Holocaust Survivor Biographies

Biographies for 2014 Speakers

All presentations will be in the Jackson Conference Center Room 101 from 12:20-1:20pm. The forums are free and open to the campus and the community. Reservations are not needed.

April 9: Marie-Anne H.

Marie-Anne’s grandmother Celine grew up on the border of France and Belgium at the turn of the century. After WWI, Celine, a Catholic, married Rene M., a prisoner of war in Germany who came from a large Jewish family. Rene was set up in an army surplus business with his younger brother Gaston. When he married Celine, they renamed the business ROMO and made it into a hardware store.  Celine gave birth to Marie-Anne’s mother Simone in 1923. Simone was 16 at the start of WWII. During the war, her mother had her baptized as a Catholic to help obscure her half-Jewish heritage. They lived in a working class community on the southeast corner of Paris. Simone’s father Rene went into hiding during the war. He moved to their family’s summer cottage in a small town south of Paris. Because he spoke excellent German from his imprisonment during WWI, Rene was able to pass as German. He made friends with the German officers who were stationed at the village of Servon. He liked to play cards, gamble, and drink at the café. He never wore his yellow Star of David and was able to hide by not hiding.

Celine, Simone, and Simone’s younger brother Louis remained in Paris, living above the hardware store. Celine joined a "reseau" of the Resistance headed by a train engineer, Fuhmann. The hardware store basement became the last stop on the secret journey of 300 refugees into free France. The train would carry five or six Jewish refugees from the neighborhood and from Eastern Europe. At night, Monsieur Fuhmann would escort his passengers into the courtyard of the ROMO Hardware Store, where they would enter the store through a back window and go directly into the basement. They would stay hidden for a few days, and then were smuggled out of the store and back on a train that took them through the demarcation line at Chalon Sur Soane where they went into hiding in free France. Celine, suspected by the Gestapo, was picked up twice for questioning. The Gestapo officers didn’t know what Celine was doing exactly, so they were forced to let her go. Once, they pushed her out of a moving car.

Simone was a member of a youth branch of the Resistance movement, relaying messages and maintaining secret correspondence when she was 20 years old in 1943. She was also a member of the FFI, as were her mother and brother. Though they were all part of the Resistance, they kept this information secret from one another. After the Germans were routed from Paris, each family member pulled out their FFI arm bands, shocked to learn each was involved. After D-Day and the liberation of Paris, Simone met Marie-Anne’s father Hy K., a GI.

Marie-Anne shares this story of courage and resistance as a member of the Holocaust Center’s Speakers Bureau.

Why did Grandmother put her life and her children’s’ lives at risk? Harboring "criminals of the 3rd Reich" was punishable by deportation or execution. My Grandfather was a Jew, her first husband was killed by the Germans, she had an intense hatred of the occupiers, and if you asked her, she would tell you that she did what she felt any good French citizen would do.

April 23: Ron F.

"It is important to remember an event such as the Holocaust. It is a reminder to us all of the evils of bigotry and humiliation of others. Unfortunately, there are many holocausts in the world—both big and small—which have occurred since, and continue to occur. And it is left to ensuing generations to resonate the lessons of history."  – Ron F.

Ron F. is a second generation speaker and an attorney in Seattle. His father Herbert, now 88, escaped from Vienna at age 14 aboard the Kindertransport.  This event, and the ensuing years before Herbert’s emigration to America, were the defining moments of his life. Herbert F. was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria. His family traveled from Radom, Poland to Vienna in the early 1920s. At the time, Jews played a central role in Viennese culture. Herbert had a happy childhood. He attended public school during the day and Hebrew school at night. His mother stayed at home, and his father worked as a shoemaker. They lived in an apartment in a middle class neighborhood of Vienna and Herbert had many friends, Jewish and Christian. Herbert loved to swim, including in the Danube River in Vienna, known for its strong currents. At the age of 12, Herbert and another youth saved a young woman from drowning in the Danube.

