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Terez Gruenberger Mermelstein photographs

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2013.311.1

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    Photographs (131) that illustrate Terez Gruenberger Mermelstein’s pre-war life in Munkacs, Hungary, and post-war life in the Gabersee displaced persons camp in Wasserburg, Germany, with spouse Jakob.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Theresa Gruenberger Mermelstein
    Collection Creator
    Theresa Mermelstein
    Terez Gruenberger was born on June 5, 1921, in Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia (Mukacheve, Ukraine), to Zsigmund and Roszi (Roza) Gruenberger Schonfeld. Roza was born on September 18, 1893, in Brestovo, Czechoslovakia, to Ludvik and Zeni Neiman Gruenberger. She was a shoe designer. Zsigmund was born in 1887 in Kisvarda, Hungary. The couple owned a specialty shop for orthopedic shoes in Budafok, Hungary, and hand made all the shoes. Terez’s sister, Miriam, was born on February 26, 1923. Zsigmund died in 1928 and Terez, her mother, and sister moved back to Mukacevo to live with Terez’s maternal grandparents, Ludvik and Zeni Gruenberger. Roza supported the family by hand making specialty shoes. Terez attended public school, where she learned German. She also learned to play the violin. The family observed Shabbat every week and celebrated the holidays. In 1938, Mukacevo and the surrounding region of Czechoslovakia were annexed by Hungary and the name was changed to Munkacs. Terez finished school and began working as a cosmetician at a beauty school. The Hungarians were more anti-Semitic but their lives continued normally. Terez encouraged the family to adopt a child, and her grandmother Zeni adopted a Jewish orphan, six year old Shmuel.

    Hungary had anti-Jewish laws similar to those of its ally, Nazi Germany. In 1940, Miriam went to Budapest to stay with her stepsister from their father’s first marriage. Roza later wrote to tell her to stay there, as it was safer. Hungary participated in the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. After the German retreat from Stalingrad In early 1943, Hungary sought a separate peace with the Allies. That year, Miriam sent to a labor camp in Csepel, near Budapest, where she worked in an ammunition factory. In March 1944, Germany occupied Hungary. Jews in the countryside were gathered into regional holding centers as the Germans, with Hungarian cooperation, prepared for mass deportations. In April, a Jewish ghetto was formed in Munkacs. Terez and her family were ordered to move there. Before they left, they gave some of their family valuables to a Christian neighbor. They stayed in the ghetto for a week with a family friend, but then were marched to a brick factory. It was very crowded and many people died from the poor living conditions. In May, the family was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center in cattle cars. Upon arrival on May 22, Terez was separated from Roza, their grandparents, and Shmuel. Her head was shaved and she was given old clothes. The following day, she was told by another inmate that her family had been gassed and burned.

    Not long after this, someone told Tereza that they had seen Miriam. She found her block and asked the block elder Edith if Miriam could move and permission was granted. They had very little food and other women stole food from Terez. They had to stand outside for appell [roll call] for hours and when a prisoner was not there, they had to kneel on the ground for hours until she was found. Their work was to carry heavy stones back and forth. On November 8, 1944, Terez and Miriam were deported to Torgau slave labor camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald in Germany, arriving on November 19. Terez was assigned prisoner number 46077 and Miriam 46076. The sisters and eight other women were selected to work in the kitchens. The woman who ran the kitchens was kind to Terez and made sure that she had enough to eat. In January 1945, the Allies were bombing the area, but the labor camp was not hit. They were liberated in April 1945 by Allied forces.

    After two days, the camp was turned the camp over to Soviet forces. The Soviet soldiers attempted to have sex with the prisoners, so the women lied and told them they were sick. After a few days, Terez, Miriam, and the other women escaped from the soldiers and walked to the American zone. They were hospitalized, and after they recovered, were sent to Prague. Terez found a distant relative who they stayed with for a short while before moving in with a friend from Munkacs. Miriam returned to Budapest and Munkacs, but she was not welcome there and was told to leave. Before Miriam left, she was given their family valuables by their former neighbor in Munkacs. She met Geza Rozner, a fellow survivor, and they returned to Prague and married on December 2, 1945. Miriam introduced Terez to Jakob Mermelstein, who was born on November 4, 1911, in Cinadievo, Czechoslovakia (Chynadiyovo, Ukraine). Terez and Jacob married in February 1946. Because of Soviet control over Czechoslovakia, Terez insisted that they leave. In 1946, Terez and Jakob crossed illegally over the German border and went to Gabersee displaced persons camp, near Wasserburg. On December 13, 1948, they boarded the SS Marine Marlin, arriving in New York on December 24. They settled in New York and Americanized their names to Theresa and Jack. They had a daughter. Terez made bowties and the family eventually bought a store. Miriam and her family went to Israel in 1949, where they had a son. In 1959-1960, they moved to New York. Jack, age 85, died on October 22, 1997. Miriam, age 87, died on December 17, 2010.

    Physical Details

    1 folder

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    The donor, source institution, or a third party has asserted copyright over some or all of these material(s). The Museum does not own the copyright for the material and does not have authority to authorize use. For permission, please contact the rights holder(s).

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Mukachevo (Ukraine)

    Administrative Notes

    Donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Terez Gruenberger Mermelstein.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 13:42:11
    This page:

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