Bijkomende meta info
- This collection contains: 14 photos of Mayer Stern, his wife Flora Lachs and their children Norbert and Beatrice alias Beate Stern ; a certificate of naturalisation issued to Beate Stern by the United States government in 1953 ; newspaper clipping regarding a music prize won by piano prodigy Norbert Stern at the Brussels conservatory before the war.
- Stern-Lachs family
- English, French
- Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
- Roger Peltzman, Private collection, United States
- Digital copy available as collection KD_00136 at Kazerne Dossin
- 16 digitised images (14 photos, 1 newspaper clipping and 1 document)
Mayer Abraham Stern was born on 19 June 1894 in Stryj (Ukraine). He studied pre-med and economics at Vienna University and became a cosmetics producer and dealer, owning a factory in Warsaw. By 1920 he had moved to Berlin where, on 21 April, he married Flora Lachs, born in Warsaw on 14 May 1899. She held a degree in chemistry from Warsaw University. The couple was well-to-do and settled in a good neighbourhood in Berlin. Their two children were both born in the German capital: son Nobert on 2 May 1922 and daughter Beatrice alias Beate on 26 June 1926. Both children attended school and it soon became clear that Norbert was a pianist-prodigy.
From June 1923 until September 1933 Mayer Stern travelled back and forth between Germany and Belgium for business reasons. On 16 September 1933 he applied for a long term Belgian visa, indicating that he wished to flee Nazi-Germany. After obtaining the desired document Mayer changed addresses in the Brussels area regularly. In 1934 he started his own company to produce cosmetics and perfumes, Le Cosmétique, which was located at Rue de la Fauvette 77 in Uccle.
In November 1934 son Norbert Stern, living in Berlin with his mother and sister, received word that he was chosen to take the entrance exam at the Royal Music Conservatory in Brussels. He would, however, only arrive in Belgium in August 1936 together with Flora in Beate. In Brussels they were reunited with Mayer and moved in with him at Rue de la Fauvette. As of September 1936 Norbert took classes at both a local high school and at the Royal Music Conservatory, where he would win awards and prizes. His supreme talent was applauded by multiple music critics. Financially the family struggled. After 1936 Mayer’s business deteriorated quickly. Le Cosmétique went bankrupt in April 1939, after which the Stern family moved to Avenue Charles Woeste 92 in Jette where Mayer and Flora started their own perfume store: Parfumerie Astre.
The Stern-Lachs family still lived at Avenue Charles Woeste when Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940. From then on they were forced to obey the anti-Jewish decrees installed by the occupying authorities. The family registered in the municipal Jewish register of Jette and their perfume shop was marked as a Jewish-owned business. Daughter Beate, from the start, tried to avoid the anti-Jewish decrees, postponing her registration in the municipal Jewish register after her fifteenth birthday in 1941 for as long as possible. Musician Norbert continued to study music and won a medal from King Leopold as the best pianist in his class in 1941. In 1942 he took on a job as a music teacher at one of the Jewish schools in Brussels, which were created after Jewish students were expelled from non-Jewish schools at the end of 1941.
In the Summer of 1942 the Stern-Lachs family went into hiding. Mayer obtained false identity papers for the family. He himself thus became Victor Sterckx, Flora was Louise Houlet. Norbert had the papers of Jean Van den Doorn and Beate those of Simone Delsange. Mayer even created a work permit for himself which allowed him to continue to work at perfume store Astre under his false name. Meanwhile, they lived in hiding on an attic at Avenue Emile de Beco 121 in Ixelles, Brussels. Norbert regularly left the house to go play the piano at a the house of the Bonhals family or to attend concerts, while Beate too ventured outside from time to time. In early 1944 the Stern-Lachs family was discovered. Mayer, Flora and Norbert were arrested and deported from the Dossin barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XXIII on 15 January 1944. All three were murdered.
During the raid on their hiding place, Beate Stern was able to flee via a bathroom window. After a night on the rooftop, she reached the house of her best friend Jeanne and was able to contact the resistance via Mister Bonhals where Norbert went to play the piano. Beate was first hidden at a convent and later with a family in the Ardennes, and survived the war. She emigrated to the United States, married and had three sons as well as several grandchildren. Her youngest son Roger became a pianist and dedicated his life to Chopin, the forte of his uncle Norbert. Beate Stern passed away in 2009.
- Roger Peltzman, son of Beate Stern, visited Kazerne Dossin in 2012. Subsequently, he kindly shared digital copies of items from his personal archive with the research team. The photos were used to illustrate the story of Beate Stern and her family as presented in the permanent exhibition at Kazerne Dossin.
- Roger Peltzman, son of Beate Stern, 2012