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- Collections View Alfred's family papers and photographs
- Echoes of Memory Read Alfred's writings
- First Person Watch Alfred share his Holocaust experiences at a First Person program
- Oral History Access Alfred's Oral Testimony
- Podcast Listen to Alfred discuss the difficult decisions his parents made shortly before his birth
Alfred (Al) Münzer was born on November 23, 1941 in The Hague, Netherlands. Alfred survived the Holocaust because he was rescued by an Indonesian family living in the Netherlands. His father, Simcha, owned a men’s tailoring business and his mother, Gisele, remained at home to look after Alfred and his two older sisters, Eva and Leah.
In May 1942, Alfred’s father was ordered to report to a German labor camp but evaded the order by checking himself into the hospital for a hernia operation. By September it became apparent that the entire family would need to go into hiding. Simcha faked a suicide attempt in order to be committed to a psychiatric hospital near The Hague. Meanwhile, Gisele sold the family’s possessions and settled her children with friends and neighbors before joining Simcha at the hospital as a nurse’s assistant.
Eva and Leah were initially placed with two women who were next-door neighbors of the Münzer family. About a year later the girls were moved to the home of another woman. But in early 1944 the woman’s husband denounced her and the girls to the authorities. All three were arrested and sent to Westerbork. On February 8, 1944 seven-year-old Eva and five-year-old Leah were deported to Auschwitz where they were killed upon arrival, three days later. The woman who had hidden them was sent to Vught, then to Ravensbruck, and eventually was liberated.
Alfred was put in the care of a friend named Annie Madna, who placed him with her sister. However, after a month Annie’s sister became too nervous to keep him. Annie then placed Alfred with her ex-husband, Tolé, a native of Indonesia. For the next three years Alfred remained in Tolé’s home, looked after by their housekeeper, Mima Saïna, who became his surrogate mother. The Madnas treated him as one of their own children, but he was not allowed to leave the house for fear that someone might see him and become suspicious. Despite their difference in appearance, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Alfred had no sense of being different from the rest of his Indonesian-Dutch family and he was too young to question why he was hidden in the closet when the Gestapo came to the house.
In early 1943 Alfred’s parents were deported first to Westerbork then to Vught. They were separated when Simcha was deported to Auschwitz in March 1944. In January 1945 Simcha was sent to Mauthausen and a number of other camps before being liberated at Ebensee. He died two months later at a nearby convent where he was receiving medical treatment. Gisele had been deported to Auschwitz in June 1944 then soon sent to work at one of the Telefunken factories near Reichenbach. After the factory was bombed in late summer 1944 she was marched to a series of concentration camps, and ultimately liberated at the German border with Denmark in the spring of 1945 and evacuated to Sweden. In July she was repatriated to the Netherlands.
When Gisele returned for Alfred, the three-and-a-half year-old had no memory of who she was. In order to ease the transition, Gisele invited Alfred’s surrogate mother, Mima, to continue to care for him. However, a few months later Mima died. When Alfred was six years old his mother opened a cosmetics store in Holland. In 1952 they moved to Belgium where they lived until they immigrated to the United States in 1958. Today, Alfred is an internist and pulmonologist and lives in Washington, DC. He still maintains a close relationship with Tolé’s children.