Group portrait of an extended Jewish family in Rymanow, Poland.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 94499
- 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 Alfred Munzer
Group portrait of an extended Jewish family in Rymanow, Poland.
- Alfred Münzer is the son of Simcha (or Siegfried) and Gitel (or Gisele) Münzer. He was born November 23, 1941 in The Hague, where his father owned a men's clothing store. Alfred had two older sisters, Eva (b. 1936) and Leana (b. 1938). Alfred's parents were cousins who knew one another from their youth in Poland, though they grew up in different towns. Simcha was from Kanczuga and Gitel, from Rymanow. They both left Poland when they were 18 years old, but whereas Simcha moved directly to The Hague, Gitel went first to Berlin to be with her older sister and brother. She left Berlin for The Hague at the beginning of December 1932 and on December 16 married Simcha. After the German occupation of The Netherlands, the Münzers remained in their home and endured the ever more repressive measures inflicted on the Jewish population. When Gitel realized she was pregnant in 1941, she deliberated a long time about the wisdom of bringing another Jewish child into the world at such a time before deciding to continue with her pregnancy. After Alfred's birth another difficult decision about whether or not to have him circumcised was resolved by his pediatrician, who advised it on medical grounds. On May 21, 1942 Simcha was instructed to report to a German labor camp, but he evaded the order by admitting himself into a hospital for a hernia operation. By September it became clear that the family would have to go into hiding. Simcha faked an attempted suicide in order to gain admission into the Remarkkliniek, a psychiatric hospital near The Hague. While Simcha hid in the hospital, Gitel sold the family's furniture and packed up the children. The girls were placed with a friend of a neighbor who was a devout Catholic and dreamed that the Virgin Mary had instructed her to take Jewish children into hiding. Alfred was given to a neighbor by the name of Annie Madna, who placed him in the home of her younger sister. With her children situated, Gitel left her house for the last time in October 1942 and joined her husband at the Remarkkliniek, where she assumed the role of a nurse's assistant. Two months later, on December 26, the hospital was raided by the SS and all of the staff and patients were taken away. Simcha and Gitel were sent to a temporary prison that had been established in the 17th century residence of the Dutch Jewish philosopher, Benedict Spinoza. On January 3, 1943 they were taken to Westerbork, where they remained for only a month before being transferred to Vught. There, they were put to work making radio tubes at a Phillips electronics factory. Simcha and Gitel remained in Vught until March 1944 when all the concentration camps in Holland were emptied. They were then taken back to Westerbork and placed on a convoy to Auschwitz. As the train departed, Gitel dropped a short message to her neighbor from the cattle car, which was picked up by a railroad worker and delivered to the addressee. After their arrival in Auschwitz, Simcha and Gitel were separated. Simcha remained in the camp until its evacuation in January 1945. He was then taken to Mauthausen, and from there, to Gusen, Steyr and finally Ebensee, where he was liberated. Two months after the war, Simcha died at a nearby convent where he was undergoing medical treatment. He was buried in a cemetery on the site of the Ebensee camp. Gitel spent a relatively short period in Auschwitz before being transferred to Reichenbach, where she was put to work at the Telefunken electronics factory. During the summer of 1944 the factory was bombed and the inmates were evacuated. Gitel was put on a forced march that took her to a series of concentration and factory camps, including Zittau, Adelsheim, Binau, Bergen-Belsen, Hanover, Stendhal, Luebeck, Hamburg and Ravensbrueck. In the spring of 1945 she was released from Ravensbrueck along with thousands of other prisoners, as a result of an agreement reached between Count Folke Bernadotte, representing the Swedish Red Cross, and Heinrich Himmler. Gitel was then evacuated to Sweden, where she was taken in by the Zohnmen family in Goteborg. In August 1945 she was repatriated to Holland, where she was reunited with Alfred. Her daughters did not survive. Sometime after she and her husband were deported, a dispute arose between the husband and wife of the family hiding the two Münzer girls that resulted in the husband denouncing his wife and the Jewish children to the SS. The three were immediately arrested and sent to Westerbork. On February 8, 1944 the girls were deported to Auschwitz, where they were killed three days later. One month after delivering Alfred to her sister, Annie Madna had to remove him because a Dutch Nazi lived next door. Annie then called upon her ex-husband, an Indonesian immigrant by the name of Tolé Madna, who also had been friendly with the Münzer family. He agreed to take in the Jewish child. Alfred remained in his home for the remainder of the war, where he was cared for by Tolé's Indonesian housekeeper, Mima Saïna, who loved him as a mother. Though Alfred stood out as a Caucasian child in an Indonesian family, he was never denounced to the Gestapo. When Gitel returned to her son, he had no recollection of her. In order to ease his transition to a "new" mother, the Madnas invited Gitel to move in with them for a time. A few months later, however, Mima died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage, and soon after, the Münzers moved to their own flat. For the next thirteen years Gitel and Alfred lived in Holland and Belgium. Gitel, who had become more religious after the war, sent her son to afternoon cheder and later to a yeshiva in Aix-les-Bains, France. After a short-lived marriage to an older Jewish man from Brussels, Gitel and Alfred immigrated to the U.S. in 1958. Alfred, who became a physician, maintained a close relationship with the Dutch-Indonesian family who hid him.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Alfred Munzer
Record last modified: 2002-03-08 00:00:00
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