Sophie Kimelman celebrates her sixth birthday at home with a group of friends.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 65585
- 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 Dr. Sophie Kimelman-Rosen
Sophie Kimelman celebrates her sixth birthday at home with a group of friends.
- Sophie Kimelman-Rosen (born Sophie Kimelman) is the daughter of Wanda Lem and Michael (Max) Kimelman. Sophie was born May 21, 1926 in Lvov, Poland where her father was a successful businessman. Michael (b. 1898) was the ninth of ten children. He spent much of his youth in the home of his oldest sister and her husband in Vienna but returned to Poland at the end of World War II to work with his oldest brother in Lvov. Wanda was born in Lvov in 1900. Her mother died in childbirth at the age of 19. Her father remarried when she was one year old to a woman who never accepted her. During World War I, she, her father and half-siblings fled to Vienna while her step-mother remained in Poland. Wanda studied piano at the Vienna conservatory and upon her return to Lvov supported herself through her piano. She met Michael Kimelman, and they married on April 6, 1924. Sophie was born two years later. The family maintained a kosher home until the death of Michael's father in 1934 and then abandoned most religious rituals. Sophie spoke German at home and Polish outside and in school. She attended a Polish public school and had private French and piano lessons. As the Nazis consolidated their power throughout the 1930s, Wanda became increasingly nervous and anxious to emigrate. However, as Michael's business was flourishing, he had no desire to move. Following the start of World War II, Lvov fell under Soviet occupation. The Kimelmans wanted to appear less bourgeois, so they abandoned their spacious second floor apartment and moved into Michael's office on the first floor. Michael found a new job as cashier in small Jewish restaurant, and he worked there until the German invasion. On June 22, Germany launched a surprise invasion of the Soviet Union and occupied Lvov ten days later. Michael immediately went out and purchased cyanide capsules to use in an emergency. To avoid being forcibly uprooted, Michael decided to offer their apartment to a Wehrmacht officer in exchange for being allowed to stay in the maid's room. Oberleutnant Marienfeld took the apartment and helped them even after discovering they were Jewish. When he learned he was to be sent to the front, he arranged to find a new tenant who would also protect the Kimelmans. For the next several months, Oberleutenant Erich Herzog lived with the Kimelmans, shared his food with them and helped them in various ways. During the spring or summer of 1942, Sophie and her parents registered to work in a recycling plant owned by Victor Kremin and received cards inscribed "worker vital for economy". She and her father went to the factory each day; her mother, though officially a worker, never appeared. Sophie worked with a group of other girls her age who were considered model workers. Wanda busied herself finding other strategies for the family's survival. She approached a prewar pianist friend, named Janka Przednowek, who obtained for her a genuine identification card of a woman who had passed away, named Maria Walczewska. Wanda simply attached her own photo to the card and had valid Polish identification. In August 1942 the Germans conducted a major deportation action. Wanda warned Sophie and Michael not to leave the house, but they were convinced that their work papers would protect them. While on her way to work, an SS man grabbed Sophie and pointed her in the direction of the railroad station. When she showed him her work papers, he simply crossed out the phrase identifying her as an essential worker. While at the train station, Sophie met other girls from the recycling plant. Knowing she had nothing to lose and that the trains were headed to the Belzec extermination camp, Sophie erased the cross-out on her papers and approached another German and told him that she was there by mistake. She explained that she was arrested by a Ukrainian guard who could not read the German on her papers. Miraculousy, the guard released the girls, and they ran back to work. That day Eric Herzog feared that Wanda would be nabbed if the SS came looking for Jews in Christian neighborhoods. He told her to put on her best clothes and escorted her by the arm as if she were his girlfriend. At the end of this horrific day, Eric continued to shield the family by having them hide in the pantry behind a wardrobe. The round-ups continued for two weeks, but the Kimelmans were never discovered. After these events, the family decided that Michael and Sophie also needed false papers. Michael received aid from several Polish friends: Count Czechowicz, who was involved in underground, Sigmund Zaleski and the brothers Mieczyslaw. Sophie became Zofia Nowak and her father became Michal Zaleski. The papers, however, were clearly forgeries and only useful as a first line of defense. In September 1942 Erich Herzog was sent to the front. Before leaving he also made sure to find another sympathetic German officer to move in the apartment. Count Czechowicz warned them they were no longer safe walking around since too many people knew them and recommended that they stay hidden in their own apartment. After a few months their third German tenant also was sent to the front, and the Kimelman's former maid, Maria Fil, her sister, and child moved into the apartment. In November 1942 the Kimelmans decided to follow the order to move into the ghetto, but before they went they secured their hiding place in pantry behind the wardrobe in case they needed to escape. In early spring 1943, Wanda returned to their apartment using her false papers and was hidden by Maria Fil. On March 21, 1943 a cousin tried to escape the ghetto and was shot. Sophie's father managed to retrieve the body and give him a real burial. To this day Sophie observes that day as the memorial day of the death of her extended family. Wanda meanwhile encouraged Michael and Sophie also to leave the ghetto. At her mother's urging, Sophie left the ghetto as always with her work detail, but instead of reporting to work, she took off her armband, strolled inconspicuously through the city and returned to her apartment after dark. Her father, however, was reluctant to leave. Since he did not speak Polish fluently and was a man, he feared that he would place his family in danger if he hid with them. Wanda though refused to listen to his arguments and insisted that he flee. She arranged for him to leave on May 2, 1943. By coincidence the Germans began a second round of deportations the following day and completed the final liquidation of the ghetto the following month. They remained hidden in the pantry for approximately ten months aided by Maria Fil and Count Czechowicz, who brought them food as well as news. They were liberated by the Soviet army in August 1944. After liberation Sophie was hospitalized for a week for severe malnutrition. Czechowicz died shortly after liberation from natural causes. The three Wehrmacht officers who lived with them and helped them were all killed in action.
The family's troubles did not end with liberation. Sophie went to work for a department store in Lvov, and her father found a job there as well. Then one day a NKVD agent overheard Michael speaking German. They arrested him as a spy and sent him to prison in Kiev. Sophie found him there, brought him packages, pleaded his case, and eventually obtained his release, but only after her father spent five months in jail on false charges. After his release, the family wanted to leave Lvov as soon as possible. In December 1945 they moved to Krakow and then came to Wroclaw (Breslau) in the spring of 1946. They sought out surviving relatives, but with the exception of two cousins and branches of the family who had immigrated to the United States and England before the war, none of the rest of their large extended family had survived. From Poland they traveled to France, and Sophie began her studies at the Sorbonne. Sophie's parents immigrated to Israel in 1950, and Sophie joined them in 1955 after completing her doctorate.
[Source: Kimelman-Rosen, Sophie; Miracles Do Happen; 2004]
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Dr. Sophie Kimelman-Rosen
Record last modified: 2008-08-13 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1155381