Provenance

Erev Pesach Deportation

Last night was Erev Pesach, the first evening of Passover. Jews all over the world sat down together and celebrated our Freedom from Slavery in Egypt. The Seder, as it is called is a long evening as we recount the Exodus.

But last night, I sat at the table and thought about three family members in particular.

My Grandmother, Gittel, after whom I am named

and two of her children, Berta

and Nissan

So why was I thinking about them?

It was on the same day that they were forcibly removed from their home and deported to the Warsaw Ghetto along with thousands of Magdeburg German Jews.

When a man called “Hermann Spier was appointed to the position of teacher at the re-opened ‘Judenschule,’ the religious community also benefited by virtue of his training and former position as a cantor. However, most importantly, as a highly competent and diligent individual, he became the community’s religious leader and a source of inspiration and moral courage.” (Dr Michael Abrams Sprod)

What is interesting here is that a man in Melbourne, Mr Freiberg many years ago approached my father to tell him that his sister Berta attended the same school as him. My father, at the time, was already on his escape route. He was somewhat sceptical about his sister being in that school.

I had to know after I found this out too.

Chasing down the photo almost 30 years after that conversation, I got the class photo from Michael Abrams Sprod:

See the man with the glasses, that’s their teacher, Herman Spier.

My parents are pictured looking to see if Berta was in the photo.

However she was not there that day for the Jewish Day School was an hour away by train. This photo was taken on an outing on a Sunday, so Berta would not have made the long journey.

You see Berta was expelled from attending her regular school, as was my father, for the crime of being Jewish.

In Berta’s last correspondence with her father, a letter that was returned to him , after the war, {after his deportation to Australia on the Dunera} we see Berta mentioning her new teacher, Herr Spier. Proof that Mr Freiberg was, in fact, correct that Berta was with him in school.

As I mentioned before, Herr Spier was a source of “inspiration and moral courage”.

It is a source of comfort to know that whilst being deported Erev Pesach, that Berta had her teacher with her too. Apparently he gave a Drosha, a speech, that night, when they would have been in the train station together, that was extremely inspirational. He spoke of their plight.

Michael told me it would have been a source of comfort to Berta - he may have made her felt at ease with the process she was undergoing - such was his nature.

Here we see that Herr Spier was on the same deportation transport as Bertha, her mother and brother:

Full Record Details for  Spier Hermann
Last Name: SPIER
First Name: HERMANN
First Name: I
Gender: Male
Date of Birth: 23/04/1885
Place of Birth:SCHRECKSBACH,KASSEL,HESSE-NASSAU,GERMANY
Citizenship: GERMANY
Marital Status: MARRIED
Permanent Place of Residence: MAGDEBURG,MAGDEBURG,SAXONY PROVINCE,GERMANY
Place during the war: MAGDEBURG,MAGDEBURG,SAXONY PROVINCE,GERMANY
Origin of Deportation: MAGDEBURG,MAGDEBURG,SAXONY PROVINCE,GERMANY
Related item: List of Jews from Magdeburg and the Magdeburg vicinity deported, 13-14/04/1942 and 13/07/1942
Type of material: List of persecuted persons

Source: List of Jews from Magdeburg and the Magdeburg vicinity deported, 13-14/04/1942 and 13/07/1942

Yad Vashem Archives

And her is Bertha’s:

Full Record Details for  Wilkenfeld Berta
Last Name            WILKENFELD
First Name            BERTA
First Name            S
Gender: Female
Date of Birth: 26/12/1928
Place of Birth: DESSAU,DESSAU,ANHALT,GERMANY
Citizenship: POLAND
Marital Status: CHILD
Permanent Place of Residence: AKEN ELBE,MAGDEBURG,SAXONY PROVINCE,GERMANY
Place during the war: AKEN ELBE,MAGDEBURG,SAXONY PROVINCE,GERMANY
Origin of Deportation: AKEN ELBE,MAGDEBURG,SAXONY PROVINCE,GERMANY
Date of deportation: 14/04/1942
Related item: List of Jews from Magdeburg and the Magdeburg vicinity deported, 13-14/04/1942 and 13/07/1942
Type of material: List of persecuted persons
Source: List of Jews from Magdeburg and the Magdeburg vicinity deported, 13-14/04/1942 and 13/07/1942

If you want you can go to this link and see an excerpt of a film of that deportation, including whilst they were in the train station, waiting to go to the Warsaw Ghetto.

It is chilling…

You see, Michael was researching Herr Spier, when he finally was able to attain this part of a list for me that I requested:

The original typed list of my family being deported,

I then showed him the letter, part of which is above, when he saw Herr Spiers name, we knew for sure that Berta was indeed at the Judenshule, Jewish School, just as Mr Freiberg had said she was. Mr Freiberg, managed to escape this transport by mere fate. He was asked to swap places on the transport in order that a family could remain together. He got off, not realising at the time that this very act of “kindness” saved his life.

That he was on the same transport as her was further evidence that the tragedy that began for them all that Erev Pesach, 69 years ago, was, as I said at the outset of this post, uppermost in my mind last night.

  1. judywilkenfeld posted this