Bijkomende meta info
- This collection contains nine pre-war photos of the Birencwaig-Cyngler family : group photos of Abe Birencwaig and Zysla Cyngler with their children, a photo of oldest daughter Esther Birencwaig with fiancee Jean Cyngler and a photo of Abe Birencwaig and his parents.
- ca. 1938
- Brussels (?)
- BERMOWITZ Mariette, Mindele's Journey. Memoir of a Hidden child of the Holocaust, Charleston, 2012.
- Birencwaig-Cyngler family
- Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
- Mariette Birencwaig-Bermowitz, Private collection, New York
- 9 digitised images (9 photos)
- The included photos of Estera, Chaja Rebecca and Zelik Birencwaig were used to complete the "Give them a Face" portrait collection (KD_00017) and the commemoration wall at the Kazerne Dossin museum
Abe Birencwaig was born in Tomaszów, Poland, on 14 June 1895. He became a tailor and married Jenta Josefowicz. The couple had three children, all born in Tomaszów : Estera (b. 01/05/1923), Chaja Rebeka (b. 24/09/1924) and Zelik (b. 01/06/1926). Between 1928 and 1930, all Birencwaig family members emigrated to Belgium. Abe Birencwaig and Jenta Josefowicz settled in Brussels. Abe befriended Jacques (Yankel) Cyngler, who had married the catholic Dutch Wilhelmina (last name unknown) in 1920, when emigrating from Poland to Belgium. The couple had three sons : Joseph, Jean and Max Cyngler. The Cyngler family owned an upscale clothing shop in Liège.
In the 1930s, Abe Birencwaig’s wife Jenta Josefowicz was killed in a car accident. Jacques Cyngler then suggested that Abe would remarry Jacques’ cousin Zysla Cyngler who was still living in Poland. Zysla had been born in Osjaków, Poland, on 5 July 1903 and worked as a cook for a Polish family. At the age of 35 she was still unmarried and childless. Zysla arrived in Brussels, Belgium, in December 1937 and married Abe Birencwaig in March 1938. She had a good relationship with her new husband and his three children who she treated as her own. On 1st December 1938, Zysla gave birth to a daughter named Mariette (Mindele) Birencwaig.
The Birencwaig-Cyngler family still lived in Brussels when Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940. Life continued : oldest daughter Estera Birencwaig got engaged to Jean Cyngler, middle son of Zysla’s cousin Jacques Cyngler, and on 10 February 1942, Zysla Cyngler gave birth to a second daughter named Frieda. In the summer of 1942, disaster struck as Estera, Chaja Rebeka and Zelik Birencwaig received a convocation for forced labour (Arbeitseinsatzbefehl). They reported at the Dossin barracks at the end of July or the beginning of August 1942. All three children were killed after deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport I on 4 August 1942. Jean Cyngler decided to travel to Germany to find his beloved fiancée Estera Birencwaig. He was never heard of again.
On 19 November 1942, the Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst came to the Birencwaig-Cyngler family home at Rue du Lavoir 33 in Brussels. They arrested Zysla Cyngler and baby Frieda Birencwaig immediately. Abe Birencwaig was working in the attic, where Mariette was playing. He pulled up the ladder, closed the hatch and fled over the rooftops with his daughter in his arms. Zysla Cyngler and Frieda Birencwaig were interned at the Dossin barracks. Both were killed after deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XVIII on 15 January 1943.
Abe Birencwaig and his daughter Mariette got on a train to Liège and went into hiding with their friends Jacques Cyngler and his non-Jewish wife Wilhelmina. At the beginning of 1943, Mariette was placed in hiding in the catholic Mater Dei monastery in Banneux by Sura Goldman (b. 22/07/1922 in Kalisz, Poland), wife of oldest son Joseph Cyngler and thus the daughter-in-law of Jacques and Wilhelmina Cyngler. Wilhelmina’s pro-German sentiments grew and she did not get along with Mariette, so Sara decided to save the girl. Abe found a hiding place on an attic elsewhere in Liège. In February 1944, Mariette was transferred into the care of Thérèse, Marie and Marthe Leloup, sisters of Sister Cécilia, a nun at the convent. The women hid Mariette in their home in Fraiture.
On 1st December 1944, Mariette’s sixth birthday, Abe Birencwaig came to visit. However, Mariette considered Thérèse Leloup to be her mother and Marie and Marthe Leloup to be her aunts, so she did not recognise her father. In April 1945 Abe Birencwaig took Mariette back to Brussels with him. The separation of “Maman” and “Aunties” was a horrible experience for her, but father and daughter were able to re-establish their band. In December 1951, Abe Birencwaig and his daughter Mariette emigrated to the United States to join Abe’s sister Ryfka Birencwaig-Nelson. Mariette became a language teacher and got married. She still lives in New York and travelled back-and-forth between the United States and Belgium for her yearly visit to the Leloup family.
- Mariette Birencwaig-Bermowitz visited Kazerne Dossin in 2011 and donated digital copies of several family photos to the museum. She had inherited the photos from her father Abe Birencwaig. After the arrest of Zysla Cyngler and youngest daughter Frieda Birencwaig and the subsequent flight of Abe Birencwaig and daughter Mariette in November 1942, a neighbour saved a dresser that belonged to the family. Upon liberation, Abe Birencwaig returned to his family apartment and the neighbour gave him the dresser and its original contents back. Among the objects were clothing and shoes worn by the Birencwaig families and a purse belonging to oldest daughter Estera Birencwaig. The purse contained the family photo album.
- Mariette Birencwaig-Bermowitz, daughter of Abe Birencwaig and Zysla Cyngler, 2011