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Dorien Grunbaum was born in 1942 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where her father was in the grain import/export business and her mother was a social worker.

When Dorien was a year old, her family was arrested and sent to Westerbork transit camp, where they remained imprisoned for nine months. At Westerbork, the Grunbaum family received papers from Dorien’s aunt and uncle in Mexico which granted them permission to emigrate to Palestine. These papers won the family better treatment for a short time in Bergen-Belsen, where they were transferred from Westerbork in February 1944.

After enduring horrors at Bergen-Belsen and then being liberated by the Soviet Army, the Grunbaum family moved to the United States. Dorien was four years old. She has recently pieced together her family’s story from documents, stories, and her own memories. In this Stories Survive program, explore the Grunbaum family’s survival in the Holocaust and Dorien’s efforts to reconstruct their story.

Watch the program below.

Stories Survive is made possible by the Goldie and David Blanksteen Foundation.

 

This program’s original recording transcript is below. This transcription was created automatically during a live program so may contain inaccurate transcriptions of some words.

Ari Goldstein: I'm Ari Goldstein Senior Public programs producer at the Museum of Jewish heritage living memorial to the Holocaust and it's a pleasure to welcome you to today's story survive program with Doreen gruen a child survivor the best of work in Bergen belsen concentration camps.

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Ari Goldstein: During those two will share her story with us today, and then i'll interview dorian and share some images and documents from drawings family.

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Ari Goldstein: which had been given to the museum's collection over the years will conclude with an audience Q amp a so please feel free to share questions in the zoom Q amp a box throughout the program and we'll address as many as we can, at the end.

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Ari Goldstein: That further ado welcome Doreen we're so grateful to have with us today.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Thank you, thank you, sorry.

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Dorien Grunbaum: i'm.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And i'm going to start my talk with a talk that I gave a few years ago, it was the first time that I had spoken publicly about the Holocaust my Holocaust experience and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Annual so i'm going to read this talk, because my memories are very few about it i'm almost 79 years old, and so I was a very small child during the time of my my my time and invested work and vegetables, so I read the talk and then we'll talk.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I was close to three when my when my parents my maternal grandmother and I were liberated by Russian soldiers from what is known as the last transport, one of the trains, that the Germans packed with sick and dying inmates from Bergen belsen.

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Dorien Grunbaum: It was becoming clear to the Germans, that they were going to lose the war and they wanted to empty the camp of as many people as possible while at the same time hoping that allied bombs would hit the trains.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Well today's and stuff was its intended destination, the last transport criss cross Germany for two weeks.

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Dorien Grunbaum: It was mostly cattle cars and a few passenger cars for mothers with small children, including my mother.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My elderly grandmother, and my very sick Father until the train was stopped by the Russians on April 23 1945 outside of tibbetts a small town in East Germany.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I have a memory of lying in a luggage net above my mother in that train, which is where the small children were rock to sleep.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother wrote many years later, that the benches in the train were hard and uncomfortable and she had to watch for splinters the windows were dirty and locked and because people around us were unwashed many of them sick or dying there was a constant terrible stench.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Once a day the train stops so dead bodies could be removed and buried if there was time.

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Dorien Grunbaum: or from time to time, the train would stop abruptly.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Because of overhead air fights between the Germans and the allies, everyone would be ordered off the trains throwing themselves on the ground and covering their heads, with their fruit bowls.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Occasionally, people would sneak off to nearby nearby farms where they either stole or were given food sometimes coming back with potatoes or vegetables, if the train had stopped long enough, they could manage to build a small fire enough to cook the treasures.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But, most people became sick after eating because they couldn't digest this kind of food anymore, so they got terrible diarrhea afterwards.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother also told how sometimes there was fighting in the train starving people stole food from each other.

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Dorien Grunbaum: writers, sometimes it's a chunk of Fred.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But after a while there were those who started telling stories to pass the time or you could hear your songs, especially when the children were being put to sleep, maybe that's why i've always loved you dish me music.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But that's not my first memory still in Bergen belsen probably a few weeks before that I have a memory of being lifted to my father's top level bunk bed.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Like many others in the overcrowded filthy barracks he had contracted spotted typhus and had almost died now he was in a hospital barrick about 80 pounds half his normal weight and slowly recovering but not able to walk or to do any work.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My memory is of a dark room of sitting high up on my father's top bunk bed, and then being lifted, down to the floor, where I left by walking around and over bodies on the floor.

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Dorien Grunbaum: throughout their lives, whenever the war was mentioned my parents and my grandmother repeated to me again and again that without me they could never have survived American delson here's what happened.