In March 1938, Austria fell under Nazi occupation and became part of the German Republic and the lives of all Jews came under threat. Herbert was immediately expelled from school by the Nazis, and Jews all over the region suffered. A particularly brutal act of anti-Jewish violence occurred in November 1938, Kristallnacht, when Jewish shops were smashed and looted, synagogues burned, Jewish businesses dissolved, and hundreds were arrested and taken away, never to be seen again. Following Kristallnacht, Herbert knew there was no future life for the Jews of Vienna and he resolved at the age of 13 to escape. Through a series of unlikely events, Herbert was able was to meet an organizer of the short-lived Kindertransport (Childrens’ Trains) and to become a passenger on the first train of ten that left Vienna. The Kindertransport is credited with saving 10,000 children in Europe from facing a certain death in the gas chambers of Europe. Only 10 trains escaped before the Nazis ended the Kindertransport. Herbert was lucky to be among them.

In the end, 1,500,000 children are estimated to have died in the Holocaust. Nine out of 10 of the children who were fortunate enough to have escaped on the "Kindertransport" never saw their parents again.

May 7: Robert H.

Robert H. was born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1938. After Germany invaded Belgium in May, 1940, his parents escaped to France and made their way south to Marseilles in Vichy-controlled France. Robert’s aunt, Rosa Schnabel, stayed in Belgium but survived, thanks to a Belgian named Pauline Joris-Brouwers. Mrs. Joris-Brouwers allowed Mrs. Schnabel to hide in her house, and in 1997 Robert successfully petitioned for her to be declared "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem.

Between October of 1940 and June of 1941, the Vichy government passed anti-Semitic legislation, the "Law of the Jews," and at the end of 1941, the Vichy government arrested Robert’s family and sent them to Rivesaltes, a French concentration camp. At the beginning of 1943, the family was separated. Robert and his pregnant mother were sent to a "residence forcee" (forced domicile), a kind of house arrest in a small village. As a result, Robert’s brother was born in a German military hospital. Later, his father escaped from Rivesaltes, and was reunited with his family with help from the French resistance. The family crossed the Alps by foot in September of 1943 and found refuge in Switzerland until the end of the war.

Robert’s immediate family was fortunate. Deportation of foreign Jews to Nazi death camps began in March of 1942, and many Jews at Rivesaltes were deported to the French transit camp of Drancy, and then on to Auschwitz or the death camps of Sobibor or Madame. The Nazis murdered more than 77,000 Jews from France in these camps.

After the war, Robert received his BS in Engineering in Belgium and served in the Belgian Navy as an officer. Later he was detached to the navy of Zaire in Africa. He was recruited overseas by Boeing and came to Seattle in 1966. He received a MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Washington and a MA in Naval History and International Relations from the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Robert has written numerous magazine articles and papers on naval armament, military history and naval operations. He has also served in the US Naval Reserve for 24 years and retired as a Commander.

May 21: Steve A.

Steve was born in Berlin, Germany in 1930, the youngest son in a middle-class, Jewish family. At age seven, anti-Jewish laws forced Steve to leave his neighborhood school and enter a private Jewish school. In the wake of Kristallnacht, the SS and Gestapo arrested more than 30,000 Jewish males. One of them was Steve’s own father. On the morning after Kristallnacht, on November 10th, 1938, he was arrested and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he was held prisoner for six weeks before returning on December 23. Over the next few months, conditions for Jews continued to deteriorate. In January of 1939, the Nazi government required all Jews to carry identity cards revealing their heritage, and danger became much more immediate for Steve and his family. In March 1939, three months after his father’s release from Sachsenhausen, Steve was sent by train to Hamburg to join a Kindertransport (children’s transport) going to England by ship. The Kindertransports were organized with British government sanction to give refuge to approximately 10,000 Jewish children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. Steve arrived in England knowing only one sentence in English and was taken in by a kindly widow.

When the war started in September 1939, Steve was evacuated with his schoolmates to a small town north of London, while the British government interned his parents as enemy aliens on the Isle of Man. In spring of 1940, Steve and his brother and mother were reunited in London during the London Blitz. His father joined them in the fall and they traveled by ship for twelve days across the Atlantic and settled with his family in Chicago.

Mr. A. was an active member and speaker for Holocaust Child Survivors of Connecticut before moving to Seattle. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust, an international educational and advocacy organization of child survivors.