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Meet Holocaust Survivors

Holocaust survivors have volunteered at the Museum on a regular basis across the institution—engaging with visitors, sharing their personal histories, serving as tour guides, translating historic materials, and more, since the Museum opened. Their presence has been an invaluable asset, and their contributions vital to the Museum’s mission.

Learn about volunteering at the Museum.

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  • Fanny Aizenberg

    Born: December 3, 1916, Łódź (then the Russian Empire, today Poland)

    Died: August 10, 2018, Rockville, MD

    Fanny Aizenberg was born Fajga Orenbuch on December 3, 1916 in Łódź (then the Russian Empire, today Poland) during World War I. Her parents, Benjamin Orenbuch and Rivka Aspis Orenbuch, both came from Orthodox Jewish families.

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  • Katie Altenberg

    Born: October 13, 1936, Vienna, Austria

    Died: March 15, 2022, Evanston, IL

    Katie Altenberg was born Käte Engel into a Jewish family in Vienna, Austria in 1936. She and her younger brother Adolph (Adi) lived with their parents on a large estate called Edmundshof in the Austrian province of Burgenland bordering Hungary.

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  • David Bayer

    Born: September 27, 1922, Kozienice, Poland

    Died: May 12, 2023, Grasonville, MD

    David Bayer was born on September 27, 1922, to Manes and Sarah Bayer in Kozienice, Poland. Manes owned a shoe factory which supplied stores throughout Poland, and Sarah managed the household and helped in the factory. The second of four children in an observant Jewish family, David spent his days going to school, playing sports and working in his father’s factory.

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  • Bob Behr

    Born: March 1, 1922, Berlin, Germany

    Died: December 28, 2018, Gaithersburg, MD

    Robert “Bob” Behr was born on March 1, 1922 in Berlin, Germany to Alfred and Lilly Welsch Behr. Alfred was a commercial real estate agent and Lilly managed their household. Robert’s parents divorced when he was young, and his mother remarried a physician, Dr. Alfred Hamburger. Robert lived with his mother and stepfather, seeing his biological father infrequently. Both Robert’s father and stepfather were World War I veterans, and, along with his mother, staunch German patriots.

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  • Ralph Berets

    Born: December 5, 1939, Amersfoort, the Netherlands

    Died: September 21, 2022, Overland Park, Kansas

    Ralph Berets was born on December 5, 1939, in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. Before his birth, Ralph’s father, Otto, mother, Hilde, and grandparents, fled to Holland from Nazi Germany in 1935. Otto converted many of the family’s assets into diamonds and gold and smuggled them into the Netherlands. Once there, Otto went into the fabric business with an old friend from Germany who had relocated to the area a few years prior. The business was successful and provided the family with a comfortable middle class life style, until the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940.

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  • Susan Berlin
    Susan Berlin

    Born: June 22, 1926, Roznava, Slovakia

    Died: September 5, 2008

    Susan was born an only child to a conservative Jewish family in Roznava, Slovakia. Her mother and father owned a dry-goods store. Susan was thirteen years old when the war began. News of the evils of the concentration camps reached Roznava and Susan’s father decided to take his family out of Slovakia as fast as possible. Her father had a brother in the United States that would assist her family in receiving Visas. They sailed into New York City on the S.S. Washington on August 3, 1939.

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  • Sheila Bernard

    Born: 1936, Chelm, Poland

    Died: October 6, 2007

    Sheila was the only child born to Bela and Isaac Perec (also spelled Peretz in English)  in Chełm, Poland. Her name at birth was Sala. Chełm was home to a vibrant Jewish community. Before the war, her family owned a large building on Lubelska Street, and Sheila’s father managed a Singer sewing machine business. Sheila’s parents both had large, close-knit families, and her childhood was filled with love and joy.

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  • Jacqueline Mendels Birn

    Born: April 23, 1935, Paris, France

    Died: October 20, 2019, Washington, DC

    Jacqueline and her sister attended the local public school. Their lives were quite normal until Germany invaded Poland and the war broke out.

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  • Elli (Jekel) Carroll

    Born: June 19, 1927, Vienna, Austria

    Died: January 10, 2015, Washington, DC

    Elli Jekel Carroll was born on June 19, 1927, in Vienna, Austria, to David Jekel and Klara Redisch. After serving in the Austrian army during World War I, David owned a men’s clothing store, while Klara was a homemaker. Elli’s older sister, Margit, was born in 1923. Elli and Margit completed public elementary school and were both in secondary school before the war. Margit had completed five years of secondary school while Elli completed the first six months.

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  • Ruth Cohen

    Born: April 26, 1930, Mukačevo, Czechoslovakia

    Ruth Cohen was born Renee Friedman on April 26, 1930 to Herman and Bertha Friedman in Mukačevo, Czechoslovakia. Herman and his brother were wholesale wine and beer manufacturers. Ruth, her older sister, Teresa, and younger brother, Aharon, often helped to fill bottles on Friday evenings before the Sabbath. The Friedmans were Orthodox Jews as well as Zionists and Ruth and her siblings were sent to the Hebrew Gymnasium, a school where the curriculum was taught entirely in Hebrew.

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