Renée Flaksbaum. Photo

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This item is a studio portrait of Renée Flaksbaum. The back of the photo mentions the date on which she gave it to her non-Jewish friend Lucy Lauwerijs, 8 August 1942, which is the same day that Renée left for the Dossin barracks with a convocation for forced labour (Arbeitseinsatzbefehl).
Renée Flaksbaum
Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin as collection KD_00603
Joeri Janssens, private collection, Belgium
Digital copy available as collection KD_00603 at Kazerne Dossin. A copy of the scans was also sent to Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), Antwerp, catalogued as project nr. 142.
2 digitised images (1 photo)
Joeri Janssens gave an interview to Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) which is part of project collection nr. 142 at MAS.
Renée Flaksbaum was born in Antwerp on 13 April 1926 as the daughter of Chaim Mordka (Max) Flaksbaum and Caroline Mandelbaum. Chaim had been born in Warsaw, Poland, on 18 May 1892. He became a travelling merchant and migrated to Antwerp via Germany in September 1920. His future wife and Renée’s mother Carolina Mandelbaum was born in Antwerp, Belgium, on 4 May 1899. Carolina’s parents were the well-to-do diamond merchant David Mandelbaum and his wife Feigel Timberg who had migrated from Poland to Belgium in 1896. During the First World War the Mandelbaum family fled to The Netherlands. Carolina and her mother did not return to Antwerp until August 1922, while father David Mandelbaum followed later. The family moved back into their family home at Sint-Jozefstraat 72 in Antwerp.
On 9 December 1924 Chaim Flaksbaum and Carolina Mandelbaum married at the town hall in Antwerp. By that time Chaim, his brother Rubin Flaksbaum and their brother-in-law Abram Engliszer owned their own cutlery store in Brussels. When Renée was born in 1926, her parents Chaim and Carolina lived at Eglantierlaan 5 in Antwerp. The family was well-established by then: Chaim owned his own automobile. On 6 April 1931 Renée’s maternal grandfather David Mandelbaum passed away. Chaim and Carolina’s son, who was born in Antwerp one year later, on 12 May 1932, was named after him: David Flaksbaum. In Spring 1934 the family moved to Strijdhoflaan 86 in Berchem, where Chaim opened his own cutlery business. Maternal grandmother Feigel Timberg lived there too. In May 1936 the complete family moved back to the house owned by Feigel Timberg at Sint-Jozefstraat 72. Renée and and her brother David both went to school. Renée visited the Stedelijk Atheneum located at Grote Steenweg in Antwerp (today: Stedelijk Lyceum) where she might have been in the same class as her non-Jewish friend Lucy Lauwerijs with whom she was very close.
On 10 May 1940 Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium. It is likely that father Chaim Flaksbaum was no longer in Belgium at that time. There is no sign of his presence in Belgium during the war. He was able to reach the United Kingdom and passed away in London on 19 October 1958.
Renée Flaksbaum, her mother, brother and maternal grandmother remained in Antwerp and obeyed the anti-Jewish decrees. Carolina Mandelbaum as well as Feigel Timberg registered themselves in the municipal Jewish register of Antwerp, as did Renée after she turned 15 in April 1941. The family had their ID cards stamped with the mark “Jood-Juif”, became a member of the Association of Jews in Belgium in March 1942 and wore the yellow star as of June 1942.
In July or early August 1942 Renée Flaksbaum received an Arbeitseinsatzbefehl, a convocation for forced labour. She had to report at the Dossin barracks in Mechelen on 8 August 1942. Her good friend Lucy Lauwerijs accompanied Renée to the station where she had to take the train to Mechelen. It is probably then that Renée handed Lucy a portrait of herself which Lucy kept her whole life as a keepsake of her dear friend Renée. Renée was deported from the Dossin barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport III on 15 August 1942 and was murdered on 3 September 1942.
Renée’s mother Carolina and her brother David were initially protected against deportation because of Carolina’s Belgian nationality. However, Carolina and David were arrested during Aktion Iltis, the anti-Jewish raid focusing on Jews holding Belgian nationality, organised in the night of 3 on 4 September 1943. Both were deported from the Dossin barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XXIIB on 20 September 1943 and murdered. Grandmother Feigel Timberg passed away in Antwerp on 22 December 1942.
Renée Flaksbaum gave this photo to her friend Lucy Lauwerijs on 8 August 1942. That day non-Jewish Lucy accompanied Renée to the Antwerp Central Station where Renée had to catch the train for Mechelen from where she would be deported. Lucy cherished Renée’s photo her whole life. After Lucy’s death, the keepsake was stored in a shoe box filled with photos, which was passed on from Lucy's widower Jan Janssens to their daughter and eventually to Lucy and Jan’s grandson Joeri Janssens. Joeri kindly permitted Kazerne Dossin to digitise Renée's photo during a registration project organised by Kazerne Dossin and Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) in 2021.
Joeri Janssens, 2021

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