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.
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 text is based on an article which I wrote for off-line use)
We can read in a file from the Directorate-General War Victims about my great-great-uncle Kalman Lehrer (sometimes also known as Kalman Kalech) during WWII. We read there that he was conscripted into labor service in the Julius Berger Company.
What I initially did not read well and missed in the document is the abbreviation ‘OT’ which is written on one of the documents in that file:
What we see is that Kalman Lehrer
a été mis au travail force dans le Nord de La France (O.T.). Il figure sur les listes de salaires (établies par quinzaines) de la firme « Julius Berger » du 26.7.42 au 31.10.42“
(translation: [Kalman Lehrer] was conscripted into labor service in Northern France (OT). He is listed in the wages lists (established by fortnights) of the firm “Julius Berger” from 26.7.42 to 31.10.42.)
First I’ll try to explain more about the OT, which stood for Organisation Todt, and then I’ll continue about Kalman Lehrer during the war.
The OT’s establishment:
The “Organisation Todt” (OT) was established in May 1938, when Hitler instructed the Generalinspekteur für das Strassenwesen, Dr. Ing. Fritz Todt, who had proven himself with the autobahn construction, to continue the previously Wehrmacht led construction of the Westwall . Todt has developed the organization out of a combination of planning departments, private companies (the Julius Berger company was such a company) and until the war started in 1939, the Reichsarbeitsdienst . During the war the OT transformed into a military construction unit and its structure changed from year to year as it was adapted to the requirements of the respective orders.
The OT fell from March 1940 under the responsibility of the Reichsminister für Bewaffnung und Munition (RMfBM)- Minister for Armament and Munitions.
After the death of Fritz Todt in February 1942, the OT reorganized under Albert Speer (Mannheim, 19 march 1905 – London, 1 September 1981). From the beginning of 1941 it was headed by Continue reading The “Organisation Todt” (OT)→
Yesterday (9 October 2011) I experienced something very interesting which just shows how surprised you can often get when puzzling with the family tree:
I was (and am still) looking for the family connections between Mr. Zvi/Hershel Beer, who was born in UStrzyki-Dolne (Galicia) and has lived in Dresden (Germany), and my great-grandfather, who was known to be cousins with Zvi Hershel Beer.
Hebrewbooks.org was founded in order to preserve old American Hebrew books that are out of print and/or circulation. Many American Rabbis wrote seforim (Hebrew books) in the early part of the 20th century. They have long since passed away and in many instances so has their holy work.
Currently our mission has expanded to include all Torah Seforim ever printed. At Hebrewbooks.org you will be able to view and print the entire Sefer online.
HebrewBooks.org is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Our goal is to bring to life the many Seforim that were written and unfortunately forgotten, and to make all Torah Publications free and ubiquitous.
I received today via e-mail two files (about Kalech from Brzozów) from the Statearchive in Rseszow (Archiwum Państwowe w Rzeszowie).
I am now trying to transcribe/translate the files and to get more details on the sources via the visitors of my website. I started already to transcribe it as far as I could.
If you can assist me transcribing/translating, I would be very happy if you can add your comments below or if you prefer, you may contact me in private via the contact-form.
I mentioned already in an earlier post (see “Where to look for old newspapers in Flemish-Belgium“) that my great-grandfather and the children were were stateless citizens before they naturalized as Belgians. The reason for their statless status was that when my great-grandfather Gerschon Lehrer was born in Ustrzyki-Dolne, it was Austrian and after the First World War it became Poland.
My great grandfather lived since 1919 in Dresden (Germany) and Poland took away the nationalities from all citizens that were not in the country for a long time, hence my great-grandfather and grandfather automatically became stateless (source: naturalization file 21875N).
That was a short explanation about the stateless status from my great-grandfather and his children.
I am subscribed to a few mailinglists with an interest in genealogy. One of these lists is from the “Gesher Galicia SIG” (see http://www.jewishgen.org/galicia for more information about that group).
Recently there was a discussion on the stateless status of Galician Jewish refugees who moved to GERMANY after WWI.
I’d like to post these discussion in this post because I believe that the information in that discussion goes a bit deeper on the background of my ancestors’ stateless status after the First World War, then what I wrote before.
In my opinion the last post from Rivka Schirman which you can read below, provides us with the most complete answer. It is mainly the following paragraph which interests me:
Once the Conference of Ambassadors legally attributed East Galicia to Poland, it also based it on the articles of the Treaty of St Germain en Laye regarding nationality and citizenship (full text available at http://www.forost.ungarisches-institut.de/pdf/19230315-1.pdf). This time, those who opted for Polish citizenship, because it was possible, had, according to article 78, 12 months to move to Poland.
I posted recently (10 February 2011) a question via soc.genealogy.jewish regarding a company where my great-grandfather’s (Gershon Lehrer) brother Kalman Lehrer worked during WWII. The company was called Julius Berger and was based in France.
Kalman was born 20th June 1898 in Ustrzyki-Dolne. When the war started Kalman lived in Antwerp, Belgium on the Kroonstraat 205.
From 26 July 1942 to 31 October 1942 he was forced to work for the “Julius Berger” company in North-France.
He was deported via Malines/Mechelen in Belgium to Auschwitz on 31 October 1942 with transport 16 from which he did not return. The Belgian authorities confirmed (on 5 May 1955) their assumption that he passed away sometimes between 31 October 1942 and 1 June 1945.
I am looking for more details regarding the company Julius Berger.