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Dorien Grunbaum: You may know that in May 1940 Rotterdam was bombed beyond recognition by the Nazis.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My parents tried to escape various times, but they didn't succeed, they even discuss suicide over and over, but each time they changed their minds, thinking it would always be an option later.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Over time, as Jews, their rights were restricted as more and more anti Jewish laws were enacted.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But by 1942 my mother was pregnant with me many of their friends were having babies and my mother had sometimes somehow become more optimistic thinking that the war had to be over soon.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So I was 13 months.

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Dorien Grunbaum: On September 29 1943 the night, my father was awoken by allowed knock on the door.

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Dorien Grunbaum: To young Nazi soldiers and a Dutch police officer asked for my parents and my grandmother's identity cards and then order them to be ready to leave in 30 minutes.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The suitcases had been prepared months before.

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Dorien Grunbaum: One of the young German soldiers told my father that he had just been ordered to leave his studies and appear for army duty, he was upset about it, and if I advise my mother to bring my father to bring along biscuits and condensed milk, which he did.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The Dutch police officer said they wouldn't need it.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My father piles and piles of suitcases in the bear and the baby carriage while my mother held me and with my grandmother they walk to the police station followed closely by the three Nazis.

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Dorien Grunbaum: At the police station they recognize many of your friends among the crowd.

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Dorien Grunbaum: As they stood waiting to get on the bus my father realized that my name was not on the list he still had that a woman was standing on the side next to the chief of police who my father knew.

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Dorien Grunbaum: She had been mistakenly arrested, she was not Jewish after all.

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Dorien Grunbaum: so suddenly my father asked the chief of police if he could give her his baby to bring to his clothes non Jewish friends the beer among family.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The chief thought for a moment and then agreed.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My father wrote down their address and with the baby carriage he handed me over to the lady.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother and grandmother were numb and in shock my father probably none himself spoke softly to them, trying to assure them and himself that he had made the right decision.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Most of the passengers were now on the bus, and it was preparing to leave my father ran to the still open door to check on me what he saw was a screaming baby surrounded by a dozen Nazi soldiers.

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Dorien Grunbaum: He jumped off the bus grabbed me ran back on the bus and put me on my mother's lap.

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Dorien Grunbaum: You later wrote that was probably the main reason that we're all still alive.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The Germans would have known where during was because of course they knew where the lady lived they would have taken to read and Center to Auschwitz or to end to the gas Chamber or they would have given her to a German family to make a German child out of her.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Rita would not have had the strength read as my mother Rita would not have had the strength to survive investor Bork or Bergen belsen and neither would I probably have.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Rita would have had to work instead of being able to care for the baby and would have been physically broken.

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Dorien Grunbaum: that's the end of the quote when we first arrived in barragan bells and after six months investor Bork in Northern Holland, there were 120 people in one barrick by the time we left there were 500 people.

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Dorien Grunbaum: When we first arrived there was a total of 4000 prisoners in Bergen belsen when we left there were 60,000.

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Dorien Grunbaum: There were no gas chambers, it was a crematorium to burn the bodies of those who have died, mostly from typhoid typhus it or cold or starvation.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother told me that from time to time she would take me for a walk down a path with mountains of bodies piled on one side.

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Dorien Grunbaum: It was normal to me I didn't know what I was seeing everything was normal to me and I was never separated from my little world I was never away from my mother and slept in a bed with her every night my grandmother slept nearby and I could see my father almost every day.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I had friends and we played with whatever we could find when I finally spoke my first word was afternoon, the German word that screamed for attention.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So now returning to the last transport.

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Dorien Grunbaum: A Russian live operators and tributes were kind to us.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And here's a quote from my mother, the Russians allowed us to take anything we needed from the Germans, which was everything.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Anybody who could walk went that night we slept in wonderful beds with clean white sheets blankets and real pillows it was much more than the attic room, we had to dreamed of.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The next morning my mother had typhus with a high fever for three days.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My memory is that i'm standing terrified at the foot of an enormous bed, as my mother is lying unconscious eyes closed not moving.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Not hearing me cry.

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Dorien Grunbaum: By then, I knew what did meant and I thought she was dead.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But after three weeks my mother was better and then my father still week from his earlier typhus came down with it again and actually i'm not sure whether it was typhus or typhoid, at that point, I don't know she can get typhoid typhus twice.

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Dorien Grunbaum: He was moved to the new hospital that the Russians had organized and my mother was not allowed to visit him they stayed in contact through smuggled notes, my father instructing my mother what to do in case he didn't pull through, but he did.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So on July 1 1945 of our family my parents my grandmother and I were on the last transport to leave toilets for life sick, which was about an hour away and from there to musters Holland by ambulance because of my father's week condition.

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Dorien Grunbaum: i'm left with my grandmother in a large crowd of people when suddenly I can't find her I look all around and then make my way through the crowd searching and crying Finally, a kind man recognizes me picks me up and takes me back to my frantic grandmother.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And one last quote from my mother.

