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Henri Wermus and Family Members Dedicate Memorial Placque in Yizkor Hall

On March 4, 2013, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum was honored to dedicate a plaque in the Yizkor Hall for the Henri Wermus family of Switzerland.  Having lost many family members from Warsaw during the war, Henri contacted the GFH because of the family’s connection to the city. Henri’s grandson, Alexis wrote to the museum stating, “My grandfather, who is 93 years old, has long sought to commemorate the members of our family in Israel. He has already remembered our family in Switzerland by raising a "memory stone" in the Jewish graveyard of Geneva, but it is also very important to him to remember our family in your museum, as it specifically reminds the destiny of the Jews that lived and dramatically died in Warsaw.”  This was the beginning of a year-long effort that culminated in the gathering a few weeks ago.

Henri Wermus was born in December 1918 or January 1919. His parents, Jehuda and Chaja - Sura, his sister Hannah - Hania and brother Josef, perished in the Holocaust. Before the war Henri immigrated to Belgium and from there to France.  With the support of his extended family, Henri studied mathematics at the Sorbonne.  During his studies, he lived in a dormitory for East European Jewish immigrants. In October 1939, after the outbreak of WWII, he volunteered in the Polish unit of the French army.  In 1940 he fought in the battle of Alsace against the German armored corps.  After the defeat of the French army in the battle of Pontarlier in June 1940, Henri and his unit succeeded in crossing into Switzerland in order to escape being taken by the German army.  He and his friends were detained in a detention camp in Switzerland where he remained for the length of the war. In December of 1943 Henri was still receiving postcards from his mother in Warsaw (she changed their names in order not to expose their identities).  These postcards were donated by Henri to the GFH archival collection. 

After his liberation, Henri learned that all of his family members from his immediate and extended family perished in the war. 
In 1945, Henri successfully completed his Mathematic exams in the Swiss School of Technology and began his career teaching Mathematics.  He married Swiss native, Nelly Kaegi in 1946.  Nelly had been a nurse in the south of France in the Internment Camp, Rivsaltes and helped smuggle 40 Jewish children out of the camp to survive. 

Following the war, the couple raised three children, Suzanne, Leon Daniel, and Ilana.  From 1949-1959, Henri taught Mathematics in the Ort Teacher’s School in Geneve.  Many of his students were young Holocaust survivors and Jewish students from Northern Africa.  In addition to other places of work, Henri worked in cooperation with jean Piaget in the International Institute of Epistemology of Sciences in Geneve.  He retired in 1984.  In 1999, Henri’s wife, Nelly passed away.
In a moving ceremony attended by his children, grandchildren and other family members, Henri expressed his gratitude to the museum to allow him to dedicate the memorial plaque, but he also expressed his deep sorrow not to have had the ability to assist his family more during the war.

Henri Wermus speaks at the unveiling cermony in Yizkor Hall

Henri Wermus with Ophir Pinas-Paz, Chairman of the Governing Council
 and Dr. Anat Livne, General Director of the GFH

 

Noam Rachmilevitch, GFH archivist, read Henri’s mother’s postcards to the group and also shared parallel correspondence of another family hiding on the Aryan side of Warsaw at the time.  Their requests for food and warm clothing provided an understanding of the dire need for the most basic items even outside of the ghetto walls. 

Dr. Ophir Pines-Paz, GFH Board Chairman and Director,Dr. Anat Livne thanked the Wermus family for their connection with the Ghetto Fighters’ House

Henri Wermus with his son and grandson present the postcards
written my his mother to archivist Noam Rachmilevitch 

              

One of the postcards sent by Wermus' mother from Warsaw

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