My mother owns an embroidered painting which her mother created as a young girl and which now hangs in my parents’ living room. The painting shows a landscape: a lake with a tower and a bridge in the background. When I asked my mother about it, she told me that she believed it was somewhere in Nuremberg which is the Bavarian city my grandmother was born in.
Just as in other countries, Jews also left traces (and still are leaving traces) in Belgium: The oldest trace is a gravestone in the Flemish city Tienen (French: Tirlemont) of a girl who was known as Rebecca, daughter of Mozes. She passed away in the Jewish year 5016 which corresponds with the Gregorian calendar as 1255-1256.
Other traces of Jewish life are to be found in:
documents: from the Middle Ages through the French Revolution up until now, documents by occupiers of the country (decrees and edicts for the general population or against the Jews specifically), documents by resistance fighters, documents by Governments, documents by the Jewish communities, etc.
chronicles like ‘Maagel Tov’ (see http://hebrewbooks.org/21838) by Rabbi Chaim Joseph David Azulai who was also known as the Chida (1724 – 1 March 1806) , whose travels took him also to Belgium
I found it exciting to read about a project by some academics and the Belgian State Archives who have been working for some months on the compilation of a Guide to Archives related to Judaism and the Jewish population in Belgium in the 19th-20th century. The makers of the guide intend to Continue reading Belgian Jewish Life in the different Belgian archives→
I received an invitation from the village of Philippeville which is in the southern part of Belgium to the inauguration of a monument in the memory of 49 Jews who were put into forced labor in quarries in Merlemont (Merlemont is part of Philippeville). The monument was erected last Sunday (16 December 2012) on the grounds of one of the quarries in Merlemont; the “S.A. Dolomies” which is nowadays part of the Lhoist Group (www.lhoist.com). I went with my brother Raffi.
Preceding to the inauguration a few speeches were given after which the national anthem of Belgium was played. Afterwards the monument was inaugurated which was followed by the inauguration and more speeches.
Finally we were all invited to the local school’s canteen in the Centre of Merlemont to have a chat, drink and snack.
The project which led to the inauguration of the monument, started when during a research on Merlemont a local city guide of the village, Marie-Noëlle Philippart, came across the Internet a phrase in a book (van Doorslaer Rudi, Schreiber Jean-Philippe, ‘De curatoren van het getto.”, Lannoo Uitgeverij, 2004, 411 p.) which indicated that during the Second World War there had been Jewish forced laborers in quarries in the village of Merlemont. After checking old records from the personnel, she found a list of fifteen names which then became the kickoff of her research which took two years and a half. She has discovered that in May 1942 a German ordinance stipulated that 60 Jews be put to work in quarries of Merlemont to mine limestone (dolomite). Of these 60 summoned, 21 workers and their families arrived during the summer of 1942 until March 1943 and lived in Merlemont. We find among them five armed partisans, hidden children, four moms who were arrested and deported on convoy XX of which at least one escaped. From late April 1945 to mid-May, there were still 28 Jewish registered incomes from Jewish workers in Merlemont, however only a few traces of their history could be found.
The project culminated also with the publishing of a book which is titled “Eté 1942 – Des étoiles jaunes à la Dolomie”. In her book the author elaborates about her findings and her communication with the witnesses she interviewed.
I had the pleasure to meet the author and other persons such as Mr. Christian Malburny from the organization Archéophil (http://users.swing.be/archeophil) who took an important role in bringing this book to fruition.
Is it funny or sad if a group of academics make an error which even the unlearned can easily find out as being a serious mistake on the behalf of these academics?
Let me explain what I am referring too: I came today (16 November 2012) across a study on the website of the ‘АКАДЕМИЯ ТРИНИТАРИЗМА‘ (Academy of Trinitarianism) which is based in Moscow (see their website at www trinitas ru).
