Story of Righteous Nelly • Quintart aka Quintard

Nelly Quintart – Righteous Medal – misspelt “Quintard” | 20230526 | Miracles•Media

Nelly’s family name is ‘Quintart’ , and misspelt ‘Quintard’ on the Righteous MedaI (Ref 1) minted posthumous for Nelly by Yad Vashem in 1999 to honor Nelly for hiding and rescuing the Jewish Frankenthal family in her home in Brussels during the holocaust. Date of Recognition 30 Dec 1998 by Yad Vashem (Ref 2, 3).

Righteous Medal

Righteous Medal | 20200820 | Miracles•Media

August 2016, this Righteous Medal from Yad Vashem with the name ‘Nelly Quintard’ was presented to me by researcher Janiv Stamberger, during this interview I filmed at the Wiki Loves Art event in Kazerne Dossin , Mechelen , Belgium.

I posted that interview August 2020 at with the following information (Ref 4) :

“Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations – from the Yad Vashem holocaust center in Israel for the Righteous helping Jews during the Holocaust – with the inscription in French ” The grateful Jewish people” and the French translation of the Jewish saying “Whoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe”.
This medal was minted for Nelly Quintard, a widow in her fifties during the war, who hid the Frankenthal family (Abraham, Esther, and daughter Scheindel) in her home in Brussels, Belgium, from September ’42 until the end of the occupation.”

That information was based in part on the Yad Vashem database (Ref 2) and on a dossier in the Felix archive in Antwerp of correspondence by Mrs. Scheindel Frankenthal – Kalwary , ‘Sally’ the daughter of the Frankenthal family , who had requested Yad Vashem that honorific title Righteous Among the Nations (Juste parmi les nations) for Madame ‘Nelly Quintard’ (Ref 5).

Message from Nelly’s Godchild Renée Cassin

November 1, 2020, shortly after publishing that August 2020 post on the Righteous Medal, I got a message (via the contact form at from Nelly’s goddaughter ‘Renée’ – the granddaughter of Nelly’s brother René Quintart – who wrote me :

“What an extraordinary moment when we discovered totally by chance that you had some information about Nelly Quintart!!
She is my great aunt as well as my godmother. We had found out about her name being on the Wall of Righteous, but despite our research, we could not find out thanks to who…
My grand father, René Quintart had gone to London to join de Gaulle, and being single without children, Nelly moved into his big house in Brussels, where he also had his practice (he was a doctor), and stayed there during the whole war.
I myself have , as a child in the 50’s, spent many years in that house and used to play in that attic where , we were told, so much had happened…. I would love to learn more, kind regards,

That same day, Renée and I started sharing more on Nelly Quintart …Renée handed me a short story she had written in 2015 on Nelly Quintart…and I shared the information I had on Nelly ‘Quintard’ , both from Yad Vashem , and the dossier in the Felix archive in Antwerp of correspondence by Mrs. Scheindel Frankenthal – Kalwary .

I further decided to do more research for this upcoming update of Nelly’s story…now knowing Nelly’s family name is actually spelled ‘Quintart’.
Below first what is known from the letters of Scheindel – Sally – Frankenthal in the Felix archive.

Sally Frankenthal

Request 18 dec 1995 Sally Frankenthal | 20230526 | Miracles•Media | source Felix Archief

The Felix city archive of Antwerp, Belgium, has a dossier (Inventory number AJHA-SB#64) with the correspondence of the Frankenthal daughter Scheindel (Salomée , aka Sally) , who had requested the medal first december 1995 for Nelly in her letters to Yad Vashem via the Antwerp city council…my translation/paraphrasing :

“I have the honor to apply for the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ for Mrs. Nelly Quintard who hid us, my parents Abraham and Esthére Frankenthal, as well as myself Scheindel Frankenthal from September 1942 until the end of the occupation of Brussels. We were hiding in her brother’s house, 13 rue Marie-Thérèse in Brussels … Madame Nelly Quintard died without leaving any descendants, I would like to honor her memory posthumously.
…S. Frankenthal – Kalwary …
Antwerp” .

