My Family Roots
My great grandfather, Mendel Markowicz, was born in Zdunska Wola, Poland, and died there at the age of 52. Mendel was married to Chana Goldberg, born in Kalisz, Poland (see my post on the Kalisz Statute) on March 23, 1857. My grandfather Bernard (Baruch Mordechai) was born July 13, 1894 in Zdunska-Wola. In the early 1920’s, Bernard married Eidel Wisoka (or Wysocka born Sept. 13 or November 14, 1893 ) and moved to Mannheim, Germany where my father’s sister Michelle was born, The family later moved to Antwerp, Belgium then Liege where Bernard became a licensed dental technician.
In 1939, my grandfather was treasurer of the Jewish relief organization Hilfs Verein. As a Polish citizen, he was arguing against being drafted back into the Polish army. At some point, he was solicited by the left-leaning PROKOR society to act in the play “The Jewish King Lear” but never espoused their political views. My grandfather passed away Nov. 25, 1956, about a year after I was born. Following his death, my grandmother was registered as a U.N. refugee on Dec. 12, 1956, removing her Polish nationality. She passed away October 24, 1965 in Brussels.
My dad was born Dec. 3, 1928 in the town of Antwerp, Belgium a few years after his parents emigrated from Poland (1921). He had an older sister, Mina (Michelle – born in Mannheim Germany Dec 2, 1919).
He was barely 12 in 1940 when World War II started. He was taken by his parents to a farm in the countryside in Belgium first, then further to Pont-a-Mousson in France where he spent the balance of the War in semi-hiding with his best friend Nathan Bok. According to Maxime Steinberg, 28,902 Jews from Belgium perished in Nazi concentration camps, and about 5,000 survived.
At the end of the War, without a formal education, he found himself needing to support his family and did not have an opportunity to resume his studies. He trained briefly as an apprentice jeweler, focusing on watch repair.