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Lala Grunfeld poses with a Nazi dentist and another dental technician while hiding as a Polish woman in Warsaw.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 66392

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    Lala Grunfeld poses with a Nazi dentist and another dental technician while hiding as a Polish woman in Warsaw.
    Lala Grunfeld poses with a Nazi dentist and another dental technician while hiding as a Polish woman in Warsaw.

    Overview

    Caption
    Lala Grunfeld poses with a Nazi dentist and another dental technician while hiding as a Polish woman in Warsaw.
    Date
    1943 - 1944
    Locale
    Warsaw, Poland
    Variant Locale
    Warszawa
    Varshava
    Warschau
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Yehuda Nir

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Yehuda Nir
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2005.310

    Keywords & Subjects

    Photo Designation
    RESCUERS & RESCUED -- Poland

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Yehuda Nir (born Julius Grunfeld) is the son of Samuel and Sidonia Grunfeld. He was born in March 1930 in Lvov, Poland where his father was an affluent manufacturer of hand-woven carpets. His sister Lala was six years older. After the start of World War II, the family fled to Romania, but after learning that Lvov fell under Soviet rather than German rule, they returned home. However, their lives under Soviet rule were not without problems. The state classified Samuel as a capitalist and confiscated his business and home, so the family moved into a smaller apartment in the same building. In June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and occupied Lvov. With German encouragement, angry Ukrainians turned on their former Jewish neighbors. In late July, Julius's father was arrested and murdered during the Petliura Days pogrom. Soon afterwards, a German officer moved into the Grunfeld's apartment and lived with them for the next six months. Though he stole their belongings at will, he also warned them of impending round-ups. A few months later, the Germans ordered all Jews to wear a white armband with a star. Ludwig Selig, an artistic Aryan-looking boyfriend of Lala, manufactured false papers for his family and friends. After a young of cousin of Julius's was murdered in Stanislawow (where he had been sent in the hope that it would be safer), the Grunfelds decided to plan an escape with Ludwig's help. Ludwig provided the family with both birth and baptismal certificates. Sidonia became Stanislawa Heybowicz, Julius assumed the identity of her son, Julian Heybowicz, and Lala became her niece, Halina Skrybaylo. To avoid detection by former Polish acquaintances, they decided to move to a different city. Lala traveled to Krakow with Ludwig while Sidonia and Julius hid separately. Julius went to the apartment of an aunt Sonia and uncle who were living on the Aryan side. The following morning four German policemen apprehended the aunt and uncle and took them to Janowska, a concentration camp outside of Lvov. They were released the following day since Sonia, who was the department head of the Polish Petroleum Agency, convinced the Germans that her work was essential to the war effort. However, after these events Julius left his aunt and uncle and hid instead with Sonia's Polish secretary until he could reunite with his mother and sister. Ten days later, Ludwig returned to Lvov to fetch Julius. He prepared new papers for Julius that identified him as a German Volksdeutsch. Riding in a railway car reserved for Germans, Ludwig talked openly with the German soldiers and explained to them that Julius was recovering from a serious bout with tuberculosis. After arriving in Krakow they first joined Lala and Julius' mother in a hotel and then rented a room in a small spa outside the city. Ludwig's mother and sister, Marysia, also moved there. Since the women looked Polish, they circulated freely in the town, but Julius, who looked Jewish, mostly stayed confined to the room. At the end of September 1942, the Gestapo captured and killed Ludwig. Afterwards, his mother and sister moved to a different town, since they decided it would be harder to link them to Ludwig in case the Gestapo learned that he had relatives. The following spring, the Grunfelds decided to move to a larger town where they would be less conspicuous. In March, Lala traveled to Krakow to meet with Ludwig's cousin and ended up witnessing the massive deportations from the Krakow ghetto. Shaken but still determined, they returned the following day with her mother only to be spotted by a Polish acquaintance from Lvov. The women took all their money and then informed on them to the Germans. The Germans arrested Sidonia and Lala but released them soon thereafter, after inspecting their papers. They also were convinced by Lala's flirtatious play-acting and protestations that the accusation was without basis. After the women returned to the spa, they felt increasingly threatened, especially after a trip by Julius to the barber shop sparked rumors in the town that they were really Jews. Sidonia and Julius returned to Krakow, while Lala went to Warsaw to find a new place for them to hide. After settling in Warsaw, Sidonia found a position as a housekeeper for Herr Rockshmidt, a wealthy German, and Lala was hired as a receptionist by his cousin, Dr. Adolf Schmoll, who was an SS dentist. Although Dr. Schmoll was an ardent Nazi and antisemite, unbeknownst to him two Jews in hiding in addition to Lala also worked in the office. After awhile, Lala found employment for Julius as well, as a messenger boy for another German dentist, Dr. Brabetz. The Grunfeld's situation greatly improved. Lala became Dr. Schmoll's chief assistant, and Julius learned new skills as a dental technician. Sidonia's employer admired her, provided for her wants, and allowed her the freedom to run the household. She even managed to host a sumptuous birthday party for Julius while her employer was out of town, and invited other Jewish friends who also were in hiding. Fearing the impending Soviet advance, the German civilian population began to leave Warsaw and return to Germany during the summer of 1944. Both Drs. Brabetz and Schmoll left, as did Herr Rockshmidt's family, though he first gave Sidonia the household belongings in appreciation of her devotion. On August 1, 1944, the Polish population of Warsaw began a popular uprising against the Germans. After a few weeks, Julius joined the resistance as a courier, despite the fact that he was only fourteen and barely eligible. On August 25, 1944, he officially became a member of the Armia Krajowa, the Polish Home Army, and became responsible for transferring ammunition from one locale to another. Lala also joined the resistance and worked as a medic. After the defeat of the Warsaw uprising in the beginning of October, the Grunfelds were sent with thousands of other Poles to Germany to work as forced laborers. They went by foot to Pruszkow, some 15 miles away, and there they boarded cattle cars that took them to Wilhelmshagen, a labor camp near Berlin. When they arrived at the camp, Sidonia asked a guard to contact her former employer, Herr Rockschmidt. The following day, he sent a car to pick them up and bring them to his estate. The family was granted privileged status and allowed to live in his mansion rather than outside with other workers. After being liberated by Soviet forces, they returned to Poland and contacted their family in Israel. They arrived in Haifa on November 13, 1946. Julius eventually graduated from medical school and became a child psychiatrist. He married and named his first son after Ludwig, the friend who provided the family with the false papers allowing them to survive.

    [Source: Nir, Yehuda. The Lost Childhood. Scholastic Press, New York, 2002.]
    Record last modified:
    2005-08-12 00:00:00
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/pa1157928

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