A group of children hold hands during an outside game at Aspet.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 85842
Circa 1943 - 1944
- Aspet, [Haute-Garonne] France
- Photo Designation
INVASION & OCCUPATION -- France -- OSE/Children's Homes -- Aspet
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Menachem Mayer
A group of children hold hands during an outside game at Aspet.
- Heinz (Menachem) Mayer is the younger son of Karl Mayer and Mathilde (Hilde) nee Wertheimer. His mother was born on June 8, 1898, and his father was born on September 29, 1894 in Frankfurt but grew up in Hoffenheim in Baden. Karl and Mathilde married in 1927 and gave birth to their older son Manfred (later Fred) in 1929. Heinz was born three years later in 1932. Karl Mayer supported the family as a cattle dealer. He also served as the community's cantor, and the family lived in the apartment adjacent to the synagogue. Hitler came to power the year after Heinz was born, and the family became subject to increasing antisemitic legislation and harassment. Manfred initially attended public school where the teacher singled him out as a Jew and the other children attacked him. However as of 1937, Jewish children were prohibited from attending public school, so Manfred instead traveled 20 kilometers each day by train to attend the Jewish school in Heidelberg. On November 9, 1938 Manfred arrived at school only to be immediately sent home on account of the outbreak of the Kristallnacht pogrom. When he arrived home he discovered his mother trying to save household items while a fire consumed the synagogue next door. The synagogue, which had been built in 1750, was totally destroyed. Karl Mayer was arrested along with almost all adult Jewish men and sent to Dachau. However, since he was a decorated World War I veteran, he was released after a month on 8 December. After Kristallnacht, the family moved in with Ida and Herman Heumann, Karl's aunt and uncle. They continued to live there for the next two years, but on October 22, 1940, they, together with all the entire Jewish population of the districts of the Saar, Palatinate, and Baden were rounded up and deported by train to southern France. There, they were sent to the Gurs concentration camp. Conditions in the camp were horrible, and Mathilde's mother, Wilhelmina Wertheimer, succumbed to disease and perished on 2/26/1942.
However, Andree Solomon, a Jewish aid worker for the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) working in conjunction with the American Friends Service Committee obtained permission to take 48 children out of the camp. With the consent of their parents, Heinz and Manfred joined the convoy, and on February 24, 1941 they left the camp unaware that they were seeing their parents for the last time. The children were brought to the Maison des Pupilles de la Nation, an orphanage in Aspet run by M. Couvet. In the second half of 1942, Germans began deportations in France to Auschwitz. On August 14, Mathilde and Karl were deported to first to Drancy and then to Auschwitz, as were other members of their family. Andree Solomon decided it had become too dangerous to keep the children in a known children's home and began to disperse them elsewhere. On February 21, 1943, Heinz and Manfred were sent to Chateau de Larade in Toulouse which had previously served as a refuge for Spanish children during their Civil War. About a month later the older children, including Manfred, were sent to Moissac, a home run by the Eclaireurs Israelite (the Jewish Scouts), while Andree Solomon arranged for the younger children, including Heinz, to be smuggled out of France.
In May 1944 Heinz escaped escorted by Jewish women in the resistance group, La Sixieme. He climbed under the barbed wire border fence and arrived in Switzerland on May 25. He then was entrusted to the care of the Poalei Agudas Yisrael, the Orthodox Zionists. Over the next year he lived in several homes including the Alijah Heim in Engelberg where he lived for about a year and a half. When the children were joined by child survivors from Buchenwald, Heinz gained his first inkling of what might have happened to his parents. In May 1947 Menachem was sent to Yeshiva Etz Hayyim Yeshiva in Montreaux, but by then he was tired of living in institutions and did not want to attend an ultra-orthodox yeshiva. He eventually fled the yeshiva, and shaved off his peyote. After first staying with friends, Heinz returned to France to register with the Jewish Agency in Paris. In September 1948 he immigrated to Israel on board the Atzmaut. Menachem married Chava Ban-Cleef from Cologne Germany and went on to become a biology teacher, educational superintendent for the Jerusalem area and finally Director of the World Zionist Organization in Paris.
After separating from his brother, Manfred went to Moissac, a home sponsored by the Jewish boy scouts. When it became too dangerous for him to live openly as a Jew, Manfred was given false papers under the assumed identity of Marcel Mantes, born Feb. 6, 1929 in Saint Gervais d'Auvergene. He was sent to a regional boarding school in Beaumont-de-Lomagne under the pretense that he was a refugee form Alsace. During the summer, he helped out on a farm attending church with the grandmother. Soon after Manfred returned to school in the fall, the Germans requisitioned the building, and Manfred was taken in by a Jewish unit of Maquis and remained with them till end of war. After liberation he returned to Moissac and then lived in Les Moulins which had previously been a Vichy youth home. After OSE helped him find a relative in New York, Manfred made plans to emigrate. He visited Menachem in Switzerland to see if he would join him in the United States. Menachem, however, was determined to immigrate to Israel and so the brothers each went their own way.
Manfred sailed to the United States on December 8, 1946 on the Ile de France and arrived four days later sponsored by his relative Adolph Heumann. Adolph Heumann greeted him at the dock and invited him home. He was the owner of several butcher shops and hoped Manfred would work with him. After Manfred expressed his desire to continue his education instead, he moved out and worked his way through his schooling eventually becoming an aeronautical engineer. Ironically while in the army he worked at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama where Werner von Braun and other Nazi rocket scientists were also working. Desiring to separate himself from his Jewish background which had brought so much pain, he anglicized his name to Frederick Raymes (an anagram of Mayer). He and Menachem corresponded on occasion over the years. In 1972, Fred visited Israel and reunited with Menachem for the first time in 26 years. Since then, the brothers visited Germany and Auschwitz together and coauthored their memoir "Are the Trees in Bloom Over There?"
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Menachem Mayer
Record last modified: 2009-08-11 00:00:00
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