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Studio portrait of Laura Gruber.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 51786

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    Studio portrait of Laura Gruber.
    Studio portrait of Laura Gruber.

    Overview

    Caption
    Studio portrait of Laura Gruber.
    Date
    1929 March 08
    Locale
    Drohobycz, [Ukraine; Drohobycz] Poland
    Variant Locale
    Drogobych
    Ukraine
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Marcel and Ania Drimer

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Marcel and Ania Drimer
    Source Record ID: Collections: 2012.31.1

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Biography
    Marcel Drimmer (now Drimer) was born on May 1, 1934 in Drohobycz, Poland. He is the son of Jakub Drimmer, b. January 10, 1904 and Laura Drimmer (nee. Gruber), born on November 6, 1904. He has a younger sister, Irena (Mila), born on July 4, 1936. Jakub worked as an accountant in a lumber factory in Drohobycz and his father, Izak Drimmer worked as a foreman in the oil refinery in town. Jakub had four siblings: Ryfka (Ryfcia) who was married and had two sons; Syma; Mirka and Abraham (Bumek). Laura Drimmer, a seamstress, had three siblings: Ryfka, Abraham (Bumek) and Josef. Her mother Sara Gruber lived in Drohobycz as well. Jakub and Laura married in 1933 and the family lived in relative comfort on Truskawiecka Street, close-by to their extended family.
    Drohobycz and vicinity was famous since mid 19th century for its rich oil fields and by 1909 production reached its historical peak, over 2 million tons or 4% of worldwide production. The oil fields of Boryslaw and nearby Tustanowice accounted for over 90% of the national oil output of Austria. At the turn of the century, Galicia was fourth in the rank of oil producers of the world.

    After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 and subsequent division of Poland between USSR and Nazi Germany, Drohobycz fell under the Soviet authority. On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union and its forces arrived in Drohobycz in early July 1941. During the ensuing pogrom 400 Jews were killed in the streets of town. Laura's father, Osjasz Gruber was killed by the Ukrainians in this pogrom. Some 17,000 Jews lived in Drohobycz and another 30,000 in Boryslaw and the vicinity. In July 1941 Jakub Drimmer was in Lvov, accompanied by his 25 year-old sister-in-law, Ryfka. An order was issued for the Jews to report for forced labor, but Ryfka insisted that Jakub should stay home because of his poor health. Ryfka never returned; she was killed in the Lvov pogrom. Jakub returned to Drohobycz to be reunited with his family. His sisters: Syma, Mirka and brother Bumek were able to flee to USSR. In March 1942 the Germans forced the Jewish population of Drohobycz into a ghetto. Sara Gruber, Laura's mother; Izak Drimmer, Jakub's father; Ryfcia, Jakub's sister, and her two children moved into the Drimmer house in anticipation of the "Aktion."

    In early August 1942 Marcel contracted whooping cough and his pre-war nanny, Jancia, who was pregnant, came to take him to her house. Marcel's younger sister, Mila, who was six years old at that time, started to shriek and beg her mother to get her brother back. Laura Drimmer took her little girl and decided to go to Jancia's house. As they entered her house Jancia went into early labor. Laura helped as much as she could and in fact saved the young woman's life, but the baby was stillborn. Jancia's husband returned from work and relayed the information about the "Aktion" against the Jews taking place in Drohobycz. He told them that if the Germans found Jews in his house they would kill everyone. He gave them some bread and asked Laura and her two small children to leave his house. It was a cold rainy day in March 1942. Laura took her two children and ran to the nearby wheat field. They sat there, covered with Laura's raincoat, getting colder and colder. German SS and Ukrainian police entered the field and started looking for hiding Jews. Marcel and Mila remember hearing screaming, praying, shouting and dogs' barking. This went on for hours. Both children, Marcel and Mila didn't utter a sound and sat close to their mother, whose hands were blue from cold. They just waited to be discovered.

    As the evening turned to night, Laura decided to return to Jancia's house. As they were leaving the wheat field, they saw a German soldier standing guard, alone. He saw them as well. He turned his back and let them go. Jancia fed them, dried their clothes and let them spend the night. The next morning Laura Drimmer and her two small children returned to their ghetto house. All their relatives were gone; the house had been plundered by the neighbors who pulled apart down pillows and covers searching for valuables. Some 1,500 Jews from Drohobycz were deported to the Belzec death camp and murdered on arrival.

    Jakub Drimmer, who worked at the lumberyard, was told by the Germans to stay there during the Aktion. There were many more "Aktionen" in the Drohobycz ghetto and each time the Drimmer family hid in a new hiding place. After the Germans took the furniture, they made a hiding place under the floor, hidden by a mattress. In August 1943 Jakub Drimmer arranged for his family to escape the Drohobycz ghetto. At first he hid his wife and two small children in the lumberyard. For a few weeks they sat in a shed while Jakub brought food to them at night. A Polish woman working in the factory noticed that Jakub is brought to the shed and was planning to denounce him; she just needed to make sure she was right. She confided her plans to another woman who told Jakub Drimmer. Before the first woman could act Jakub Drimmer, with the help of a Jewish physician who was pretending to be an SS officer, wrote an anonymous letter accusing this woman of spreading venereal disease. She was taken by the SS and disappeared until after the war.

    Jakub then went to the nearby Mlynki Szkolnikowe, a native village of the Gruber family and contacted the Sawinski family. This Polish-Ukrainian family agreed to take Laura and Mila, but not Marcel and his father. In the last moment Mrs. Sawinski changed her mind and agreed to hide all four members of the Drimmer family. Bumek Gruber, Laura's brother, was a butcher and he worked in the oil refinery camp "Galizien." His wife Blimka and daughter Liba, lived with him in the camp and for the time being they were protected as a family of "essential workers." In the fall of 1943 the Germans took these "protected families" to the Bronica forest and executed them. Bumek Gruber was despondent and wanted to give himself up in the next "Aktion," but he met a small Jewish girl and her mother and the common misery united them. Tipped before the next "Aktion" Bumek prepared a false diamond ring and offered it to the Sawinski family in exchange for hiding him and his new family. He never disclosed the fact that the diamond was an imitation and after the war he paid for a new cow, which the Sawinski family wanted to purchase. He asked for the ring back, pretending that it was a family heirloom.

    The Drimmers and the Grubers and the other Jews were hidden at first in the stable, but later, throughout winter 1943-1944, they hid in an underground dugout. The Soviet Red Army liberated Drohobycz and Boryslaw area on August 7, 1944. Only about 600 Jews were still alive in forests and in hiding. Marcel Drimmer who was ten years old at liberation was unable to stand on his own feet, and it took a long time for him to walk again. In the fall of 1945 the Drimmer family moved to Walbrzych in western Poland, as eastern Poland including Drohobycz, was annexed by the Soviet Union. Marcel and Mila attended and graduated from high school in Walbrzych and both later graduated from the University of Wroclaw with degrees in engineering.

    Marcel married Ania, who is a pharmacist, and in 1961 they immigrated to the US and settled in Virginia. In 1963, Irena and her husband, Manes Wysoki, who survived the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, as well as Mila's parents, immigrated to Israel. Jakub Drimmer died in 1976 and Laura Drimmer died in 1994, both in Israel.

    Jan and Zofia Sawinski and their four children were honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations for saving the lives of thirteen Jews.
    Record last modified:
    2011-07-01 00:00:00
    This page:
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