The family Prowizur-Birnberg

The family Prowizur-Birnberg
Chaskel Prowizur

Chaskel Prowizur (°26/02/1899 in Tarnow, Poland) married Chana Golda Birnberg (°19/11/1901 in Leipzig, Germany). Their two daughters were born in Hamburg: Klara (°30/05/1922) and Edith (°30/11/1923). Chaskel worked as a merchant and moved to Belgium in 1925. Here he stays illegally from the end of December. Waiting for his wife and children he lives at 26 rue Laurent de Koninck in Liège. Chana and her daughters arrive in Belgium a few months later: on 8 April 1926. When the family was reunited, they moved to rue de l’Industrie in Seraing-sur-Meuse. There son Alfred was born (°18/08/1926). During this period, Chaskel worked as a furrier. In 1928 the family moved to rue Enseignement in Liège. The family moved very often, almost every year. They lived in Sint-Joost-ten-Node, Brussels and Molenbeek, among other places. After moving to rue Ransfort in 1933 they welcomed their fourth child: Maurice (°03/12/1933).

The family seems to have difficulty making ends meet and applies for assistance. Chaskel gets into trouble. In December 1935 the Belgian authorities decided he had to leave the country. He receives a visa to go via Vienna to Tarnow, Poland, to live with his father. However, Chaskel soon returned to Belgium because he was not allowed to enter Poland. After his return, he says he would like to obtain a Nansen passport so that he and his family can move to America. The Nansen passport is an identity or travel document introduced by the League of Nations for refugees who do not have a valid passport from their country of refuge. This document would give them the chance to travel further. Chaskel can prove through a letter that an uncle of theirs lives in the United States. This uncle also sends them money to make the crossing.

The family Prowizur-Birnberg
Edith Prowizur

The threat of possible deportation persists and both Chaskel’s wife Chana and eldest daughter Klara write to the government asking for mercy. Apart from the Prime Minister, the King also receives a letter. In it Klara mentions their family situation and asks if her father can stay in Belgium a bit longer. This seems to work, for in February 1938 Chaskel obtains an identity card for ‘patriots’ that is valid for a number of months so that he can travel abroad. Despite obtaining this identity card, the family remained in Belgium for unknown reasons. In December 1939 Chana lived with her children at Papenvest 90 in Brussels, still living on financial assistance. Klara works as an office assistant at the company ‘Lindor’ and Edith takes sewing courses at the professional school in Molenbeek.

In May 1940 Germany invaded Belgium and from the end of 1940 the occupying regime installed anti-Jewish laws. On 18 December 1940 Chana registered in the Register of Jews. Chaskel, Klara and Edith reported the following day. In August 1942, deportations started. Jews are given work permits and must report to the Dossin Barracks. Edith received such an Arbeitseinsatzbefehl and went to Mechelen. She was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau with transport II on 11 August 1942 and never returned. Chaskel was arrested by the Sicherheitspolizei-Sicherheitsdienst on 3 January 1943 and deported with transport XX on 19 April 1943. He was in the same wagon with his daughter Klara and son-in-law Frain. Chaskel fell ill a few days before the departure. Once on the train, son-in-law Frain urged him and Klara to jump off the train while they were still in Belgium. Klara hesitates because Chaskel is so ill, but finally decides to jump with her husband. Frain and Klara manage to stay out of the hands of the Germans. Chaskel died in the carriage on the way to Auschwitz-Birkenau and consequently never had to experience the camp. His wife and both sons survived the war.

Testimony: Aaron Bandler, “Watch: Holocaust survivro recounts leaving father behind on train to Auschwitz, receives message from him years later”, Jewish Journal, 13 oktober 2017,

Kaatje Langens