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Mother’s Sewing Shop

By: Mitzi J. Levin
Survivor: Herzel, Max

As darkness fell each night in Antwerp, Belgium, young Max Herzel’s mother closed her dress shop where she spent the day taking orders for her custom-made clothing. Due to her reputation as an expert seamstress, there were many orders to fill.

“My father was a diamond cutter,” Max recalls. “After work, he picked me up from school, and we joined my mother and older brother at the dress shop. As she sewed, we cut threads and did whatever we could to help. Many evenings we worked until midnight. We were tired, but we were together. I can still hear the hum of the sewing machine and see the glow of the light over Mother’s shoulder. It was comforting to be surrounded by my family.”

Max’s world was peaceful and untouched by antisemitism until Belgium was invaded by Germany on May 10, 1940.

“We were forced to flee to Brussels and had no idea we would never return to our home. My mother was hidden in a hospital during the war and managed to keep a few of our things with her. One of those was a black suit she had sewn for me. I was wearing that suit when we left Antwerp. I still have it today.”