Dawn Breaks Night: 10 Stories of Survival During the Holocaust
Dawn Breaks Night: 10 Stories of Survival During the Holocaust

Dawn Breaks Night: 10 Stories of Survival During the Holocaust

Jennifer Conerly - October 18, 2017

Dawn Breaks Night: 10 Stories of Survival During the Holocaust
Menachem Frenkel. yadvashem.org

8. Menachem Frenkel

When World War II broke out, the Frenkel family attempted to emigrate to England, but they were unable to escape. The family moved to southern France where the Nazis took Menachem Frankel’s father in July 1942 and sent him to Auschwitz. In September of that year, the rest of the family was arrested and taken to Venissieux.

That same year, three aid organizations, the OSE (Children’s Aid Society), the Jewish Underground in Lyons, and Amitie Chretienne, began to remove Jewish children from the camps and find safe places for them to hide.

Menachem and his sister were brought to the Chateau de Peyrins and placed under the care of Madame Germaine Chesneau. Their names were changed, and they spent the next eighteen months hiding in the chateau with 108 other Jewish children.

While he doesn’t remember much of his stay in Chateau de Peyrins, he does remember that they only celebrated Christian holidays and he worked in the garden on the property. Madame Chesneau became fearful of discovery one night when one of her workers had not returned, so she found other places in nearby villages for the children to hide.

Menachem and his sister were split up: he was sent to Rosans, a nearby village, and his sister was brought to a monastery. Menachem lived with a family in Rosans called the Hughes. They hid him in the attic, but they gave him plenty of food and allowed him to read and study. He stayed with the Hughes until the end of the war, and he was reunited with his family. They relocated to Israel in September 1945.

Dawn Breaks Night: 10 Stories of Survival During the Holocaust
Hanni Levy with her daughter Nicole. slate.com

9. Hanni Levy

By 1943, Hanni Weissenburg was living in Berlin and she was completely alone: her parents were dead, and her grandmother had been sent to Theresienstadt. She was forced into labor working in a textile factory for the Nazis when she lost part of her finger in a machine accident in February 1943. She went to the hospital, and when she returned, she witnessed what became known as the Fabrikaktion, the last attempt to empty Berlin of its Jewish population.

She saw all of the Jews forced into labor in her Berlin neighborhood being rounded up for transport to concentration camps. Hanni had many non-Jewish friends before the war, and she asked them for help. She had no identification papers, no food, and no money. One of her friends took her in and helped her change her appearance so that she could go into hiding. Hanni went to her uncle, who helped her obtain a fake ID, but he wouldn’t help her hide. She spent the next few weeks moving around to different places, staying anywhere that would give her shelter.

Hanni bounced around from place to place, staying for three months with a family called the Mosts, who she says treated her like a daughter. Eventually, Mr. Most had to go into hiding as well for evading his military service. Hanni used her new identity to indulge in things that she couldn’t do as a Jew in Berlin, like going to the movies.

She befriended a cashier named Viktoria Kolzer at the movie theater she frequented. Eventually, Hanni asked her for help in hiding. Kolzer took Hanni in, and the two women lived quietly together until the end of the war.

After the Nazi regime fell, Hanni struggled to retain her old identity because she had lived so long in hiding. In 1946, she left Berlin and moved to Paris, where she married. She approached the Yad Vashem in 1978 and had the Most family and Viktoria Kolzer recognized for their assistance to her during the war.

In November 2010, she had a plaque installed in front of the building where she and Kolzer lived in Berlin. As of an interview given in 2011, Hanni still visits the Kolzer family every year.

Dawn Breaks Night: 10 Stories of Survival During the Holocaust
Jeannine Burk at age 7. Photo credit by Jeannine Burk.

10. Jeannine Burk

Jeannine Burk was born the youngest of three children in Brussels, Belgium. Even though Belgium was a neutral power, the Nazis invaded the country in 1940. When the Nazis invaded, her father split up the family and found different hiding places for them. He sent Jeannine to a house where she would be hidden with a Catholic family. This was the last time she ever saw her father. Someone who Jeannine’s father worked with had exposed Jeannine’s family to the Gestapo, and they came and arrested her father.

While Jeannine was in hiding, she was able to move around the house where she was staying, but she lived in isolation, and she was very rarely allowed to go outside. She lived with this family from ages 3 to 5, so she remembered very little as an adult.

What she did remember is that she was never abused, but she was never loved. The Nazis used to parade down the streets of the places that they occupied, and when the Nazis paraded down the street where Jeannine was staying, she had to hide in an outhouse.

After the liberation of Belgium in 1944 by the Allied forces, Jeannine and her family were reunited, and they waited for her father to return. The family found out three months after the liberation that her father had died in Auschwitz. When Jeannine was ten years old, her mother died of cancer. After her mother’s death, Jeannine was adopted by family members who lived in New York. Jeannine lived in New York for twenty years before she relocated to the Greater New Orleans area of Louisiana.

Read More: When US Refused To Save Jewish Refugees From Nazi Germany?