Experience: Escape

Goldie Abt
Norman Adelsberg
Jack Adler
Benjamin Alalouf
Fryda Allweiss
Sol Allweiss
Zyga Allweiss
Paula Balkin
Georgette Barouch
Gustav Berenholtz
Sam Biegun
Edith Blumberg Kuschner
Boris Broder
Henry Brysk
Miriam Brysk
Sara Byer
Henia Ciesla
Edith Cimmer
Barbara Cohen
Ernst Conrad
Ernie Eick
Isaac Engel
Berl Falbaum
Lilly Farkas
Joseph Feibusch
Albert Fein
Anna Fein
Celia Feldman
Giselle Feldman
Manya Feldman
Lillian Fenster
Albert Ferleger
Fred Findling
Joseph Findling
Charlotte Firestone
Gershon Flam
Avrum Fleish
Yankel Fonarev
George Frank
Teddy Freund
Sabine Geiringer
Pauline Gerstl
Morris Giman
Feivel Ginsberg
Leo Glenn
Hadasa Goldberg
Etka Goldenberg
Steve Goldin
Simon Goldman
Sonia Goldman
Amalie Goldstein
Erna Gorman
Genia Greener
Sara Greenfield
Charles Growe
Joseph Haberkorn
Esther Halpern
Leon Halpern
Leon Herschfus
Ben Hersen
Bernard Hirsch
Martin Ilkow
Paula Jackson
Barry Kaplan
Benjamin Kawer
Hershel Kelman
Margot Kemplar
Kurt Kent
Adam Kirszenbaum
Abraham Klein
Martin Koby
Robert Koby
Zalman (Zoli) Kohen
David Korn
Szymon Kozik
Gerry Kraus
Paul Kreisman
Alice Kroh
Henry Krystal
Alex Kuczynski
Henry Kupfer
Israel Landa
Edmund Langerman
Paula Last
Naum Layer
Manfred Lehman
Hertsel Lenchner
Michael Lerman
Fred Lessing
Benno Levi
Manuel Levi
Ruth Levi
Wierra Lewin
Leon Lewkowicz
Anna Lindeman
Agnes Lugosi
Edward Malinowski
Edith Maniker
Eby Mann
Moniek Margulies
Helen Mechlowitz
Ira Mechlowitz
Lidia Meltzer
Irene Miller
Jack Miller
Sarah Miller
Bessie Mittelman
Ben Moskovitz
Joachim Nachbar
Hersz Nisenbaum
Mera Nisenbaum
Anna Oliwek
Jeannette Olson
Anton Opengeym
Gerald Orbach
Herta Orbach
Harold Perlman
Sylvia Perlman
Harold Perlstein
Henry Pestka
Rabbi Moshe Polter
Esther Posner
Alexander Raab
Irene Raab
Samuel Raab
Shirley Radin
Marianne Reinstein
Norbert Reinstein
Yetti Rosenthal
Ruth Ross
Nathan Rostker
Fay Rotberg
Samuel Rotberg
Joseph Roth
Rita Rozencweig
Simon Rozencweig
Miriam Rubenstein
Morris Rubenstein
Zoltan Rubin
Rosa Rusoinik
Rochelle Sable
Bob Salomon
Jean Schechter
Phillip Schechter
Vera Schey
Dezso Schonberger
Lola Schonberger
Sandra (Sunny) Segal
Abram Shain
Ina Silbergleit
Nathan Silow
Elizabeth Silver
Feodora Singer
Edith Sleutelberg
Regina Sondheimer
Alfred Spiegel
Alex Spinner
Walter Stark
Joseph Steuer
Charles Strassberg
Helen Strassberg
Lilo Strauss
Ben Sweet
Paula Sweet
Jacques Szafman
Pauline Sztarkman
Simon Tabachnik
Marcel Thirman
Arnold Troostwijk
Mirjam Troostwijk
Hannah Ungar
Fajga Wancjer
Martin Water
Mark Webber
Leo Weber
Sima Yarsike Weberman
Henry Wegier
Hans Weinmann
Elizabeth Weiss
Paul Worona
Henry Yager
Rachela Yager
George Zeff
Aron Zygelman


“Even before the beginning of World War II, many Jews sought to escape from countries under Nazi control. Between 1933 and 1939, more than 90,000 German and Austrian Jews fled to neighboring countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland). After the war began on September 1, 1939, escape became much more difficult. Nazi Germany technically permitted emigration from the Reich until November 1941. However, there were few countries willing to accept Jewish refugees and wartime conditions hindered those trying to escape. In 1941-1942, with the beginning of systematic shooting of Jews in the Soviet Union and the deportation of European Jews to extermination camps, escape literally became a matter of life and death.

