Bezalel Hendel was born on August 14, 1887 in Lipno, Russia (now Poland), into a non-wealthy, devout Jewish family. As a young man studied to become a hazzan (cantor, prayer leader) and shechitah (kosher slaughterer). To gain experience he visited his older brother, who was already a Hazan in Zagreb. In early 1920s he emigrated to Berlin and was performing duties as hazzan and shechitah initially.
He decided to become an independent lingerie merchant, only reselling the goods at first. It quickly turned into manufacture, starting with suspenders and expanding to garters, corsets and brassieres. His workshop was where he lived – an apartment on Rochstrasse; two rooms for business, two as a living room and bedroom.
Zosia Schreier was born on 16 May 1899 in Drohobych, Galicia (now Ukraine) to a family of successful merchants as the youngest of ten siblings. During WWI they sought refuge in Vienna. During that time Zosia decided she wants to move to a city in the future. They have returned to Drohobych after the war.
Zosia and Artur got acquainted through her sister, Regina Oberländer. She was living in Berlin and picked Artur, a friend of a friend, as a suitable husband. Artur visited Drohobych in 1928, where he met Zosia. They married immediately and returned together to Berlin.
Zosia took over the Artur’s company bookkeeping. She gave birth to Hadassa on June 5th, 1929. She continued to work and left the household management to a cook, errand boy and eventually, her daughter. The family visited the synagogue, followed the kosher rules and did not work on Saturdays. Arthur considered himself both a German patriot and a Zionist – he supported the movement financially. Hadassa attended Jewish girls school on Auguststrasse. They have lived as a respected family for ten years.
In the night of October 28th, as a part of the Polenaktion, Artur was expelled to Bentschen (Zbaszyn). He believed that nothing would happen to him as a
decent taxpayer, so he refused to hide beforehand, as many of his friends did. His family had no means of contacting him. After two weeks the Kristallnacht happened. After witnessing neighboring shop being looted Zosia decided to sell the family business and apply for immigration to Great Britain and Palestine. She sent everything they owned to Hamburg and paid in advance for shipping to whichever country would grant them refuge. Hadassa stopped attending school and was temporarily put in her aunt Regina’s care.
In June 1939 Artur managed to return to Berlin. The family decided to go to Drohobych to stay with Zosia’s parents while awaiting the immigration documents. The documents never arrived.
In 1941, after German invasion, a ghetto was built in Drohobych. The family avoided the initial roundup because they have not been included in census as residents. They met Izydor Wołosiański through employer of Zosia’s brother, Seifert. They were among the first occupants of the cellar.
After liberation, in September 1945 they moved back to Berlin, a bag full of bacon as their only luggage. All their remaining belongings were destroyed in 1944 during bombardment of Hamburg. At first they were given shelter in former Jewish school on Rykerstrasse by Oranienburgerstrasse Jewish community.
Hadassa rejected everything that was German. After a year she refused to attend school. She learned about the Jewish orphanage on Iranischenstrasse and Aliyat Hanoar’s group. They provided emigration opportunities for children and adolescents. She joined the movement despite her father’s opinion. In 1946 she got on a truck with other young people and travelled to Frankfurt am Main. From there to Paris, Marseille and finally to Palestine by ship. During the journey she met her future husband, Michael Wygodny.
Hadassa settled in Modelet, a vilage in northern Palestine. In 1948, at age of 19, she joined and fought in the Plugot Hamachat’z, an elite unit of Israel independence movement.
Artur and Zosia moved to a deportee camp in Solstheim, Thuringia. He was elected as arbitrator, she worked as a librarian. In 1949 they both moved to newly independent Israel and reunited with Hadassa. They settled in Tel Aviv area. Artur started working as a tailor again. Hadassa was trained and became an accountant. She married Michael Wygodny in 1950. They had two children.
Artur died in 1972, Zosia in 1989. Hadassa moved with Michael into a senior citizens’ residential complex in 1990s. She still lives there.