“They only spoke rarely about their early lives … and they never felt totally safe. They knew how fast a country could change.”
– Nick Baumannn, writing about his Jewish grandparents who survived WWII in Germany and sought refugee status after the war in the U.S.
Refugees and the issues surrounding immigration and displaced persons will be the focus when Nick Baumannn, Senior Enterprise Editor at HuffPost and grandchild of WWII Era refugees tells his story in Muskegon on November 9. The event, sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon, begins at 6:30 and will be held at Muskegon Community College Downtown Center, 388 W. Clay in Muskegon. The event is free and open to the public.
Baumann has written pieces for Washington Monthly, The Atlantic, Slate and Commonweal. He also has blogged for the Economist and was a Senior Editor at Mother Jones Magazine. When he writes or speaks about refugees however, it’s personal. “Our Grandparents died when we were young, “ Baumann wrote along with his sister Rachel in a piece earlier this year in HuffPost. “We think about them a lot these days – and the people who chose to help them and the people who chose not to.”
Baumann will be interviewed by George Maniates, History Instructor at Muskegon Community College and Board Member for the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies-Muskegon. The evening promises to help the community understand the experiences of refugees while at the same time, grappling with the tough issues of immigration and border security policy using other historical experiences as a lens for viewing current issues.
The event is sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies – Muskegon, whose mission is to cultivate the values which diffuse hate and encourage diversity.
Nick Baumann’s Grandparents, Max Horst Segall and Frieda Esther Lopatka Segall.
Our guest this year was Renata (nee Polgar) Laxova. She was born on July 15th 1931 in Brno, in what was then Czechoslovakia. She was an only child in an average middle class Jewish family, raised to speak both Czech and German. Her father was an accountant, her mother stayed at home with her. She had a peaceful, happy, secure childhood and enjoyed swimming, ice-skating, gymnastics. When I was in second grade, in March 1939, Hitler marched into my country which became the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Slovakia became an independent republic and a client state of Nazi Germany. Toward the end of my second grade, Jewish children were no longer allowed to participate in the school or community activities. Jewish children were no longer welcome at schools. Through Renata’s parents’ initiative, she was included in one of Sir Nicholas Winton’s Kindertransports.
On July 31,1939, she was taken to the Prague railway station and left – on the fifth Kindertransport from Czechoslovakia – for England. The war began on September 1, 1939. She spent 7 years, cared for by a Lancashire Quaker family, a father (a conscientious objector) mother, with their 5 ½ year old little boy.
Her parents survived the war. In 1941, they were accused by the Gestapo of being part of an international spy network and were expelled from Brno to Slovakia, her father’s birthplace. Her mother assumed a stranger’s identity and documents and survived as an unmarried nurse in Slovakia. Her father was sent to several labor and concentration camps. Her parents were reunited after Czechoslovakia was liberated in 1945.