In that article they try to analyze a particular stone which was found in the Pskov region (a city located about 20 kilometers (12 mi) east from the Estonian border, on the Velikaya River). After their lengthy analysis they come to the conclusion that:
1. The inscription on the stone is an epitaph. (correct)
2. Dialectal Russian language inscriptions. (incorrect)
3. Alphabet mixed, including Cyrillic characters, archaic Greek and Latin. (incorrect)
Note: Since April 2015 much of the alien files are directly downloadable via the websites of the FelixArchief (see below). For other´s, you may still require to use the website of Familysearch.org which has part of the collection online on its website. Read more about this collection (which originally comes from the FelixArchief collection): https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Belgium,Antwerp,_Police_Immigration(FamilySearch_Historical_Records). The information in this article is thus only for the records which are not yet available online (through http://zoeken.felixarchief.be or https://familysearch.org/search): When you have found the file number of your relative’s alien file, you can continue to the next step which is finding out on which microfilm the file is and where to find that microfilm. This of course is on condition that the file was microfilmed since not all files were put on microfilm yet. For the files which were not microfilmed yet, there is another procedure but let’s start with finding the microfilmed files. Reminder: Before continuing, you’ll need first the file numbers, see for instructions and details on how to use the indexes in my other article: Using the indexes to the alien files at the FelixArchief. Let’s assume that we are looking for file number 163741 which we found in the indexes after searching for Abraham Timberg’s file number in the indexes. Now open in your web browser the following page: http://zoeken.felixarchief.be and click on the tab ‘Mijn mandje’ (translation: My basket): This will Continue reading Getting copies of the alien files→
Note: Mr. Dratwa (conservator of the Jewish Museum in Belgium) noted that I should’ve translated ‘Uitwijzingsbevel’ to ‘Expulsion Order’ and not ‘Deportation Order’ (which usually is used when someone was deported to concentration camps). I corrected the wording based on his advice.
The FelixArchief (Antwerp City Archives) published on their website on June 25, 2012 information about a collection of the ‘Expulsion Orders’ which were issued during WWII between December 1940 and February 1941by the immigration police on behalf of the German occupying authorities . More than 3,000 Jewish immigrants were transferred at the order of the German army from Antwerp to a rural area in the Belgian province of Limburg. Copies of these expulsion orders are available on microfilm at the Antwerp Archives.
In November 1940 the Germans ordered to compile lists of foreigners who were older than 15, were staying in the Antwerp District and had the following nationalities: Englishmen, Norwegians, Poles, French, Dutch and stateless citizens since 1 January 1937. Likewise they wanted to have on these lists the stateless who had settled since 1 January 1933 and all Czechs who had immigrated to Belgium from Czechoslovakia. Former members of the Foreign Legion (Vreemdelingenlegioen), Gypsies and Jews had to be registered separately.
By mid-December the Feldkommandantur decided to expel the majority of foreigners of the Antwerp district who had been registered in November. That decision was supposedly based on the regulation of 12 November which indicated that Kommandanturen of the provinces of East Flanders and West Flanders as well as of the Antwerp district were empowered to impose on “certain persons” a “residence restriction”. The Antwerp police received a list of 7,328 people. In reality the list concerned mainly, if not only, Jews. Governor Jan Grauls had the “expulsion orders” delivered to the councils of the district of Antwerp and the orders were signed by the mayors and the local city seal was attached.
On December 18, 1940 the Antwerp police distributed the first 608 expulsion orders: it was stated that the persons concerned, under threat of criminal sanctions, had to report on a certain day and hour (usually at eight o’clock in the morning) at the Antwerp-South Station which was located at the Simon-Bolivarplaats. The expulsed people had, besides the required papers ,to take food for three days with them. The luggage was limited to a maximum of 25 kg per adult. According to the orders, other belongings could be left with acquaintances in the current place of residence to be forwarded at a later time, in compliance with operating procedures of the public traffic. The orders also stated that it was “permitted” to take the children under the age of 15 years to the new place of residence , if they were part of the household.