“Most non-Jews neither aided nor hindered the "Final Solution" and relatively few people helped Jews escape. Among those who helped Jews were various local and international Jewish organizations, such as the Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and the World Jewish Congress. In addition, sympathetic non-Jews, motivated by opposition to Nazism, by moral and religious principles, or by human compassion, provided assistance to Jews at sometimes tremendous personal risk.

“Between 1939 and 1941 nearly 300,000 Polish Jews, almost 10 percent of the Polish Jewish population, fled German-occupied areas of Poland and crossed into the Soviet zone. While Soviet authorities deported tens of thousands of Jews to Siberia, Central Asia, and other remote areas in the interior of the Soviet Union, most of them managed to survive. After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, more than a million Soviet Jews fled eastward into the Asian parts of the country, escaping almost certain death. Despite the harsh conditions of the Soviet interior, those who escaped there constituted the largest group of European Jews to survive the Nazi onslaught.

“Close to 30,000 Jews were admitted into Switzerland, although an estimated 20,000 were turned away at the Swiss border. Spain allowed almost 30,000 Jewish refugees to enter, primarily from 1939 to 1941. These refugees, mostly from France, were permitted to cross Spain on their way to Portugal. German pressure reduced the number of Jews admitted entry into Spain to fewer than 7,500 during the years 1942-1944, although Spanish consuls distributed 4,000-5,000 identity documents (crucial to escape) to Jews in various parts of Europe. Portugal (a neutral country friendly to the Allies) permitted many thousands of Jews to reach the port of Lisbon. A number of American and French Jewish organizations helped the refugees, once in Lisbon, to reach the United States and South America.

“Neutral Sweden provided sanctuary for some Norwegian Jews in 1940 and for virtually the entire Danish Jewish community in October 1943. The Danish resistance movement organized the escape of 7,000 Danish Jews and 700 of their non-Jewish relatives across the Sund Channel to Malmo, Sweden.

“From 1937 to 1944, the Zionist movement organized the escape of 18,000 central and east European Jews to Palestine. At first Greek harbors were used to embark on the voyage to Palestinian ports. Later, Jewish refugees left via Black Sea ports in Bulgaria and Romania. Many of the boats needed to refuel in Turkish ports. Despite Turkey's efforts to prevent these ships from docking, more than 16,000 Jews passed through Turkey en route to Palestine. In a tragic incident, the "Struma," a ship carrying refugees bound for Palestine, was sunk off the Turkish coast. Although the cause of the sinking is not definitively known, it is assumed that the "Struma" was mistakenly torpedoed by a Soviet submarine.

“Italian forces protected Jews in the Italian occupation zones in Yugoslavia, France, and Greece. From mid-1942 to September 1943, Italy gave aid to Jews in several areas under its occupation. These included Dalmatia and Croatia, where 5,000 Jews found refuge; southern France, where at least 25,000 Jews fled; and Greece, where 13,000 Jewish refugees found temporary shelter. Despite unceasing demands and protests from the Germans, Croatian fascists, and the Vichy police, the Italian authorities refused to hand over these Jews. The Italians also extended protection to Jews in Tunisia.” 

Polish Jews, who had escaped the Germans by fleeing to the Soviet Union, upon their return to Poland after World War II. Poland, 1946.

— American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

Jewish refugee youth from French transit camps at the Children's Aid Society (OSE) home "Maison des Pupilles de la Nation." Some of the children are in flight, en route to Switzerland. Aspet, France, June-August 1942.

— United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jewish refugee youth, on an escape route from France to Switzerland, at a Children's Aid Society (OSE) girls' home. Couret, France, ca. 1942.

— United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Jewish women and children from Yugoslavia arrive at the camp on Rab island. The Italians concentrated Jews on Rab, which protected them from the Germans. Rab, Yugoslavia, summer 1943.

Jewish Historical Museum of Yugoslavia

Jewish refugee youth sail for Palestine from an Italian port on the Aliyah Bet ("illegal" immigration) ship "Parita." 1940.

— American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee


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