Bijkomende meta info
- This collection contains: three family photos of the Gniwosch-Spergel family ; post-war correspondence regarding the redeeming of Suzanne Gniwosch by her uncle Chiel Spergel ; judicial correspondence regarding the court case ; administrative letters from Jewish organisations such as the Aide aux Israélites Victimes de la Guerre [Aid Society for Jewish War Victims], the Commission on the Status of Jewish War-Orphans in Europe, the Rabbi of Brussels, the Agence Juive pour la Palestine - Alyah de la Jeunesse [Jewish Agency for Palestine – Youth Aliyah department], and the Palestine Office of the Jewish Agency ; documents regarding the recognition of Suzanne Gniwosch as beneficiary of her deported parents Mendel Gniwosch and Pessel Spergel, her deported sister Herta Gniwosch and her deported brother Erich Gniwosch ; birth and death certificates ; deeds of adoption and appointment of an attorney ; letters between Spergel family members regarding the redeeming of Suzanne Gniwosch ; letters from Suzanne Gniwosch’s guardian Emilie Meeus to the Spergel family ; letters from Suzanne Gniwosch to relatives in Israel.
- On the post-war history of redeeming Jewish children: VANDEN DAELEN Veerle, Laten we hun lied verder zingen. De heropbouw van de joodse gemeenschap in Antwerpen na de Tweede Wereldoorlog (1944-1960), Amsterdam, 2008.
- Suzanne Gniwosch, daughter of Mendel Gniwosch and Pessel Spergel
- French, Dutch, German, Hebrew
- Latin, Hebrew
- Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
- Gniwosch family, Private collection, Antwerp
- Digital copy available as collection KD_00435 at Kazerne Dossin
- 252 digitised images (3 photos and 179 documents)
- The included photo of Erich Gniwosch was used to complete the "Give them a Face" portrait collection (KD_00017) and the commemoration wall at the Kazerne Dossin museum.
Mendel Gniwosch was born in Gorlice, Poland, on 31 January 1898 as the son of Nathan Rodner and Chaja Gniwosch. Mendel became a jewellery retailer and moved to Vienna, Austria, where he married Pessel Spergel on 26 March 1925. Pessel had been born in Rozwadów, Poland, on 10 March 1900 as the daughter of Schmarja Spergel. While living in Vienna, Pessel Spergel gave birth to two children: daughter Herta was born on 1st April 1927, son Erich on 4 July 1930.
On 8 November 1938, the Gniwosch-Spergel family fled Austria. Mendel, until its dissolution in 1934 a member of the Vaterländische Front [Fatherland Front], feared reprisals. The family had already bought tickets with the Red Star Line to emigrate to the United States, but was still awaiting the visa when illegally crossing the German-Belgian border. Mendel’s jewellery business in Vienna had prospered and the family had enough financial means to settle in Antwerp while waiting for their visa to come through. They were registered in Belgium as political refugees.
The Gniwosch-Spergel family still lived at Zénobe Grammestraat 27 in Antwerp when Nazi Germany invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940. At the end of that year, Mendel, Pessel and their children were forced to relocate to the province of Limburg, as were over 3,000 other Jews from Antwerp. The reason for the relocation remains unknown. The Gniwosch-Spergel family was placed in the municipality Genk. Mendel made a living for his family as a watch maker. In May 1941, Mendel was allowed to move from Genk to Liège, while his wife and children moved back to their former home in Antwerp. On 16 July 1941, Pessel gave birth to her third child: a daughter named Suzanne.
Mid-June 1942, Mendel Gniwosch moved from Liège to Brussels. He was then arrested on a train in the capital, carrying valuable platinum, and was sent to the Breendonk internment camp. He was transferred to the Dossin barracks in Mechelen on 21 August 1942, where he was registered as detainee 927 on the deportation list of Transport V. His wife Pessel Spergel and their two oldest children Herta and Erich had arrived at the camp a day earlier and had been registered on the same deportation list. In August 1942, Pessel had received an Arbeitseinsatzbefehl (a convocation for forced labour) after which a non-Jewish friend tried to convince her to go into hiding with the children. He provided Pessel with a medical certificate in order to avoid forced labour, but she decided to report with the children in Mechelen.
Youngest child Suzanne Gniwosch, however, was not in good health. Pessel Spergel, worried that her youngest daughter would not be able to survive the journey, entrusted her to Franciscus De Laet, a member of the diamond exchange who had befriended Mendel Gniwosch. De Laet placed Suzanne at the Kribbe Good Engels, a kindergarten run by the city of Antwerp, while Mendel Gniwosch, his wife Pessel Spergel and oldest children Herta and Erich were deported via Transport V on 25 August 1942. All of them were murdered.
In January 1943, Suzanne Gniwosch was transferred from the kindergarten to the Sint-Erasmus hospital in Antwerp. On 13 June 1944, however, she was collected by the German Sicherheitspolizei which incarcerated the toddler, by herself, at the Dossin barracks. However, she and two other unaccompanied children were transferred to the Jewish orphanage in Linkebeek, under the supervision of the Association of Jews in Belgium, on 15 June 1944. Later that summer, the Jewish Defence Committee, the largest hiding network in Belgium, started placing the children from the Jewish homes in hiding. Suzanne was hidden by Emilie Elise Meeus in Evere, Brussels, where she remained after Liberation in September 1944. The Aide aux Israélites Victimes de la Guerre was supervising the situation when, in 1946, two of Suzanne’s uncles came forward: maternal uncle Chiel (Yehiel) Spergel from Haifa, Israel, and paternal uncle Abusch Gniwosch from London, United Kingdom.
The Spergel family wanted to redeem Suzanne, but Emilie Meeus hid the child when attempts were made to collect the girl. In 1947, Chiel Spergel succeeded in adopting Suzanne through Israeli court, but representatives of the Aliyat Hanoar and the Comité Central Israélite were not able to take the child from Emilie Meeus. Through his son and attorney Bernard Spergel, Chiel continued to prepare for Suzanne’s transfer to a Jewish home while arranging her migration to Israel. However, he lost the court case in 1948 and the appeal in 1949. This legal battle continued for years and although Suzanne Gniwosch corresponded with her family in Israel, she remained with Emilie Meeus well into the 1950s. Today, Suzanne Gniwosch’s children live in Israel and Belgium. Suzanne Gniwosch passed away at the age of 40.
- Suzanne Gniwosch, daughter of Mendel Gniwosch and Pessel Spergel, kept all documents related to her family history and added photos saved by relatives in Israel. She passed the collection on to her children, who kindly allowed Kazerne Dossin to digitise the archival collection in 2017.
- Mrs Seiger-Hadad, daughter of Suzanne Gniwosch, 2017