Tag Archives: Transport XX to Auschwitz

“Transport XX to Auschwitz” film at Festival of Tolerance, Zagreb, Croatia

“Transport XX to Auschwitz” –  European Theater Premiere – Festival of Tolerance | May, 2014, Zagreb, Croatia

“Transport XX to Auschwitz” screening - Festival of Tolerance | May, 2014, Zagreb, Croatia

“Transport XX to Auschwitz” – European Theater Premiere – Festival of Tolerance – May, 2014, Zagreb, Croatia

EN : Transport XX to Auschwitz – Thursday, 22.5.2014, 17:45 – Cinema Tuškanac
During the Shoah, the Nazis, in their quest for the final solution of the Jewish question, utilized thousands of trains from Germany and the occupied countries to transport 3,000,000 Jews to the concentration and death camps. This is the little known, true story of a most remarkable and heroic rescue attempt which occurred on April 19, 1943, the first night of the Passover, at the same time that the Warsaw Ghetto uprising began, some 720 miles away. On that night, Transport XX departed Mechelen, Belgium at 10 p. m. with 1631 Jewish men, women and children for Auschwitz- Birkenau. Half an hour later, it was stopped by three young Belgians armed with only 1 pistol, pliers and a hurricane lamp. This was the only documented rescue attempt/attack on a death train during the Shoah.

HR : Transport XX za Auschwitz – Četvrtak, 22.5.2014, 17:45 – Kino Tuškanac 
Za vrijeme holokausta nacisti su težeći „konačnom rješenju židovskog pitanja“ upotrijebili tisuće vlakova iz Njemačke i okupiranih zemalja kako bi transportirali tri milijuna Židova u koncentracijske logore ili logore smrti. Ovo je malo poznata istinita priča o znakovitom i herojskom pokušaju spašavanja koji se dogodio 19. travnja 1943., na prvi dan Pashe, u isto vrijeme kada je započeo Ustanak u varšavskom getu, 1200 kilometara dalje. Te je noći u 22 sata Transport XX krenuo iz Mechelena u Belgiji sa 1631 židovskih muškaraca, žena i djece prema Auschwitz- Birkenau. Pola sata kasnije zaustavila su ga tri mlada Belgijanca naoružana samo jednim pištoljem, kliještima i petrolejkom. Ovo je jedini dokumentirani pokušaj spašavanja zatočenika, odnosno napad na vlak smrti za vrijeme holokausta.

News

May 28, 2014. Zagreb. Festival of Tolerance. The audience at the Festival of Tolerance valued the film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” with a very good average grade of 4.3 (out of 5).

Escape from Transport XX – to be born 6 months later – Viviane’s story

Isabella Weinreb Castegnier was three-months pregnant that night on April 1943 in Belgium, when she jumped from the fast moving 20th Train heading for Auschwitz. Isabella escaped with a broken wrist and bruises all over her body, but otherwise without major injuries. Her daughter Viviane – meaning “full of life”, and named so for her will to live and hold tight in her mother’s womb – was born six months later on October 30, 1943.

Last month, Viviane first learned about our documentary “Transport XX to Auschwitz” and e-mailed me…”I couldn’t believe while searching online that I would find an actual movie made, telling the story of this famous, unique escape from a death-train!” After watching the documentary, she wrote to me “it was so well-made…I even wished it were longer”…Viviane also shared with me that at one point in the film, she got tears in her eyes, as her mother’s face appeared in a flash on the screen, while Lilly (Wolkenfeld Schwartz) – her mother’s friend was telling the story…”and Bella jumped” … this was so unexpected, she said “it took me by surprise!

One year ago – on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 7, 2013 – her mother passed away at the age of 93.

Today, 71 years after that unique escape, on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2014, and her mother’s yahrzeit, Viviane shares her story below.

France. Dec 2012. Isabella Weinreb Castegnier.

France. Dec 2012. Isabella Weinreb Castegnier.

 

Escape from Transport XX – to be born 6 months later

My mother – Isabella Weinreb Castegnier, became the No. 1153 on this day in 1943 when she was herded on a truck with Jews, Gypsies, and other criminals or “unwanted” according to Nazis’ doctrine. The truck was heading to the Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen – the transit camp the Germans used for direct transports from Belgium to Auschwitz. Upon arrival, prisoners were deprived of their identiy and all personal belongings. They were assigned tags with numbers to wear on their neck. For the Nazis they were not humans… just a crowd of cattle to be slaughtered.

