Prewar studio portrait of the Szajnfeld family.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 56499
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Belgium
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Edith Rosen
Prewar studio portrait of the Szajnfeld family.
- Ida Szajnfeld (now Edith Rosen) is the daughter of Maurice Szajnfeld and Rivka Weissman Szajnfeld. She was born on November 13, 1930 in Brussels, Belgium. Her younger brother Albert was born two years later on August 31, 1932. Maurice was born in Warsaw Poland on July 23, 1904, and Rivka was born in Lukow, Poland. They immigrated to Belgium in 1926 and worked in the leather goods business making handbags. Six days after the May 1940 German invasion of Belgium, Maurice and Rivka decided to flee to France in the hope of crossing into Spain. For several months the family stayed with friendly farmers in southern France, but in October 1940 the Vichy regime rounded them up as enemy aliens and put them in a camp in Clermont Ferrand. Though they were mistreated, they had inadequate food and had to sleep on straw. Ida's parents and brother became ill from malnutrition, and Albert had to undergo an operation in Toulouse to remove abscesses on his legs. The family remained in the camp for approximately five or six weeks, and then they bribed a policeman to let them escape in the middle of the night. After fleeing, the family wandered around for about three weeks living in the woods and off of the good will of local farmers. They then made their way to Paris where they stayed with Maurice's brother-in-law for about a week and then proceeded north to the Belgian border. There, they boarded a train that took them back to Brussels and returned to their old apartment. For the next year and a half, Maurice worked selling leather goods, and the children returned to school. However, in the spring of 1942, the situation for Jews became more perilous with the imposition of Jewish discriminatory laws. Ida's parents reacted by placing the two children in a Jewish summer camp outside of Brussels. Maurice later had an uneasy feeling about the camp and brought the children back home. This decision ended up saving their lives for they later learned that the Christian director of the camp betrayed the children in her charge. Fearing deportation, the Szajnfelds moved in with Christian friends, Mr. and Mrs. Peters, who agreed to hide them. However, Maurice felt it was too dangerous for the two children to be hidden together. Since Ida had blond hair and blue eyes, it was decided she would live openly while Albert and Rivka would stay out of sight in the apartment. Meanwhile, Maurice's eyes were failing him. Though he could still see, he decided to seek assistance from a home for the blind. Ida visited her father about once a week and assisted him guiding him through the streets of Brussels. She remembers this as being terribly humiliating. She could not tolerate her father being someone whom he wasn't. Maurice and Ida befriended the director of the home, Mlle. Stercks and confided that they were Jewish. They told her that Rivka had died so that she would be more likely to help Ida. In late 1942, she first placed Ida as a helper to a blind couple. However, Ida panicked and ran home after only a day. Mlle Stercks then found Edith a hiding place in a Catholic orphanage, Mouscron, not far from Lisle. After five or six weeks, Ida was baptized and took the name Gabrielle Stercks; she made her first communion soon thereafter. Ida remained in the orphanage from January 1943 to June 16, 1944. As the area became closer to the fighting following the Allied invasion, Ida returned to Brussels to escape the bombing. After two months, Edith went to a new convent called Don Bosco where she now went under the name of Gabrielle Peters. One day in November, a German rocket landed about a mile from the school shattering its windows. Her mother heard that the school had been bombed and immediately set out by foot from Brussels on a four-hour trek to retrieve Ida. Ida returned with her mother and remained with her family until the liberation of Belgium. After the war, Ida returned to school and officially became a Belgium citizen. In 1946, her mother's sister, Jenny, who had been living in New York came to visit. Ida expressed an interest in seeing America, and her aunt Jenny immediately invited her to come to New York and stay with her. Ida immigrated to America on November 10, 1948 and adopted her aunt's last name, thereby becoming Edith White.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Edith Rosen
Record last modified: 2004-03-16 00:00:00
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