Granddaughter of Hungarian Auschwitz survivor Vera Frank Federman, Breeze Dahlberg shares her grandmother's story.
Vera Frank Federman was born June 27, 1924. She grew up in Debrecen, Hungary as an only child, but with a large extended family. She studied both English and German and graduated from a girls’ high school.
On March 19, 1944 the Nazis occupied Hungary and soon thereafter deprived Jews of their civil rights. The Nazis, assisted by the Hungarian Arrow Cross, forced Jews out of their homes, businesses, and schools and into ghettos. Vera and her family, including her best friend and cousin, Marika Frank, were rounded up into the Debrecen ghetto along with the remaining Jewish population of their town. After several months in the ghetto and doing forced labor in a brick factory, they boarded cattle cars to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was June 27th 1944, Vera’s 20th birthday.
Vera was in Auschwitz for six weeks before the Nazis sent her to a munitions factory in Allendorf, a sub camp of Buchenwald, where she was a slave laborer. American forces liberated her there on March 28th, 1945. When Vera spoke later about this factory, she said that whenever they could, she and her friends did not fill the bullets with gun powder.
Vera was the only surviving member of her immediate family. After the war, she came to Seattle on a scholarship from the Hillel Foundation to attend the University of Washington. She married Marvin Federman and had two children.
Vera was a member of the Holocaust Center’s Speakers Bureau for many years. Vera passed away in 2017.
Breeze Dahlberg is Vera's granddaughter. She grew up hearing stories of Vera's life and her Holocaust survival. Breeze wants her grandmother's story to live on and help students learn lessons from the Holocaust. Breeze is a writer, the mother of two young children, and lives in the Seattle area. She became a member of the Speakers Bureau in 2018.
Photo: Breeze with her grandmother, Vera Federman.
Marie-Anne's grandmother was a member of the French resistance and helped to hide Jewish people.
When I was a little girl, I heard stories around the dinner table from family members about what happened during the Nazi German occupation of Paris, home of my mother’s family. My Grandmother has always been my hero; as she helped to save 300 Jewish refugees escape using the family Hardware Store basement as the last stop of a FFI French Resistance cell “underground railroad” before arriving in free France.
Marie-Anne's non-Jewish grandmother, Céline, grew up on the border of France and Belgium at the turn of the 20th century, and married René M., a veteran of World War I, who came from a large Jewish family. Céline gave birth to Marie-Anne's mother, Simone, in 1923. Simone was 17 at the start of WWII and baptized as a Catholic to obscure her half-Jewish heritage. During the war, René went into hiding while Céline, Simone, and Simone's younger brother Louis remained in Paris, living above their hardware store. The hardware store basement became the last stop on the secret journey of 300 refugees into free France, who would enter through the store’s back window and then be smuggled to a border station in utility trucks. Simone was also a member of the French resistance, and now Marie-Anne shares these stories of her family.
Steve Pruzan's grandparents and his mother fled Germany in 1939, and made their home in the United States.
Steve Pruzan’s grandparents, Max and Helene Schlonau, owned a large farm in Germany. They had owned and operated the farm at Warmsen, Germany for many generations. It was a gathering place for family who lived nearby. His grandfather, Max Schlonau served in World War I. He studied agriculture, enlarged his land holdings, used the most updated agricultural methods, and invented a breeding method for cattle. He was a leader in the area and in the small Jewish community in Warmsen.
Max and Helene married in 1923 and Steve’s mother, Inge was born in 1924. After 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, things got progressively more difficult for the Schlonaus. Inge had to take a 5 hour train ride to Hanover in order to go to school as Jewish students were not allowed in German schools. Max was arrested on Kristallnacht and held at Buchenwald Concentration Camp for 3 weeks until his wife paid a fine to get him released.
By 1938 they had made plans to leave Germany. Helene had a cousin who was already settled in Seattle, Dr. Hans Lehmann. Lehman provided the Schlonau’s with an affidavit, and with Max’s agriculture experience, the family was able to expedite the visa process. They sailed from the Netherlands on September 1, 1939. The Schlonaus settled in Seattle where Dr. Lehmann was a prominent physician.
Steve’s mother, Inge attended Seattle University and graduated with a degree in nursing. She married Howard Pruzan, a Seattle attorney.
Steve is a practicing attorney in Seattle. He shares his family’s story as a member of the Speakers Bureau.
Grandchild of four Holocaust survivors, Arik Cohen tells their stories of perseverance, luck, and resilience while calculating the incredible odds of their survival.
Arik's maternal grandparents, Arye Schneider and Masha Klein, were born in Lithuania. Arye was born in Šaukėnai (Shukyan), Lithuania, where in 1941 nearly the whole Jewish population was murdered. Arye escaped and made his way to the Siauliai (Shavli) ghetto, where he met his wife Masha, a teacher who hailed from Neverenai (Nevaran). After the Shavli Ghetto massacre in November 1943, Arye and Masha hid in the woods for eight months until the Soviet Army liberated Lithuania.
Arik's paternal grandparents were from the Transylvania region in Romania. His grandfather Emil Kohn grew up in Suplac, while his grandmother Eva Hirsch was from Gherla. In May 1944, Emil and Eva were in Oradea when the ghetto was formed along with 35,000 other Jews, and not long after they were both deported to Auschwitz. After being separated upon arrival at Auschwitz, Eva was then sent to Stutthof to be used as slave labor, until she was forced on a death march in January 1945 and eventually liberated by the Soviet Army. Emil was liberated from Buchenwald in April of 1945 and found his way back to Eva.
Amazingly, both couples ended up living in the small beach town of Nahariya, Israel, and two of their children (Arik's parents) met and married. Today Arik lives in Bellevue, works at Microsoft, and shares his grandparents' stories.