Tag Archives: 1943

Transport XX – herdenking 2016

Transport XX herdenking 2016 – “Een radicale keuze…”  – Update April 22
① memo 20160419 ~ Radical Choice … Transport XX” ~ 2016 commemoration , theme “A radical choice…” in Boortmeerbeek , Belgium , April 17, 2016 .
Video online 19 April 2016.
UPDATE video 22 April 2016.
Film : Michel van der Burg – michelvanderburg.com | 1-memo.com .

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

 

NEWS

April 19, 2018. Full of Life … Escape from Transport XX

① memo 20180419 ~ Full of Life … Escape from Transport XX ~ Today 75 years ago , that night of April 19th, 1943 in Belgium , Elias Gnazik helped jump the pregnant Isabella Weinreb from the fast moving 20th train heading for Auschwitz. Viviane – meaning ‘full of life’ – was born 6 months later.
Discussion – moderated by Ingrid Vander Veken – of Simone Korkus’ dutch book “Het dienstmeisje van Degrelle” on 15 oktober 2017 in Kazerne Dossin , Mechelen , Belgium.
This new short film (with english captions / partly english spoken) highlights our discussion in that ‘Literary Cafe’ on Oct. 15, 2017 in Kazerne Dossin, of Elias’ rescue of Isabella and Vivian ; it continues with our visit later to the Kazerne Dossin portrait wall (portrait’s of deported people) with Simone Korkus and Jan Maes (the first to point Simone to Hannah’s story) ; and ends with me having a short improvised talk in english with a visitor’s couple .
> Full report here : https://wp.me/p14gqN-niQ

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,
Oh 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.

April 20-21, 2016. Redesigned video image Ameet Kanon singing Ve’Ulai , and edited audio. Also added minor (spelling) correction in english translation of lyrics.

April 19, 2018. Full of Life … Escape from Transport XX – New film – News item added

TRANSPORT XX – installation Brussels

video framework

Storyboard of the video TRANSPORT XX — installation Brussels

TRANSPORT XX — installation Brussels
Portraits of Jews deported to Auschwitz in 1943

English text below – Français au bas

TRANSPORT XX — installatie Brussel

Video impressie (28 februari 2009) van de confrontatie van voorbijgangers met de TRANSPORT XX installatie in Brussel: 1200 fotografische portretten van joden gedeporteerd van Mechelen (België) naar Auschwitz in 1943.

Vandaag precies 66 jaar geleden — op 19 april 1943 — deporteerde het TRANSPORT XX treinkonvooi 1631 joodse gevangenen van de Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen (België) naar Auschwitz-Birkenau (Polen).
Een op de zeven van de gedeporteerden wist te ontsnappen; ondermeer door de verzetsactie van de drie Brusselse jongemannen — Youra Livschitz, Jean Franklemon and Robert Maistriau — die het konvooi ‘s nachts tot staan brachten na Boortmeerbeek — niet ver van Mechelen.
Het project TRANSPORT XX is een constructie waarin de portretten getoond worden van 1200 van de 1631 gevangenen van dit 20ste konvooi.

De TRANSPORT XX installatie in Brussel werd van 27 januari tot 15 maart 2009 georganiseerd door het BELvue Museum in samenwerking met JMDV – Kazerne Dossin (Meer info hieronder).
De fotografische portretten werden buiten gepresenteerd langs het “Park van Brussel” (Warandepark) tegenover het Koninklijk Paleis. Op deze wijze werden voorbijgangers geconfronteerd met de 1200 gezichten van de slachtoffers.
Met deze gebeurtenis werd tevens de bevrijding herdacht van Auschwitz-Birkenau op 27 januari 1945.

Meer info:

Dit project werd voor het eerst gepresenteerd aan de internationale pers op vrijdag 20 april 2007 bij de Kazerne Dossin / Joods Museum van Deportatie en Verzet (JMDV).

De Kazerne Dossin digitaliseerde de foto’s van Dossin gevangenen, die meestal afkomstig zijn uit het Belgische Algemeen Rijksarchief – Dossiers Vreemdelingen Politie.
Met het project “Geef ze een gezicht” tracht Kazerne Dossin om zoveel mogelijk portretten van gedeporteerden samen te brengen, om hen hun gezicht terug te geven, en de herinnering levend te houden.
Video © 2009 Michel van der Burg (michelvanderburg.com) — Sommige rechten voorbehouden: Creative Commons licentie: Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0

English

TRANSPORT XX — installation Brussels

Video impression (February 28th, 2009) of the confrontation of passers-by with the TRANSPORT XX installation in Brussels, that presented 1200 photographic portraits of Jews deported from Malines (Belgium) to Auschwitz in 1943.

