Exterior view of the synagogue in Arlon, Belgium.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 67833
Circa 1920 - 1940
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Belgium
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Victor Glasberg
Exterior view of the synagogue in Arlon, Belgium.
- Victor Glasberg is the son of Samuel Glasberg and Vera (nee Hessen) Glasberg. Vera was born on November 15, 1912 in Riga Latvia to Alexander Hessen and Victoria Kogan. Shortly after her birth, her parents moved to Kiev. They enjoyed a very prosperous life-style until the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. Alexander was twice arrested as capitalist but released both times unharmed. Still he decided to leave. He obtained permission to travel for a temporary business assignment in Riga. The family left Kiev by cattle car January 1921 andarrived in Riga where Victoria's uncle lived. From there they moved to Berlin the following year. Vera's father undertook directing a branch of his brother's insurance company in Danzig. Vera and her mother remained in Berlin but spent the summers in Zoppot outside of Danzig; Vera attended a Russian language school with other émigré children in Berlin. However in 1924 they moved to Zoppot to join Alexander. The Hessen family was totally assimilated and until age 12, Vera was not even aware that she was Jewish. Her parents requested that she be excused from any religious instruction. In Zoppot, Vera experienced antisemitism and became aware of her Jewish roots. She made friends with other Jewish children, many of whom were Zionists. After a few years, the insurance company collapsed, and Alexander again found himself without work. He was offered a job in Brussels the office of a garage and car dealership, so in 1929 the family moved again; this time to Belgium. After this business also collapsed three months later, Victoria supported the family knitting and later by working as a sales agent for fruit importer and cook for a vegetarian restaurant. After Vera graduated high school she took secretarial classes to support the family. For a few years she worked as the secretary of the Touring Club of Belgium, a job she loved. She remained in that position until May 10, 1940 when Germany launched a surprise attack on Belgium. Vera and her parents fled by foot and train across the border to France. After spending a few days in Paris, they made their way to Toulouse in the unoccupied zone. The few belongings they took with them became lost en route.
There they met two other émigré families: the Varchavers and the Rosovskys. So as to make their limited resources go further, the three families decided to share what they had and establish a communal compound which they called Bicoque des 13 (hearth of the 13). Named after the 13 family members of the three families, they created their own communal government. Mr. Varchaver became the president; Fira Rosovsky was Foreign Minister and was responsible for getting information about visas and travel; Katia Varchaver served as Minister of Economy; Vera's mother served as Minister of Interior and her father as Minister of Agriculture in charge of vegetable garden. Bicoque soon became a center for refugees from all over with guests stopping by for varying lengths of time. One couple, Suzanne and Samuel Schwartz brought a friend, Samuel Glasberg. They also were from Brussels, Vera had never before met Sam.
Samuel Glasberg was the son of Abram Abel Glasberg and Bela Golda Jakobson. He was born on November 15, 1901 in Cuple Poland. His family was extremely religious, and Samuel attended both cheder and yeshiva in the nearby Belgycze. Samuel received rabbinic ordination at the age of 16, and his family had wanted him to work as a rabbi. However, Samuel yearned for a secular education. Against his parents' wished he attended high school in Lublin. Since he could not get accepted into university in Poland, he took a job as a forest guard and stable supervisor for a Polish count to save money to emigrate. In 1923 Sam registered for the University of Verviers in Belgium. He also organized a singing ensemble known as the Russian Cossacks. After graduation, Sam worked as textile engineer and manager of a men's clothing store and also became an active member of the Labor Zionists. After the German invasion of Belgium, Sam also fled to France. Since Petain decreed that Jews were only permitted to perform agricultural work, he rented an old castle in Grenade near Toulouse called Chateau de Gilard. About 15 to 20 Jewish refugees, some of whom had been interned in Gurs, worked on the farm and dairy.
After their initial meeting, Vera continued to see Sam. She helped with the organizing of Gilard taking care of the office work. Sam and Vera wed March 22, 1941 in a civil ceremony in Grenade followed by a celebration on the farm. The following day, they returned to Toulouse for a religious wedding officiated by Rabbi Cassorla, a Romanian rabbi. Since Sam had worked for Labor Zionist movement in Brussels, he had received an emergency American visa through Rabbi Stephen Wise. After their marriage, Vera also was included in the visa. In August 1941, they traveled to Spain and Lisbon, Portugal where they boarded the SS Mouzinho. They arrived in New York on September 2, just in time to celebrate the bar mitzvah of the Rosovsky son who had preceded them to America. Vera found work almost immediately as a secretary and her daughter Irene was born in July 1942. Two years later, her son Victor was born. Vera's parents survived the war in France, first under the protection of the Swiss Red Cross and later with the help of false papers. After the war, they joined Vera and Sam arriving in New York on November 20, 1946.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Victor Glasberg
Record last modified: 2008-12-15 00:00:00
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