A twist in the (final) tale

This is the final blog in the story of Egon, a 24-year-old Jew who fled from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to seek refuge in New Zealand. At the heart of the story is Egon’s diary; his entries at times mechanical and rather dreary, but also humourous and peppered with shrewd observations.  Egon learns of the declaration of war en-route, and although he doesn’t write about his mother and sister, there is no doubt he would have been devastated.  Egon would never see his family again.

Eugene and Egon

On arrival in New Zealand, Egon appears optimistic about his new life. “I think I shall like it, as they say here.” And he does. In the years that followed, there was much to rejoice about: a wife, two daughters, a house and a job he enjoyed.  

For his remaining family, exposing Egon’s story to the world has had unexpected consequences. Strangers have supplied vital clues in the story, and family friends have made contact. John Burland, who blogs regularly from Mainz, was generous with his time, digging up some fascinating facts about the family and the champagne business.  Recently, he uncovered yet another twist in the tale.

“If I’m not very mistaken, I met Rainer Eschenbruch sometime in the 1980s when he hosted a winetasting of his Rongopai Vineyards wines at one of the top restaurants in Mainz.
And this is where it gets very strange – the restaurant relocated to a hotel in the Kaiserstrasse sometime later (and finally disappeared when the hotel was bought by a chain).
Kaiserstrasse 7. The 1924-25 address of Egon’s aunt Bertha.”

For some of the Schoenbergers,  the echoes from the past never truly abated.   Eugene waged his own war against the post-war German authorities in the hope of compensation. The mayor of Mainz reportedly wanted to return the sparkling wine company to the family but Eugene and his wife Edith were reluctant to return to live in Germany. The company was later purchased by Seagram and Company.  Eugene died in 1970, and Edith remarried four years later to a San Francisco physician. After her death in 1995, all her papers were gifted to The Bancroft Library in California.

For many years, Egon would send Red Cross parcels to a former girlfriend living in post-war Germany. The silver finally made it back to the family in New Zealand. After his death, his daughter Dr Michele Schoenberger-Orgad deposited documents from the family business with the Jewish Museum in Berlin.  There are sure to be more family secrets that will never come to light. 

The holocaust began in 1933, and it’s estimated that 11 million people were killed before the war ended in 1945. Six million of these were Jews, among them Doris and Johanna Schoenberger.  In Western society, such treatment of citizens now appears unthinkable.  And yet the Australian government has imprisoned thousands of asylum seekers in detention centres, which Amnesty International has described as being on par with a medium security prison. Still the refugees keep coming, risking their lives by making the treacherous sea journey in unsafe vessels.   Nearly 70 years ago, Egon made a similar journey, but with a very different outcome.

Egon’s story: the librarian

This blog is part 23 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.   

Egon's diary 24 September 1939. Click to read full version.

After weeks at sea Egon arrives in New Zealand. During the voyage war has broken out in Europe. His uncertainty as to how he, a German born Jew, will be recieved in his new country gives way to hope that he has a good future in New Zealand. ”I think I shall like it,” he writes.  

For this, the penultimate blog post in Egon’s story we are publishing an email from Rainer Escenbreuch, one of Egon’s colleagues at the Ruakura Research Centre. Following his settling in Hamtilton Egon’s great mind and education found a purpose as the librarian at Ruakura.  Rainer Escenbreuch’s email shows something of Egon’s generous spirit, his quick mind, his passions and the influence he left in Hamilton and the people who knew him. 

Ruakura Research Centre, where Egon worked as the centre's librarian.

When I came to Ruakura in 1974 to take up a position in wine research I was immediately introduced to Egon, the librarian of the Ruakura library. Very quickly I understood what type of person he was, a German Jew who had had the unbelievable luck to have escaped the Nazi Pogrom, when at the same time his mother and sister vanished in Hitler’s killing machines.  

The first moment I was anxious and hesitant not ever having met a Holocaust survivor, me a young German of the post-Nazi generation. In my time in South Africa I had experienced outright hostility from Jews, even later here in New Zealand. No, Egon was nothing of the sort!  

And this was where our friendship started.  

Egon ran the library of Ruakura extremely efficiently, was very helpful and generous, and always went out of his way to obtain any scientific information we scientists required.  

Very soon we “confessed” our love for wine to each other and Egon became part of our Friday afternoon “drinkies”  – of the wine research unit of Ruakura. He enthusiastically participated in several series of wine education courses at the Waikato University, lecturing about Champagne making.  

The Schoenberger sparkling wine factory in Mainz, Germany before the war. Egon and Rainer had plans to create a winery near Hamilton.

