Memoria [EN] No 50 (11/2021) - Page 10

Dossin has documented personal stories of about 20 Antwerpians to illustrate communication lines between the OT workers and their families. By using documents such as the diary of Mozes Sand, personal letters, photographs and testimonies of relatives of OT workers, relevant data is collected. Furthermore, we try to connect the macro analysis of the deportation and survival rates with these microhistories. Can elements from these microhistories help explain the deportation and survival rates?

Although not expected when starting the research project, it soon became apparent that multiple ways of communication existed between the OT men and their families. These are described in detail in sources such as the diary of Mozes Sand. An in depth study of the document led to the identification of several official and unofficial communication channels, including the shipment of parcels and letters either via censored mail or clandestinely posted by non-Jewish coworkers met at the construction sites, visits to the families in Antwerp by non-Jewish coworkers, the arrival of news via new transports of workers from Antwerp and even (clandestine) visits to the men in the OT camps by their relatives. Most OT workers as well as their families have been deported and wiped out, making it impossible to determine if communication existed and if so, how it influenced the decisions made by the OT men or their families. The remaining traces of these communication lines are therefore of the utmost importance. A series of postcards exchanged between Mathilde Kornitzer, living in Antwerp, and her husband Jacob Klapholz, an OT worker held at the Les Mazures camp, show how they maintained contact after Jacob was taken. The last postcards Mathilde sent him mid-October 1942, were returned to her, indicating that Jacob had left, “destination unknown”. He had been deported and would not survive Auschwitz-Birkenau. Mathilde correctly interpreted the signs and went into hiding. She thus survived.

Vice versa, the establishment of contact between the families in Antwerp and the workers in the North of France could create dangerous situations for the women and children left behind in the port city. This is illustrated by the story of Anna Erlich. Both her

father Szymon Erlich and her cousin Vital (called Bertrand) Liebermann, were OT workers. Anna, her sister Rosa and their mother remained at their official address. Photos sent by Bertrand to his cousins and aunt in Antwerp show that communication was still ongoing in 1943. The three women were arrested in autumn that year and only Anna survived. Receiving and sending messages thus could also lead to greater danger and the arrest of entire families. Many letters, postcards and