On October 6th IJC was so fortunate to have Mr. Simon Gronowski, a Holocaust survivor, share his moving story with our Hebrew School and community. Mr. Gronowski was born in Brussels in 1931 to a Polish father and Lithuanian mother. At the age of 11, in March of 1943, Simon and his mother were arrested and held at the Dossin Barracks in Mechelen for one month. On April 19th, he and his mother were put in a cattle car and transported by train, known as Transport XX, to Auschwitz concentration camp.
Three young Belgian resistance fighters were able to slow the train, allowing 233 people to escape, of whom 118 ultimately survived. Simon, just an 11 year old schoolboy, jumped from the train and was one of these survivors of the Twentieth Convoy. He spent the remainder of the war in hiding.
After the war, Mr. Gronowski studied at Université Libre de Bruxelles and earned a Doctor of Law degree. He has spoken to many schools, universities and synagogues all over the world sharing his experiences and fighting racism, fascism and anti-semitism. Additionally, he has written several books about his story of survival. He is a jazz pianist and past president of the Union of Jewish Deportees in Belgium. He has two daughters and four grandsons.
Mr. Gronowksi's talk prompted many excellent questions both from our youth and congregation at large. He was a dynamic speaker and stated, "Life is beautiful, but every day is a struggle." Following the talk, he entertained the community with a few magnificent songs on the piano after which we enjoyed refreshments and further discussion with our guest. It was a moving morning, one which we will always remember and hope that our children will never forget.
By IJC member Randi Rabin Karotkin
Simon with Jesse Karotkin and Randi Rabin Karotkin