My mother was hopeless, she was pregnant and aware that in her condition there was not much chance for her survival, she knew she was doomed…unless she could escape from the death train! And indeed, she would do that on this fateful night of April 19, 1943 when she jumped off the cattle-train heading to Auschwitz. She survived…and I was born six months later!

Fleeing from Germany…

My mother was born in Frankfurt-am-Main on November 2, 1919. Her parents were Jews from Poland. They immigrated to Germany during WWI. Some of their family members would later move to Belgium and Holland. My mother and her parents left Frankfurt at the start of 1937 as it became unsafe for Jews to stay in Germany.

Belgium…

My mother, her parents and her sister moved to Antwerp where their relatives resided. My mother was then 16 year old. She joined the ‘Betar’ – a Jewish Zionist Youth organization, in the hopes that one day she would immigrate with her group to Palestine…a dream which would not materialize.

Arrests and deportation…

My mother and her family stayed in Antwerp until the German’s invasion of Belgium in May 1940. By the end of that year they were transferred with other Jewish families to rural areas in the province of Limburg. In the middle of 1941, the Jews who had been expelled earlier to Limburg were now forced to relocate again to cities designated by the Germans. My mother and her father settled in Brussels, while her mother and sister went to the city of Liege, where they had found employment in a convent under the protection of the Catholic Church. My mother became a sales representative for pharmaceutical-dental products. Subsequently she would meet my father who was a dentist, also in Brussels.

Belgium. 1940s. Isabella Weinreb.

Belgium. 1940s. Isabella Weinreb.

In January 1943 – my grandfather, Leo (Leib) Yehuda Weinreb, was arrested in Brussels and deported to Auschwitz on a transport from Mechelen. Around that time, at the beginning of 1943, my parents decided to get married. My mother never thought of going into hiding, she believed that she would be safe with my father – a Belgian citizen, not Jewish, with Catholic roots.

My parents were arrested on their wedding day, and with them, the entire wedding party was booked for inquiry, including the officials who had performed the ceremony. Most likely an informer had denounced them to the German police. My parents were not aware of the German laws regarding “mixed/Jewish marriages.”…They imprisoned my father in the notorious Gestapo headquarters at Avenue Louise in Brussels and punished him for marrying a Jew. While he was beaten in their cells, my mother was transferred to the Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen, in order to be deported later. Luckily for my father, he would be released from jail after a short time, thanks to a family friend who had affiliations with the German administration.

Kazerne Dossin – collecting camp of Mechelen…

Isabella became a number…no.1153, bound to be deported on the 20th Transport to the death camp of Auschwitz. But she was determined not to get there, she knew she had to escape, it was her only chance. Shortly after her arrival in Dossin, my father’s family had submitted a request for her release, on the grounds that she was pregnant and married to a Belgian citizen from a Catholic family. They knew a few people of influence in the German government who could intervene, but unfortunately, their petition failed. My mother was summoned to the camp’s commander who stated gleefully: “Your husband was a fool to think that I would ever release a pregnant Jewess, and be assured that you and your offspring, you both will be exterminated!”

As she was reminded once again of her dreadful upcoming fate, my mother decided it was time to join other detainees who had also plans of jumping off the train. With her friend Lilly she started to organize jumping drills. She and Lilly were training women who were afraid, by teaching them to jump from the highest bunk beds, so that they could be prepared when they would have to escape from a moving train. There were also children who took part in those exercises. One of them was Simon Gronowski, a brave 11-year old boy, whom they called “le petit Simon” (little Simon) and who was practicing jumps with other kids.

Isabella Weinreb Castegnier. Film "TRANSPORT XX — installation Brussels".

Isabella Weinreb Castegnier. Image from film “TRANSPORT XX — installation Brussels”.