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Dorien Grunbaum: A few days later, while Fred was still in the hospital our dear dear friend credit, be a month from Rotterdam suddenly stood before him before me, and remember it had been his family's address that that my father had given to the woman at the police station.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Credit had traveled on a milk truck having discovered that my that we were alive, he traveled on a milk truck to find us.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Here was this tall wonderful men putting his arms around me asking us to come and stay with him with them until we found a place of our own that's the end of the quote.

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Dorien Grunbaum: We did that, and I have vivid memories of the following two months, when we lived with the family that my father had thought to send me to but didn't.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Only 5% of Dutch Jews survived the war, our family quite have the last group to be rounded up in Holland was among them.

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Dorien Grunbaum: let's see an.

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Ari Goldstein: orange Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us there's so much that you do remember striking amount of giving your age and so much clue that you don't but that we're fortunate to be able to build you know build a story around understand through you.

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Ari Goldstein: i'm gonna.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I just want to say that a lot of the information comes from the the accounts that my parents both wrote, I think, in the early days before email and everything there was a lot of writing.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And since I had a whole family my father's whole family had had gone to Mexico he wrote for them, particularly, and so they knew what so they would know what we had been through and also he wrote later for me and for my sister Judy who was born after the war in brooklyn.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So that we would know because my memories were actually Sofia.

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Ari Goldstein: Where today are the the pieces of writing the parents produced about their experiences are they just documents that you have at home.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And they're in my file cabinet.

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Ari Goldstein: keep them safe.

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Ari Goldstein: dorian you were 13 months old when you're your first Center westerbork with your family and then almost three when we were liberated, given that young age and literally remember, do you identify as a Holocaust survivor.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I do now, certainly, and really I always did I always knew that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I always knew about the Holocaust, I always knew where I had been.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Even though I was not able to put together a story at all, I had words in my head Bergen belsen investor Bork.

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Dorien Grunbaum: You know turnips I had words that I knew that I knew were related to where I had been but.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I had nothing to say I had no memory, and so I identified more as a child of survivors, because I was a child of survivors, as well as a survivor.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But I um I always knew that there was something different, and I was always aware of that and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: growing up, it was a little bit lonely because I didn't have anybody to share that with it sharing I couldn't share that with my parents, because my parents remembered everything and so.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And they had friends who survivors also who they knew from the camps, and so they had a community to share with I didn't have anything like that, so I didn't even know what I was looking for I just knew that I didn't fit in with any of it.

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Ari Goldstein: When we were speaking earlier, you said something really poignant that a lot of your confusion was really loneliness yeah stuck with me.

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Ari Goldstein: I want to pull up some photos we're very.

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Ari Goldstein: lucky that your mother Rita donated some of your family's photos and documents to the museum's collection in the 1990s so i'm going to pull up some photos and ask you questions about what about what we're seeing.

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Ari Goldstein: And here we have a adorable image of view as a baby before your family was sent to westerbork.

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Ari Goldstein: How much do you know, but what your family's life was like in these very early years were you were they religious Jews, can you tell us bigger parents business.

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Dorien Grunbaum: um.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I would say, they were not religious Jews alone my mother had grown up in an Orthodox with an Orthodox father, and so in their house there they kept kosher and they were fairly religious I don't know.

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Dorien Grunbaum: If my mother attended synagogue or anything like that I don't know about that, but I do know that outside of her house, she was.

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Dorien Grunbaum: She was not particularly religious at all ate whatever she wanted to eat and had did not go to Jewish schools so her friends were Jewish and non Jewish and and I think that actually is something that my life has been like that, as well, and so.

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Dorien Grunbaum: yeah I don't know I can't remember where i'm going with that, but anyway, my father and my father had come to to Holland in 1972.

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Dorien Grunbaum: His father had lost his business being Jewish, and so my father came to Holland, in order to earn money to send back to his his parents and so he worked in the grain business always importing and exporting grain and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother was a social worker.

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Dorien Grunbaum: She worked particularly with children, and so, and they met at a party and fell in love.

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Ari Goldstein: You said, your father came to the Netherlands in 1932 that was from Germany.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Yes, i'm Frankfurt.

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Ari Goldstein: that's striking in 1932 was before Hitler came to power, but he was already experienced enough anti semitism toward a fleet.

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Dorien Grunbaum: He was and my father actually you know i've tried to get citizenship from Holland from Germany from various places, and I know it's ironic to think that I would try to get citizenship from from Germany, but.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Of all the places where i've tried to get a second citizenship, Germany has been the most the most helpful and the most willing to help and i'm very grateful to that and but but I haven't been able to get it.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So yeah it's.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And, and I, and you might ask why do I feel like I need a second citizenship, and that is, I think, because I feel.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Vulnerable i've always i've always felt like it was sinful to have another citizenship.

