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Brooklyn courthouse holds Holocaust Remembrance event with two survivors

April 23, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two women, Inge Wagner (left) and Suzanne Loebl (center), were invited to the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Civil Term, on Thursday for a Holocaust Remembrance event with Justice Ellen Spodek (right), the Brooklyn Brandies Society, the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association and the Brooklyn Bar Association. The two women discussed how their families escaped the Nazis during World War II. Eagle photos by Mario Belluomo
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Two women whose families fled Germany during World War II spoke at the Brooklyn Supreme Court, Civil Term, on Thursday as part of the court’s annual Holocaust Remembrance program. The event was co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Brandeis Society, the Brooklyn Bar Association and the Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association.

“The best way to look at me is like an Anne Frank who survived,” said Suzanne Loebl, a Brooklyn Heights resident since 1994. “I was born in Germany and I was 8 when Hitler came to power.”

Loebl explained that her family initially fled to Brussels, but had to flee when the Germans attacked France. The day of the invasion by Germany, her father was arrested by the Belgium police, and she, her mother and her sister ran away to France. Her father was eventually sent to the U.S., but the family would not see him again for six years.

In the meantime, Loebl, her mother and sister weren’t allowed into France since they were German citizens so they returned to Brussels. This time they hid by disguising themselves as non-Jewish Germans.

“So we went into hiding, like the Frank family did in Holland, except we were hiding in plain sight,” Loebl said. “I had very dark hair at the time and my mother had me dye my hair red to look less Jewish. I had this brilliant red hair and I might have looked less Jewish, but I was looking very conspicuous.”

Inge Wagner also shared her story about how her family fled Italy to Shanghai, China in order to escape the Nazis. Similar to Loebl, she, her mother and sister were split from her father, who left for Shanghai a year before they were able to leave.

Wagner’s father fought and was injured in World War I, which allowed him to gain passage aboard an Italian liner. However, the rest of the family had to wait a year. Being that the their passports were about to expire, they would be forced to go to Germany if they didn’t leave before the expiration date.

“Our passports were expiring and by the time we left, if we hadn’t gotten on that boat, we couldn’t have gotten out at all,” Wagner said. “That was our last chance to get out of Italy at the time. We considered ourselves very, very lucky. We got to Shanghai and for me, it was a double blessing because I hadn’t seen my father in a whole year and I was very attached to him.”

Despite the tragic events that both women faced as children, they both had very positive outlooks on people and hold no grudges. Through their stories, they explained that they were able to see more good in the people who helped them along their journeys than the evil in those persecuting them.

“I want to emphasize that the people who helped us, none of them decided they were going to be heroes,” Loebl said. “They were ordinary people. They just, when asked, said, ‘Yes.’”

Justice Ellen Spodek helped to organize the event along with Michele Mirman, president of the BWBA. Mirman, through her book club, actually introduced Spodek to Wagner and Loebl.

Spodek got emotional when she spoke of the importance of hearing first-hand accounts of stories about the Holocaust from its survivors.

“I grew up with the children of survivors and I was able to ask their parents about it and hear firsthand stories of survival and hope,” Spodek said. “But my nieces and nephews will probably be the last generation that will be able to converse with people who can share firsthand accounts.

By the time my great-niece is 15 it will have been 85 years since World War II has ended,” Spodek continued. “I presume by that time there will be very few survivors with firsthand knowledge of the atrocities of the Holocaust. They will only be able to hear stories passed down.”

 


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