Escape from Transport XX – the death train to Auschwitz…

On April 19, 1943, the first night of Passover, Transport XX departed from the barracks in Mechelen with people crammed in cattle-wagons. This time the Germans didn’t use the passengers’ wagons as in previous transports, but instead, they opted for wooden box-cars with tiny ventilations and doors reinforced with barbed wire, which would prevent all attempts to escape. The transport left Mechelen in the late evening for its destination, when at one point, it started stalling, then suddenly stopped. My mother would say that she could hear shouts in German and shots coming from the area of the locomotive. It sounded like the train had come under attack.

My mother (no.1153) and her friend Lilly (no.1152) were both huddled in the same wagon. They were planning to jump off the train as soon as possible, before it would reach over the border to Germany. Each wagon was equipped with a bucket and a broom, the Germans always caring for cleanliness. Possibly the broom had been used to open the door, or perhaps a sharp tool that some people had managed to hide and carry from the camp. My mother could not remember clearly how they had succeeded in making that door open, from inside or outside? She wasn’t sure. But she did tell another story about the broom…how they had dressed it up with a man’s coat and a hat, then held outside the door to use as a decoy for the soldiers who were guarding the train. They were expecting the German guards to shoot at that “broom”… but if the Germans were not responding, it would be the signal that it was safe for them to jump.

People in her wagon then began to jump…taking turns… my mother too was getting ready…but when came her turn, she froze, overcome by a sudden fear, it was dark and the train started to pick up speed. While she was trying to regain control of herself, she felt someone pushing her from behind…and finally she got the courage to jump. Bullets were flying around but didn’t hit her. She rolled down the ravine, then run to hide in the nearby bushes. She had a broken wrist, bruises over her face and legs, but no major injuries. It was amazing that she had not miscarried from that fall and remained pregnant…I was holding tight in my mother’s womb!

The next morning, when it was safe to move out of her hiding spot in the woods, my mother went to the nearest tram station to catch the trolley to Brussels and reunite with my father. Then came the Gestapo again!…they were searching the tram for escapees. She was terrified! She was hiding her swollen hand in the pocket of her coat, afraid they would ask her to take it out. Luckily the men passed her by and did not pay attention. She finally arrived to the tram station in Brussels, feeling so weak and hungry that the first thing she did was to find a bakery and eat her favorite pastries…(she always had a sweet tooth!) Then she allowed herself to call my father who could not believe she had escaped and returned home…he thought he was seeing a ghost!

Born…

Couple months later, about three weeks before I was born, the police came to my father’s house to look for “Isabella Weinreb who had escaped”…My mother had already a new identity, therefore my father pretended she was “not the same wife, but a new one, since the other one he thought had died”…a story the policeman did not believe, but since this man was not a German, just a Belgian cop who was in a good disposition toward my father, he decided to do no harm, just said “you are lucky that my colleague didn’t come with me today, because he is a Gestapo officer and he would have taken this woman away.”

Couple weeks after this frightful event, my mother gave birth safely at home…six months after her escape, on October 30, 1943…my father named me Viviane, meaning “full of life”!

Belgium ca. 1948. Viviane and her parents on the walk board at the seaside.

Belgium ca. 1948. Viviane and her parents on the walk board at the seaside.

After the war…

My parents stayed in Brussels after the war…my father lived in Belgium until his death in 1986. My mother moved to the South of France when she was in her 80’s, wishing to live near her daughter (my younger sister)…and there she would remain in a retirement home until she passed away.

As to myself, I spent my childhood in Belgium, where like my mother, I belonged to a Jewish Zionist Youth organization and fulfilled my mother’s dream to live in Israel. At age 20, I went to live on a kibbutz, joining my grandmother and aunt who had immigrated to Israel after the war.

With my family (husband and children) we moved to Los Angeles in 1980 where I’ve been living since. I am now retired, taking care of my grandchildren, telling them the story of my mother, their unique, brave great-grandmother…and my own story, as the youngest survivor of the Twentieth Train!

Viviane Castegnier Yarom
Los Angeles, California
April 28, 2014 – Holocaust Remembrance Day

 

Notes

April 28, 2014. Ameet Kanon singing Ve’Ulai (“And Perhaps”) a capella – to honor her great-grandmother’s memory – yesterday at the Israeli Scouts of America ceremony in Los Angeles for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“This song is dedicated to my great-grandmother, who has so many lost in the shoah. She was a holocaust survivor … and this is one of her favorite songs…

Ve’ulai lo hayu hadvarim me’olam
Ve’ ulai,
Me’olam lo heshkamti im shachar lagan,
La’avdo be’zeiat apai.

