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Flora Mendelovicz

Berchem, Belgium

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.

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