In a second letter (28 dec 1995) Sally Frankenthal details on her family and …. “aunt Nelly”… :

” I was born on December 23, 1934. My parents and I lived in Antwerp, 19 rue Van Lerius, at the beginning of 1942 we left for Brussels, where we lived, rue Cervantes.
We stayed at this place for a few months with false names and false papers. In September 1942 we went to live with Madame Nelly Quintard who hid us until the liberation of Brussels. We stayed all the time without going out, Madame Quintard left every morning equipped with an attaché case and went each time to different merchants to do the shopping for food, so as not to arouse suspicion. She came back every day with her little suitcase filled and no one could suspect that she was feeding four people instead of one.
Madame Nelly Quintard was a widow, childless, approaching her fifties, to my recollection no profession, receiving a pension from the Belgian state, because her husband had been a civil servant in the Belgian Congo. During this period Madame Nelly Quintard lived at 13 rue Marie-Thérese in Brussels, therefore just behind the Gestapo located rue de la Loi.
The house in rue Marie-Thérèse belonged to her brother who had fled the occupiers, so that’s where we hid without going out until the liberation of Brussels.
This hiding place had been planned for my grandfather Frankenthal and his wife, as he did not want to leave his house in Antwerp, we went there in his place.
Mrs. Nelly Quintard did this out of greatness of soul and out of love for her neighbour, without any profit motive.
We had the whole house at our disposal, but we had to be quiet, don’t turn on lights when Madame Quintard was away.
In September 1942 I had not yet reached the age of eight, so I have a very vague memory of the events occuring at that time.
I would like to be able to quote you witnesses of this horrible time there are no more survivors, my parents died as well as all other people who could have given you details, they were all much older than me.
I searched in Brussels for people with the same name, without any results, unfortunately there is no one from her family with whom we could have honored her memory and her bravery.
I remember very friendly relations between my parents and Madame Nelly Quintard whom I called ‘aunt Nelly’.
From time to time we received a visit from her father, an [old] gentleman, who had been a station master, he cultivated the little garden which gave us extra vegetables.
My parents were financially well-off, which allowed them to hold on throughout the war. There was also a foreman from my grandfather’s factory who brought us a little meat from the country every week.
I remember that one day despite the prohibition to approach the windows, having done so, the neighbor opposite saw me and reported it to Madame Quintard, despite the great risks she was taking, she bravely continued to hide us, it was thanks to her that my parents and I had survived this horrible war and that I had the happiness of being able to start a family. My daughter lives in Antwerp with her two sons, my son has made Aliyah, fourteen years ago, lives in Israel where he served in the army, married … and in turn founded a family with his two sons.
I sincerely hope that you will be able to help me fulfill a wish that is very dear to me to posthumously honor the memory of the person to whom, after my parents, I owe the happiness of being alive.
In the hope that you will consider favorably my request, please accept Mr. Zal, the assurance of my respectful sentiments.”

Nelly Quintart & Esther Frankenthal (left to right) | 20230526 | Miracles•Media | Source Sally Frankenthal-Kalwary | Hidden Child Association Belgium

In this picture above : Nelly Quintart & Esther Frankenthal (left to right) , as shown in The Album (Les Justes en Image) exposition by David Inowlocki / Hidden Child Association Belgium (Ref 6).

Nelly Quintart – Story by Renée Cassin

That same day Renée first contacted me, she sent me her short story on Nelly Quintart, her godmother …she wrote to leave a family trace…
Below excerpts from that story (originally written in French, Feb. 2015) selected, and translated, by me:

A Righteous Among the Nations
August 24, 1894 – December 6, 1986

« tante Nelly » Paris, 22 June 1968 | 20230526 | Renée Cassin | Miracles•Media

« Tante Nelly » (Aunt Nelly) was the older sister of René Quintart, the famous Doctor Quintart …
Nelly, in addition to being Renée’s godmother, was everyone’s “Aunt” … in the family, we often referred to her as “my aunt”, for example, her brother could say “did my aunt call today?”

She had a very strong personality, and without doubt her main character trait was independence of character, opinion, speech. She didn’t mince her words and made as many enemies as friends. She was also infinitely generous with her time, her efforts, and also the means at her disposal, which varied according to the different periods of her life.

When she was young, she had gone to the Congo for a few years to teach [ local children ] .
She had met there the one who would briefly become her husband, Jean Delgof … the couple never had children. After this period, she returns to live in Brussels (14 rue Rossini) in a large house in which her parents live with her (whom she takes care of)…

The war breaks out. It is the Appeal of General de Gaulle in June 1940. René Quintart decides to join him in London …
He entrusts his house and his medical practice, located at 13 rue Marie-Thérese, to his sister Nelly. She remained there until his return in 1944.

It was during this period that she showed courage, selflessness and inventiveness that saved many lives.
In the family, we knew that she had been a very first-rate “resister” and had met this young Jewish man whom she had hidden for eighteen months in this big house. He was of Polish origin and was called “Bolek”. Unfortunately, we did not retain his surname. He often came back to see her from Antwerp where he had married Rachel. They had a daughter Claudine. He had become a diamond dealer, and one day, much later, he had brought her a ring with eighteen small diamonds, each symbolizing a month of hiding that Nelly had allowed him to take advantage of. And there were all the others, anonymous, whom she helped by hiding them, for a few days or a few months.