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hmm.

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Ari Goldstein: Thank you for sharing that.

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yeah sorry.

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Ari Goldstein: Another older image reflecting your family's life before the war, this is your mother's mother, the same grandmother, who was with you in the camps is that right.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Yes, so.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Her yes, she was my own me and she is seated on the right and next to her is her brother jaco and next to him is their sister Berta and then on the left is there, half sister millie.

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Dorien Grunbaum: millie was born there their mother, the three on the right there mother died in the fire and their father married again and then millie was born so.

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Dorien Grunbaum: my grandmother.

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Dorien Grunbaum: was a great person.

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Dorien Grunbaum: She came to Holland and worked in a business that was already established the family business, it was a department store called chasm.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And she worked as the from the age of 14 I think she was never a good in school, and so they they didn't know what to do with her, so they sent her to to the business and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And she rose to become the director of the Rotterdam branch of heroism.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And for me, she was.

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Dorien Grunbaum: She was a.

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Dorien Grunbaum: pillar in my life, and I think we we shared a kind of sense of humor that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The rest of my family didn't.

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Dorien Grunbaum: share my mother was a pretty serious person, my father was actually had a wonderful sense of humor, but it was different than my grandmother's.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so, and I loved my grandmother a lot and I think she left me a lot, I know she did yeah so she was with us during the whole time that we were in in the concentration camps.

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Ari Goldstein: Now why were your other grandparents, not with you, they passed away by the time you were rounded up.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Both of my grandfather's had passed away and my other grandmother flora slow.

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Dorien Grunbaum: had been living in Germany with.

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Dorien Grunbaum: With my aunt and her husband court my dad Laura and my husband cord, and they had left Germany when things started looking bad in Germany, and they have lived in other parts of Europe.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And there, and my two cousins from their role and boot lived in Holland, with at least roof lift in Holland, with my parents, for some time for a time and then.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I would say.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I can't remember the exact date i'm sorry I don't have it in my head, but just before Hitler came to Holland.

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Dorien Grunbaum: That family left Europe and my parents went with them to Andrea and to see them off on the boat and it turned out that was the last boat that could get out.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so they ended up first in the States and then they moved to Mexico, which was a very open country for immigrants and refugees very open at the time, and for many years before that was known for that.

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Ari Goldstein: You know if your parents considered joining them on that boat.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And my father didn't want to go, he said, if Hitler comes where i'm going to fight.

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Ari Goldstein: He.

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Dorien Grunbaum: was a very loyal Dutch citizen.

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Dorien Grunbaum: By then.

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Ari Goldstein: So.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And they certainly didn't expect what what what happened.

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Ari Goldstein: Who could have.

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Dorien Grunbaum: He did right.

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Ari Goldstein: So Kurt and lori who ended up in Mexico City were able to provide documentation emigration certificates to Palestine that that proved really important and insecure in your family better treatment, once you were in the camps, can you tell us what you know about that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: um Court was Kurt was able to get documents to allow my our family to go to Palestine and and he was able to get those documents to my father investor Board, which was the first camp where we were.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so, my father had those documents and when we were transported to Bergen belsen those documents allowed us to be in the barrack.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Or the section of Bergen belsen where we weren't there were several different sections of Bergen belsen the largest of it.

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Dorien Grunbaum: of them were was the one that we were in it was called the stem Lager and which means the star camp.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And the reason it was called That was because in all the other in most of the other sections people were required to wear the striped uniforms that you see in photographs, but in the sham Lager we were allowed to wear our own clothes.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But we had to wear the Star and so that was it was called a star camp.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so that we received better treatment at the beginning in that camp, and I think better food better better everything on later as as the camp filled up with more and more prisoners things deteriorated and and you heard from the from my tuck that it wasn't enough.

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Ari Goldstein: it's interesting to me that the papers who had that were allowed to immigrate to Palestine were.

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Ari Goldstein: They didn't like to leave the camp, but the fact that you had them was it was able to secure you better treatment in the camp or access to that special section I mean, I wonder if it some ways for FLEX sort of the evolution of Nazi racial policy which.

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Ari Goldstein: started with deportations and ended with extermination.

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Dorien Grunbaum: hmm I don't I don't know about that I don't know I haven't thought about that, but I the the papers were meant.

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Dorien Grunbaum: As an exchange, so that the papers would have allowed us to be exchanged for a German prisoner who was who wanted to return that or who was sent back to Germany.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Actually I think so everybody in that group had some way of leaving of leaving to another country, and I think most of it was to Palestine.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But.

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Dorien Grunbaum: It turned out my mother said and I guess it's true that German press prisoners didn't want to be exchanged didn't want to come back.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so that exchange i'm not sure if that's the reason the exchange really never happened but it never happened.

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Ari Goldstein: let's look at a couple documents from your time investor board and then Bergen belsen this is your ID card with this again adorable image of you as a small child, and this is best to work in the upper left.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Right, so this is this was my ID card from vesta work yeah.

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Ari Goldstein: And then, here we have a letter from the Red Cross announcing your family had been registered on an exchange list for Palestine, and this is a pretty interesting document because it's actually in English yeah.

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Dorien Grunbaum: yeah so.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I think that is the.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Exchange document right.

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Ari Goldstein: yeah that's right yeah yeah.

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Dorien Grunbaum: That I was talking about.

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Ari Goldstein: And then, in addition to securing you exchange papers for Palestine your cousins Kurt and lori and Mexico City also sent.

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Ari Goldstein: packages, so this package contain sugar and milk powder cocoa rice and salt and you can see right on the front that it was sent to you in Bergen belsen just really striking.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Yes, and I was actually surprised also that we and I had heard about it before and have always been surprised that we were able to get that package, but we did yes and i'm not exactly sure what.

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Dorien Grunbaum: At what were the dates of that so I don't know if it was earlier when things seemed a little bit.

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Dorien Grunbaum: less severe or if we received it later in our time there, I know that.

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huh.

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Ari Goldstein: It says your your father's last name here spelled tr you E n B a UN words the spelling changed over time.

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Dorien Grunbaum: yeah well, it was originally grew in band with a with an allowed and oh that's that you, he is the loud and when, and he spelled it that way in Holland also but, when it came to the United States, he dropped it on that.

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Ari Goldstein: Now this to me is the most emotional of these documents, can you tell us about it.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Well um when we were liberated.

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Dorien Grunbaum: This text was sent to.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Was it sent to my.

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Ari Goldstein: My boys in the bronx it looks like.

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Ari Goldstein: well.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Honestly, I don't know who mark edwards is no I don't know how he found out that we had survived, but apparently he did, and so, and he was asked by my father, I guess, to send.

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Dorien Grunbaum: This information to my uncle's Igor and to my relatives in Mexico my uncle's Igor it was my mother's brother who had come to Los Angeles.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Before the war and was in the army, the American army and not sent abroad and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: then returned to Los Angeles, where he worked for Douglas aircraft for many years.

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Ari Goldstein: I can only imagine the emotion of your relatives receiving this letter, after hearing probably little news from Europe and not being sure what it happened to you, yes yeah.

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Ari Goldstein: And then here's their response to from Mexico to you saying over happy with joy all our thoughts with you, how can we help.

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Ari Goldstein: Right, Jordan, to the point.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Right So yes.

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Ari Goldstein: So your family, you mentioned that you stayed with another family for a couple months, while you've got back on your feet in the Netherlands, and then you emigrated to the United States, can you walk us through how you got from the Netherlands to eventually to Los Angeles.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Oh, to Los Angeles.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Okay it's a lot of years.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So our family did.

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Dorien Grunbaum: emigrate, and I say emigrate, because I don't think we were exactly refugees, when we came to the United States, my father my father's old boss had left Holland before the war and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: had discovered from lists that my father was alive and so immediately he sent my father an offer to come to New York to work in his business so when we emigrated we immigrated because my father was not a refugee had work waiting for him.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so.

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Dorien Grunbaum: We came over on a boat that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: In 1946 that landed in galveston we didn't go through Ellis Island and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: We landed in galveston because it was close to Mexico and we stayed with a friend and old friend of my father's in Houston for a few days, and then we got in a boat, I actually i'm saying that i'm not sure how we got to Mexico.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And, but then we went to Mexico we stayed there for several months to be with my father's family after that we went to Los Angeles, to be with my uncle.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And stayed there for a little while and then my father was original his original placement was in Pittsburgh, the company also had an office in Pittsburgh.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And we lived in Pittsburgh for a short while, but that what did not work for my father who had asthma and the air and from Pittsburgh was quite bad, and so we moved to New York to brooklyn and we lived in brooklyn.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Later we moved to larchmont New York and that's where I grew up and went to school and after college I during college, I spent a year in Israel and then later joined the peace corps and lived in Turkey for two years.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And then you know, I was we came back from Turkey, I was very involved in the anti war movement, I was.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I I I worked as a teacher of English as a second language getting a scam.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And then I.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I met my husband who my first husband, who was a British Israeli and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: At the time, he was living in Israel, where he lived for a long time, and he.

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Dorien Grunbaum: got a job in Los Angeles, so we moved to Los Angeles.

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Dorien Grunbaum: and

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Ari Goldstein: yeah I pull up just a couple more photos.

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Ari Goldstein: Because there's so many beautiful ones of this is chapter of your story so here's your family right after war in July 1945 outside of Rotterdam yeah.

