"If there is food for nine, there is food for ten"
Marcel & Celestine Arnoldy
Maurice Sztum was eleven years old when his parents were arrested. Jacques and Esther Sztum had immigrated to Belgium from their native Poland, and were living in Liege with their son, Maurice. At the beginning of October 1942 Jacques and Esther were deported to Auschwitz. Esther was probably gassed the same day. Jacques, according to documentation at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum survived the first selection. However this was not for long. His name appears in the death book, where the death of the camp's inmates was registered. He perished a months after his arrival - on 3 November 1942.
When his parents were arrested, Maurice was not at home, and thus was not taken. On his return home, the young child was faced with the disappearance of his parents that left him completely alone in the world. Not knowing what to do, he went to one of the neighbours. The woman took the child in, but after several days, probably because she too was at loss, she took the boy to the police. This would have been a totally normal thing to do in normal times, and it possible that it never dawned on her that she was putting the child in mortal danger – the Germans were out to arrest and deport every Jewish soul, children, even babies, included.
Luckily the policeman literately threw them out of the police-station, telling the woman to go away and take the boy with her. Thus he saved Maurice's life. The next day the child was contacted at the neighbor's home and told to come to a certain place. It was probably the policeman who informed the underground so that they would take the child under their care. Maurice went, as he was instructed, to an address near the bus-station. It was the underground network ran by Albert van den Berg, a lawyer who was responsible for the rescue of many Jews and who was executed by the Germans. Van den Berg was awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1995. The network placed Maurice in the monastery at Banneaux. In April 1943 this too became dangerous, and it was feared that the Germans would search the institution for Jewish children. The children were therefore distributed among families in the area.
In 1960 Marcel Arnoldy described the arrival of Maurice Sztum at their home: "On Saturday, 15.4.1943, at 11 a.m., I, Marcel Arnoldy, received Father Pierre Baptiste from the monastery in the Rue du Prince. He had come on behalf of the Bishop of Liege, Monseigneur L.J. Kerkhofs [awarded the title of Righteous by Yad Vashem in 1981], to discuss the dangerous situation of many Jewish children hidden in the monastery of Banneaux. The monks had been warned in advance, by German monks who assisted the house in Banneaux, that the German police were searching for the children and were asking about their whereabouts. The children were immediately removed from the institution and were living in the open. It was necessary to split the group and find shelter for them. He therefore asked me to take in a child for two or three weeks, until another solution could be found. I told him that I would be happy to shelter a child, but I felt that I first needed to obtain my wife's agreement, since we ourselves had seven children at home, and because I was also aware of the danger involved…. The same day I asked Father Pierre Baptiste, whom I had long known, to come to dine with us, and to explain the situation to my wife. I promised to abide by his decision. My wife did not hesitate to agree.... On the following Wednesday we were invited to the Monastery... in the Rue du Prince and we were given a child to take care of for three weeks. The child had previously spent a few days with the Armand family of Liege. It was Maurice Sztum, who was born in Liege on 10.10.1931.... His parents had been deported to Germany. He himself had managed to escape. Young Maurice was at that time eleven and a half years old. We named him Thomas, in place of Sztum [a Jewish sounding name]. When he came to us he was, one might say, all-alone in the world. The three weeks passed quickly, and no one suggested that we should return the child, and then we had no desire to part with him. In fact he remained with us for some ten years and came to be considered as one of the family, up till the present day.... He left us in the middle of 1953."
Thus the lonely child found a warm family that opened their home and their arms to him. Mr. Arnoldy said: "If there is food for nine, there is food for ten". In the year he was brought to the Arnoldys the couple celebrated the 20th anniversary of their marriage. For the occasion the family was photographed. On the photos one can see Marcel and Celestine sitting in the center, surrounded by their seven children. In the middle, between the two parents, proudly stands Maurice, with a big smile on his face. These photos, more than anything else, demonstrate that Maurice had become a part of the family.
Several people contributed to the survival of Maurice – the policeman who sent the woman away from the police station, the van den Berg network and its courageous activists, Monsignor Kerkhofs who inspired many in his diocese to shelter Jews, and the Arnoldy family who were willing to take the child into their home despite the dangers, and who became his family.
On 28 May 2008 Marcel and Celestine Arnoldy were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.