War often brings out the worst in people. they commit crimes they would usually never even contemplate, but equally war also brings out the best in people performing heroic acts they know can cost their lives.
Early 1943 Jews throughout Belgium were rounded up and arrested.People like three members of the Gronowski family(Mother,son and daughter), who were arrested for committing the awful ‘crime’ of being Jewish.
After the round up they were transported to the Kazerne Dossin,army barracks in Brussels.For most this would be last ‘residence’ in Belgium they would ever be in, for this was the gathering place for the final transport to the death camps.
On 18 April, 1,631 were informed they were going to be deported by train the following day.The end station would be Auschwitz. The train was designated as Transport 20.
Shortly after the train had set off on route to Auschwitz it was stopped.
Three young students and members of the Belgian resistance including a Jewish doctor, Youra Livchitz and his two non-Jewish friends Robert Maistriau and Jean Franklemon armed with only one pistol, and a makeshift red warning lantern , stopped the train on the track Mechelen-Leuven, between the towns of Boortmeerbeek and Haacht. This was the first and only time during World War II that any Nazi transport carrying Jewish deportees was stopped.
The train was guarded by one officer and fifteen men from the Sicherheitspolizei. After a quick battle between the Germans train the three Resistance members, the train started again.In the mean time the resistance fighters had opened one rail car and were able to set 17 people free.
The train driver Albert Dumon most I have felt inspired by this he deliberately drove slow enough . and stopped frequently to allow people to jump without being injured or killed, 236 in all escaped. 115 of those were never recaptured.
Youra Livchitz unfortunately was arrested by the Gestapo one month later, but managed to overpower his guard and escape; he was rearrested in June and executed by firing squad the following year.
His two brothers in arms survived the war. As did Simon Gronowski the son of the Gronowski family.
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