Holocaust survivors Henry and Bernie Schanzer speak to community for Masters Holocaust Remembrance Day


Joshua Markowitz

Henry and Bernie Schanzer, Maddie Marlowe and Lily Zuckerman standing at the morning meeting podium

Lydia Ettinger, Social Media Manager

Twin brothers Bernie Schanzer and Henry Schanzer  came to Masters this morning for the commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance day, which is honored annually on January 27. The brothers shared their story of surviving the Holocaust, inspiring students to “Never Forget.” This was the second presentation by the brothers as the Schanzers were the first ever speakers to present for the remembrance of Holocaust Awareness Day at Masters in 2021.

 In 1940, the Nazis invaded France and the Schanzer family was forced to flee to Saint-Etienne in south-central France. Shortly after their arrival, Vichy rule subjugated local leaders, Jews and the southern French countryside. The surviving members of the Schanzer family immigrated to the Lower East Side of NYC in 1946 after hiding out in the southern countryside of France. 

Their father was arrested for “being a Jew” and was sent to Dranay, a detention camp outside of Paris. He was deported on August 26 1942 to Auschwitz, a death camp in Poland that in only 5 years of operation was responsible for the death of at least 1,1 million people. On the train that sent their father to Auschwitz, Convoy 27, there were 1016 people. After the war was over only 30 of them survived. On that same day their mother found out that their house was seized, and they would have to find a place of refuge. For a few months, the children were sent to a Catholic orphanage. The boys found ways to connect with their Jewish heritage and family in unique ways. During required mass services, the boys would only use one knee, instead of the Catholic practice of using two, and would pray under their breaths: “God save us, kill the Germans.” 

Their family reunited two years after they were sent to a family friend who they called ‘Memee’, and considered to be grandmother even though they were not biologically related. ‘Memee’ was recognized in 1980 by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Museum,  with the Medal of the Righteous that stems from the Jewish Biblical saying: “ Whoever saves a life saves an entire universe (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5). The brothers endured great trauma and lost most of their extended family due to Hitler’s mission of exterminating the Jews. So, they believe that the Jewish phrase “God created man in his own image” should unite people of all faiths towards combating anti Semitism and ensure that no generation ever has to suffer through the Shoah again.