A Jewish mother poses with her three daughters.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 57384
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Belgium
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer
A Jewish mother poses with her three daughters.
Pictured are Fani, Flora, Charlotte and Betty Mendelowicz.
- Flora Singer (born Flora Mendelowicz) is the daughter of David and Fani (Davidowicz) Mendelowicz. She was born August 16, 1930 in Antwerp, Belgium, where her father was the owner of a custom furniture store. Flora has two younger sisters, Charlotte (b. 1933) and Betty (b. 1936). Fani grew up in Viseus-de-Sus, Romania, where she met David. They belonged to the same Jewish social group, and in 1928, nine of them, including David and Fani, decided to immigrate together to Belgium to escape Romanian anti-semitism. Once in Belgium, David and Fani were married. After settling in Antwerp, Fani brought over her sister Leah, who soon married Alex Ciechanow, a recent immigrant from Poland. In 1937 Fani and the children went to Romania for a brief visit. This was the only time the children met their grandparents and extended family. Early in 1938, David moved to the U.S. at the suggestion of his older sister Sadie, who had immigrated previously. It was his intention that Fani and the children would soon join him. In order to get to the U.S. David joined the crew of a steamship that was sailing to Canada. From there he entered the United States. Unfortunately, Fani had difficulty obtaining visas, and the world war broke out before their papers could be arranged. David enlisted in the American army, while Fani tried to cope in Belgium with three young girls between the ages or two and eight. On the heels of the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940, Fani and the children fled to France, but after two months on the run, they returned to Antwerp. At the suggestion of a German family friend who was then a member of the German army, Fani moved to Brussels and enrolled the girls in public school under assumed Christian names. The principal soon came to suspect that the girls were Jewish and told Fani that she feared they would be denounced by one of their classmates. She then introduced Fani to Georges Ranson, a patron of the school. Ranson provided Fani with a job and a place to live in his factory. He also gave her a false identification card and a crucifix to wear around her neck. Ranson took care of the children, as well. He brought Flora to his house, took Charlotte to the home of his brother Henri, and Betty, to the home of his secretary. Though Ranson was prepared to keep Flora, his wife feared for her family's safety. So Ranson took the children to a convent in Doel where his cousin, Sister Ordonia, lived. After three months, the nuns determined that it was too dangerous for the girls to remain there, and the Mendelowicz daughters returned to Brussels. Fani remained at Ranson's factory, but Flora, Charlotte and Betty moved in with Fani's sister, Leah Ciechanow, and her family, who were also living as Christians in Brussels. Leah and Alex Ciechanow had moved to Brussels after Alex had ignored a call-up order for forced labor. They were living with their baby Nathan (Nounou) in an apartment that had been rented for them by a Christian friend. Fani visited her daughters on a regular basis and brought them food from the factory. At this time Fani made contact with Father Bruno (Henri Reynders), a Benedictine monk with a reputation for helping Jews, who arranged for the girls to go to the St. Joseph Orphanage in Etterbeek (Brussels). After about eight months, the girls had to leave the orphanage. They returned briefly to Leah's apartment while Father Bruno looked for another refuge. In September 1943 the girls were entrusted to a Mrs. Van der Veken, who escorted them to a convent in Ruiselede called "Our Lady of Seven Sorrows." Flora and her sisters remained there for the rest of the war. In April 1944 Fani discovered that Leah and her family had been arrested. She learned later that the family had been deported to Auschwitz and that only Alex survived. He was subsequently killed by Poles when he returned to his hometown to reclaim his parents' home. After her sister's arrest Fani left Brussels for Ruiselede at the suggestion of the mother superior. She was allowed to visit with her daughters for an hour a week, but otherwise had to pretend not to know them. After Ruiselede was liberated in October 1944, Fania took Flora out of the convent and returned to Brussels to set up a household and find employment. Two months later, Flora returned to the convent to bring her younger sisters home. Father Bruno continued to visit the family occasionally to assist in their readjustment. At first, Flora worked as a seamstress to help support the family, but later Father Bruno arranged for her to attend a Catholic school called "Our Lady of Joy" run by the order of nuns to which his sister belonged. He also arranged for Flora to be exempt from any religious education. In May 1946 Fania and her daughters were finally able to join David in the United States. Most of the family they left behind in Romania perished. In 1964 Father Bruno was recognized by Yad Vashem as one ot the Righteous Among the Nations. George Ranson and several of the nuns were also recognized as Righteous Among the Nations in 1995.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Flora Mendelowicz Singer
Record last modified: 2004-01-30 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1141305