Berlin flat dwellers trace ex-tenants lost in Holocaust

A plaque hangs on the wall of a well-to-do apartment building in a quiet German street commemorating nearly 30 former residents driven from their homes or murdered by the Nazis.

In the entrance hall their names are listed one-by-one -- most died at Auschwitz, Theresienstadt or Treblinka. They may have long been lost to Hitler's hatred of Jews, but they are not forgotten.

Thanks to the efforts of a group of Berliners to trace the Jewish residents who once lived in their building, the victims are finally being remembered where they used to live.

"To the 28 neighbours, women, men and children, who lived in this building and who were persecuted, expelled or killed by the National Socialist (regime)," reads the commemorative plaque.

About 160,000 Jews lived in the German capital before Hitler rose to power, many of them in the Berlin district of Schoeneberg.

"The Nazis' goal was to annihilate these people. What we wanted to do was to completely prevent that," Niki Graca-Heilmeyer, one of the researchers who today lives in the building, said.

"We will never be able to bring back the people who lived here but we can be aware of their names," she said.

It took three years of painstaking research to track down the former tenants, with hundreds of hours spent combing through city archives, sending letters all over the world and evening gatherings to share information.

Eight residents undertook the mammoth task, despite them not being professional historians nor archivists, which represented "a kind of political act", said Gabrielle Pfaff, who has lived in the building for nearly 30 years.

"If we, residents here, don't do anything, nobody will," Peter Schulz, another member of the group, said.

Three years ago while wandering around an exhibition on Jews before World War II with his partner, he stumbled across a photo of two children, Margot and Werner Vohs, taken on a balcony.

It was his balcony, he realised.

"It was a real shock," he said.

"Until then, we only knew about the deportation (of Jews) from history books. Suddenly we realised we were much closer to the horror of the Holocaust than we had imagined," he added.

Shortly afterwards he began trying to identify the two youngsters seen smiling into the camera and was joined by his neighbours who also started looking into who else had lived in the building at that time.

Werner Vohs died aged 17 at Auschwitz; his sister, Margot, the only survivor among her immediate family, today lives in Peru.

Kurt Landsberger, who was 18 when he was forced to leave the building, recently returned to the place where he grew up for the first time -- aged 90.

The Berlin group of researchers tracked him down to the US state of New Jersey, where he has lived since World War II and invited him to come back to his old apartment.

"When I first entered the building which I had left 72 years ago, I did not know what to expect," Landsberger told AFP in an emailed statement.

"I walked up the stairs to the second floor and was welcomed by (the current residents). They gave us a tour of the apartment which I only vaguely remembered since so many years have passed," he said describing the commemoration of the former residents as "very emotional".

Landsberger was tracked down by Gabrielle Pfaff, who said: "I was born in 1949 and I often asked my parents what they did under the Nazis.

"My parents' generation closed its eyes. I want to make sure that such a crime never happens again."

Before the two commemorative plaques were inaugurated, the granddaughter of the Lindenbergs, a couple deported in 1941, wrote to the tenants saying: "It's a little as if Johanna and Hermann were alive again."

Having completed his task, Peter Schulz, now feels more appeased. But he recalled how on renovating his apartment he had discovered tiny pieces of a toy between the wooden floorboards.

"I wondered if they weren't bits left behind by the people who lived here and who were deported," he said, tears welling up in his eyes.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino
    Philippines to fly over disputed South China Sea: Aquino

    Philippine military and commercial aircraft will keep flying over disputed areas in the South China Sea despite Chinese warnings over the airspace, President Benigno Aquino said on Monday. "We will still fly the routes that we fly based on the international law from the various conventions we entered into," Aquino told reporters when asked whether the Philippines accepted China's position. The Chinese military last week ordered a US Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance plane away from airspace …

  • Mitsubishi reaches out to far-flung Batad community
    Mitsubishi reaches out to far-flung Batad community

    A “Dadbod” is a newly coined term now trending in media. It was introduced to the world by Clemson University sophomore Mackenzie Pearson as she refers to any man—father or bachelor—with a physique that’s a “nice balance between a beer gut and working out.” “It’s more human, natural, and attractive,” she adds. For this writer, […] The post Mitsubishi reaches out to far-flung Batad community appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • Aquino: Philippines to fly usual routes over disputed reefs

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine aircraft will continue to fly their usual routes over disputed reefs in the South China Sea, the country's president said Monday, defying China's challenges to its planes and those of the United States. …

  • A weekend of premium cars
    A weekend of premium cars

    Good news to all luxury car fanatics as PGA Cars, the exclusive importer and distributor of Audi, Porsche, Lamborghini and Bentley cars in the country, will be holding the PGA Cars Premium Festival from May 29 to May 31 at the PGA Center in Global City in Taguig. The 3-day event will showcase PGA’s latest […] The post A weekend of premium cars appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • APEC ministers to endorse Boracay Action Agenda
    APEC ministers to endorse Boracay Action Agenda

    Trade ministers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Boracay, Aklan agreed yesterday to endorse the proposed Boracay Action Agenda to the member countries’ leaders, presenting opportunities for global trade for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). In a press conference following the conclusion of the APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, who also served as chairman, said ministers agreed to recommend the adoption of the …

  • Talks with China over sea row urged
    Talks with China over sea row urged

    The Philippines should engage China in bilateral talks in its efforts to maintain peace and order at the disputed West Philippine Sea, Sen. Francis Escudero said yesterday. Escudero supports the government’s move to bring the issue before international arbitration but also stressed the need for the Philippines to pursue talks with China. Escudero made the statement after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday called for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea. …

  • House panel tackles bill on regular disaster drills
    House panel tackles bill on regular disaster drills

    The House committee on national defense is deliberating on a measure mandating the regular conduct of disaster risk reduction drills in educational institutions nationwide. Authored by Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., the bill mandates that risk reduction drills be held annually in all educational institutions throughout the country in coordination with the schools’ respective local government units. “The Philippines’ location along the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator …

  • PCSO running out of funds
    PCSO running out of funds

    Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairman Ireneo Maliksi has admitted that the revenue-generating agency is running out of funds as it continues with its mandate to provide financial assistance to indigent Filipinos. Aside from providing financial help to individual recipients, Maliksi cited at least 13 laws that mandates the PCSO to provide mandatory contribution to different government agencies. Just last week, PCSO released P100 million to the Commission on Higher Education as …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options