Me’olam, be’yamim arukim ve’yokdim,
Arukim ve’yokdim shel katzir,
Bim’romei agalah amusat alumot
Lo natati koli be’shir.

Me’olam lo taharti bi’tchelet shoktah
U’vetom…
Shel Kinneret sheli – Oy Kinneret sheli,
He’hayit, o chalamti chalom?…”

Lyrics by poetess Rachel [pseudonym of Hebrew poet Rachel Bluwstein]

 

"Ve’Ulai" Hebrew transcript handwritten by Isabella Weinreb - a song she cherished and herself would sing on special occasions.

“Ve’Ulai” Hebrew transcript handwritten by Isabella Weinreb – a song she cherished and herself would sing on special occasions.

 

“And Perhaps ” English translation “Ve’ulai”

And perhaps these things never were
And perhaps,
I never rose at dawn to the garden,
To work it by sweat of my brow.

Never, not on long and blazing days,
Long and blazing days of harvest
On top of a cart full of sheaf,
I did not raise my voice in song.

Never did I wash in the peaceful azure
And innocence,
Of my Kinneret…oh my Kinneret,
Did you exist, or did I dream a dream?

 

Updates

May 1, 2014. Added ‘Notes’ section in post with the April 28, 2014 item on Ameet Kanon singing Ve’Ulai.

Link
Screening "Transport XX to Auschwitz " April 2, 2014  with guest speaker Richard Bloom in Temple Anshei Shalom Delray's Vibrant Synagogue of the Future Florida , US (Image ref BUM10046V01) http://www.templeansheishalom.org/upcomingevents.html

Screening “Transport XX to Auschwitz ” April 2, 2014 with guest speaker Richard Bloom in Temple Anshei Shalom – Delray’s Vibrant Synagogue of the Future – Florida , US (Image ref BUM10046V01)

“Auschwitz and forgiveness” by Simon Gronowski (English translation)

Simon Gronowski & Koenraad Tinel in Auschwitz

Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel together in the Auschwitz camp, May 2012.
(image BUM10010V01 – michelvanderburg.com)

“Auschwitz and forgiveness” – a letter by Simon Gronowski (lawyer) was published in French originally as “Auschwitz et le pardon” in Le Monde (France) on Sept. 20, 2013.

Below the English translation of Simon Gronowski’s letter by Michel van der Burg

Auschwitz and forgiveness  

I lost my mother and sister in the gas chambers of Auschwitz – Birkenau and my father died in despair, in July 1945.
I myself was 11 years old when, on 17 March 1943, the Nazis took me, threw me into a dungeon, the basement of the Gestapo on the Avenue Louise in Brussels, then in a big prison, the Dossin barracks in Mechelen, the ‘Belgian Drancy‘. A month later, April 19, 1943, they put me in a cattle car of the 20th Convoy to Auschwitz. Miraculously, I jumped off the train and escaped death. And all this for what? Because my parents were born Jews.

It took me 60 years to tell the drama of my childhood (L’enfant du 20e convoi [tr. The child of the 20th convoy], ed. Luc Pire, 2002, reprinted Renaissance du Livre, 2013). It took sixty years for Koenraad Tinel to tell his own history of a son of a Flemish Nazi. He did this courageously by extraordinary drawings in a book titled Scheisseimer (Lannau, 2009); he is an artist, a sculptor, and he draws.

Forgiveness

His father adored Hitler. He had his two elder sons in the Waffen SS, the oldest one to the eastern front, the other, at sixteen and a half years old too young to fight, in the Flämisch Wachzug (Flemish Guard), a subsidiary of the Gestapo, camp guards of Breendonk and Mechelen. Fortunately, Koenraad was only 6 years old when Hitler came into Belgium, otherwise he would have imitated his brothers. He has rejected completely the ideology of his father.

We met by chance in February 2012. A 16 year old boy I did not know but who knew our two stories, brought us together. Koen said at that time: “When I read your story, I cried.” I replied: “Children of the Nazis are not responsible.” A great friendship is born between us. We were two children crushed by a war we did not understand at all, one on each side of the fence, I at the side of the victims, he the side of the executioners.

