August 16, 1930,
February 25, 2009
We note with sadness the death of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Survivor Volunteer Flora Singer, who passed away February 25, 2009. Flora was an active member of the Museum’s Speakers Bureau, a dedicated weekly volunteer at the Donor/Membership Desk in the Museum’s Hall of Witness, and a published author in four volumes of the Museum’s “Echoes of Memory” publication.
Flora’s Romanian-born parents emigrated to Antwerp, Belgium, in the late 1920s to escape antisemitism. Flora’s father owned a furniture workshop. Antwerp had an active Jewish community. There were butcher shops, bakeries, and stores that sold foods which were prepared according to Jewish dietary laws. Flora was the oldest of three girls, and the family spoke Yiddish at home.
1933–39: When I arrived for my first day of kindergarten at public school, I was shocked to learn that there were other languages besides Yiddish! Every day after school I went to a Yiddish school where I learned about Jewish culture. In 1937 my father lost his shop. He found work as a ship’s carpenter and began to travel the world. In November 1938 we learned that Papa had stayed in America, hoping that we could join him there.
1940–44: After the Germans invaded Belgium in May 1940, we had to wear a yellow star. When I started fourth grade in September, kids pushed and insulted me because I was Jewish. One day that winter we were forbidden to go to school. I took my sister and said, “It’s o.k. if we can’t study, we’ll go to the park.” A sign at the park said “No Jews or dogs allowed.” Then we went to the movies, but the same sign was posted. I said, “Don’t worry, we’ll get ice cream,” but at the shop a sign said Jews could not be served. We returned home in shame. In 1942 we had to wear a yellow star.
On the advice of a friend who was in the German army, the Mendelovicz family fled to Brussels. Flora was hidden in convents in Belgium and was spared deportation because of the efforts of resistance fighter Georges Ranson, Father Bruno Reynders (a Benedictine monk), and others. In 1946 Flora and her family immigrated to the United States, where she first worked as a dressmaker, then completed her schooling, and became a teacher.
Why I Volunteer
The reply to the question “why I volunteer at the USHMM,” is simply, “I must.” Why? Because, having survived the horrible World War II years and the Holocaust -- as a Jewish child I was pursued by, and had to flee and hide from the Nazi hordes whose goal was to annihilate every single person who belonged to the Jewish faith, as well as others they deemed wrongly to be inferior to themselves -- I have an obligation.
I feel compelled to work with the USHMM, to share and bring the lessons of the Holocaust to the public, particularly the younger members of our society, to show them the havoc and catastrophe hatred of one’s fellow man can unleash. Especially a hatred induced and taught by those who stand to gain power and material wealth through their influence over those innocents who become their lackeys.
I must admit that there are moments when I no longer wish to deal with the past which is constantly reawakened in me while at the USHMM, or when I speak to groups, whether at the USHMM or elsewhere. There are times when I wish to run away from this past. A past that robbed me of my childhood, which I spent in fear, running and hiding, and trying to keep two younger sisters safe. A past that robbed me of many beautiful family members, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, all who perished at the hands of the Nazis. I wish to no longer have sleepless nights.
Working at the USHMM, I have an opportunity to be a partner in spreading the word that tolerance, love, and caring for one’s fellow human beings, can create a world where every child who is born, regardless of the color of his/her skin, regardless of his/her ethnic origin, or religious affiliation, can dream and fulfill those dreams, without the fear of prejudice or persecution.
Finally, at the USHMM, I find a wonderful camaraderie among the many volunteers and staff members, knowing that we’re all engaged in the pursuit of a common goal, a peaceful hate-free world.
First Person seriesClose
Conversation with a Holocaust survivor [2003 season].
Describes saying goodbye to her mother [1995 interview].
A Jewish mother poses with her two young children in a park in Antwerp, Belgium. Pictured from right to left are: Fani, Charlotte and Flora Mendelowicz. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer
Flora Mendelowicz writes in her notebook while studying at a Catholic school in Brussels soon after the liberation. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer
Fani poses with her three daughters, Flora, Charlotte and Betty Mendelowicz. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer
Group portrait of Jewish girls Betty, Charlotte, and Flora Mendelowicz and Ruth Wallach and Paulette (last name unknown) living in hiding at the "Our Lady of Seven Sorrows" convent in Ruiselede, Belgium. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer
Two Jewish cousins, Flora Mendelowicz and Nathan (Nounou) Ciechanow, pose in an apartment in Brussels where they are hiding as Christians. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer
Members of an extended Jewish family pose on an outing to a park in Antwerp, Belgium. Pictured behind from right to left are: Fani Mendelowicz, an unnamed cousin, and Fani's sister, Leah In front of them are Flora (right) and Charlotte (left) Mendelowicz. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Flora Mendelowicz Singer