Five 10 cm square bronze colored metal plaques embedded in cement in a grid, each engraved with a single person taken away by nazi soldiers during world war two.

Stolpersteine

The German artist Gunter Demnig, who originated the idea of the commemorative stepping stones, remembers the victims of the Nazis by installing memorial brass plaques on the pavement in front of their last known address. He cites the Talmud saying that “a person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten.” The Stolpersteine in front of the buildings brings back to memory the people who once lived here. Almost every “stone” begins with HERE LIVED . . . One “stone.” One name. One person.

Portrait of five members of the Rehfisch family, including a young Lily Rehfisch

Wittstock, Kristallnacht and the Rehfisch Family

Last fall I received a flyer from Amilie, my friend in Berlin, as a reminder that the 9th of November is the day to commemorate Kristallnacht. One could also consider it the beginning of the Holocaust. It is Amelie who continues to be an incredible source of historical information about my family and my relatives.  In keeping with the 80th anniversary of that horrendous night, the flyer she sent was focused specifically on its observation in the small town of … Read More

You May Have a Story to Tell

Is yours hidden behind family secrets? For instance:  1. You were never raised a Jew, but only learned later in life. 2. Your heritage was hidden behind a wall of family secrets. 3. Maybe it was hidden behind your own denial, or both. 4. Or, you discovered a fascinating story about a relative that’s worth telling. Please sample any or all of the ones we’ve already told: Sharon Squires’, “A Study in Denial” (upper left) Ilonka Alexander’s, “The Pain of Family Secrets” (center) Frannie Sheridan’s “Never Tell … Read More

Puttkammer’s List – The Extortion of Dutch Jews

A Letter from the Shoah Foundation? It was an uneventful day back in 2002 , until I happened to go out to our mail box. That’s when I noticed a strange envelope postmarked “the Netherlands”, stuck in between the usual collection of bills, magazines and direct mail advertising. Inside was a letter written in Dutch. I could only decipher a portion, but it said it had something to do with the Shoah Foundation. When I finally had it translated, it looked … Read More

Margot Rehfisch Redux

One Amazing Lady – Marion Blumenthal Lazan

Marion Blumenthal Lazan is a Holocaust survivor who has dedicated her life to delivering a message of racial and religious tolerance to audiences all over the world. I finally had the opportunity to meet this incredible woman in person, just a few weeks ago, when she spoke to 500 students at Cope Middle School, in Redlands, CA. Telling her story to school children, high school and college students, as well as young adults is something she’s been doing for over twenty years, motivated by … Read More

“Never Tell Anyone”: Frannie Sheridan’s Story

by Frannie Sheridan Frannie contacted me a few weeks ago in response to Marc Stevens’ very dramatic story, “The German Jew Who Bombed Berlin” When she told me hers, I had to add it to this collection because we all share the same elements in our families of origin: fear, shame, family secrets, discovery and learning to adjust to our own new reality. Yet every story is unique. I grew up in a picture postcard perfect family…or so I thought. My six … Read More

Eva Baruch, Actress, Activist or Spy: Chap. 4 – Who, What, Where & How!

I was trying to finish my film, “For the Life of Me”, while facing a deadline only a few months away. And it was a “biggie”- our first screening for a live audience, at the International Conference of Jewish Genealogical Societies . But with only a short time remaining I had decided not to include Eva’s story, for lack of both information and enough film to cover what little I did have. Help was Near! Then my friend, Bob Sallin came … Read More

Eva Baruch, Actress, Activist or Spy – Part 3

Melbourne and Back to Berlin In Chapter 2, after producing two anti-Nazi radio plays, a now pregnant Eva has to escape from Shanghai with her cohorts, and spend the rest of the war in Australia. In 1946, a year after the Japanese surrendered and the war was over, Eva was able to reunite with her actress mother, Kaete Horsten and bring her to Australia. During the war, Kaete occasionally found roles in the Shanghai theater. She’d been living alone for … Read More

Eva Baruch – Actress, Activist or Spy: Chapter 2

Shanghai to Melbourne In Chapter 1 we discussed Eva’s work in the Shanghai Theater, her work with British Ministry of Information (BMI), and her anti Nazi radio shows. As an open city, Shanghai had among its many nationalities a large German contingent, many of whom were pro Nazi. This included a network of Gestapo agents. In October, 1941, only weeks before war broke out in the Pacific, Eva produced two anti-Nazi  radio plays. The first was called”Wien, Maerz 1938″ (Vienna, … Read More

Eva Baruch – Actress, Activist or Spy: Chap. 1

Berlin to Shanghai When the full story of my cousin Eva Baruch’s life was finally revealed to me, it played like the old movie serials, where the heroine always got caught in a life-threatening situation at the end of the current chapter, only to escape at the beginning of the next one. That’s how Eva lived much of her life. But let’s go back to the beginning. It was in 1999 when I first became curious about my family’s history. … Read More