Szpiro family. Collection

Bijkomende meta info

This collection contains : 8 photos of Regina Szpiro and her school friend Victoire Ponjaert, taken during school outings or at a swimming pond, and 1 photo of of Regina Szpiro’s deceased mother Golda Awerbuch ; 8 letters from Regina Szpiro, her youngest sister Lea Szpiro and family member Femmy Pels (?) to Victoire Ponjaert, recounting daily life in Brussels.
Content Date
JORIS Guido, "Geschiedenisvan deJodenvervolgingin Oostendetijdens WO II. Victoire Ponjaert (84) is beste vriendin nooit vergeten", Joods Actueel, 2011 (52), pp. 18-20.
Szpiro family
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
Victoire Ponjaert, Private collection, Ostend
Level of description
Extent and medium
41 digitised images (9 photos and 8 letters)
Related units of description
The included photo of Lea Szpiro was used to complete the "Give them a Face" portrait collection (KD_00017) and the commemoration wall at the Kazerne Dossin museum.
Administrative and biographical
Josek (Joseph) Szpiro was born in Warsaw, Poland, on 5 January 1898. He became a leather worker and emigrated to Belgium in October 1922. Josek settled in Anderlecht, Brussels, and found work as a mechanic. In 1923, he moved to Antwerp, where he married Golda Awerbuch on 22 June 1926. Golda was born on 23 May 1905 in Odessa, Russia, and had emigrated to Belgium in February 1920. The couple had probably met in the Netherlands before Golda emigrated to Belgium, since they both stipulated the same address in The Hague as their last residence abroad.
On 16 November 1926, a daughter named Regina was born. A second daughter, Henriette Szpiro, was born in Antwerp on 6 May 1928. In March 1930 the Szpiro family moved to Ostend, where Josek and Golda started their own store and sold men’s and women’s underwear. The two youngest children Szpiro were born in Ostend : son Isidore on 25 December 1931 and youngest daughter Lea on 17 August 1942.
The Szpiro family built their life in Ostend. All children went to school there and oldest daughter Regina befriended Victoire Ponjaert. Both girls went to class at the Royal Athenaeum and shared their secrets. Regina’s brother Isidore Szpiro was a close friend of Victoire’s younger brother. In May 1940, Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium. The very small Jewish community in Ostend was also submitted to the anti-Jewish measures. Delegates of the Nazis occupied the Szpiro store, sold all the merchandise and claimed the profit. Josek Szpiro was able to smuggle some items to the parents of his daughter’s friend Victoire Ponjaert for safekeeping.
On 10 October 1942, it was declared that all Jews must leave the coastal area and resettle inland. The Szpiro family was exempted since mother Golda Awerbuch suffered from cancer and was dying. After she passed away on 25 May 1943, Josek Szpiro and his four children were forced to move to Schaerbeek, Brussels. Regina and her youngest sister Lea were first placed with the Pels family, Isidore and Henriette with a certain Streitmann family, before joining there father at Rue du Corbeau 141. Regina stayed in contact with her best friend Victoire, writing her several letters.
On 14 August 1943, Nazis came to the Szpiro home to arrest the family. Son Isidore was not there and the family was forced to wait for him before being taken to the Dossin barracks in Mechelen. During the wait, Regina Szpiro succeeded in adding a few lines to a letter she had started to write to her friend Victoire and she explains that the Nazis had come to take them away. It is unclear how Regina succeeded in putting her last letter in the mail. After Isidore’s return, the Szpiro family was taken to the Dossin barracks. Victoire’s family succeeded in sending two food parcels to Mechelen, but the third package returned. The Szpiro family had been taken away. Josek nor Regina, Henriette, Isidore and Lea survived deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XXII A on 20 September 1943. All perished.
After liberation, Victoire tried to trace her friend Regina Szpiro. She sent Regina’s last letter with the reference to the family’s arrest to the Red Cross, but never received an answer. Regina’s letter disappeared together with Victoire’s request. She kept Regina’s other letters and the photographs for 70 years and assisted in the addition of Regina and Henriette Szpiro’s names to a memorial plaque at their school, the Royal Athenaeum in Ostend, in 2011. Victoire Ponjaert still lives in Ostend.
Victoire Ponjaert, childhood friend of Regina Szpiro, oldest daughter of the Szpiro family, saved the photos and letters she received from Regina her entire life. In 1948, a commemoration plaque to honour students killed during World War II was revealed at the Royal Athenaeum in Ostend, where both girls went to school until 1942. However, the six Jewish students, including Regina Szpiro, were not mentioned. In 2011, Victoire Ponjaert was contacted by journalist Guido Joris of Joods Actueel, to tell her story. On 6 May 2011, the names of the six Jewish students, including Regina Szpiro and her sister Henriette Szpiro, were added to the memorial at the school. Thanks to the intervention of Guido Joris, Victoire subsequently authorised Kazerne Dossin to digitise her photo album and the letters she received from the Szpiro family. Unfortunately, one of the letters is missing from the collection. In September 1943, Regina was writing a letter to her friend Victoire when the Nazis arrived at the Szpiro home to arrest the family. Regina quickly added a few lines about the arrest to the letter, which was sent to Victoire via means unknown. Shortly after liberation Victoire sent this last letter to the Red Cross to look for information, but she never received an answer. Regina’s last letter thus remains lost.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Victoire Ponjaert, 2011

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