Survivor STORY

Andrew (Andre) Steiner was born in 1908 in Bratislava, Hungary, later part of Czechoslovakia. During the war, Andre was an organizer and leader of the Working Group (Pracovna Skupina), a Jewish rescue organization that saved nearly six times as many Jews as did Oskar Schindler.

The Working Group convinced (and bribed) the Nazis to send thousands of Slovakian Jews to labor camps instead of to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and actively countered Nazi propaganda by releasing information concerning the fate of Jews sent to Poland. Andre, a Bauhaus-trained architect, was an originator of the work camp scheme and designed three of the camps, in which factories used Jewish labor to produce desirable goods such as high-quality furniture designed by Steiner.

In 1942, Eichmann’s representative in Slovakia agreed to the "Europa Plan" which proposed the ransom of a million Jews. Andre proposed a smaller scale “test run” in which 1,000 children would be brought from Auschwitz to Theresienstadt for transfer to Switzerland. Unfortunately, the Working Group was unable to persuade the Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee to provide the necessary funds. When negotiations collapsed, the children were returned to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.

In 1944, the Working Group was dismantled and Andre, with his wife, Hetty, and seven-year-old son, Peter, went into hiding in the mountains until liberation. Andre testified at the Nuremberg Tribunal after the war. The family emigrated to Cuba soon afterwards, and then to Atlanta in 1950.

In Atlanta, Andre renewed his career as a respected architect and city planner. He was senior architect for designs for Emory University, Georgia State University, Stone Mountain Park, and Jekyll Island State Park. Andre designed Ahavath Achim Synagogue in the 1960s.

A film, “Andre’s Lives,” was made about Andre’s return with his sons to the scenes of his wartime experiences. Produced by Atlantan Brad Lichtenstein, the documentary was released in 1999.

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Andre Steiner