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Studio portrait of a large, prosperous Jewish family in Lodz.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 66190

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    Studio portrait of a large, prosperous Jewish family in Lodz.
    Studio portrait of a large, prosperous Jewish family in Lodz.

Pictured left to right: (first row) Hela Szrajer, Berta Szrajer, Gustava Szrajer Ratner  and Aurelia Szrajer Szymanski; (second row) Henry Szrajer, Ignacy Szrajer, Alvin Szrajer and Stephan Szymanski.

    Overview

    Caption
    Studio portrait of a large, prosperous Jewish family in Lodz.

    Pictured left to right: (first row) Hela Szrajer, Berta Szrajer, Gustava Szrajer Ratner and Aurelia Szrajer Szymanski; (second row) Henry Szrajer, Ignacy Szrajer, Alvin Szrajer and Stephan Szymanski.
    Date
    1919
    Locale
    Lodz, [Lodz] Poland
    Variant Locale
    Litzmannstadt
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Marc Ratner

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Marc Ratner

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Marc Ratner (born Marjan Ratner) is the son of Julian (Chaim) Ratner and Gustava Szrajer Ratner. He was born on November 29, 1920 in Lodz Poland where his father was a prosperous textile industrialist. His younger sister Alicja was born on November 1, 1923. His father was born in Sluck on November 12, 1889 and his mother was born in Wilczyn (near Konin) on February 17, 1894. Marjan graduated from a private gymnasium in Lodz and in 1938 began the University of Manchester in England. He returned to Poland in June 1939 to visit his family and was there when World War II broke out on September 1. Marjan received an order to report for service in the Polish army, and his father decided to accompany him. They headed towards Warsaw but were ordered east to Rovno to escape the German advance. When the Russians entered Poland on September 18th and they found themselves on the Soviet side, and in November they moved to Lvov where they lived with a customer of Julian. In December, Julian illegally crossed to the German side and return to Warsaw. There he bribed a German with a truck so that he could return to Lodz to retrieve his wife and daughter as well as some merchandise from his factory. They returned to Lvov and reunited with Marjan. That March the family decided to try to escape to Vilna in still independent Lithuania. They went to Lida where Marjan went with a group of twelve other Polish Jews to try to reach Vilna. If successful he would have then sent the passeur back for his family. However, the group was caught by the Russians, and everyone but Marjan was arrested. Marjan managed to escape into the woods and hide in the snow. In the morning he found a house where a Polish peasant hid him in his hay wagon. Marjan reunited with his family and they retuned to Lvov. On June 25, 1940 at 2:00 am, the Soviet police arrested the Ratner family and deported them to a forced labor camp in the forests of the Ural Mountains. Marjan and Julian worked in the forests. Marjan's younger sister attended school. Julian, who was multi-lingual, was appointed camp manager, but on May 26, 1941 he died suddenly from food poisoning. Marjan, who was only 21 years old, became the head of the family. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Jewish deportees received permission to leave the camps. The Soviet Union also granted permission for the newly-formed Polish Anders Army to bring Polish refugees to Iran to join the Allies in battle. Marjan and his family remained in the Urals for a few months, and Marjan worked as a fireman. In March 1942, they traveled with a group of other refugees to Samarkand in Uzbekistan. When they learned that the Anders Army was stationed in Kiermine, they went there in the hopes of going with them to Iran. The Ratners were ready to board a train for Teheran when a Polish special services officer asked Marjan's mother what was their religion. When she replied "Mojrzeszowe" they were taken off the train and forced to remain in Uzbekistan. They remained for some time in Kiermine and then after a few months returned to Samarkand. Marjan's mother had to sell some of her jewelry and clothing on the black market to support the family. Marjan enrolled in a branch of the University of Leningrad in Samarkand and studied economics and statistics. At this point the Polish Government-in-Exile in London was sending food and clothing to Polish refugees in the Soviet Union. By coincidence Piotr Novacki, the Polish delegate overseeing the distribution in Samarkand, graduated from the same gymnasium as Marjan, and he appointed him to be in charge of this distribution to prevent the goods being sold on the black market. However, when the Soviet Union advanced towards Poland, it broke off its relationship with the Polish Government-in-Exile and instead created a Soviet Polish puppet government. They dissolved the delegation in Samarkand, closed the distribution center and arrested Piotr Nowacki. Marjan found work as a cashier and bookkeeper in a textile cooperative. The war ended in May 1945, and the Soviets allowed Polish refuges to return to Poland. Because of Marjan's connection with Piotr Nowacki, the Ratners were kept in Samarkand after others had departed, and they finally left by their own means at the end of June 1946. They returned to Lodz to find their apartment and belongings gone and went to live with relatives who had survived the Lodz ghetto. Seeing no future in Poland, they traveled by train to Czechoslovakia and eventually came to a DP camp in Ebensee. Marjan found work as a translator and he met an American Jewish chaplain who offered to help. The refugees were then transferred to another DP camp in Cham, east of Munich. After one week Marjan was told to proceed to Munich to pick up a Venezuelan visa for him and his family. The American rabbi had arranged with a Jewish organization in New York to secure fictitious visas to Venezuela and send them to the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Munich. Marjan, his mother and sister picked up these travel documents as well as a French transit visa. On September 26, 1946 the family arrived in Paris. Marjan managed to obtain work as the assistant head of the transportation department of the Joint Distribution Committee in Paris. Thus he was able to help thousands of survivors obtain transport to the United States, Canada, Australia and Brazil. He also worked for the World ORT organization and the United Jewish Appeal. Marjan married a French Jewish employee of the Joint and they had a son, Pierre in 1948. In February 1954 they immigrated to the United States.
    Record last modified:
    2006-08-15 00:00:00
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