Four Jewish friends walk through a park in Krakow.
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Poland -- Family/Friends/Portraits -- At Home/In Town
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Jeanine Ament Fields
Four Jewish friends walk through a park in Krakow.
Pictured (from left to right) are: Nina Marks, Macka Kepler, Mania Ament, and Gustav Wiecener. Nina Marks and Gustav Wiecner married in 1934, were deported to the Soviet Union, and later emigrated to Palestine.
- Jeanine Fields (botn Jeanine Ament) is the daughter of Marian and Mania Ament (born February 12, 1909). Mania was born and raised in Krakow. In 1937 she married Marian, an artist, who worked for his father's fur store. On September 2, 1939, the day after Germany launched its invasion of Poland, Mania and Marian fled east with another couple eventually reaching Lvov which was under Soviet rule. Marian found work as an artist painting posters of Stalin and Lenin. In his spare time her pursued his own artistic interests. In November Marian's sister, Zosia (Sophie) paid them a surprise visit. Her fiancé, Dr. Arthur Haber, an officer in the Polish army taken prisoner by the Germans, managed to escape and reach Lvov. He and Sophie wed in December 1939. Sophie and Mania desperately wanted to see their families and decided to return to Krakow, not realizing that they would end up being stuck there. Prior to the war, Marian's father had business connections with some Germans. Even though some belonged to the Nazi party they tried to help and advised Mania to move to Bochnia. They found work for her and her three sisters-in-law (Sophie, Mala and Rose) making fur coats for the army. The women not only earned a salary but also gained protective work papers. Mania's parents also left Krakow and moved to Wieliczka. By 1942 rumors circulated that able bodied workers would be sent to labor camps; women and children to death camps. Mania's mother by then had passed away from natural causes, but her father was in danger. The superintendent of a building he had helped administer in Krakow came to Wieliczka, picked him up and hid him for a week. He then brought him to the Bochnia ghetto where he joined Mania in the fur workshop. Soon after, Mania's sister Hania also joined them having tried briefly to pass as an Aryan on false papers. Mania next sought to reunite with her husband. She managed to bribe a German who was traveling to Lvov on business to bring Marian back with him. In 1942 Mania became pregnant assuming that the baby would be born after the war would have ended. Bochnia officially became a labor camp the following year, and on April 10, 1943 Mania gave birth to Jeanine assisted by a professional midwife, her sister Hania and Sophie. By this time Mania had sold her diamond engagement ring for false papers saying that they were Swiss citizens. After receiving permission from the Bochnia Gestapo chief, they left the ghetto and moved in with a Polish family. However, they realized their situation could not last, especially as there were rumors about the final liquidation of the ghetto. They contacted a Polish teacher and artist who told them he knew of peasants who could bring them over the mountains to Czechoslovakia and from there to Hungary. Mala's husband, Stephan Kornhauser (who she married in 1942) was an architect and engineer living on false papers in Krakow. He and a Polish friend devised a plan to smuggle the entire family out of Poland. They decided to make weekly trips across the border with a truck designed to look as if it was loaded with building material. In fact the inside was empty except for two benches for refugees. To help defray the cost of the truck, driver and smuggler, Stephan included four other paying passengers in the first transport along with Mania, Marian and Sophie. Since the passengers had to maintain total silence, two Polish friends carried three-month-old Jeanine by train to a rendezvous spot.
Though German police often checked vehicles, the Aments safely arrived at their destination in the early morning hours where they met their 18 year old guide and sleeping baby. They crossed the border into Czechoslovakia and spent the night in a place that was prepared for them. Leaving early the next day they hoped to reach the town of Mikulas where two of their companions had family. As they headed into town they were stopped by the border police who confiscated all of their last remaining jewels and jailed them overnight. The next day Jews from Mikulas bailed them out and took them to the home of the relatives of Bela and Csibo Polgar. A committee organized to help refugees fleeing Poland assisted them, and a few days later, loaded with provisions for Jeanine, they boarded buses for Hungary. Again smugglers met them and brought them over the border to Kosice. From there they took a train to Budapest where the Polish Committee-in-Exile registered them as political refugees, gave them money, clothes and diapers and sent them to a camp in Csillag-Hegy in Poland.
Stephan Kornhauser next smuggled out Rose, Lolek, their son Richard and Mania's father-in-law, and they arrived safely as well. The third week Mania's father Chaim was supposed to leave with Sophie, her husband and their son. Since Mala, Stephan and Mania's sister Hania were young and had no children, they decided to remain until everyone else had safely escaped and then proceed on the fourth and final transport. On the night that Mania's father was supposed to leave, authorities who had learned that Jews were escaping, sealed the ghetto exits. The Germans soon began liquidating the camp. A Jewish policeman, Mr. Rasps, warned Mala that there was still a way out of the ghetto. She found her husband Stephan, and they fled together to Hungary. Unfortunately, Hania was at work and could not be contacted. The Germans sent all able-bodied people, including Hania, to a camp nearby in Szebnia. Later she was sent to Auschwitz where she died of typhus in 1944. The older people, including Mania's father, were shot in Bochnia.
Marian and Mania remained in Csillaghegy; Marian worked in a nearby fur factory. In March 1944, Germany seized control of Hungary. Though the Aments received false Christian papers, Hungarian policemen came to their home in May and brought them to the police station where many Polish Jews had registered as political refugees. Sophie, who was a beautiful woman, decided to gamble and tell the whole truth. She pleaded that rather than be sent to the Hungarian Gestapo in Budapest, she would prefer that they shoot them on the spot. The policeman was surprised as he had no idea of what was happening to the Jews. He told them they could return home and then disregarded every subsequent order concerning Jews. He protected the Aments until their liberation on December 28, 1944. The Aments returned the favor by testifying on his behalf after the war. After the war, the Ament family moved to Belgium and settled in Antwerp where Jeanine began her schooling.
At some point Dr. Arthur Haber (Sophie's husband) was deported to the Soviet Union, and he worked under terrible conditions in a hospital until 1943. When the Polish army was formed under General Anders, he enlisted and fought with the British army in North Africa and Palestine. After the war Sophie found him by accident in 1945 in Italy, and they settled in Britain.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Jeanine Ament Fields
Record last modified: 2009-07-20 00:00:00
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