Mine E. Grassetti's children line up to shovel earth onto her coffin at the Sonora Hebrew Cemetery, July 8: (from left) Daniel Grassetti, Richard Grassetti, Elizabeth Grassetti and Silvia Grassetti-Kruglikov. (Photo/Union Democrat-Shelly Thorene)
Mine E. Grassetti's children line up to shovel earth onto her coffin at the Sonora Hebrew Cemetery, July 8: (from left) Daniel Grassetti, Richard Grassetti, Elizabeth Grassetti and Silvia Grassetti-Kruglikov. (Photo/Union Democrat-Shelly Thorene)

Sonora Hebrew Cemetery hosts final burial for Holocaust survivor

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A version of this article first appeared in The Union Democrat of Sonora and is reprinted with permission.

The pioneer Sonora Hebrew Cemetery interred its final occupant on the morning of July 8 — a Holocaust survivor named Mine E. Grassetti who moved to Jamestown in the late 1980s and lived out her most of her final decades in Tuolumne County with her husband, David.

Mine (pronounced Meena) Grassetti died on July 4 in the Bay Area, where she moved in her final years, following a fight with cancer and other illnesses. She was 93.

“She was the center of our lives, our family, our world,” said her daughter, Silvia Grassetti-Kruglikov during an hour-long funeral attended by Mine Grassetti’s friends, family and members of the Mother Lode Jewish Community, which draws members from Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mariposa counties. “Our mother was a contemporary of Anne Frank, but one of the lucky ones.”

About 20 people gathered under the shade of cypress trees and huddled near gravestones marked with Hebrew letters, some of which date back over 160 years.

The mood shifted from grief to joy as her two sons, Richard and Daniel, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Silvia, memorialized her kindness, hospitality, intelligence and outspokenness.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Elizabeth Grassetti.

“I was looking for her here. She wasn’t here anymore,” said her son Richard Grassetti after the ceremony. “But you could feel her here.”

Mine Grassetti was buried next to her husband, David Grassetti, a native of Italy who also escaped the Nazis and died in 2005.


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The family received a special dispensation to be buried there — the first since 1977 and likely the last — through family connections with the Commission for the Preservation of Pioneer Jewish Cemeteries and Landmarks. The commission oversees seven Jewish cemeteries in the Mother Lode region: in Sonora, Placerville, Nevada City, Mokelumne Hill, Marysville, Jackson and Grass Valley.

“We gather today to see Mine off on this most sacred of journey,” said MLJC Rabbi Andra Greenwald, who led the proceedings.

The Grassettis’ plot is nestled at the end of an old carriage path bisecting the cemetery, which in older days would have allowed a carriage hearse to pass through it to the other end. They are separated from some of the other occupants because they are not pioneers themselves.

“He had enormous respect for her and she for him,” Dan Grassetti said. “I feel incredibly privileged to be your son.”

According to a 2015 article in Friends and Neighbors, a local magazine for seniors, Grassetti was born Mine Simmons to Jewish parents living in The Hague, Netherlands. She was 12 when the Nazis invaded Holland in May 1940.

Mine Grassetti credited her escape to her family’s relative wealth.

“We survived because we were able to get out,” she said.

Silvia Grasetti-Kruglikov (right) eulogizes her mother with Rabbi Andra Greenwald of the Mother Lode Jewish Community by her side. (Photo/Shelly Thorene)
Silvia Grasetti-Kruglikov (right) eulogizes her mother with Rabbi Andra Greenwald of the Mother Lode Jewish Community by her side. (Photo/Shelly Thorene)

But she lost her grandfather at the Dachau concentration camp. Her best friend, Rose Jacobs, and the girl’s family, were also killed and “disappeared” during course of the Holocaust.

Mine Grassetti’s father and a businessman named Felix Pais bribed Dutch Nazis to acquire border passes to Belgium for a group that included her mother and her older brother Erik.

The train broke down on the way to Brussels, and they missed their connecting train to Paris. Pais concocted a ruse and told a Nazi commander they were headed to Spain to buy steel for the German war effort. Mine Grassetti said she did not know why, but the commander allowed it.

Surrounded by Nazis, they headed to Dunkirk, then to Paris. From there, they went to Spain, got permanent American visas in Bilbao and sailed for New York.

Mine Grassetti met her husband while pursuing an architecture degree at MIT, but she later dropped out. The following year, she earned a real estate license in Berkeley and later a law degree at Golden Gate University.

Union Democrat articles from the late 1980s and early 1990s detail Mine Grassetti’s accomplishments professionally, but also in the art world with oil paintings influenced by Georges Rouault and Marc Chagall. In 1996, she was a charter member of the MLJC.

“These people are Holocaust survivors,” MLJC President Rodger Orman said. “This was a fitting place.”

Giuseppe Ricapito

Giuseppe Ricapito is a staff writer for The Union Democrat of Sonora. He can be reached at [email protected].