John Brown, Scottish pilot hidden by Nelly | 20230526 | Miracles•Media

We learned much later … that Nelly had also been very active within the “Comet” network which came to the aid of British pilots.
This is how she hid a Scottish pilot, named John Brown, for several weeks, thus allowing him to escape the search that the Germans had launched against him.
It is said that in order not to arouse suspicion, she shopped in several shops in the neighborhood, each time buying only the quantity of food that the hardened bachelor that she was could have needed!
Extreme courage or recklessness, she maintained good relations with one of the colonels of the Commandery whom she happened to invite to lunch! She was a heroine for many, but we all experienced this as “normal”…

At the end of the war, she becomes again a respectable lady of a certain age, without history,
and resumes her “before life”. .

Aunt Nelly ended her life in a retirement home in Ostend on December 6, 1986.
She was neither buried nor cremated, having “donated her body to Science”
She was definitely someone extraordinary.

More than thirty – five years later … we learned that in 1999, Nelly Quintart had been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations”. Unfortunately, we do not know who took steps to have her acts of courage recognized. We think it may be the Scottish aviator John Brown, or the famous Bolek who never forgot her, visiting her several times a year. We knew that Bolek had lost his parents during the war, and that he was very attached to the one who had saved his life.

More research online …

Donald Duck | Comète | Andrée ‘Nelly’ QUINTART ….

After reading more on Nelly’s activities in Renée’s story, I understood that Nelly had been very active in the resistance , and I continued searching online (Nov 4, 2020) for more information on her work within the “Comète” network , and learned at that “QUINTART Andrée ‘Nelly’ participated in the ‘Escape’ service of William Halot” … called ‘Donald Duck’ … “evacuating soldiers to France and Switzerland through various routes.” ….”She lived at 13 Rue Marie-Thérèse, then at 14 Rue Rossini. She hosted a Scottish soldier named John Brown.” (Ref 7).

Actually – as described in Renée’s story, Nelly first lived at 14 Rue Rossini and then moves to 13 rue Marie-Thérese , the house with medical practice that her brother René Quintart entrusts to Nelly, when he leaves for England following the Appeal of General de Gaulle in June 1940.
More research online and reading (later in Sep. 2021) the published war journals of Tinou Dutry-Soinne, I learned , that Doctor René Quintart arrived at the heart of the Belgian government in London during the Second World War , sharing the apartment building with Tinou Dutry-Soinne who worked at the Belgian Parliamentary Office ‘OPB’, and described him as a charming man, a good comrade with a heart of gold and a cheerful character… always ready to tell stories and be of service.” (Ref 8).

Nelly was known as a widow of Jean Delgof, who had been working in the Belgian Congo.
The announcement in 1948 that Nelly received a 2nd Class Civic Medal 1940-1945 from the Belgian Ministry of the Interior in the Belgian official journal , also mentioned ‘widow of Delgof’ (Ref 10).

Not known, and fascinating to discover , when searching online for ‘Andrée’ and ‘Quintart’ , was the finding that Nelly had been married before , and actually, became a widow first at the age of 20 …when her first husband Georges Rimez was reported to probably have died as a soldier early in World War I on October 22, 1914 (Ref 12, 13).

Whether her first love was missing in action forever … is unknown …

Tribute to Nelly

Tribute to Nelly Quintart | 20230526 | Renée Cassin | Miracles•Media

Little boxes telling stories , made by Renée Cassin …. her niece and god daughter.

Many thanks to Sally Frankenthal for her persistence over years for Nelly Quintart to be recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” and … Renée Cassin and her family now hope for contact with the family of Sally (Scheindel / Salomée) Frankenthal – Kalwary , who in her correspondence with Yad Vashem mentioned her daughter and son … with grandchildren !

A new medal from Yad Vashem with the right spelling Nelly Quintart would be great , I will ask Yad Vashem .

