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Group portrait of the extended Moritz family in Becherbach Germany.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 91149

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    Group portrait of the extended Moritz family in Becherbach Germany.
    Group portrait of the extended Moritz family in Becherbach Germany.  

Pictured front row: Liesel Moritz (later van Hoy), Ernst Moritz, Paul Hirsch and Alfred Moritz.  Second row: Elsie Wolf, Erna (nee Strauss) Moritz and Else (nee Moritz) Hirsch.

    Overview

    Caption
    Group portrait of the extended Moritz family in Becherbach Germany.

    Pictured front row: Liesel Moritz (later van Hoy), Ernst Moritz, Paul Hirsch and Alfred Moritz. Second row: Elsie Wolf, Erna (nee Strauss) Moritz and Else (nee Moritz) Hirsch.
    Date
    1938
    Locale
    Becherbach, [Rhineland-Palatinate] Germany
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Alfred Moritz

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Alfred Moritz

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Alfred Moritz was born in 1930 in the town of Becherbach-an-der-Grossbach , in the Palatinate area of Germany--halfway between Trier on the Luxembourg border and Bingen on the river Rhine--- where his family had lived for centuries and where his father owned a dry goods wholesale and retail business. Alfred was named after an uncle who had given his young life to his "Fatherland" in WWI. His brother Ernst (later Ernest) was born in nearby Kirn-an-der-Nahe in 1932.
    With the antisemitic Nazis in power, the family moved to the Saar, then under French control; after an overwhelming pro-German plebiscite reunited the Saar to Germany, the Moritz family returned to Becherbach to be closer to father Ludwig's ailing mother Regina who refused to leave her beloved "Heimat", her homeland; eighty years old grandmother having mercifully passed away in October 1938, the family undertook to emigrate to the US. One month later, during the government-organized Kristallnacht pogrom, father Ludwig was sent to Dachau (prisoner nbr.27084) and released after relinquishing the family's assets--house, business etc-- to the State or Party members; the parents obtained exit permits and entry permits to Luxembourg where the boys had earlier found refuge with relatives. The obtaining of US Visas was overtaken by events as Germany invaded the neutral Low Countries, including Luxembourg, on May 10,1940 and the Moritz family, under German bombardments, part of a fleeing multitude, fled to France where French police detained Ludwig as an enemy alien and imprisoned him in Camp Les Milles, a former tile factory near Aix-en-Provence under French Military control. Mother and boys found shelter with two school marms, Helène and Marthe Foerster, in the Central France village of Ste Lizaigne . On Sept. 16, 1940, days before being forced to relinquish his post and turn over administration of the camp to the pro-German Vichy government, the military camp commander, Capitaine Goruchon, on his own authority, released Ludwig and other prisoners with next-of-kin in France on the supposed pretext of serious illness.

    The family moved into an abandoned unheated house and remained in Ste Lizaigne--in the non-occupied Zone of France-- for the next two years while the boys attended the local school and perfected their French. In late 1942, Vichy began deporting foreign-born Jews and the Moritz family fled again, hiding in various places until, having learned of the rescue efforts of the OSE, the parents prevailed upon the kindness of a coreligionist to accompany the boys to one of its children's homes, Le Masgelier, in Central France. OSE, deciding to disperse the children under its care to prevent their deportation, the boys--now "Mauricet born in Ste Lizaigne (Indre)"-- were given false French ID's Due to their French fluency, they passed as French children who had become separated from their parents. Escorted by a member of the Jewish Underground organization "Groupe Garel", now aged twelve and ten, the boys were led, through German lines, to a farmstead in the vicinity of Vernoux-en-Vivarais in the isolated Cévennes Mountain range where, as supposed wards of the State, they were entrusted to a poor illiterate farm-woman seeking a monthly stipend and free farm help. Half of the small subsitence farmstead--without water or electricity-- was occupied by animals--ten goats, two cows, a pig, chicken. . . .and families of rats and fleas. Thanks to the good offices of the American Joint Distribution Committee, acting via OSE, the widow regularly received the promised stipend to shelter the boys who sporadically attended the local school in nearby Vernoux. The boys received meager food rations and worked on the farm herding goats even in the dead of winter and plowing the fields with the two draft-cows while Alfred was rented out to nearby farmers in exchange for produce. As it became known that there were rewards for turning in Jews, their warden and a neighbor woman threatened to denounce the boys-----thankfully, the war ended before they were able to put their malevolent plan into execution. After liberation, the OSE staff established mail contact with the boys' parents. Traumatically, the two French-speaking boys were reunited with their German-speaking parents who, after an aborted attempt at fleeing to neutral Switzerland, had survived the war in an insane asylum near Toulouse as "Meschler", German-speaking Luxembourg citizens. By a happy coincidence, they had met the best friend of Ludwig's younger sister Toni; the woman helped pay for their stay at the asylum after their own means had run out after those years on the run.

    The Moritz family now reunited, the boys relearned their former mother tongue so that they could communicate with their parents and the family was finally able to immigrate to the United States in March 1949 where Alfred, aged 19, worked his way through studies at the University of Illinois from which, after a stint in the US Army, he graduated with a degree in Architectural Design. After a year of work as an architectural designer in an AE office in Paris, Al joined the major US engineering/construction company where, for the next 35 years, he pursued an international career in design and construction of tourism-related undertakings with the vast majority in developing countries.
    Though Alfred and his immediate family survived the Holocaust, much of his extended family perished including his maternal grandmother, Sara Kaufmann, his mother's sister Emma Kaufmann, his cousin Leo Baldeschwiler, his uncle Moritz Kaufmann and his wife and five children.
    Record last modified:
    2010-05-18 00:00:00
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/pa1171010

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