For sixty years, he has carried the burden of his father’s fault. Our grief is not comparable but I understand his. He has freed himself of it first by his book Scheisseimer, then by our friendship.

We made a book on this: Neither victim, nor guilty, FINALLY LIBERATED (Ni victime, ni coupable, ENFIN LIBÉRÉS; Renaissance du Livre, 2013): I wrote, Koenraad drew with ink. In January, Koenraad told me: “My brother knows your history, he wants to see you“, this brother, guardian at the Dossin barracks (Kazerne Dossin) when I was detained there, took me at gunpoint into the wagon of death.

So he regretted what he had done and asked me to forgive.
When I saw him, we hugged each other without saying a word, in tears. I forgave him only on my own behalf, not on behalf of other victims and I forgave him alone, not all Nazis. I did it especially for me, feeling I transcended it.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. On the contrary, it gives the memory greater prominence, a larger dimension. Our memory is essential: we must know the barbarism of the past to defend democracy today. Democracy is a struggle every day.

Amnesty is unacceptable : it is a blind collective measure that absolves all culprits without requiring them to repent.
Forgiveness is a religious virtue. For Buddhists, it is an act of liberating wisdom.
The bigger the crime, the greater forgiveness.

Some say they would not be able to forgive: – this statement does not make sense because they have never been asked as I have been and it is unlikely they will ever be, but if it happened to them, what would they do ? – 70 years later, they still suffer from their wounds and their resentment when they should love life and believe in happiness, out of respect for the deceased relatives.

When the culprit repents and asks for forgiveness, the victim not only can but must forgive, for refusing means maintaining hatred from both sides. Some criticize my friendship for Koenraad and my forgiveness for his brother.
They want to keep the children and descendants of victims and perpetrators separated forever into two enemy camps.

They are often victims of Nazism. This is normal, they have suffered terrible trauma in their body and in their soul. But they freeze in their victim posture, locked in their bitterness.
Aren’t they thinking too much of their own pain, and not enough of that of the other? Some, born after the war and who have not suffered the Holocaust, are not less hateful.

Such an attitude opens the way to new animosities, new wars, new suffering for our children.
It is not because children of victims and children of offenders for long, for generations, unconsciously, carry the stigma of absolute evil, that they must stay pitted against each other.
Men should not be divided but brought closer together, one must go toward the other to progress and grow together for a better world of peace and mutual respect. This is a message of hope and happiness.
I who lost my family by criminal hate, I do not hate. Despite the tragic events of yesterday and today, because even today in the world there are peoples who suffer, men who suffer, I keep my faith in the future because I believe in human goodness.

Long live peace and friendship between men !

Simon Gronowski (Lawyer)

Simon Gronowskiescaped from the 20th convoy – received the 2006 Grand Prix Condorcet-Aron for democracy – is a former president of the Union of Jews deported from Belgium (Union des Déportés Juifs de Belgique).

Notes –  by Michel van der Burg
– English translation (with help from Richard Bloom) by Michel van der Burg
– I inserted some extra links
– “Auschwitz and forgiveness” – a letter by Simon Gronowski (lawyer) was published in French originally as “Auschwitz et le pardon” in Le Monde (France) on Sept. 20, 2013. (I left out the photo published with the Le Monde letter)
– The image in this post is a frame from video I captured during the visit of Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim, Poland on May 24, 2012. (image BUM10010V01 – michelvanderburg.com)

Update – Full letter – Sept. 27. Now the translation of the (final) 2nd part of the letter was added (after it became publicly available for all on the website of Le Monde today). This second part starts with: Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. On the contrary,…….
Also the last sentence of the first part was altered.

Documentary film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” – online

Transport XX to Auschwitz - Poster

Watch online now:
“Transport XX to Auschwitz – a film by Karen Lynne & Richard Bloom and Michel van der Burg”.

The attack on this deportation train in Belgium – by three young men – the rescue, and the many escapes and escape attemps are documented in this film.

Today 70 years ago – on the night of April 19, 1943 – this remarkable heroic rescue occured in Belgium, were 17 people were liberated during an attack on the cattle car train ‘Transport XX’ – crammed with 1631 Jewish passengers, heading for Auschwitz – and another more than 200 others jumped out also.