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Dorien Grunbaum: yeah this photograph.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Moves me every time I see it.

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Dorien Grunbaum: We were, it was immediate, this was the street, where the beer mug family lived with me and we live with that family.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And you can see that my mother and I look pretty normal.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Because.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother had recovered from having been sick and we have been fed and my father was.

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Dorien Grunbaum: If he was fully recovered, it was shortly.

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Dorien Grunbaum: fully recovered and he was still I think close to the 80 pounds that he had.

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Dorien Grunbaum: become, and so my father looks terrible.

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Ari Goldstein: and

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Ari Goldstein: During when we spoke, you mentioned that you thought this might be in Mexico, but it looks the museum record show this has been still in Rotterdam before you left the young.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I think that's right so as first, you can see, my father in a much better state than that, and even the earlier photo, and so this would have been just before we left for the United States and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: We were, this was the porch of the beer month family and yeah.

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Ari Goldstein: This is going to go back and forth the previous one, to look at your father one year of recovery between these images yeah.

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Ari Goldstein: And then, this is our last image I think it's so so beautiful just from that brief statement hadn't used on three generations of your family yeah.

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Ari Goldstein: yeah how long did your grandmother live after you made it to Mexico United States.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My mother, my grandmother lived to be 91 so she died in 1972.

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Ari Goldstein: And when you were growing up in larchmont how much did your parents and your grandmother talk about what you had experienced during the Holocaust.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And I wouldn't say that they talked about it, but it was never a taboo subject, so I mean it was kind of.

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Dorien Grunbaum: In the you know when we were in concentration camp, we did something or other so that was it was just occasional and or oh we're having turning no oh no we never make turnips because we had that in concentration camp Oh, or I know these people from vested work, so it was.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Just thrown into the conversation, but there were never accounts really of what happened that's how I grew up with those words in my head, but not really a story in my head and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: As I got older.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I became obviously more aware of that story, but.

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Dorien Grunbaum: yeah I I didn't ask many questions the the Holocaust became kind of a backdrop in my life, because when we came when we moved to large font a few years after we moved there, my father started showing symptoms of Ms multiple sclerosis, and that was that became a.

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Dorien Grunbaum: driving.

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Dorien Grunbaum: change in our lives, my and my sister also had a lot of emotional problems because of my father's illness, because of being the only member of the family who would not participate in the big story fella cost so she was a child of survivors that literally.

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Dorien Grunbaum: and

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Dorien Grunbaum: So there were other things going on, and my mother, of course, was the bearer of all of this difficulty and had to figure it out, and so the Holocaust.

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Dorien Grunbaum: became receded not an importance, but in conversation or in in anything.

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Dorien Grunbaum: For quite some time.

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Ari Goldstein: You mentioned to me that you had a transformative meeting someone named frank Epstein who had a similar experience to you later in life.

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Ari Goldstein: we'd love to hear more about that and was that sort of the the turning point when the Holocaust became more important for you.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Well i'm going to backtrack a little bit for that, because actually in the 70s, when I was in my mid 30s I had a very close friend a boyfriend.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Who my mother was very fond of and he was a novelist His name was Jerry bandanas and he.

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Dorien Grunbaum: was writing a novel in which one of the characters was a child Holocaust survivor so he.

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Dorien Grunbaum: One day started asking my mother questions very pointed very specific questions and to my great surprise, she started answering every single one of them.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so, this was the first time I I heard details of this kind that were just amazing to me, and so it was, from this point on, that I started.

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Dorien Grunbaum: being more curious and and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: realizing that I needed information that I didn't have Oh, and then, as time went on, I got that information.

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Dorien Grunbaum: and frank Epstein.

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Dorien Grunbaum: came into the picture.

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Dorien Grunbaum: A few years ago.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Maybe more than a few maybe five years ago i'm I five or six years ago.

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Dorien Grunbaum: my sister, who was living in Boston and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Was disabled by many things, but was very persistent and very brilliant and very determined.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Around the Holocaust had my sister had met frank.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Through some friends and realize that frank had been in all the same places that I had been that our family had been and he was exactly my age.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So they became friends and frank, at one point went to visit my mother to find out more information and but I had never met him and I was actually he was he was just a name to me I didn't really know what I was supposed to do.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I was living in Los Angeles, but at one day, I was in Boston and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I was in the kitchen and my sister I heard her talking on the telephone so she had called somebody and after a while, she said to me during somebody wants to talk to you.

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Dorien Grunbaum: She didn't say who, and so I picked up the phone and it was frank Epstein and probably she had said to him somebody wants to talk to you and so and we talked a little bit and and I realized, I really did want to meet this person when I when I understood that we had had the same experience.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So the next day, we met at a coffee shop for breakfast and I think we must have talked the entire morning we just talked for hours, and it was incredibly comforting to me incredibly comforting to finally meet somebody who was my peer.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And that has made a big difference for me in my life frank.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Actually I wasn't the first person that he had met because he knew somebody else and i'm just going to show you.