Between 21 December 1940 and 12 February 1941 3,401 Jews were expelled with 14 trains from Antwerp on the orders of the Germans to 43 municipalities in the province of Limburg (note: Other numbers of expelled Jews which are mentioned in Brachfeld’s study are 3,284 Jews who were expelled between 12 November 1940 until 27 March 1941 or according to another source, also mentioned in Brachfeld’s study, 3,273 Jews were expelled).
Since many people had left their homes without informing the authorities only part of the initial list with 7,328 people were expelled to Limburg. Additionally, regulations stated that sick people who had a certificate from a doctor could only be exempted from expulsion if the certificate clearly stated that these people were not “transportable”.
Several dozen of these expelled Jews were employed in a labor camp in the municipality of Overpelt. The Germans forced them to cultivate the moorland of ‘het Holven’ as forced laborers. In the summer of 1941 the Jews left the camp after which the work was continued by (non-Jewish) workers from the area.
196 other Jews were expelled to Beverlo and arrived there on 1 February 1941. A few weeks later another family of 3 persons joined the group. Everyone was housed by the municipal government in unoccupied homes of the miners in the Louis-Sauvestrelaan and the Leysestraat. These two streets were part of the site around the coal mine of Beringen. The mayor and aldermen were responsible for these people. The Jews received from them advice on household goods, unemployed support and food (ration coupons). The Jews themselves had one duty to be accounted for: they had to present themselves daily in the town hall (presence control), for the rest they were allowed free movement in Beverlo as long as the territory of the municipality was not trespassed. The latter was only possible with written consent of the occupier.
Starting from March 1941, the Jews who were expelled to Limburg were forced to to settle in Brussels, Liège or Charleroi. Only the women were allowed to settle in Antwerp. These Jews later met the same fate as the other Jews in their places of residence of whom a lot were later deported via Mechelen/Malines to the East.
The copies of the expulsion orders at the Antwerp Archives:
The FelixArchief has recently released the collection with expulsion orders to the public in a digitzed format which was done with the assistance of the “Yad Vashem – The Holocaust martyr’s and heroes remembrance authority”. You can check these ‘Expulsion Orders’ with the microfilm readers at the FelixArchief. There is also an inventory of the ‘Expulsion Orders’ on the website of the FelixArchief (see: http://zoeken.felixarchief.be/zHome/Home.aspx?id_isad=317258) or you can get the inventory here on my website, see: Expulsion Orders from WWII at the FelixArchief – Part 2: Researching The Inventory (caution: it can take sometime to load due to the considerable size of the inventory list). If you want to get the list via the website of the FelixArchief, you will need to be signed-in (see for instructions my other article: “How to subscribe to the online services of the Antwerp Archives).
It is my intention in this article to explain how to use the inventory list and how to get copies of the ‘Expulsion Order’s of your relatives.
Getting copies of the ‘Expulsion Orders’:
First you obviously need to get the table with the inventory from the website of the Antwerp Archives or from my website which you can get both get via the links I mentioned in the introduction. Then when you have the table with the inventory you’ll need to find the name of the person you were looking for. Then when and if you have the name, you need first to check the ‘Inventarisnummer’ (translation: Inventory number) which is the number in the first column. For my great-grandfather (Gerschon Lehrer)’s entry that would be MA#23413 as can be seen in the next screenshot:
(In red is my great-grandfather, his Inventory number is MA#23413, note that the names in the blue boxes, which are from my grandfather and his brother, do have the same inventory number, the filenumbers (in column F) are indeed close to each other. You can also find the alien file number in the 7th column (column G), this is indeed a way to find an alien file number. Read my other articles for more on the Antwerp immigrants files).
The following post was already published on my old website. I am now republishing it with some corrections.
Justin was born on 5 November 1921 as the son of Salomon Gerstner and Frieda Sundermann in the village of Ebelsbach which is in the German state of Bavaria (according to the NIOD he was born on 5 February 1921). The town of Ebelsbach is about 20 km northwest of Bamberg and about 86 km north of Nuremberg. The Gerstners are originally from Lisberg and its area in Bavaria.