Transport XX to Auschwitz

Full film available for private online viewing – contact Michel van der Burg here
or contact richardbloomproductions

During the Nazi occupation of Belgium 28 train convoys with over 25,000 Jews and 351 Roma left Mechelen towards the Auschwitz extermination camp.
On the night of April 19, 1943, the 20th transport headed East with 1631 Jewish passengers crammed into 40 cattle cars.
This ‘Transport XX’ left the Mechelen transit camp ‘Kazerne Dossin’ at 10 pm. and was attacked and stopped some 30 minutes later outside Brussels – near Boortmeerbeek.
Armed with only 1 pistol, pliers and an improvised red hurricane lamp the three young Belgians Robert Maistriau, Jean Franklemon, and Youra Livschitz – old schoolmates – stopped the train by putting the red lamp in the middle of rails. They were able to open one of the cattle cars and liberated 17 men and women. Another more than 200 prisoners escape from the train before the German border. Many were shot and 26 were killed. Eventually, half of them succeeded to escape.

The attack, rescue, and many escapes and escape attemps from this 20th deportation train in Belgium are documented in this newly released film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” by the first-hand accounts of one of the attackers, people that jumped from the train and survivors who returned from Auschwitz.
This attack by three young man, who follow their heart, is the only documented attack on a death train during the Shoah.

mvdb20120116_115746f0188v2

Simon Gronowski beside deportation wagon – image from interview video by Michel van der Burg. Original photo: Pierre Salmon

The film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” documents the attack and rescue story of one of the attackers, Robert Maistriau, and several escape attempts and escapes of the deportees: Régine Krochmal, Louis de Groot and his brother, the 11 year old Simon Gronowski, Lilly Wolkenfeld Schwartz and her friends, Gunther and Marie Mendel, Willy Berler, Louis Micheels who as doctor in charge of patients decided not trying to escape – and others…

Régine Krochmal  - portraits from Transport XX. Image: Michel van der Burg

Régine Krochmal – portraits from Transport XX. Image: Michel van der Burg

Régine Krochmal had been active in the resistance and was a nurse. She had to escort together with a doctor the more dead then alive deportees in the ‘hospital’ car. Just before she went into the car she was warned by the Jewish camp doctor of the Dossin barracks, who gave her a knife with the words: “Cut the bars, jump, because they will burn you“.
Régine, had to fight off the accompanying doctor in her car who was trying to prevent her from sawing through the bars of the small vent in order to escape. She jumped out the very same moment the train was attacked and stopped.

Then when the train stops, the attacker Robert Maistriau cuts the barbed wire on the sliding door of one of the cars, opens the door and calls “Fliehen Sie, Fliehen Sie!” At first people are confused and scared – but then 17 people jumped out and escaped, while the Germans were shooting. He next starts working on a second car, but the train began moving…

Transport XX to Auschwitz – trailer

In every car the Germans had appointed one prisoner responsible for preventing and reporting attempts to escapes. Louis de Groot – was one of these appointed ‘guards’ and was told “When anybody escapes, or you let anybody escape, everybody is killed!“. He, however, calmed down the scared people in his car. “They did not want to let me out of that – they were so afraid – that I – that we will be killed. So, I say ‘no – I arrange it for you’. I was quite an acrobat. So, we broke open that little air thing…“. He, together with some others managed to break open the little ventilation window. Louis then took a girl with him when he jumped – together with his brother Abraham and two boys.

In a scene from the film “Transport XX to Auschwitz,” Simon Gronowski stands at the spot where he jumped from the train 70 years ago - near the village of Kuttekoven. (Photo: Marc Van Roosbroeck)

In a scene from the film “Transport XX to Auschwitz,” Simon Gronowski stands at the spot where he jumped from the train 70 years ago – near the village of Kuttekoven. (Photo: Marc Van Roosbroeck)

Simon Gronowski was only 11 years old when he was helped by his mother to jump from the train, and survived – unlike his mother who was gassed at Auschwitz. Simon was ‘lucky’. He was taken care of by the Belgian gendarme Jean Aerts and his wife, and not betrayed. That salvation was no exception: almost all refugees from the deportation train survived with the help of the Belgian population. Simon Gronowski was the youngest person to ever escape from a death train.

