Paul Halter was born in Geneva on 10 October 1920. He was just one year old when he came to Belgium with his parents, Jozef Halter and Ryfka Horowitz, both Polish Jews. In August 1942 his parents were arrested at the Swiss border and were held in Drancy (France) until deportation on Transport 22 on 21 August of the same year. Following deportation their names disappear from the records.
After the exodus of May 1940 Paul entered the Faculty of Arts of the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He joined the underground Etudiants Socialistes Unifiés. Following the self-imposed disbandment of the university to avoid becoming a instrument of the occupying forces, Paul Halter helped to organize clandestine courses. He was then recruited by the Brussels Partisan Brigade and on 26 January 1943 narrowly escaped arrest following a shootout in which his commander “Stal”, Albert Laurent – a veteran of the International Brigades – was captured. Paul Halter, known by his alias “Stéphane”, then took his place as head of this resistance group, which during the spring was to lose even more of its members, either simply because they were Jewish or because they were suspected of resistance activities.
In the night of 20 May 1943 Paul Halter organized the rescue of a group of Jewish children whose place of hiding had been betrayed. The morning before, an Sipo-SD team, accompanied by the Jewish snitch “Gros Jacques”, aka Icek Glogowski, had burst into the Très Saint Sauveur Convent in the Avenue Clémenceau in Anderlecht, where they found 15 German Jewish girls. Surprised by the number of girls sheltered by the convent, the Germans informed them that they would be picked up the following morning. The children were being looked after by the Jewish Defence Committee, and had placed them in the convent with the help of Father Jan Bruylants, Vicar of the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Kuregem-Anderlecht, the former “Jewish” quarter. A young Jew called Bernard Fenerberg who often came to the parish church for a midday meal, was able to tell Halter about the German plans. Halter and his group, helped by the Holy Sisters, were able to whisk the children away, much to the fury of the Jewish Affairs Section of the Sipo-SD in Brussels.
Paul Halter was finally arrested on 16 June 1944. He spent three months in the St-Gilles prison during the preliminary investigations. The lack of evidence eventually resulted in him being handed over as a Jew to the Dossin Barracks on 1 September. Transport 22 B for Jews with the Belgian nationality took him to Auschwitz. After selection he was sent to the coal mines at Fürstengrübe, a Kommando of the main camp. He did not participate in the great evacuation of the camp on 18 January 1945, but instead stayed behind with the sick. However instead of waiting to be shot like the rest of the invalids he managed to escape and get through Soviet lines. The Red Army liberated the camp on 27 January. He was quickly repatriated via Odessa and Marseille and was among the first of the concentration camp survivors to arrive in Brussels on 5 April 1945.
ADRIAENS Ward, STEINBERG Maxime (et al.), Mecheln-Auschwitz, 1942-1944. The destruction of Jews and gypsies from Belgium, 4 volumes, Brussels, 2009