In 1942, Moshe Flinker and his family fled from Holland to Brussels, Belgium. They were trying to avoid the round-ups that targeted Jews for expulsion to the east. As part of their preparation to flee, Moshe’s father was able to obtain false papers allowing the family to obscure their Jewish identity. Even though they lived in their new home as non-Jews, this did not mean that they were safe. Belgium was under German occupation and all of the people, Jewish or not, were subject to harsh occupation policies. The situation took a turn for the worse at the end of 1942. On December 31st, three German soldiers were killed (probably by the resistance) and Brussels was placed under a 9:00 p.m. curfew. Under these circumstances, even if the Flinkers were able to avoid being exposed as Jews, they still had to fear being caught up in the reprisals unleashed by the Germans because of the attack against their soldiers.
Moshe wrote about the tremendous anxiety that the family experienced when he described an incident from the evening of January 6th. “Last night my parents and I were sitting around the table. It was almost midnight. Suddenly we heard the [door] bell; we all shuddered. We thought that the moment had come for us to be deported. […] Had it not been for this curfew, it could have been some man who was lost and ringing at our door. My mother had already put her shoes on to go to the door, but my father said to wait until they ring once more. But the bell did not ring again. Thank heaven it all passed quietly. Only the fear remained, and all day long my parents have been very nervous. They can’t stand the slightest noise, and the smallest thing bothers them.”
The most telling words from Moshe’s account, “Only the fear remained…” was probably an understatement. The continual stress that the Flinkers felt in their precarious position must have been brutal. Even the most normal of events, such as an errant door bell, could have been the harbinger of doom. This grinding fear was just as much a part of the Holocaust experience as deportation and death camps for those targeted for destruction by the Nazis.
Excerpts from Moshe Flinker’s diary have been published in a book entitled, by Alexandra Zapruder.
You may read more about the Holocaust in Belgium here.
June 22 to June 26
Please join us for the 20th Annual Teachers Institute June 22-26
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