Borisewitz family. Collection

Language of Description
1 Jan 1897 - 31 Dec 2011
Level of Description
  • French
  • Dutch
  • Polish
  • Spanish
  • German
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

580 digitised images (264 documents and 57 photos)


Biographical History

Mozes Borisewitz was born in Bialystok, Russia, on September 20, 1872. He became a watch maker and migrated to Belgium in April 1906, via Vienna, Austria, to avoid military service in the Russian army. Upon his arrival in Belgium, he settled at Somersstraat 5, in Antwerp. On the 23rd of October 1906, Mozes married seamstress Paulina Bernstein. Paulina was born in Grodno, Russia, on March 17th 1878 and migrated to Belgium in 1897, where she lived at Terliststraat 48, in Antwerp. Mozes and Paulina had four sons, all born in Antwerp: Jacques Philippe on November 26th 1907, Simon on March 5th 1909, Oscar on January 27th 1911 and Robert on January 21st 1913. Mozes was able to establish his own store where he sold watches and clocks, and thus provided for his family. In 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, Paulina and her four sons fled to Scheveningen in the Netherlands, only to return to Antwerp in July 1920. Mozes had gone on a business trip to Vienna, where his brother Gerzon lived, right before the outburst of the war. He was unable to return to Belgium because of his Russian nationality, and could only be reunited with his family in Scheveningen at the end of the war. On September 23rd 1924, Mozes Borisewitz passed away. His widow Paulina Bernstein took care of their four sons, working as a seamstress for stores such as Vaxelaire-Claes and A l’Innovation. By 1926 the family had moved to Plantin en Moretuslei 12, and Paulina requested Belgian nationality, which she obtained in September 1929. Having been born in Belgium, her four sons all opted to obtain Belgian citizenship upon their majority. In the 1930’s all four Borisewitz brothers built their own careers. Jacques, who had to abandon his schooling in order to support the family after his father’s death, started out as a diamond dealer. In 1935 he married Hilde Bernhardt, born in Berlin on September 6th 1907. The couple had three children, all born in Antwerp: daughter Evelyn, born in 1935, sadly passed away when she was only a year old; René Maurice was born on January 20th 1937, and Armand on April 2nd 1939. Jacques, who was also President of the gymnastics section of the Maccabi sports club, then switched jobs and together with his brother Simon opened the sports goods store Bonbony-Sports at Simonsstraat 42, where the extended Borisewitz family lived. Simon married Anna Horovits, born in Brussels on September 30th 1914. Simon was a renowned gymnast and the Secretary of the gymnastics section of the Maccabi sports club with which he competed in international competitions; he even participated at the Maccabiade in Tel-Aviv in 1930. Oscar joined the Belgian army and became the first Jewish pilot to serve. Youngest brother Robert obtained his doctoral degree in law at the Free University of Brussels in October 1937. However, he would only be able to plea a few small cases in Belgium before the beginning of the war. On May 10, 1940 Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium. The paths of the Borisewitz family members split up and most of them would never see each other again. As a Belgian citizen, the youngest Borisewitz brother Robert had been conscripted in 1939 upon the general mobilization. He served during the Battle of Belgium (18 Days’ Campaign) and ended up in France. His fiancée Elfriede Schreiber fled to France with her family during the invasion in May. In August 1940 she published ads to look for Robert with whom all communication had been cut off. When Friedel found out that Robert was back in Antwerp, she decided, even though she had already crossed the demarcation line with her family and had arrived safely in the south of France, to make her way back north to Antwerp to convince Robert to follow her. After the couple was reunited they made their way through France back to Marseille in August 1940, and finally to Brazil, passing through France, Spain and Portugal. Robert Borisewitz and Elfriede Schreiber were married in Rio de Janeiro on April 6th, 1941, where their daughter Viviane was born two years later. Robert, who could no longer work as a lawyer found a job in the diamond industry to provide for his family. While in Brazil he corresponded with his cousins Olga Jaul and Annette Richter who had fled in 1939 from Vienna to London, as well as with family friends such as Jack Katz in South-Africa, and with his beloved mother and brothers in Antwerp. Seeing how the war developed in Belgium in 1940, Lieutenant Oscar Borisewitz flew his plane to Rabat in Morocco where he rejoined the army. He remained in contact with his