Karny-Chamech family. Collection

Bijkomende meta info

This collection contains: pre-war photos of the Karny-Chamech family from Liège ; a group photo of the Comité de l'Union Sioniste de Liège, 1928 ; pre-war photos of Léa Karny, her future husband Stanislas Gol and her future brother-in-law Samson Ajzenberg while in medical school ; war-time photos of Léa Karny and husband Stanislas Gol in Portugal ; photos of Stanislas Gol, husband of Léa Karny, while serving in the Brigade Piron ; war-time photos of Jean Gol, son of Léa Karny and Stanislas Gol ; post-war photos of meetings of the Brigade Piron ; military documents of Stanislas Gol and Samson Ajzenberg ; documents of Léa Karny, Stanislas Gol, Minna Karny and Samson Ajzenberg regarding their flight to France and Portugal ; documents regarding the wedding of Minna Karny and Samson Ajzenberg in Portugal, June 1942 ; documents regarding Minna Karny and Samson Ajzenberg fleeing to the Belgian Congo
Content Date
Rosita Winkler wrote the memoires of the Karny-Chamech family: "La saga des Karny. Une histoire liégeoise, 1908-1944" [copy preserved at the Kazerne Dossin documentation center]
Karny-Chamech family
French, Spanish, Portuguees
Physical characteristics and technical requirements
Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
Mme Rosita Winkler, Private collection, Belgium
Digital copy available as collection KD_00524 at Kazerne Dossin
Level of description
Extent and medium
95 digitised images (32 photos and 35 documents)
Related units of description
The photos of Coussel Karny and Yocheved Chamech in this collection were added to the Kazerne Dossin commemoration wall (KD_00017). See also collection KD_00374 for photos donated to Kazerne Dossin by Minna Karny-Ajzenberg.
Administrative and biographical
Coussel Karny was born on 12 August 1883 in Wilkomir, Russia (today Ukmergé, Lithuania), as the son of Zalmen Karny and Gittel Beinaçovni. He had three younger brothers and a younger sister, and worked in tanneries in Wilkomir. Coussel fell in love with the seamstress Yocheved Chamech, born on 23 September 1886 in Wilkomir, as the daughter of Moise Chamech and Hanna Iochelevni. Both the Karny and Chamech family were religious and poor. In June 1908, Coussel Karny emigrated from Russia to Belgium. He first settled in Verviers, working in the tanning industry, but he relocated to Liège in February 1909 and became a peddler, selling lace products he received from his future brother-in-law Joseph Chamech in New York. Coussel worked hard to build a new life for himself and his fiancée Yocheved. In 1910, he returned to Wilkomir and on 28 July he religiously married her. The couple returned to Liège, where they officially married at the town hall on 16 February 1911. On 20 May 1911, Yocheved gave birth to their first daughter: Léa. During the First World War, the family remained in Liège and on 26 October 1917 a second daughter named Minna Ida was born.
In the early 1920s, the Karny family started prospering. Coussel became a lace supplier for local peddlers and Yocheved helped him in the business. Coussel also became active in the local Jewish community and was one of the benefactors of the local synagogue. Coussel’s main goal was to be able to send his daughters Léa and Minna to university. In 1923, Coussel and Yocheved bought a house at Place du XX août 42 in Liège and opened a new shop where they sold lace, stockings and knitwear. Yocheved ran the business, while Coussel continued his work as a travelling merchant. The family prospered and on 16 May 1929 Coussel obtained Belgian nationality. Yocheved had to wait until 1939.
In September 1929, Léa Karny started medical school at the Université de Liège to become a medical doctor. There she met the Polish-Jewish student Stanislas Gol (born on 1st May 1906, in Warsaw, Poland) who was also studying to become a medical doctor. On 19 May 1937, the couple married at the town hall, the following day in the synagogue. After finishing a specialisation year to become a Medical Officer of Health, Léa together with Stanislas opened their own practice. Meanwhile, Coussel and Yocheved became highly respected members of the Jewish community in Liège. Coussel was a member of the Zionist movement and the Comité de l’Union sioniste de Liège. In 1934, he bought a new house and opened a bigger store at Rue de la Régence 23 in Liège. The following year, second daughter Minna started studying history at the university in Liège. Concerned with the events in Nazi-Germany, she also became a member of antifascist movements.
On 10 May 1940, Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium. Coussel, Yocheved, Léa, Stanislas, Minna and Minna’s fiancée Samson Ajzenberg (born on 1st March 1901 in Lubiesów, Poland) – he had studied with Léa who introduced him to her sister – fled to France. On 15 May they arrived in Montpellier while Samson decided to join the Polish army. After the French defeat Samson rejoined the Karny family. Léa, Stanislas, Minna and Samson then started making arrangements to go the United Kingdom, where the men wanted to join the Brigade Piron. Stanislas left first, travelling by boat from Marseilles to Algeria, Morocco and then Portugal. In Fall 1940 he was able to bring Léa over. At the beginning of 1942, Stanislas and a highly pregnant Léa arrived in London. Stanislas joined the Brigade Piron, while on 8 February 1942 Léa gave birth to their son Jean. All three survived the war. Léa and Jean returned to Belgium in 1945, where Stanislas joined them after being demobilised in 1946. Stanislas continued to participate in gatherings of former members of the Brigade Piron. He passed away in 1976, Léa Karny in 2001, Jean Gol in 1995. Jean is survived by his first wife, his daughter and three grandchildren.
In the Spring of 1942, Léa and Stanislas succeeded in obtaining travel visa for Minna. She too made it to Lisbon, where she was joined by her fiancée Samson Ajzenberg. On 6 June 1942, the couple married, however, without any family present. Although Samson also wanted to join the Brigade Piron in England, he was not accepted upon which Minna and Samson left for the Belgian Congo in October 1942. Samson practiced medicine there, while Minna became a teacher. Both Samson and Minna survived the war and they returned to Belgium in 1960. That same year, Samson passed away. Minna passed away in 2005. The couple remained childless.
In December 1940, Coussel Karny and Yocheved Chamech decided to return to Liège as they saw no future for them in unoccupied France. Upon return to Belgium, the couple registered in the municipal Jewish Register of Belgium and obeyed the other anti-Jewish decrees as well, including membership of the Association of Jews in Belgium, the liquidation of their family business and the wearing of the yellow star in 1942. Coussel and Yocheved were arrested, but were released from the Dossin barracks because of their Belgian nationality. Coussel was then convinced that he and his wife could not be harmed so they returned to their legal address in Liège although Yocheved tried to convince Coussel to go into hiding. On 7 July 1944, Coussel and Yocheved were arrested. Neither survived deportation from the Dossin barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XXVI on 31 July 1944.
The documents and photos in this collection were preserved by Léa and Minna Karny, daughters of Coussel Karny and Yocheved Chamech. In 2018 Rosita Winkler, daughter-in-law of Léa Karny, visited Kazerne Dossin. When she noticed that the portraits of Coussel and Yocheved were missing on the commemoration wall at the museum, she kindly donated portraits as well as scans of the family archival collection to Kazerne Dossin.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Rosita Winkler, wife of Jean Gol, grandson of Coussel Karny and Yocheved Chamech, 2018-2019
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