THE STORY CONTINUES…Survivor Blanche Fixler Addresses Bais Yaakov Girls About Holocaust

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    by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

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    Last week, a Bais Yaakov high school was addressed by Holocaust survivor Mrs. Blanche Fixler of Kew Gardens.  Mrs. Fixler’s grand-daughter arranged for the speech.  Mrs. Fixler lost her entire family in the holocaust – except for her father who, after Siberia, found her after the war.  This is her story. 

    Bronia, (Brandel) Bruenner (now Blanche Fixler) is the youngest child of Solomon (Zalman) and Frimet Bruenner (b. 1898).

    Mrs. Fixler was born in Krakow on May 15, 1936. Her parents were Bobover Chassidim and close with the Rebbe, Rav Benzion Halberstam zt”l (murdered 4 Av, July 28, 1941).

    She had an older sister Malka (b. 1929) and an older brother Shabsi (b. 1930).

    Following the Nazi invasion of Poland, her father and his brothers fled east to Lvov. From there the Soviets deported him to Siberia, and the family lost contact for the duration of the war. Mrs. Fixler’s mother decided to take her children to Bochnia to live with family. She had hoped conditions would be better there than in Krakow but soon discovered the town was just as dangerous. By 1942, the family had to live in a bunker to escape round-ups.

    Frimet feared that Bronia might make noise and endanger the rest of the family. She therefore sent her back to Krakow to stay with her sister-in-law, Rosa Berger who was living as an Aryan under the assumed name Vanda Gurska.

    Soon afterward, Frimet, Malka, Shabsi and Bronia’s grandmother, Sara Bruenner were deported from Bochnia and sent to Belzec where they were all murdered r”l on August 28, 1942.

    Rosa’s landlady became suspicious and reported that Rosa was harboring a Jewish child. Rosa hid Bronia in her bed under a wooden board with a quilt on top, and the Nazis never found her when they came to search the apartment. Rosa then decided it was too dangerous for Bronia to remain with her any longer and sent her to the Jewish orphanage in the Krakow ghetto. Bronia stayed there for a couple of months, but once Rosa heard rumors that Germans planned to liquidate the home, she brought Bronia back to her apartment.

    Soon after, Rosa gave birth to a baby girl named Masha. Her husband had been killed earlier in her pregnancy, and Bronia now helped care for her baby cousin. Rosa realized that Bronia would not be safe for long and in 1943 arranged for her to join a group of children who were being smuggled out of German-occupied Poland.

    Bronia traveled by foot through forests and mountains with a group of 10-15 children. Each carried a sack with food for the way. The escape was organized by Ben Zion Kalb, a Polish Jew living in Slovakia.

    Ben Zion Kalb (name later changed to Colb) was 29 years old when the Nazis y”s invaded Poland in September 1939. After a violent encounter with a German policeman, Kalb realized that Poland had become unsafe for Jews, and escaped to Slovakia.

    In Slovakia, Kalb became involved with resistance forces, and looked for ways to help his fiancée Clara Lieber, who was still in Poland, to join him. In 1943,with a network of smugglers and guides who hid her in a pigsty and then escorted her over the mountains on the border between the two countries, Clara his fiance came across to the relative safety of Slovakia.

    He did the same for approximately 1000 other Jews including Bronia.

    When the children arrived in Bratislava, they were sent to the homes of members of the Jewish community. The Duschinskys, an Orthodox family, cared for Bronia for a few months before Bronia was sent on to Hungary and brought to the Jewish orphanage there. The Duschinskys were later deported to Auschwitz where they were murdered.

    Rosa eventually also fled German-occupied Poland and came to Budapest, and starting to look for Bronia; she found her in the orphanage. Bronia lived with her aunt again and cared for her cousinMasha while her aunt went to work. However after the  Nazi invasion of March 1944, Rosa had to put Bronia back in the orphanage.

    A Jewish man from Debrecen, Silver, agreed to take her in temporarily. One day the new Bobover Rebbe, Rav Shlomo who had also made his way to Hungary visited the gentleman. He told the rabbi that he had a child in his care but didn’t know what to do since he couldn’t care for her. Rav Shlomo asked to see the child. When he discovered that she was Zalman Bruenner’s daughter, he took Bronia with him and placed her in a safe children’s home. After the war ended, the Bobover Rebbe sent word to Zalman that his daughter had survived.

    Zalman came to Budapest and brought Bronia back with him to Tieszyn where his brothers were living. After the war Zalman worked with the Vaad Hatzalah to find Jewish children hidden in convents and monasteries.  The owner of Grossinger’s adopted two of the children that Zalman had founded.

    He remarried in 1946. Bronia accompanied her Aunt Rosa Berger to France where they lived in a Vaad Hatzalah children’s home in Barbizon on the outskirts of Paris. Bronia, her father and step-mother immigrated to the United States in October, 1947. Bronia (now Blanche) attended Beis Yaakov elementary and high schools. On December 10, 1957 she married Bezalel Fixler, nine years her senior – a survivor from Romania. She started college, graduated after the birth of her fifth child and then worked as a Morah in Bais Yaakov of Queens.

    [Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected]

     


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    51 Comments
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    maye
    maye
    1 month ago

    What a special lady!

    Anon
    Anon
    1 month ago

    Wow!!! Would love to hear where she went after her father found her.

    yosher
    yosher
    1 month ago

    Blanche Fixler: the sweetest, the nicest, and the finest of teachers! Kb’h should bentch her with all good.

    DougFisch
    DougFisch
    1 month ago

    There are questions that have no answer. It is all bitachon and emunah. To try to answer the question…..Cheapens the question.

    S W
    S W
    1 month ago

    Her last names is spelled Brunner

    Yoel
    Yoel
    1 month ago

    Bottom line:
    It’s really not good to discuss the Holocaust. It’s a terrible episode for us Yidden. We have nothing to learn from the Holocaust. It only makes us question the ways of the Creator, how could God punish a group of 6 million without even telling them what they did wrong. How could we ensure that the Holocaust does not happen again if we don’t even know what caused it ??

    Don
    Don
    1 month ago

    Very depressing, because, if it was that ‘Superior Being’ that kept on saving her, than it was also that Superior Being that enabled the Nazis to burn, gas & drown thousands and thousands of innocent Lechtigeh Yiddishe Kinderlach, boys and girls.
    And the biggest question is, that, He didn’t even leave us a clue, why and why did He do this to us. Every Rebbeh comes up with a different answer, which shows that Hashem did not give us a clear answer as to what exactly we did terribly wrong.