Thu Mar 22, 2012, 02:31 PM
xchrom (108,903 posts)
"Juanito was asked if he wanted a brother. His 'yes' saved me from the Nazis"
Zalman and Juanito, the older of the two boys, in Brussels in 1942.
One was the son of Spanish Republicans fleeing the Franco dictatorship; the other, a Jewish boy who had to be hidden from the Nazis. In 1942, a Belgian family made them brothers.
Juan Manrubia Sánchez, "Juanito," was seven when he first met two-year-old Zenon Fajertag.
"There was only one condition that the Materne family had so they could hide me in their home in Brussels: they were going to leave the decision up to Juanito, who had already been with them for two years. So my mother and I waited for three hours for him to return from school. When he arrived, he was asked: 'Juanito, would you like to have a little brother?' And he said 'Yes!' And that is how he saved my life," says the now 71-year-old Zenon, who has since changed his name to Zalman Shiffer.
"I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't stayed with that family. I know that a lot of Jewish children who were captured by the Nazis ended up badly."
His mother, Sara, insisted on paying the Materne family for hiding her son, but they would have none of it, says Zalman. In those days, hiding a Jew could get you a death sentence but the Maternes believed it was their duty. After much insistence over payment, the Maternes accepted that Sara would be allowed to bring one egg each day from the black market.
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