Lilly Wolkenfeld Schwartz had to push her Belgian friend Lilian to jump from the train. The train was moving fast when guys in the compartment of Lilly and her friends Bella and Lilian managed to open the doors. Bella and a lot of other people jumped, but Lilian said “…I can’t“. So Lilly pushed her to jump, and jumped after her. Lilly: “…and as I jumped I had a bullet here, which I found out later…

Both Gunther Mendel and Marie (Neufeld) Mendel too managed to escape via the little ventilation window and jumped. Gunther: “I went out foot first…you have to throw yourself backwards, because the train was doing maybe 30-40 miles an hour..“. Marie: “..I jumped out – I let myself out – and I lost a shoe…

Louis Micheels had thought of escaping, but as he was responsible for the seriously ill patients in the hospital car – then thought “how can I, as a doctor in charge of patients in this transport, how can I desert and escape?“. Upon arrival in Auschwitz however “my patients were dragged out, thrown on the truck like they were cattle, dead cattle..

When Willy Berler was about to jump off the train, he saw that the unfortunate man who had jumped before him, was stuck to the train with his head crushed like a melon. Willy did not jump. “If I had known …. about Auschwitz …. I would have jumped.

These are remarkable stories of the heroic rescue, escapes, and escape attempts from Transport XX to Auschwitz, which occurred on April 19, 1943 – the first night of Passover – when, at the same time, also the Warsaw Ghetto uprising began, some 720 miles away.

During the Shoah, the Nazis, in their quest for the ‘final solution’ of the Jewish question, utilized thousands of such trains from Germany and the occupied countries to transport 3,000,000 Jews to the concentration and death camps.

Film festivals & holocaust education programs

mvdb20121204_145735m1241 - portrait
This documentary is available for Jewish and other film festivals as well as holocaust education programs.

For more info contact: Richard Bloom (Richard Bloom Productions – USA) or Michel van der Burg (michelvanderburg.com)

Currently (as of Jan. 2013) the film is available for viewing in the world holocaust museums and centers:

- the Yad Vashem’s Visual Center (Israel) – Library Catalog

- the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC – catalog info DVD collection (updated Aug 2013)

- Kazerne Dossin. Memorial, Museum and Documentation Centre on Holocaust and Human Rights. – Documentation Centre

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Screenings

official selection fliff 2012 palms

The film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” premiered at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF) 2012 – and was screened in October at the main film festival theatre Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, and again in November in Sunrise, Florida.

Richard Bloom addressing the audience at Cinema Paradiso in Florida at the Fort Lauderdale premiere of "Transport XX to Auschwitz".

USA. Florida. October 27, 2012. Richard Bloom (director) speaking at the premiere of the film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival at the Cinema Paradiso. In the audience also director Karen Lynne Bloom (bottom left in picture). Image Reference: BUM10006V02 (michelvanderburg.com)

April 2013 — Early this month screenings at Jewish community centers followed in commemorations of Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – in Florida and the Greater Washington area

April 2014 — Screening “Transport XX to Auschwitz ” April 2, 2014 with guest speaker Richard Bloom in Temple Anshei Shalom – Delray’s Vibrant Synagogue of the Future – Florida , US

Screening "Transport XX to Auschwitz " April 2, 2014  with guest speaker Richard Bloom in Temple Anshei Shalom Delray's Vibrant Synagogue of the Future Florida , US (Image ref BUM10046V01) http://www.templeansheishalom.org/upcomingevents.html

Screening “Transport XX to Auschwitz ” April 2, 2014 with guest speaker Richard Bloom in Temple Anshei Shalom – Delray’s Vibrant Synagogue of the Future – Florida , US

April  2014 – Screening at the Jewish Heritage Festival – News Journal Center – Daytona Beach, Florida

May 2014 – Festival of Tolerance in Zagreb, Croatia, May 18-24, Cinema Tuškanac – European Theater Premiere. The audience gave the film a very good average grade of 4.3 (out of 5).

