Monday, April 28, 2014

German Jewish Refugee--Aunt Martha's Story

It started with a box. A beautiful ornately painted black jewelry box that belonged to my Aunt Martha. I got her box along with many pictures and her piano.


When I first received the box I was afraid to it let alone open it for fear of breaking it. Finally I opened it to be pulled into memories by the smell of Aunt Martha and Pop-Pop Harry's house. Inside the box were a few pieces of Aunt Martha's jewelry and an envelope of pictures.

Under everything was the most amazing treasure of all...notebook paper with Aunt Martha's handwriting. I was so surprised by the first sentence:

I would like to tell my experience during my early years, then my mother made arrangement for me to go to England.
I didn't know Aunt Martha's story, at least not much. I knew she was from Germany and had gone to England during WWII which is what saved her life. I knew that her entire family had been killed during the Holocaust. 

Reading these pages gave me some of her story. My regret is there is no one to ask to fill in the missing pieces. I am hoping that maybe some day I'll be able to find the answers. I know she had a nephew that lived in Italy somewhere. For now I have what I can make out from her pages, unfortunately there are several words I can't figure out. Share these stories so we NEVER FORGET. 

I would like to tell my experience during my early years, then my mother made arrangement for me to go to England.
All went well in ________town in Germany where I was born until 1933 when the Gestapo stood in front of all Jewish owned stores, to prevent the customers from buying. Gradually we had to sell out by visiting the costumers in their house, which also had to stop now. 
We had to leave the small town, where I was born and raised and my father's family had lived for generations. My mother, & youngest sister and I moved to a larger city near by. My father had already passed on. There was a possibility to leave Germany, but there was no country to take us. Israel became a state much later. 
After the Kristallnacht (1939) England opened its door for some young girls & for children. English people took the children in their houses and raised them.
My mother contacted a cousin who lived in England. She was active in bringing people out of Germany. Finally in April 1939 I received my permit to come to England as a domestic. I was permitted to take 10 German marks out of Germany. I spoke very little English. My mother & sister took me to the station to leave for Holland and from there I got a ship to South Hampton. 
That was the last time I saw my mother & sister. I also had two older brothers & two older sisters. I never saw them or their children again. I have one surviving nephew in Italy. I visited him twice after he found me in the United States and he visited me once. 
I went to England hoping that my mother & sister would follow me but the war broke out and then there was no more hope. 
I had contact with my mother for a while through a cousin in Switzerland but that stopped when my mother was deported to a concentration camp. Meantime I worked as a housekeeper in Birmingham, sleeping in the shelter for 8 months during the Blitz. 
Later I decided to move to Leamington a smaller town. I received a permit to work in a munition plant. After living in England for 8 years I finally received my visa to come to the good old USA on the Queen Elizabeth in April 1947.
The last paragraph is crossed out, but she ends the writing with

                                             God Bless American and Protect Israel

Aunt Martha was my "step" grandmother. My (maternal) grandmother died in 1961 and my grandfather married Aunt Martha in 1965 (the year I was born).

No comments: