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Two Jewish refugee brothers walk down a street in Marseilles.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 38629

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    Two Jewish refugee brothers walk down a street in Marseilles.
    Two Jewish refugee brothers walk down a street in Marseilles.

Pictured are Theo Brenig (right) and his brother, Joseph (left).


    Two Jewish refugee brothers walk down a street in Marseilles.

    Pictured are Theo Brenig (right) and his brother, Joseph (left).
    February 1942
    Marseilles, [Bouches-du-Rhone] France
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Theodore Brenig

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Theodore Brenig

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Theodore (Theo) Brenig is the son of Baruch and Genya (Herzmann) Brenig. He was born July 17, 1927 in Vienna, where his father co-owned a small textile business. His older brother Joseph was born in 1923. On November 9-10, 1938 during the Kristallnacht pogrom, Theo's father was arrested and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. He was released three months later on condition that he leave the country immediately. After obtaining fake Belgian visas, the family fled to Antwerp at the end of February 1939. When the Germans invaded Belgium on May 10, 1940, Baruch was arrested as an enemy alien and deported t o the French internment camp of St. Cyprien. Subsequently, he was transferred to Gurs, where he stayed for about eight months. Theo and his mother (and his brother, Joseph, separately) tried to flee, but were overrun by the advancing German army and forced to return to Antwerp. Months later, after the family found out where Baruch was interned, they fled to France to join him. In April 1941 the Brenigs crossed into the unoccupied zone and made their way to Marseilles. Upon their arrival they were all interned. Theo and his mother were taken to the Hôtel Terminus des Ports in Marseilles, while Joseph was sent to Les Milles, where Baruch had since been transferred. Theo was allowed to visit his father and brother twice a month, and used those occasions to smuggle them extra food. In the meantime the family attempted (ultimately without success) to obtain immigration papers for the United States. In August 1942 French authorities began evacuating Jewish refugees from the Marseilles transit camps and moving them to Les Milles in preparation for their deportation to Poland. As a result the Brenigs were briefly reunited in Les Milles for the first time since May 1940. At this time the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) was intensifying its efforts to remove children under sixteen from the internment camps in order to save them from deportation. They took Theo and sent him to the Château du Masgelier children's home in Creuse. Joseph was too old to qualify for release, but he managed to escape by hiding in an OSE bus. OSE later helped him to make contact with the Eclaireurs Israelites de France underground, which supplied him with false papers and a hiding place on a farm. He later joined the Marquis resistance. On August 10, 1942, one day after Theo's release from Les Milles, his parents were sent to Drancy. Four days later they were deported to their death in Auschwitz on convoy no. 19. Theo was soon moved by the OSE to the Italian-occupied zone, where he lived first in Chambery and then in Moutiers. After the German occupation of the Italian zone in September 1943, the OSE hired a guide to take Theo and two other boys over the mountains into Switzerland. Though by this time Theo was two months beyond his sixteenth birthday, and therefore too old to be accepted into Switzerland, his false papers documented him as only fifteen, and he made it across the border. Once in Switzerland, Theo stayed in children's homes first in Speicher and later in Geneva (Les Murailles and La Fôret). After the war he studied and worked as an engineer in Switzerland before immigrating to the United States in 1961.
    Record last modified:
    2004-08-17 00:00:00
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