 7, and Claudine, 4, in hiding with Aurelia Parent in 1942. He and Ita hid elsewhere, and were constantly on the move. Belgium was liberated by Allied troops on September 3, 1944. Menachem was honored by the Belgian and Polish governments for his wartime activities. During the fight for Israeli Independence, Menachem supplied weapons to Haganah, the Jewish underground army in Palestine.
    Date
    issue:  1958-1966
    commemoration:  1920-1948
    Geography
    issue: Israel
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Claudine Davison, Diane Leigh Davison, and Renée Alalouf
    Contributor
    Subject: Menachem Konkowski
    Issuer: The Ministry of Defense of the government of Israel
    Biography
    Menachem (Maurice) Benzion Konkowski (1905 – 1966) was born in Warsaw, Poland, to Marja Fajgla Binstock, born in Bedzin, and Zalman Josek Konkowski. He had a brother Adolf, born in 1903, and a sister Sonja. Zalman died in 1933. Later, Menachem immigrated to Brussels, Belgium, where he established Selecta, a metalworking shop that made clasps for handbags. He married Ita Blinbaum. Ita was born on July 5, 1904, in Pabianice, Poland, to Michael Jakub and Yachieta Zilbersac (1876-1963.) Her family immigrated to Belgium in the late 1920s. Her father had a textile factory that manufactured fabric used to make ties. Ita and Menachem had two daughters: Renée, born on September 19, 1935, and Claudine, born on August 20, 1938.

    In May 1940, Belgium was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany. Anti-Jewish laws were immediately enacted to ostracize the Jewish population. Jewish property and businesses were confiscated and they were banned from certain professions. By 1942, all Jews were required to wear a yellow Star of David. Belgian Jews and immigrant Jewish males were selected for forced labor. That year, Menachem made arrangements to pay Aurelia Parent to hide his young daughters, as well as his nieces: Adolf’s daughters, Henriette and Marja and Sonja’s daughter, Lilianne. The girls lived in the Etterbeek section of Brussels. They were taught to tell people that they attended school with the nuns for a few hours daily. Menachem and Ita lived in hiding in a room next to the metal shop, and Adolf and his wife lived nearby. Occasionally, parents and children would meet briefly on street corners. The workshop was maintained by the Germans in case its metal working capabilities were needed for the war effort. The Germans assigned a permanent guard to the factory to inspect it regularly, but the guard was unaware of an ingenious wall concealing a hidden space in the back of the factory. Menachem had arranged for its construction earlier and used the space throughout the war to produce false documents and identification cards as well as store valuables and weapons. The Germans never discovered the space behind the wall or anything it concealed.

    In late 1941, Menachem joined the Belgian resistance. He adopted the nom de guerre Moliere, and founded a group of primarily Jewish resistance fighters, known as the Moliere Group. The unit was part of the 9th Brigade of the Belgian Nationalist Movement in Uccle, a civil resistance organization, and Menachem held the rank of Commanding Major. He also worked with CDJ (Comité de Défense des Juifs) and other resistance organizations. By early 1942, the Moliere Group had nearly 200 members. Menachem organized the Brigade into specialized units with a designated head, responsible to him, that could resist and sabotage German rule in multiple ways: Shock section, an armed resistance that performed assaults of German units and acts of sabotage to seize weapons; Information service, which created lists of traitors and collaborators, and gathered military, political, and economic information and was run by Domb Abraham, under the alias, Ali; Press service, a major producer and distributor of clandestine publications in German and Yiddish, including Unser Wort and Flambeau; Social service, which aided families in need of basic provisions such as clothing and food or in danger of deportation; False documents service; Medical service, and eventually, a Purge service.

    Menachem managed Shock section and the arms and munitions they captured were stored in two warehouses in Brussels. This unit also sabotaged German equipment and vehicles. One of the warehouses was in a location owned by the Association of Jews in Belgium (AJB). This was a Jewish council organized by the Germans to register Jews for forced labor and deportation. Menachem, in the guise of a coat clerk, stationed himself in this warehouse to safeguard his group’s weapons cache. The Moliere Brigade viewed the AJB as a collaborationist organization which exploited their fellow Jews by charging people large sums of money to be left off the lists. This rancor continued after the war when the AJB claimed that Menachem’s only role at the warehouse was as a coat check receptionist uninvolved in the resistance. The Moliere information service gathered information on companies and people working directly or indirectly to support the occupying Nazi forces. This information was used to get some of these collaborationists to cease cooperating with the Germans either voluntarily or as a result of threats by the resistance. As the war continued, this information was used to eliminate the infamous denouncer known as Jacques, among other collaborators.

    In the fall of 1944, the Shock section joined Allied Forces in the fight to liberate Brussels in the Sonian Forest and countryside on the outskirts of the city. Brussels was liberated in early September 1944. At the war’s end, Moliere Group had been reduced by deportation and execution by the Germans to 130 members. During the war, Menachem’s sister Sonja and her husband were killed in Auschwitz. His wife Ita’s parents were hidden by an employee, Jeanne de Bruyn, and her family. During the war, Menachem and his unit secretly removed materials and equipment from his in laws’ textile factory. This enabled the family to quickly start up their business in Belgium, after the war and provided a living for four families. Postwar, Menachem supported and supplied weapons to Haganah, the Jewish underground army in Palestine, during the fight for Independence. Menachem was honored by the governments of Belgium and Poland for his bravery and resistance activity during World War II, and by the Israeli Defense Ministry for his support during the fight for Independence. In 1994, the de Bruyn family was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for their efforts to hide the Blinbaum family.

    Physical Details

    Classification
    Identifying Artifacts
    Category
    Badges
    Object Type
    Bar pins (aat)
    Genre/Form
    Awards.
    Physical Description
    Rectangular, silver-colored metal bar pin with crimped sides covered by a grossgrain ribbon with 9 vertical stripes: a narrow white center stripe flanked by narrow light blue, wide green, narrow red, and wide gray. A plate with a pin back is fixed between the sides of the bar and over the ribbon ends. The edges of the ribbon are slightly frayed.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 0.375 inches (0.953 cm) | Width: 1.625 inches (4.128 cm) | Depth: 0.250 inches (0.635 cm)
    Materials
    overall : ribbon, metal, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Belgium. Israel.
    Corporate Name
    Haganah (Organization)

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The ribbon bar pin was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2012 by Claudine Davison and Renée Alalouf, the daughters, and Diane Leigh Davison, the granddaughter, of Menachem and Ita Blinbaum Konkowski.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-31 15:20:14
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn625918

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