brother Robert in Brazil until his tragic death in Morocco on July 16th, 1942. Oscar Borisewitz was a decorated veteran, a Knight in the Order of Leopold II. He rests today in the Military Cemetery in Evere, in the Belgian aviators’ lawn of honour. His name was added to the monument dedicated to Belgian airmen fallen during the Second World War. Jacques and Simon Borisewitz stayed in Antwerp with their wives, children and their mother Paulina Bernstein. On April 2, 1942 Anna Horovits gave birth to her and Simon’s only child: a son named Sylvain. The extended family continued to live together at Simonsstraat 42, in Antwerp. They obeyed the anti-Jewish decrees: registration in the municipal Jewish register as of October 28th 1940, membership of the Association of Jews in Belgium as of March 1942, wearing the yellow star as of June 1942. As Belgian citizens, the Borisewitz family was initially protected against deportation. Jacques and Simon were able to continue their sports business until the summer of 1942, when they closed both their stores. Meanwhile, Simon accepted a job as a gymnastic teacher at Jewish schools run by the Association of Jews in Belgium, in Antwerp and Brussels. As he was allowed to commute between both cities he used his work as a cover for resistance activities. When in July 1942 Jacques Borisewitz was summoned for forced labour he fled to France, hoping to, in the end, bring his family to safety. He travelled under several false names including Jacques Bonbony and Jacques Bogaerts. However, he was arrested while trying to illegally cross into Switzerland. He was detained in Dijon and subsequently deported from Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport 45 on the 11th of September 1942. Jacques Borisewitz did not survive deportation and died on December 2, 1942. His name appears on the Wall of Names of the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris as Jacques Bogaerts. As of September 1943, Belgian nationality no longer protected Jews from deportation. The remaining members of the Borisewitz family – Paulina, Simon, with his wife Anna and their son Sylvain, Jacques Borisewitz’s wife Hilde Bernhardt with their sons René and Armand – rented a hiding place already in 1942 at Meerlenhoflaan 44 in Hoboken. Simon continued his resistance activities. Unfortunately, he was arrested on duty, which led to the arrest of all family members in their hiding place on March 24th 1944. The three children were then separated from their parents and grandmother, and were taken to orphanages run by the Association of Jews in Belgium. Simon, Anna, Hilde and Paulina were sent to the prison at Begijnenstraat in Antwerp. On the 3rd of April 1944 Paulina Bernstein was sent from the Antwerp prison to the Dossin barracks in Mechelen, where all the documents she carried were confiscated by the camp administration. The following day, on April 4th 1944, Paulina was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau via Transport XXIV. She did not survive. Simon, Anna and Hilde were transferred to the Dossin barracks on May 18th, 1944 and were deported the following day via Transport XXV to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Simon Borisewitz died in Ebensee-Mauthausen in March 1945. Hilde Bernhardt too did not survive. Anna Horovits was the only family member to survive deportation. After seven months in Auschwitz and Birkenau she also survived the death marches to Ravensbrück and further evacuations to Malchow and Taucha. Anna was able to escape en route during one of the marches and was rescued by American troops. She was repatriated to Belgium on May 24th 1945 where she was reunited with her son Sylvain and her nephews René and Armand Borisewitz. Anna established contact with Robert Borisewitz in Brazil, and sent him letters with information on life in Belgium in general and on the fate of their loved ones during the war. Anna Horovits remarried and had a son, Gilbert Gustin, but both she and her husband passed away in 1951 due to the consequences of the war. Robert took care of his nephews, arranging for René and Armand to be adopted by his cousin Olga Jaul and her husband Felix in London, while Sylvain was adopted by a dentist in the United States. Robert also arranged the repatriation of his brother Oscar’s body from Morocco to Belgium. Viviane Borisewitz established herself and married in Antwerp in 1962. In 1968 Robert Borisewitz together with his wife Elfriede Schreiber also returned to Belgium. Their son Jacques, born in Rio de Janeiro on July 11th, 1950, stayed in Brazil and eventually migrated to the United States. Robert continued his career in the diamond industry and in 2009 he was awarded the title of honorary lawyer from the Bar of Antwerp as he had been disbarred for being Jewish during the war. Robert Borisewitz passed away on February 16th, 2012.