You can contact Renée Cassin via the contact form at the web site(s) or — Michel van der Burg | Miracles•Media

License info : Story of Righteous Nelly • Quintart aka Quintard | 20230526 | Renée Cassin & Michel van der Burg | Miracles•Media

References & Notes

1. “Righteous Among the Nations” Yad Vashem medal in Kazerne Dossin , Mechelen , Belgium , August 18, 2016. This image was uploaded as part of Wiki Loves Art Belgium in 2016. Image by Michel van der Burg – – CC BY-SA 4.0 | URL

2. Quintard Nelly . The Righteous Among the Nations Database – File number M.31.2/8314 | Yad Vashem | URL

3. Righteous Among the Nations Honored by Yad Vashem by 1 January 2022 – Belgium – Name : Quintard, Nelly | No 8314 | Year 1999 | URL

4. Righteous Medal | 20200820 | Michel van der Burg | | Miracles•Media | URL

5. Dossier van Yad Vashem over Nelly Quintard | Felix Archief (Antwerp, Belgium) Invent AJHA-SB#64 / Isadfiche: BE SA 28528 / Yad Vashem #8314 | URL

6. Nelly Quintart & Esther Frankenthal (left to right). Photo source : Sally Frankenthal-Kalwary | The Album (Les Justes en Image) exposition by David Inowlocki / Hidden Child Association Belgium (L’Enfant Caché). URL : . Photo edit : Michel van der Burg, Miracles•Media. Note : Original caption in The Album : Madame Nelly Quintard avec, à sa droite, Madame Esther Frankenthal. Madame Nelly Quintard a caché et sauvé les époux Adolphe et Esther Frankenthal avec leur fille Sally. Photo : Sally Kalwary-Frankenthal

7. List of people who have helped airmen who have passed through Comète. ABC HELPERS – Site COMETE NETWORK | Association “LIGNE COMETE LINE – REMEMBRANCE” / Comète Kinship belgium . URL

8. Les méconnus de Londres: Journal de guerre d’une Belge, 1940-1945, by Tinou Dutry-Soinne. Volume I (2006, Éditions Racine, ISBN 9782873864835) & Volume II (2008, Éditions Racine, ISBN 9782873865047). | Note : In her war journal, Tinou Dutry-Soinne describes how almost a year later , in 1941, she and others felt , when they accompanied René Quintart to Kings Cross Station in London before leaving for the Dominican Republic (my translation) : “All very moved. His departure really saddens us, because he is a charming man, a good comrade with a heart of gold and a cheerful character… always ready to tell stories and be of service.” After the liberation, René Quintart returns via London to Belgium, were he received the official authorization in 1946 to exercise the functions of Consul General of the Dominican Republic in Brussels (Ref 9).

9. Moniteur Belge | Belgisch staatsblad , Nov 24, 1946 – p9601 – Consulats Étrangers en Belgique .. | A la date du 5 novembre 1946, M le Dr R. Quintart a reçu l’exequatur nécessaire pour exercer les fonctions de Consul Général de la République Dominicaine à Bruxelles

10. Belgian official journal (Belgisch Staatsblad | Moniteur Belge) of Nov 18, 1948 page 9211 was announced Quintart, Nelly-C-A-G, widow Delgof, in Anderlecht [Brussels] received a 2nd Class Civic Medal 1940-1945 from the Belgian Ministry of the Interior. | Note : The name Delgof J. is listed as european personnel (situation in the year 1904) working there at station Ibali in the district Lac Léopold II – in the publication Mai Ndombe (Ref 11)

11. The name Delgof J. is listed as european personnel (situation in the year 1904) working there at station Ibali in the district Lac Léopold II – in the publication Mai Ndombe (2019) | ISBN : 978-9-4926-6955-1 | URL

12. Searching online for ‘Nelly’ as Andrée QUINTART , I discovered she had been married before , reading in the 22 June 1922 Belgian official journal (Belgisch Staatsblad | Moniteur Belge) the following announcement by the Ministry of Defense – Military Graves Service – on her husband : Georges Rimez – soldier, 8th line regiment, born in Monceau-sur-Sambre, July 3, 1891, domiciled there, son of Vital and Copin, Marie-Sidonie, husband of Quintart, Nelly-Cécile- Andrée-Ghislaine, presumed dead in Stuyvekenskerke (Tervaetehoek, October 22, 1914. | Note : Georges Rimez is also listed as : RIMEZ Georges Gédéon Ghislain | birth place : Monceau sur Sambre | birth date : 03/07/1891 | place died : Stuivekenskerke -Tervatebocht | date died : 22/10/1914 at the website in the pdf : “In Gesneuvelden op het grondgebied van Pervijze, Stuivekenskerke, Oostkerke en Lampernisse” URL

We don’t talk about Anny | Simone Korkus | 20220722

Degrelle’s maid

Cover image of the Hebrew edition על אנני לא מדברים – We don’t talk about Anny – by author Simone Korkus, published by Carmel , in a translation by Irish Bauman of the original Dutch book Het dienstmeisje van Degrelle (2017) .

