- Michael (Misa) Grunbaum (later Gruenbaum) is the son of Karel (b. 1897 in Ceska Kamenice) and Margaret Popper Grunbaum. He was born on August 23, 1930 in Prague where his father was a successful and affluent attorney. Michael has one sister, Marietta, born July 24, 1926. Karel Grunbaum was attorney to one of the wealthiest families in Czechoslovakia; the Grunbaums lived in a large apartment in a building with an elevator, and they owned their own automobile which they parked in a garage two blocks away and used mostly for weekend excursions. Though Margaret was not religious, Karel Grunbaum regularly attended the Altneuschul and was active in a number of Jewish communal organizations. On March 15, 1939, Germany violated the Munich pact and seized control of Bohemia and Moravia. Misa's father was in England at the time and could have been spared the experiences of the Holocaust had he chosen to stay. However, he returned to Czechoslovakia so as not to abandon his parents, wife and children. Life changed rapidly for the family. Karel lost his job, and most of their property was confiscated. They had to wear a yellow star, move to a much smaller apartment, and Michael was expelled from school. In October 1941, the Gestapo arrested Karel and sent him to the Prague prison. After two months of interrogation, they then transferred him to the Small Fortress in Theresienstadt with the designation RU (return undesirable); he was killed there at the age of 44. After his death, Margaret assumed the role of both mother and father to her children. She immediately began entrusting the family's remaining valuables to non-Jewish friends in the hope of retrieving them after the war. In November 1942, the family received a summons for their deportation to Theresienstadt. Michael was sent to live in a boys' dormitory, in Building L417. Together with forty other boys his age, he lived in room 7 supervised by 20 year-old Franta Maier. The boys called themselves the Nesarim (eagles). Franta served as their surrogate parent; he arranged surreptitious classes, formed a choir and read stories to the boys at night. Franta later survived deportation to Auschwitz. In Theresienstadt, Misa had a number of jobs including working in the garden and later transporting baked goods from the bakery to various distribution centers. His older sister worked in the camp laundry, and his mother worked in the Arts Department where she manufactured artificial flowers and teddy bears. She also helped make the background scenery for the children's opera Brundibar. Margaret's sister-in-law was deported to Auschwitz. She sent Margaret a postcard with downward slanting handwriting. Margaret understood this to mean that her life was in danger if she were deported, and she thus became even more determined to keep her family off the deportation list. She argued her case based the importance of her work - preparing toys to send to Germany for Christmas -- as well as the role her husband played and the assistance he gave to the Jewish community before the war. The Grunbaums remained in Theresienstadt until their liberation by the Soviet Army on May 8, 1945. Marietta went to England the following year, and in 1947 she came to the United States with the assistance of the Joint on a Bnai Brith scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin. Michael and his mother initially remained in Prague, but following the Communist take-over in 1948 they left Czechoslovakia by train to Paris on April 11, 1948 and a couple of months later flew to Cuba to await permission to enter the United States. Michael attended and finished the American High School in Havana in two years, and after receiving their visas, they immigrated to the United States, arriving by ship on July 4, 1950. Michael studied civil engineering at MIT and graduated in three years in 1953. He spent the next two years in the Army during the Korean conflict. Afterwards he went to work for the Illinois Highway Department. While in Illinois, he met Thelma Yutan, whom he married; they had three sons. Thelma and Michael were married for 50 years until Thelma passed away from MLS. Shortly after they marries, Michael received an MA in City Planning from Yale and they settled in Boston. Michael published his memoirs entitled "Somewhere There is Still a Sun."
Of the approximately 80 boys who went through Room 7 (40 at a time), only 12 survived.. Thelma Gruenbaum wrote a book capturing their experiences entitled "Nesarim: Child Survivors of Terezin".