Both our families became friends, my very young family, he the father figure. We often shared the car, going to work, shared the lawn mower. We went to concerts together, simply enjoyed each others’ company. He made our entrance into New Zealand so much easier.  

I remember when for the first time after his escape from Germany he went back to see his birthplace. His wife told me that it took him several days to find the courage to cross from the Netherlands into Germany, trembling, upset, disturbed  – he did it!  

Egon was a “professional” stamp collector. He often showed me his latest additions. He also collected rare correspondence between Germany and some Pacific Islands.  

All the time both of us were “puzzling” about the possibility of setting up a wine business together. After several attempts Egon bought some land outside Hamilton and we began planting shelterbelts,  looked for suitable grape varieties to plant – an exciting project, when suddenly , totally unexpected, he died, a misdiagnose of blood transfusion after a hip operation.  

His sudden death disturbed me for a long time. And thirty years later I still miss him.  

- Rainer Eschenbruch,   Hamilton 2012

Egon’s story: Hope dimming out more and more

This blog is part 22 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total. 

Egon's diary 8-15 September 1939

In the last week of his voyage to New Zealand Egon writes nothing in his diary but that the boat is making progress. His thoughts must have been focussed on the perils faced by his family in a Europe at war and his own prospects of finding safety in New Zealand.

Egon's sister, Doris (in the late 1930s), and his mother, Johanna (in the mid 1920s)

Following their deportation from Camp de Gurs in August 1942 Johanna and Doris Schoenberger were interned in Camp Drancy on the outskirts of Paris. Dr Bacharach received a brief letter from them and then nothing more was heard. 

On 8 October 1942 they were transported to Auschwitz and murdered.

Letter from Edith to Egon: "Hope is dimming.." (click for full version)

It took the Schoenbergers nearly four years to confirm their deaths, with the news appearing to come from Dr Bacharach himself. In love with Doris he had clung to the hope of finding them alive with as much passion as the Schoenbergers. 

But in one of his many letters to Edith and Eugen Schoenberger in America he appears to have passed on grim news. In February 1946 Edith wrote to her nephew-in-law Egon: “ Dr Bacharach’s letters are terribly sad indeed, and it is our deep and unending sorrow that hope for our loved ones, your mother and Doris, is dimming out more and more. I can imagine how you feel about it over there so all by yourself, Egon dear.” 

The Schoenberger family grave in Mainz (click for full version).

The news also reached the family that both of Egon’s aunts, who had remained in Mainz, had killed themselves in late 1942 rather than face deportation to the death camps.

On 13 September 1946 the Jewish Refugees Committee confirmed the worst: “With reference to the enquiry you submitted for the whereabouts of your mother and sister, Johanna and Doris Schoenberger, we are now sorry to inform you that, according to information recieved from the United Kingdom Search Bureau, Johanna Schoenberger and her daughter, Doris, were deported from Drancy to Auschwitz on the 8th October, 1942. We deeply regret that we are not in a position to let you have more comforting news.”

In August 1947 Egon arranged with the Jewish National Fund for trees to be planted in the name of his mother and sister.

Certificate for trees planted in the name of Johanna and Doris (click for full version)

Egon’s story: A last handshake and a kiss and then they left

This blog is part 21 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

Egon's diary entry for 7 September 1939 (translated). Click for full version

On 6 August 1942 Johanna and Doris Schoenberger were deported from Camp de Gurs along with 1100 others.
In his letters, Dr Bacharach (who had become deeply attached to the Schoenberger women during their time together in the camp) described them climbing into the wagon with their heads held high,  “a last handshake and a kiss and then they left.”

A few days later Dr Bacharach was also deported. But a few hours into the journey the trains stopped and he was  taken off and returned to the camp, for reasons he never understood.

Sometime in the months that followed Dr Bacharach escaped from the camp, making his way across the Pyrenees to Spain and then on to Casablanca, where he wrote a despondent letter to Eugen and Edith Schoenberger in America.

Camp de Gurs

“It is difficult to understand how deep a person can fall if they have to go through that dreadful emptiness but somehow, miraculously stay alive. If it were not for Doris and Madame Schoenberger I would probably have already had a break down, like many others, for the lack of wanting to be alive.

“I have seen many 1000s of people in varying different situations and crises but rarely people like Doris and her mother, how they stuck together and bore those situations and could keep on going and have such a normal friendly relationship between mother and daughter.”

Before she left the camp Doris entrusted Dr Bacharach with a box of clothes, her dowry box full of linen and some items of jewellery she had smuggled out of Germany and was now concerned to be found with.