Jul 22, 2022 , Israel. Book presentation this morning at Simone Korkus’ home, of the Hebrew edition על אנני לא מדברים – We don’t talk about Anny. Special event in honor of Hannah and Max Nadel, Henri and Madeleine Cornet, Elias and Hava Gnazik. Picture by Embassy of Belgium in Israel | Twitter


Anny (or Annie) is the war name – nom de guerre – of the Jewish Hannah Nadel who , during the Second World War, ends up as a maid in the Brussels house of the sister of Léon Degrelle — Belgium’s foremost Nazi collaborator — and in this way escapes the horrors of the persecution of the Jews. Simone Korkus brings this unlikely story to life, meets Hannah’s Belgian rescuers and shows how life in wartime contains many gray zones. While Simone Korkus reconstructs Hannah’s life in Brussels, she encounters family secrets and also runs into her own prejudices. For what is truth in the way we look at others and judge their behavior? And how does our memory distort traumas such as those after World War II?

Degrelle’s maid , has been published also in 2020 in a French edition La Servante de Degrelle.

Transport XX to Auschwitz | Viviane’s Story

Hannah Nadel-Gnazik is the daughter of Elias Gnazik who escaped from deportation with Transport XX to Auschwitz and helped jump Isabella Weinreb-Castegnier pregnant with Viviane who was born six months later – see e-book Viviane’s Story | Escape from Transport XX…Born 6 Months Later by Viviane Yarom-Castegnier & Michel van der Burg – With a Foreword by Simone Korkus | URL miracles•media/vivianesstory .

We don’t talk about Anny | Simone Korkus | 20220722 | miracles•media

TAGS #Anny #Annie #Belgium #Embassy #Israel #Mechelen #Brussels #SimoneKorkus #LéonDegrelle #dienstmeisje #maid #Degrelle #holocaust #war #book #Polis #IsabellaWeinreb #YadVashem #EliasGnazik #HannahNadel #Viviane #presentation #TransportXX #MaxNadel #HenriCornet #MadeleineCornet #Isabella #Weinreb #Castegnier #TransportXX #Auschwitz #Léon Degrelle #Nazi #collaboration #maid #1Memo #michelvanderburg

Righteous Medal

Righteous Medal ~ Medal of the Righteous Among the Nations – from the Yad Vashem holocaust center in Israel for the Righteous helping Jews during the Holocaust – with the inscription in French ” The grateful Jewish people” and the French translation of the Jewish saying “Whoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe”.
This medal was minted for Nelly Quintard, a widow in her fifties during the war, who hid the Frankenthal family (Abraham, Esther, and daughter Scheindel) in her home in Brussels, Belgium, from September ’42 until the end of the occupation.

Interview with Janiv Stamberger (researcher Kazerne Dossin / University of Antwerp) filmed by Michel van der Burg ( on August 18, 2016 at the Wiki Loves Art event in Kazerne Dossin , Mechelen , Belgium.

A still from this video (Image Ref.: mvdb20160818_233059) is available via Wikimedia here  .
Another medal’s image is available here on Wikimedia .

Robert Maistriau’s memorabilia – Yad Vashem medal, pistol, small version lantern of Robert Maistriau in Kazerne Dossin , Mechelen , Belgium , August 18, 2016. Image Ref.: mvdb20160818_204617 by Michel van der Burg | | Wikimedia CC BY-SA 4.0

A very special image (Image Ref.: mvdb20160818_204617) is that of Robert Maistriau’s medal together with his other memorabilia in the Kazerne Dossin Museum – a pistol, and a small replica version (gift from a friend) of the lantern used with the attack on the 20th death train (Transport XX) from Kazerne Dossin in Mechelen to Auschwitz  .

Righteous Medal | 20200820 | Michel van der Burg | | Miracles•Media

I Have a Message for You – Matan Rochlitz

Beautiful short doc with Claire Prowizur-Szyper aka Klara .
To escape Auschwitz, she left her father in the 20th convoy ‘Transport XX’ to die.

Decades later, she got a message from him :

“I Have a Message for You” By filmmaker Matan Rochlitz ( site ).

Last year Kazerne Dossin screened the doc during the public weekend (together with the short documentary “Lon” by Nina Landau – see post ) .

Documentary film “Transport XX to Auschwitz”
More on Claire Prowizur-Szyper’s escape , leaving her father, in documentary Transport XX to Auschwitz :

“In yet another car, Claire Prowizur
makes the heart wrenching decision
to leave her critically
ill and unconscious father
and leaps to freedom with
her husband Philippe Szyper.”

Watch on youtube
Or visit the post at )

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.


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!


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


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
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?

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 Viviane ; 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 :


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