Festival of Tolerance in Zagreb, Croatia, May 18-24, Cinema Tuškanac - European Theater Premiere

European Theater Premiere of “Transport XX to Auschwitz” at the Festival of Tolerance in Zagreb, Croatia, May 18-24, Cinema Tuškanac

Contact info
Richard Bloom (Richard Bloom Productions – USA)
Michel van der Burg (michelvanderburg.com)

Reactions

Following the news of the film other stories are emerging.

- Film tells story of daring attack on train to Auschwitz – Jewish Journal

Indie Film reviewer Larry Richman on FLIFF Top Picks and  documentary “Transport XX to Auschwitz”

- A Story of Transport XX – April 19, 1943 – by Audrey Rogers Furfaro

-  Escape from Transport XX – to be born 6 months later – Viviane’s story
April 28, 2014 – Isabella Weinreb Castegnier was three-months pregnant that night on April 1943 in Belgium, when she jumped from the fast moving 20th Train heading for Auschwitz. Isabella escaped with a broken wrist and bruises all over her body, but otherwise without major injuries. Her daughter Viviane – meaning “full of life”, and named so for her will to live and hold tight in her mother’s womb – was born six months later on October 30, 1943.
Last month, Viviane first learned about our documentary “Transport XX to Auschwitz” and e-mailed me…”I couldn’t believe while searching online that I would find an actual movie made, telling the story of this famous, unique escape from a death-train!” After watching the documentary, she wrote to me “it was so well-made…I even wished it were longer”…Viviane also shared with me that at one point in the film, she got tears in her eyes, as her mother’s face appeared in a flash on the screen, while Lilly (Wolkenfeld Schwartz) – her mother’s friend was telling the story…”and Bella jumped” … this was so unexpected, she said “it took me by surprise!”
One year ago – on Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 7, 2013 – her mother passed away at the age of 93. Today, 71 years after that unique escape, on Holocaust Remembrance Day 2014, and her mother’s yahrzeit, Viviane shares her story here on this site. Continue reading >

- May 19. Embassy of the Netherlands in Croatia :
In the coming days several Dutch films are scheduled at the 8th edition of the Jewish Film Festival (18 – 24 May) in Zagreb! The event features a broad selection of music, round tables, theater and film. Dutch (co)productions include:
Wednesday 21/5: “Broken Silence” and “Sammy”
Thursday 22/5: “Transport XX to Auschwitz” and “Blind Love” 
Saturday 24/5: “Heli”

- May 28, 2014. Zagreb. Festival of Tolerance. The audience at the Festival of Tolerance valued the film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” with a very good average grade of 4.3 (out of 5).

NEWS

Escaping the train to Auschwitz
BBC News – 19 April 2013 – By Althea Williams and Sarah Ehrlich

This day in Jewish history / Daring escape from an Auschwitz-bound train
HAARETZ – Apr.19, 2013 – By David B. Green

The Survivor Mitzvah Project
Films

Jan 30, 2014 – Lilly (Wolkenfeld) Schwartz passed away this week.

Lilly (Wolkenfeld) Schwartz passed away this week. A brave woman has died. In 1943 she jumped and helped a friend  to jump from the twentieth train to Auschwitz - Image (BUM10036V01) from the 2012 documentary Transport XX to Auschwitz - http://michelvanderburg.com/2013/04/19/transport-xx-to-auschwitz/

Jan 30, 2014 – Lilly (Wolkenfeld) Schwartz passed away this week.
A brave woman has died. In 1943 she jumped from the twentieth train to Auschwitz.
Image (BUM10036V01) from the 2012 documentary Transport XX to Auschwitz

Updates
– post updated April 20 by adding News section and news items
–  Aug 2013 : USHMM updated per august 2013 the catalog info of the DVD “Transport XX to Auschwitz” in their DVD collection
– Aug 2013 : added – a recently acquired – photo of Richard Bloom speaking at the premiere of the film at the Cinema Paradiso in Florida
– Jan 2014 : added News item – the Survivor Mitzvah Project – Films
– Jan 30, 2014 : added News item – obituary Lilly (Wolkenfeld) Schwartz
– April 2014 : added news screenings & reaction / story Isabella Weinreb (“Bella”) and daughter Viviane
– May 2014 – added news European Theater Premiere at Festival of Tolerance in Zagreb, Croatia