According to a letter (of 12 maart 2004) from the NIOD to Ms. Kappner from Haszfurt (Germany), Justin fled in 1934 from Nazi-Germany. He initially lived with his uncle Joseph Gerstner in Enschede. Justin appeared on the Enschede list of the “Zentralstelle für judisch Auswanderung” (the Zentralstelle für judisch Auswanderung was the Amsterdam office of the Nazi Sicherheitspolizei and the SD, which supervised the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands. Ferdinand Hugo aus der Fünten was in charge of this office, which was situated in the Euterpestraat).
History of the archives:
The archives of the city of Antwerp started with two charters from 1221 which the city kept in a huge chest which was longer then two meters and which was called the ‘privilegiekom’.
Of each lock the key was kept by another councilmember of the city. Therefore only when all councilmembers were together, the chest could be opened (the chest is currently on view in the reading room of the Antwerp archives).
Thanks to the growth of the city, and of the growing stack of documents, the chest did not meet anymore the expectations of the city. Another reason why the chest did not fulfill the requirements anymore at that time, is that until the French Revolution all departments of the city archived their own files, which means that there was no (centralized) ‘city archive’ like we know today in Antwerp.
In 1796 a city archivist was appointed who was in charge of storing and managing the archives. Until the first half of the 20th century the archives were kept in the town hall (the beautiful town hall was built in Renaissance style between 1561 and 1565). Since then the archives moved a few times. During the Second World War the most important pieces of the archives were kept near a moated castle near Rochefort (in the south of Belgium). After the war the archives moved to the Venusstraat in a building which purpose was not meant (yet) for archives, therefore part of the archives were temporarily moved to a building in the Meirbrug. On 15 December 1956 the building in the Venusstraat was refurbished and the archives were kept there for almost 50 years. It closed it doors to the public on May 1st, 2006.
According to the “Extract from the registry of engaged Jews 1885-1937” of Brzozów, Kalman (or Kelman) was born as the son of Mozes Yosef Kalech and Sara Stieber on 4 January 1903 in Brzozów (currently in Poland) as Kelman Stieber.
The date of birth which is mentioned in this Brzozów document differs slightly with the dates which we find in the the United States Social Security Death Index. In that index 18 December 1902 is mentioned as Chazzan Kalich’s birthdate (which is 17 days earlier than what we know from archives in Poland) and February 1982 as the date he passed away.
The book “First Hungarian Congregation Ohab Zedek” mentions 17 December 1903 as the date of birth for Kalman Kalich. According to the United States Census of 1910 and 1930 Kalman was born in about 1903-1904.
This all means that the last sources differs about a year respectively 3 years with the two other versions found in the Polish and the USA archives. It is therefore that I am inclined to believe that Kalman was born in the winter of 1902-1903.
Because archives are not always only one block away from you, or because their opening times don’t suit you always well, you most probably will need to do as much preparatory and research work as possible before and after your visit. In order to know how to plan your visit to the archives the best way possible, it is of utmost importance to know what you should and what you should not expect at the archives.
I’ve explained a bit about the numbers which were assigned to each newly opened file (see: “An introduction to the Belgian Statearchives and its immigration files”). When you are looking for a specific relative, you obviously need to get the number of that immigrant’s file. Now, the reading room at the state archives have three sets of indices to the files at your disposal. These indices are copies of the originals. The originals can obviously not be borrowed out to the visitors, what you’ll get instead are the copies in various formats. The format of each copy depends on the index you’ll need, see later).
The originals of the indices are papers in an A3 format with small cards pasted on it. Each card has on it the number of the person’s file and very basic information of the persons such as the first and last names. Additionally to that information, you may find sometimes the date of birth, the place where s/he was born, the occupation of that person, the partner, etc.