Children of the Holocaust Paula Bronstein


Paula Bronstein

Paula Bronstein
Born 1937 in Eindhoven, Netherlands At the age of five, her parents put her in the care of a Dutch couple in Eindhoven, who pretended to be her relatives and hid her during the Nazi occupation.


Click to view fullsize.
Paula, age 4.
Paula, not quite 2 years old, in 1939.
Paula with her parents (back row) and father’s brother, Ted.
Her Uncle Ted (back left) left Poland as a boy and worked on a ship and ended up in California. After the Holocaust, he sponsored Paula’s family so they could obtain visas to emigrate to the United States.
Paula as a toddler playing on a sled in Eindhoven before the war.
Paula with her mother. She has no memories of her life before she went into hiding.
Paula’s father, Solomon Gurfein, was born in 1911, to an Orthodox Jewish family in Nowy Sacz, Poland. After his bar mitzvah, his father put him on a train and told him to leave the country to avoid being conscripted into the Polish army. Solomon ended up in Holland. He became a secular Jew and earned a living selling hosiery.
Paula never met her paternal grandparents, Chaja Sarah (left) and Nissan Gurfein. They were Orthodox Jews living in Poland. In 1934, they were gunned down in the street in Lazask, Poland—victims of an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Paula’s mother, Fajga “Fanny” Rapoport, age 7 (left), with her sister, Helen, in Warsaw.
Paula’s mother was born in 1912 in Warsaw.
Paula’s maternal grandparents, Rywka and Cyne Guedalia Rapoport, moved from Warsaw to Paris before World War II. They and their five children survived the Holocaust.
Paula’s grandparents spoke Yiddish, Polish, and French. Paula only spoke Dutch, so she was not able to have a close relationship with them after the war.
Paula’s parents were married in Eindhoven, Holland.
Solomon and Fanny Gurfein were married in 1935.
Fanny Gurfein in 1937, the year Paula was born.
Paula (age 4) and her mother in 1941. Her mother is wearing a yellow star identifying her as a Jew. 'We could have been picked up off the streets by the Germans,' says Paula. 'This was the last time I was able to be outside with my mother until after the war.'
Paula with Lis Ruiter. Lis and Jaap hid 4-year-old Paula in their home for three years of the war. She called them “tanta” (aunt) and “oom” (uncle).
When she first moved in with the Ruiters, Paula (center) played with neighbor children. Then they started asking her why she didn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes.
Lis and Jaap Ruiter after the war. Paula visited them frequently before she moved to the United States.
The Ruiters sent Paula this photo in 1955. Oom Jaap died a few years later. It wasn’t until she was much older that Paula realized that they had risked their lives to save her.
Paula at age 12. She hadn’t been able to start school until age 8, after the war ended.
A gift to Paula from a Jewish soldier from England, Ben Burke.
Paula always felt her years in hiding created a rift between herself and her parents. But in 1946, her father signed her grade-school autograph book, ending his rhyming poem with the words, “You are my sunshine.”
As a young teen, Paula met other Jewish youth in Eindhoven. In this photo, they are celebrating Hanukah by dressing as a menorah. Paula, the tallest, is in the middle.
Paula (right) was 15 when her family emigrated to the United States in 1953. Her parents (center), and her younger siblings, Norman and Helen (front) lived in a trailer in Lancaster, California. Paula lived with her Uncle Ted and Aunt Claire (left).
AZPM is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona