This project started with Ms. Gaby Morris searching for answers on the fate of her family, deported from Belgium during the Holocaust. On January 15, 2019, Gaby wrote to Kazerne Dossin concerning her family history. Here you can see a video on her story and the research.
Her father, along with a brother, escaped from Belgium in May 1940 to join the Czech army in exile after which they were evacuated to Britain. Both survived the war. Gaby’s father returned to Antwerp as a member of the liberating troops to discover that his parents and two younger siblings had been deported from the SS-Sammellager Mecheln (Dossin barracks) to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were murdered.
However, Kazerne Dossin then informed Gaby that in fact her grandfather, Meshulem, had been deported from Antwerp, Belgium, to the Organisation Todt labour camp Les Mazures in Northern France from where he was sent directly to Auschwitz. So it was her grandmother, uncle and aunt who had been deported from Mechelen. This new information on OT labour led to many questions: What had been the consequences for the family left behind in Antwerp? What must the family’s situation have been like after Meshulem was taken away? Did they hear from him, directly or indirectly? Was there any support for these families in general?
Photo Meshulem Adler, his wife, Blima Adler, and their two youngest children, Mesel and Pepi: the deported grandparents, uncle, and aunt of project initiator Ms. Gaby Morris. (source: File 1586017 and 7408326 of the Belgian Foreigners’ Police – digitised by Kazerne Dossin; Morris family archive)
So many unanswered questions with—in the case of Gaby Morris—nobody to testify about what happened. Could archival evidence then perhaps shed light on the situation of the Jewish Organisation Todt families? Meetings with Gaby and discussing with her the lack of knowledge on this type of forced labour evolved into the Left Behind project.
Even though Gaby had no direct documents from the family regarding her grandparents’ story, it became clear that her grandmother was left behind in Antwerp with the youngest children in a most vulnerable situation. Hundreds of other Jewish families from Antwerp found themselves in the same position and little was known about their fate. Kazerne Dossin and the Morris family joined forces to delve into this little known aspect of the racial persecution in Belgium, which had an especially large impact on Antwerp’s Jewish population.