When Dr Bacharach escaped he was only able to take the jewellery with him. After several days travelling through the Pyrenees mountains he and his companion were held to ransom by their guides. For five days they survived on less than a loaf of bread before eventually parting with the jewellery and being shown the way to safety.

From Morocco, Dr Bacharach travelled to Britain were he joined the army.

He wrote to Eugen and Edith that if  Doris was still alive and they found her first: “Please only tell her that I love her, how much I love her. Not even I would be capable of telling her, some things you cannot express in words.”

October 25, 2012

Posted by:

Kirsten MacFarlane

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Egon’s Diary: Coming of age in Camp de Gurs

This blog is part 20 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

(Diary entry 5-6 September continues) After a long wait at passport inspection and much discussion, they do not let us go ashore here either. We therefore have to content ourselves with watching the two-hundred native dock workers who are unloading approximately five-hundred tonnes of rice and corned beef. Some people are already getting morally (that is, in advance) seasick because the ship is becoming so light.

Johanna's letter from Camp de Gurs is chatty and upbeat

The Schoenberger-Orgad family gathering at the Museum library a few days ago, filled yet another significant gap in the family history.  It was the first time that Michèle, Sehai and Milan had seen the English translation of a letter from Johanna and Doris, written while they were interned in Camp de Gurs.  Due to a scarcity of paper, Johanna wrote on one side and Doris used every available space on the other.  Dated 12/3/1941, the letter is confirmation that they had been in the camp for more than a year, and had recently endured a harsh winter. Both mother and daughter begin with an affectionate salutation: ‘My Dears, Thank you very much.”  But there is no reference to the recipients of their letter.  A few paragraphs later,  there is a mention of Rosa, Eugene’s sister. We are convinced that the letter is addressed to Egon’s uncle and aunt, Eugene and Edith.

Sehai reads aloud a passage from Johanna’s letter –  her great grandmother’s description of Doris’ 21st birthday celebrations.

“We are doing consistently well, thank God; we spent the eventful day of my child’s coming of age quite pleasantly in the M Infirmary. Doris was presented – commensurate with the times – with all kinds of edibles and in the evening her colleagues prepared a good cold evening dinner, which was also attended by the chief physician and our block female physician. “

Doris Schoenberger

Doris' letter talks of champagne celebrations on her 21st birthday

Doris, who worked as a nurse in the camp’s medical centre, was excited about her birthday celebrations.

“My colleagues, the block bosses, and also less significant people were warm to me, and a bottle of sparkling wine was even conjured up.”

It is impossible not to be moved by a mother and daughter’s courageous attempts to draw a veil over the reality of life in this miserable camp.  Johanna and Doris would have lived in a small, windowless wood cabin, sometimes sharing it with up to 60 people. It’s likely they would have slept on the ground on sacks of straw.  Camp food, when it was available, was substandard. There was no sanitation,  running water, or plumbing.  It rained frequently in this region, and the clay grounds of the camp quickly turned into a muddy slough.  During the winter of 1940-41 alone, 800 prisoners died.

Could Johanna and Doris have felt any bitterness towards Eugene, for getting his wife Edith out of the camp? If Captain J Bacharach’s descriptions of the pair as spirited and courageous (“they were carved from the most previous wood”) are true, then it is likely there was no acrimony.  I think they were acutely aware of their dire situation.

Johanna writes: “We must continue, in large part, to let the times – that is, the political situation – decide our fate.”

Yet Doris – this beautiful young woman celebrating her 21st birthday in such miserable surroundings –  remains so optimistic  about the future.

“I do not see salvation in the USA, because even there it is so insanely difficult that I find myself less and less unfortunate having to sit up here. The question is just how much time one will still lose because of this. I just make an effort to find something cheerful every day, and actually also have still maintained my sense of humour,”

Throughout this series of 24 blog posts we’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions, would like to learn more about any aspects of Egon’s story or share your thoughts please use the comment box. We’ll do our very best to respond and answer your questions And thank you to everyone who has commented so far.

Egon’s Diary: Family reunited

This blog is part  19 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

Monday 4 September (continues): The airplanes carry approximately three tons of material on each flight. In the countryside there was not very much to see, said the countryside excursionists. Three new passengers come on board, among them a Swiss geologist Prof. Dr. Arnold Heim, who undertook a research trip here in New Guinea. Prof. Heim is the author of the book Throne of the Gods, a report about his Himalaya expedition in 1936. He is glad that he can once again speak Swiss-German.

