‘She kept a knife under her pillow vowing to kill any Nazi who might try to come and get me.’ — Gay, Jewish man Dr. Alfred Münzer survived the Holocaust as a child thanks to a kind Indonesian Muslim woman.
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Al Munzer: The only view that I had of the outside world was what I could see through a mail slot.
Dr. Alfred Münzer, Holocaust survivor: Here was a woman who was very, very different from me. You know, I came from a Jewish background. I was Caucasian. She was a dark skinned, Indonesian, Muslim, with heavy Buddhist influence. And she’s the one who really protected me.
6-month-old Al Münzer was a hidden child with the Madna family in
Nazi-occupied Holland during WWII.
Al Munzer: I slept in Mima’s bed and she kept a knife under her pillow vowing to kill any Nazi who might try to come and get me. That’s how far she was willing to go to protect me.
When Nazis began imprisoning Dutch Jews, the Münzer family went into hiding. Al’s parents separated their children to increase their chances of survival. They placed Al with the Madnas, Indonesian immigrants who were friends of their neighbors’.
Al Munzer: I’m not quite sure what the Indonesian community — why they were never targeted specifically by the Nazis. They were preoccupied with other groups. And, you know, they were going by their own book, if you will. So they were never persecuted.
Al Munzer: I have very few actual memories of being a hidden child. What I do remember for example is that I wasn’t allowed out of the house at all. I wasn’t allowed even allowed to come near a window for fear that people on the outside might see a child who looked very very differently from the rest of the family that I was hidden with, the Madna family and so on which might cause a Nazi officer to come to the house and search. So the only view that I had of the outside world was what I could see through a mail slot. […] And then periodically the family would ask me to go into a closet to hide and it sort of became a game almost with me. I had no idea that that was because the house was being searched.
Al’s father pretended to be a patient at a psychiatric hospital, while his mother became a nurse’s assistant. His sisters were to blend in with a Catholic family. Mima Saïna, a housekeeper for the Madnas, became like a mother to Al.
Al Munzer: She saw a child in need, a Jewish child, and she became that Jewish child’s mother. And it’s really to her that I owe my survival. You know, she would have to walk miles and miles every day just to get food for me because everything was strictly rationed. And you had to have coupons, ration coupons for everything and there weren’t any for me because I was in the house illegally.
Al came to terms with his sexuality as an adult.
Al Munzer: I’m not sure whether there is a clear intersection between [being Jewish and being gay]. Except that, you know, that I was a part of a major persecution called the Holocaust and that I lost many family members as a result of that hate and persecution and that I’m also a member of another group. You know, being gay. And during the Holocaust many people who were gay were persecuted as well. They did not all meet the same fate as the Jewish population but they were persecuted for being different.
Nazis arrested roughly 100,000 gay men
Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
An estimated 5,000- 15,000 were sent to concentration camps
Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Al Munzer: I represent in a sense, you know, both of those. I am Jewish. And so I bear the scars of the Holocaust. And I’m gay and I’m quite aware of the fact that there is homophobia in this world that we ought to fight every bit as hard as we do Anti-Semitism.
Al’s father died at the hands of the Nazis. His sisters, ages 6 and 8, were killed after being betrayed by their caretakers.
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