Archival History

After the war Robert Borisewitz, sole survivor of the four Borisewitz brothers, systematically catalogued and saved the documents regarding his family. After his death in 2012, his widow Elfriede Schreiber kept the family archive safe. Robert and Elfriede’s granddaughters Muriel and Tania Klein, acting on behalf of the Borisewitz family, kindly placed the originals in the care of Kazerne Dossin in 2019. Relative Ulla Thiessen-Borisewitz then added personal documents belonging to Paulina Bernstein, widow of Mozes Borisewitz and mother of the four Borisewitz brothers, to the collection. These items had been taken from Paulina Bernstein upon her arrival at the Dossin barracks on April 3rd 1944 and had been part of the Dossin barracks relics collection (KD_00005) until the family redeemed the originals in 1983. After the deposit of the complete Borisewitz family collection at Kazerne Dossin all original items were digitised and catalogued based on the cataloguing method implemented by the family.


Borisewitz family, 2019

Scope and Content

This collection consists of the following files: KD_00577_0001 : Belgian passport used by Robert Borisewitz for fleeing to Brazil in 1940 KD_00577_0002: documents regarding the military career of pilot Oscar Borisewitz ; correspondence between brothers Oscar and Robert Borisewitz ; documents regarding the death of Oscar Borisewitz in Rabat, Morocco, in July 1942 ; photos of the headstone and aviator monument with Oscar Borisewitz’s name ; documents regarding the repatriation of Oscar’s body to Belgium after the war KD_00577_0003: the charter granting pilot Oscar Borisewitz the title of chevalier in the Order of Leopold II KD_00577_0004: telegrams sent in 1942-1944 by the Borisewitz family members in Antwerp, including mother Paulina Bernstein and brother Simon Borisewitz, via the Red Cross to Robert Borisewitz, in Brazil KD_00577_0005: birth certificate of Simon Borisewitz ; a list of killed Jewish resistance fighters, including Simon Borisewitz, to be added to a new monument in Anderlecht in their honor ; a post-war letter describing the circumstances of the death of Simon Borisewitz in Ebensee KD_00577_0006: letters written by Anna Horovits, widow of Simon Borisewitz, to her brother-in-law Robert Borisewitz in Brazil in 1945-1946, containing information regarding the deportation of their loved ones and life in Belgium after the war KD_00577_0007: letters and telegrams from Jack Katz, friend of Simon Borisewitz, in South-Africa to Robert Borisewitz in Brazil regarding the fate of their loved ones in Belgium, 1944-1951 KD_00577_0008: post-war correspondence between Robert Borisewitz and his cousins Olga Jaul and Annette Richter regarding the adoption of his nephews René and Armand Borisewitz, children of Jacques Borisewitz and Hilde Bernhardt ; post-war letters from René and Armand Borisewitz to their uncle Robert Borisewitz ; post-war photos of René and Armand Borisewitz KD_00577_0009: letters received by Robert Borisewitz from his cousins Olga Jaul and Annette Richter, 1942-1947 KD_00577_0010: two letters from 1940 sent by Oscar Borisewitz to the family of Elfriede Schreiber, future wife of Oscar’s brother Robert Borisewitz KD_00577_0011: a letter sent by Robert Borisewitz in Brazil to his family in Antwerp in November 1944, but returned to Brazil because the family was no longer living at the given address KD_00577_0012: post-war documents regarding the spoliation of the hiding place of the Borisewitz family in Hoboken KD_00577_0013: reactions received by the family of Elfriede Schreiber, fiancée of Robert Borisewitz, in the summer of 1940 after the placement of an ad in local newspapers in an attempt to find information on Robert who served as a soldier during the Battle of Belgium (18 Days’ Campaign) KD_00577_0014: official documents of Robert Borisewitz regarding his military service, his career as a lawyer in Belgium, his life in Brazil, etc. KD_00577_0015: documents regarding the marriage of Robert Borisewitz and Elfriede Schreiber in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1941 ; documents regarding their platinum jubilee in 2011 KD_00577_0016: official documents of Mozes Borisewitz and his wife Paulina Bernstein, including their marriage certificate and Mozes’s death certificate from 1924 KD_00577_0017: pre-war, wartime and post-war photos from the extended Borisewitz family, including photos of the sports goods store Bonbony-Sports run by Simon and Jacques Borisewitz, photos of Simon Borisewitz as a gymnast for the Maccabi Antwerp athletics team and photos of the military career and funeral service of Oscar Borisewitz in Morocco ; booklet published in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Maccabi sports club in Antwerp in 1948 KD_00577_0018: documents regarding the adoption of Sylvain Borisewitz, son of Simon Borisewitz and Anna Horovits, by a dentist in the United States ; documents regarding the post-war research by Robert Borisewitz on the fate of his relatives ; a photo of Sylvain Borisewitz as a footballer KD_00577_0019: letters sent by various Borisewitz family members in Antwerp and by Oscar Borisewitz in Morocco to Robert Borisewitz in Brazil in 1940-1942 describing daily life KD_00577_0020: letters sent between May and August 1940 by Robert Borisewitz while serving as a soldier in the Belgian army, to his fiancée Elfriede Schreiber KD_00577_0021: official documents of Elfriede Schreiber, wife of Robert Borisewitz, including her Polish passport KD_00577_0022: documents regarding Robert Borisewitz’s work in Belgium as a lawyer, including his diploma from the Free University of Brussels and newspaper clippings regarding the cases he pleaded KD_00577_0023: documents of Paulina Bernstein confiscated upon her internment at the Dossin barracks on 3 April 1944


No further accruals are to be expected

Conditions Governing Access

Contact Kazerne Dossin Documentation Centre:

Conditions Governing Reproduction

Borisewitz family, Private collection, digitised by Kazerne Dossin

Existence and Location of Originals

  • The originals are placed in escrow with Kazerne Dossin.

Existence and Location of Copies

  • Digital copy available at Kazerne Dossin as KD_00577


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.