Sunday 28 January 2018

Family history and photos for Holocaust Memorial Day #HMD2018

On the left, the photo was taken in Bielitz now Bielsko-Biala in Poland in 1938/9. From the right in the photo you can see: my father's aunts Bella and Stella, and Stella's son Michael. Michael was put on train to Russia and he never saw his mother and Bella again.

The photo on the right is of Stella and Bella's brother, my father's uncle, Oscar (Jeschie) born in Oswiecim, who fought in the Austro-Hungarian army in 1914-18 war (this is his infantry regiment uniform). He moved to France. When the German army invaded France in 1940, he fled to Niort, Deux-Sèvres, was put on a 'fichier juif' (list of Jews), given a yellow star, had his possessions 'aryanised' (seized by Vichy France).

He fled to Nice, where Jews were not being handed over to the Nazis and where a guy called Donati had requisitioned boats to ferry Jews to north Africa. Italy was defeated by the allies at that very moment, so the Nazis invaded Nice and the surrounding countryside and captured the Jews waiting to be ferried out, including Jeschie and his wife or partner Rachel who like hundreds of others were hiding in the Hotel Excelsior.

They were taken to Drancy transit camp, then deported from Paris Bobigny on convoy 62, November 23, 1943 to Auschwitz and neither were seen again by any of my relatives. Auschwitz was built next to the Polish town of Oswiecim, where Jeschie was born.

These photos (and others) lay hidden in a closet in a sealed up box until the end of 2016, when my cousin Teddy in America went into the house of Stella, Bella and Jeschie's nephew in Manchester, Connecticut and opened up the box. Jeschie and Rachel are commemorated on a monument in Sedan, in the Ardennes where they lived.

There don't seem to be any monuments anywhere for Jeschie's brother Martin (who lived in either Metz or Sedan), or for Stella, Bella, and their siblings, Willi, or Genia ; two more brothers, Morris (my father's father) and Max lived in the US.

Michael (in the photo on the left) survived by fighting in the Polish Free Army, ended the war in a Displaced Persons Camp, came to England on the way to the US but ended up staying. He lives in Stanmore.

PS I only discovered last week that Jeschie's uniform here was for a mostly Polish regiment in the Austro-Hungarian army (raised in Wadowice) and that he fought in nearly 40 battles in the First World War on the same side as the German Army.

My father and his sister Sylvia both of whom lived first in the US and then in London didn't ever know any of the events that happened to Jeschie and their aunts and uncles who lived in Poland and France. I 'tell' my father about them in my memoir.

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