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Dorien Grunbaum: This book written by Joseph pollock and that was the somebody else and Joseph had written a book called after the Holocaust, the bells still ring.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Added described his family's experience but, again, he was in all the same places that we were so it I finally felt that I had a Community tiny as it was, it was a very important Community and I I don't I don't know if I can just.

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Dorien Grunbaum: add something now should I add something now about Nikki.

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Ari Goldstein: yeah sure go ahead.

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Dorien Grunbaum: um.

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Dorien Grunbaum: We there there, there was this family that my parents were very close to in the camps, and this was the milkman family and they were also Dutch and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And they survived the war as well, and they.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Had.

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Dorien Grunbaum: A well at the time that we were all picked up, they were in a train to westerbork, I believe, and they had they had a son.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Who was my age or a year older than me and they had made a very difficult decision of placing their son, with a Christian family because they knew what was going to happen.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So they were in this train with papers for their son of her home and sitting in the train with them was a woman and her son.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And the woman phil was very upset because she didn't have papers for her son her son's name is Nikki.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so the milk months said well we'll hold on to him we'll we'll pretend he's our son, because we have papers and we have, and our son is not here, and so they arrived in their investor Bork all of them and very shortly after nikki's mother was sent to sobibor and was killed there.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So Nikki spent the whole war with the McMahon family and Nikki was my playmate in in the Bergen belsen.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So I had I knew about Nikki and I knew about the mouth months and much later when I was in college, I spent a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And every Friday every shabbat the milk one family invited me to come to their house to to have shabak with them, so there they were with their they now had a second son Avraham had been recovered.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And they had a second son Dan and there was this third son nicki who wasn't actually their son, it was their foster son.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so I I.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I had a.

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Dorien Grunbaum: sense of feeling about Nikki we each new about each other, but we never really talked and actually much later Nikki.

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Dorien Grunbaum: After after liberation Nikki had been claimed by his and back in Holland so she went to live with his end and then after that spent many years in homes in children's homes and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: had a very unhappy life really and so when the war ended and the mouth months after a while had emigrated to Israel and Nikki stayed in Holland for quite some time but eventually emigrated also to Israel and then became close to the mouth once again and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So I had this relationship with Nikki all through many years when I returned to to Holland, I always saw him and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: But he was never really able to talk.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So I had if he could he was never really a companion in the way that frank became when I was much older and also more able to talk.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So.

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Dorien Grunbaum: yeah That was the story of Mickey.

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Ari Goldstein: Thanks for sharing during will turn to some of the audience questions now.

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Ari Goldstein: m greenwood is asking what your attitudes towards the Germans and Dutch today and how do you feel about your own national identity do identifies Dutch.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I do, I I grew up speaking Dutch my family my parents spoke Dutch to us always and and I go to Holland, I before the pandemic, I went to Holland often.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I spent many I used to go to Holland every summer to visit my grandmother who still live there and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: So I, and I visited and I always stayed with the beer my family and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I have friends in Holland, and so I still have a strong feeling and a loyalty to Holland, which I know was not Poland was quite imperfect to juice, I found out later, but.

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Dorien Grunbaum: You yeah I it's familiar in Holland is familiar to me the language is familiar, everything is familiar to me.

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Ari Goldstein: And you have any relatives there now.

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Dorien Grunbaum: No, I don't have relatives, but I have to close friends one Jewish and we're not Jewish.

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Ari Goldstein: yeah someone in the audience sing Helen writes it restores your faith in humanity to hear of all the people both family and friends helped your family it's True, there are a lot of good.

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Ari Goldstein: figures in your story, in addition to the pyramids there's, of course, her cousins Mexico, did you keep up keep up a relationship with them.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Yes, I mean you know I i'm I have a very large.

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Dorien Grunbaum: group of cousins in Mexico, I have also a cousin in.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Connecticut and whom i'm close to but yes, I often went to Mexico to visit I spent.

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Dorien Grunbaum: about six months in Mexico during the 70s and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Close to many of my cousins yes we don't see each other that much anymore now because of the circumstances but, but we are definitely in touch and I feel close to them, yes.

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it's wonderful.

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Ari Goldstein: Sandra and the audience is asking if there were any long term health issues that your family experienced from malnutrition and disease in the camp, you are so young, does it do you feel that your time being in the camp impacted you physically or psychologically.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I will i'll just start by saying that my father's Ms.

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Dorien Grunbaum: was thought to have been much exacerbated by the fact that we were in concentration camps and may have even started there, and so my mother luckily was able to get doctors verification about that and then my father is.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Care was paid for by by the Germans So yes, and what was the second part of your question Oh, whether I have any long term um.

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Ari Goldstein: If you feel comfortable sharing able to.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I don't know I don't know I.

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Dorien Grunbaum: You know, I have a broken ankle at the moment, but I don't think that was because of that.

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Ari Goldstein: Well, we wish you a speedy recovery.

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Ari Goldstein: Marina and Mexico rights much loves you for Mexico, thank you to read so.

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Ari Goldstein: i'm Stephen in the audience is asking if you ever considered Israeli citizenship, given all the time you spent there and your quest for to citizenships.

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Dorien Grunbaum: No, I never did.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My son.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Who is 37.

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Dorien Grunbaum: lives in Israel, and so, and he lives there because I don't I don't know I wouldn't say that he moved there because of.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Strong Zionist or Israeli feelings I believe he moved there because he has three.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Half brother a brother and two half sisters who we've always stayed very close to and he was who live there, and he wanted to try something different, so he went to Israel and stayed there became a journalist and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: married an American also and has a baby a little boy.

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Ari Goldstein: salto on your grandson and by two more questions and then we'll wrap up, can you explain, in brief, with the process has been like trying to secure German citizenship, and it was something that a lot of descendants of survivors either navigate or considering navigating but it's complicated.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I will say that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Here in Los Angeles i've received tremendous help from and support from.

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Dorien Grunbaum: The consulate here.

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Dorien Grunbaum: My cases particularly have is is very difficult, because my father became a Dutch citizen, exactly one month before Hitler came to power, which means that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: Theoretically i'm not eligible to become a citizen of Germany and so somebody at the consulate has been.

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Dorien Grunbaum: helping me and trying to find papers and define loopholes and all kinds of ways of getting around that so far, we have succeeded, but I know that there are a lot of people who are trying to get German citizenship and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I think that the Germans are quite helpful.

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Then.

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Ari Goldstein: Yes, Doreen our last question for you is what do you feel the lessons of your family's experiences in the Holocaust.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And you know, over time, I have met many Holocaust survivors and i've seen that people come away from it, with it, with different very different.

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Dorien Grunbaum: views.

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Dorien Grunbaum: some kind of.

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Dorien Grunbaum: pull into themselves and say you know and and protect protect themselves and.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And, and the phrase never again.

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Dorien Grunbaum: is the one that I cling to because, for me, never again means not just to Jews, but not to anybody.

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Dorien Grunbaum: And so, my view is that.

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Dorien Grunbaum: curiosity about other people and generosity to other people is the way to for it, for it never to happen again, of course, it has happened again in many ways in many places, but I.

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Dorien Grunbaum: I honestly don't see how this world can survive that way, and so, for me, the only possible way to to move ahead is.

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Dorien Grunbaum: By generosity and curiosity.

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Ari Goldstein: that's such a beautiful note to end on and there is so much generosity in your story from others who helped you and curiosity in your story, as you learn other people's experiences and reconstructed your own families.

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Ari Goldstein: we're very grateful that you shared what you know and remember with us today and there's a lot that will take away from listening to you.

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Thank you.

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Ari Goldstein: Thank you all for joining us today in the audience everything we do at the Museum of Jewish heritage is made possible through donor support so.

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Ari Goldstein: Please consider making a contribution in support of the museum's worked preserve stories like different families.

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Ari Goldstein: and join us for our upcoming programs and events, including our monthly story survive series.

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Ari Goldstein: We did record today's presentation and conversation with Doreen greenbaum and we'll email out recording tomorrow, along with some other links, including Joseph pollux book, which you mentioned stay well everyone have a great afternoon will rain Thank you again.

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Ari Goldstein: Take care.

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bye.

 

MJH recommends 

Read About the Grunbaum Family’s Battle with Typhus
Among the Grunbaum family photographs and documents in the Museum’s collection is a record verifying that Rita Grunbaum, Dorien’s mother, had typhus in 1945. See Rita’s record and read about the role typhus played for many survivors like her on the Museum’s blog.


Learn Joseph Polak’s Story
Dorien Grunbaum felt alone in her experiences as a child survivor until she read After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring by Joseph Polak, a child survivor who became a Rabbi. Read Polak’s story in his book or watch a lecture he delivered in 2016 at the College of the Holy Cross.


Watch Other “Stories Survive” Programs
The Museum’s monthly “Stories Survive” series features Holocaust survivors sharing their remarkable experiences and insights with our community. Watch recordings of recent programs with Hungarian “hidden child” Erika Hecht; Belgian twins Henry and Bernard Schanzer, who survived the war in the French countryside; and Elizabeth Bellak, a Jewish child star in pre-war Poland known as the “Polish Shirley Temple.”