Today exactly 66 years ago — on 19 April 1943 — the TRANSPORT XX train convoy deported 1,631 prisoners (mainly Jews) from the Dossin Barracks in Malines (Belgium) to Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland).
One out of seven of these deportees managed to escape, among others by the act of resistance of the three young men — Youra Livschitz, Jean Franklemon and Robert Maistriau — who stopped the convoy that night after Boortmeerbeek (near Malines).
The project TRANSPORT XX is a construction depicting the portraits of 1,200 of the 1,631 prisoners deported on this 20th convoy.

The TRANSPORT XX installation in Brussels was organised from 27 January to 15 March 2009 by the BELvue Museum in collaboration with the JMDR / Dossin Barracks (Kazerne Dossin – more info below).
The photographic portraits were displayed outside in the Royal park in Brussels (opposite the Royal Palace). In this way passers-by were confronted with 1,200 faces of the victims.
This event commemorated the release of Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland) on 27 January 1945.

More info:

This project was first presented to the international press on Friday 20 April 2007 at the Dossin Barracks / Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance (JMDR) / Kazerne Dossin.
The Kazerne Dossin digitalized the photo’s of the Dossin prisoners, that mostly are from the “National State Archives of Belgium. Ministry of Justice, Public Safety Office, Foreigner’s Police, individual files“.
With the ‘Give Them a Face’ project the Kazerne Dossin aims to bring together as many portraits of deportees from the Dossin barracks in Mechelen as possible and give them back their face – and the memory alive.
Video © 2009 Michel van der Burg (michelvanderburg.com) — Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons license: Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

Français (French)

TRANSPORT XX — installation Bruxelles

Une vidéo de l’installation “Transport XX” – une série de portraits photos des juifs qui devaient être emmenés de Malines à Auschwitz le 19 avril 1943 (organisée par le BELvue Musée à Bruxelles – 27 janvier au 15 mars 2009 – le long du Parc Royal juste en face du Palais Royal de Bruxelles).
Merci bien Marjan Verplancke et des autres collègues de la Kazerne Dossin à Malines (la Belgique) et le projet ‘Donnez-leur un visage’.

Kazerne Dossin a digitalisé des photos de déportés de Dossin – la plupart proviennent des Dossiers de la Police des Étrangers (Archives Générales du Royaume).
Avec le projet ‘Donnez-leur un visage’ Kazerne Dossin vise à réunir le maximum de portraits de déportés afin de leur rendre un visage.
Vidéo © 2009 Michel van der Burg (michelvanderburg.com) — Certains Droits Réservés – Creative Commons license: Paternité-Partage des Conditions Initiales à l’Identique 3.0 Unported

More info on TRANSPORT XX and newer film versions

Original 2009 film version :
TRANSPORT XX – installation Brussels (in this post above)

Newer film versions (with description at the Vimeo site) :
Transport XX – face to face
NB . only minor corrections and new title

 

This version of the film ‘Transport XX – face to face’ was presented by Kazerne Dossin from January 2010 – ca 2012 on the site of the Task Force For International Cooperation On Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF , now the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ( IHRA ), and on the frontpage of the Kazerne Dossin site from January 2011 – ca October 2012 – here a cached page from 2012.
Transport XX – face to face (2012)
NB. new cut

 

Transport XX face to face – 1 minute film

A special 1 minute film “Transport XX face to face” was selected in 2010 by The One Minutes and the dutch Museum of National History (innl) for the ‘Where history starts’ event on Nov 28th, 2010 in Paradiso, Amsterdam (Netherlands).

 

Que Siga el Calor – Samuel Truzman & Simon Lapscher

Music video “Que Siga el Calor – Samuel Truzman & Simon Lapscher” : An original song by Samuel Truzman , Simon Lapscher, and Moshe Bitton , with the film of portraits from “Transport XX Face To Face” by Michel van der Burg – matched to the song , was published as a special co-production for Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day 2016.

Full Documentary film “Transport XX to Auschwitz” via this link

Info updated

20090504
20101130 replaced ‘ClipStills’ by VideoframesWork™
20111215 credits / link info
20120109 french credits
20121030 imported from imichel.com – updated –  replaced ‘storyboard’ for ‘VideoframesWork’
20160505 section “More info on TRANSPORT XX and newer film versions was added above
20171130 info on publication of Transport XX face to face on JMDV/Kazerne Dossin site and site ITF / updated links Kazerne Dossin (domain change from .com to eu)