Birenbaum-Flescher family. Collection

Language of Description
1 Jan 1925 - 31 Dec 1939
Level of Description
EHRI Partner


Biographical History

Simon Birnbaum or Birenbaum was born on 13 August 1897 in Checiny, Poland. He emigrated to Cologne, Germany, in the 1920s where he married Salka Flescher, born on 23 February 1900 in Stanislawow, Poland. Their four children were all born in Cologne: Schenja who was called Jenny on 19 April 1929, Erna who was called Esther on 8 November 1931, Joseph on 26 December 1932 and Herschel on 4 November 1936. After the Nazis rose to power, the Birnbaum family struggled. Simon owned a shoemaker’s workshop but was forced to sell his machinery one by one to provide for his family. During Kristallnacht the workshop was completely destroyed. Simon, however, was no longer there to witness the destruction. He had been expelled to Zbaszyn in Poland on 28 October 1938 during the so-called Polenaktion. Salka stayed behind in Cologne with four young children and made plans to send eldest daughter Jenny to Belgium via the Red Cross. Salka had remained in contact with her former employers, the Mayer family, who had fled to Antwerp, Belgium, and who agreed to take in Jenny. Jenny was subsequently permitted to leave Germany, but she didn’t want to go without her sister Esther. Salka then decided to send both her daughters on a Kindertransport to Belgium. Jenny and Esther arrived on 24 December 1938. Unfortunately, the Mayer family had already left for New York by that time and the Birnbaum sisters were taken in by the Lemarchand family who lived at 180 Brusselstraat in Groot-Bijgaarden who abused Jenny as a live-in maid and a cleaning lady. At the beginning of 1939 Salka decided to also send over eldest son Joseph. He was reunited with his sisters at the Lemarchand family home in Groot-Bijgaarden on 3 May 1939, while Salka kept little Herschel with her in Cologne. Jenny, Esther and Joseph still lived with the Lemarchand family when Nazi Germany invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940. On 17 May 1940 German troops occupied Groot-Bijgaarden. In the years that followed the Birnbaum children treasured the few photos they had of their parents, as well as one postcard received from their father in 1941 and one from their mother in 1942. These mementos were the last signs of life Jenny, Esther and Joseph received from their loved ones. Afraid that the photos and postcards would endanger her family, misses Lemarchand forced Jenny to tear up all the items. Jenny could only save one photo of her mother, and the stamps of the postcards. In April 1942 the Lemarchand family received news that Jenny, Esther and Joseph could no longer attend their non-Jewish school. The Lemarchands then decided to split up the siblings. Esther was taken in by her literature teacher Mariette De Guchteneere and her husband Robert Duquenne who lived at Rue de l’Ascension 20 in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Brussels. Esther survived the war hidden at the Duquenne family home. Joseph was sent to the Jewish orphanage run by Jonas Tiefenbrunner at Rue des Patriotes 34 in Brussels. During the last weeks of the war he and the other inhabitants of the home were hidden at catholic institutes in order to avoid deportation at the last moment. Joseph was taken in by father Maurice Robinet of the Jesuit order at Rue Royale in Brussels and survived the war there. After Liberation he too was taken in by the Duquenne family in Sint-Joost-ten-Node. After being separated from her siblings Jenny remained with the Lemarchand family, functioning as their housekeeper. When the Lemarchands moved to Genval on 15 October 1943 they took the girl with them. Jenny was arrested at their home on 23 May 1944. She was denounced by a municipal clerk of Genval after picking up her ID card, issued to her on her fifteenth birthday. Jenny was deported from the Dossin barracks to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XXVI on 31 July 1944, but survived and was repatriated to Belgium on 24 May 1945. She re-joined the Lemarchand family in Genval and was reunited with her brother Joseph and her sister Esther in 1946. All three Birnbaum siblings got married and built families. Jenny, Esther and Joseph Birenbaum never heard from their parents Simon and Salka or their little brother Herschel again. Salka and Herschel were deported to Poland in 1939, just like father Simon had been in October 1938. Simon, Salka and Herschel were reunited in Stanislawow, Poland, on 11 July 1939. The exact date, location and circumstances of their death remain unknown: they either perished at the Stanislawow ghetto between June 1942 and June 1943 or they were murdered in the Belzec extermination centre before April 1943.

Archival History

Joseph Birenbaum kindly entrusted digital copies of his family photos to the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance, predecessor of Kazerne Dossin, on 12 December 2000.


Joseph Birenbaum, 2000

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a studio portrait of Salka Flescher and a casual portrait of siblings Jenny alias Schenja, Esther alias Erna and Joseph Birenbaum


No further accruals are to be expected

Conditions Governing Access

Contact Kazerne Dossin Research Centre:

Conditions Governing Reproduction

Contact Kazerne Dossin Research Centre:

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Reproductions and digital copies stored at Kazerne Dossin

Existence and Location of Originals

  • Joseph Birenbaum, Private collection, Belgium

Related Units of Description

  • Collection KD_00892 contains documents regarding the story of Jenny Birnbaum who was the eldest daughter of Simon and Salka Birnbaum-Flescher.

This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.