Informative files on the fate of around 3,000 persecuted Jews living in Belgium in the post-war period can now be consulted online for the first time. The Arolsen Archives have made this possible by digitizing more than 53,000 documents from the Belgian National Archives.

Numerous fates of Nazi-persecuted Jews who came to Belgium after the war can now be researched in the Arolsen online archive, including, for example, the persecution of Eva Heller, who was arrested by the Nazis in Budapest in October 1944 and deported to the Dachau concentration camp. The Hungarian woman survived the ordeals of camp imprisonment and was liberated by US troops in 1945. Like many others, she decided against returning to her home country, but chose to emigrate to Western Europe.


Photo of Eva Heller on one of the documents from the postwar period now available online


On June 28, 1945, Eva Heller arrived at an assembly center in Namur, Belgium, from where she moved on to the Brussels area. She apparently found employment quickly as a saleswoman in a tobacco warehouse. Because of her Jewish origin, she was supported by the Association of Israelites Victims of War.


Eva Heller feared persecution by the communists

Although the administration registered her as an immigrant wishing to return to Hungary, Eva Heller apparently had other plans. In February 1946, she gave birth to a daughter. A few months later, her then 57-year-old mother Elisabet Mezei also moved to Belgium. In 1949, she and Eva submitted an application to the Belgian branch of the International Refugee Organization (IRO) for recognition as refugees. They did not want to return to their country of origin because they were afraid of being persecuted by the communist regime. Refugee status was granted them in 1951.

The files bear the final mention that the two women left Belgium two years later – for which destination, though, is unclear. Maybe they sought their fortune beyond the Atlantic.


Photos of Eva Heller and her mother Elisabet Mezei on a registration form of the International Refugee Organization (IRO) in Brussels


Digitization helps research Jewish migration

For the Arolsen Archives, the digitization of the approximately 3,000 files is an important step insofar as they complement already existing extensive IRO files and a plethora of documents from concentration camps in their online archive. Thanks to the cooperation with the National Archives of Belgium, researchers can now better retrace and analyze the routes taken by Jewish migrants in the period after the end of World War II. Until December 1946, the files were set up by the Belgian branch of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. From 1947 on, the records were created by the International Refugee Organization (IRO).

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