(from l-r) Kirsten MacFarlane, Sehai Orgad, Milan Orgad, Michèle Schoenberger-Orgad and Janneen Love

This morning, there was another gathering of the Schoenberger-Orgad family at Auckland Museum. Three generations of the family sat round the table in the library; Egon’s daughter Michèle, his granddaughter Sehai Orgad and grandson Milan Orgad. Of course Egon was there in spirit only, in the form of his diary which lay in the middle of the table. In the weekend, museum staff de-installed the Anne Frank exhibition, and after six weeks on display, Egon’s diary was transferred back to the manuscript collections, where it will remain forever accessible to the public.   

It was a story that first came to public attention through a trace of serendipity and much diligence on the part of exhibition developer Janneen Love, and writers Kirsten MacFarlane and Greg Meylan.  It was the family though who were so generous in sharing their personal history. Egon’s diary and the many documents contained in the manuscript collections, revealed a story arc almost Shakespearean, with its requisite tragedies and shameful injustices. There were also unexpected pockets of joy for the descendants.

“I’ve had calls from people I have not seen or heard for many years, and each and every one had a memory to share. It brought my father back to me and gave me the most amazing opportunity for remembrance and memorial,” says Michèle.

This was the first time her son Milan had seen the diary. He had just arrived back in the country after a 24-hour flight from New York. His sister and mother picked him up from Auckland Airport and they drove straight here. Tomorrow he will fly out to Melbourne, to resume his job as policy advisor to the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA).

We take for granted the ease of modern travel.  Have passport, will fly across oceans and continents. Seventy three years ago – almost to the day – Milan’s grandfather had arrived by boat in Salamaua. As he observes in his diary entry of Monday 4 September, the consequences of war were that passengers with German passports couldn’t go ashore. Instead of exploring this foreign place with his fellow passengers, he was restricted to watching the cargo movements.  Already, he was an alien in a new land.    

Arthur Schoenberger with his son Egon

Michèle says the Museum did a mitzvah (good deed) for keeping the past alive.  These stories will now be passed to generations. The story of the Jewish holocaust should never be forgotten.  Neither should the memory of the pioneers of Auckland. Last week 20 of their graves were desecrated at Auckland’s Grafton Cemetery.  The vandals targeted the Jewish headstones, spraying them with anti-semitic graffiti and swastikas.  The Israeli Embassy in Wellington called it a vile attack.

“Sixty seven years after the liberation of the Jewish people from the death camps and ghettoes of Europe, expressions of blind hatred for Jews and for the sole Jewish state resurface.”

October 16, 2012

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

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Egon’s story: The letters of Dr Bacharach

This blog is part 18 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

It has taken 18 blogposts to reach the letters of Captain Bacharch, a man whose beautiful handwriting has been verbally translated by the Museum’s Swiss born project manager, Celine Achermann. None of us knew what these letters contained until Egon’s daughter Jeanne visited the Museum about a week after the blogposts began. With a working knowledge of German she recognised his letters told the story of Egon’s sister and mother, Doris and Johanna, in Camp de Gurs.

A portion of a letter showing the fine handwriting of Capt J Bacharach. This one was written after the war.

Last Friday afternoon Celine read to me the fifth letter in his correspondence, which turns out to be the first he wrote. It was sent to Eugen and Edith (the latter of whom had also been interned at the camp, before Eugen got her out).

It is only at the end of the letter that we learn that Captain J Bacharach was a Latvian doctor who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. When the republicans lost to Franco’s fascists he fled to France where he and many other refugees were housed in the specially built Camp de Gurs. When the Second World War broke out, the camp also became home to about 4000 German Jews whom the French authorities arrested as enemy aliens.

Doris, who had trained to be a nurse before the war, met Dr Bacharach working in the camp’s medical centre. Conditions were poor. There were regular outbreaks of typhoid fever and dysentery and 800 people died of contagious diseases during 1940 and 1941.

Captain Bacharach described Doris and Johanna and his letter: “The good relationship between mother and daughter was astounding to witness. The mother is smart, adaptable, young and fresh minded and very understanding of her daughter. Doris, despite her youth, is very mature, experienced, strong and a wise person, and very conscious of what is going on. “

He wrote they were never demoralised, were bold and courageous but also realistic about the future. They were “full of life amid the daily grey”.

“In these difficult life situations you notice the real value of a person, the wood out of which they are carved, and those two are definitely carved from the most precious wood…. Their hut always had a warm homely glow of humour and femininity. There was always something happening, little or big.”

He said they were glad to know that Egon was safe in New Zealand, and were not too worried about his well-being as they knew he was strong, like they were.

WAR IS DECLARED

As Egon sails towards Salamua on Sunday 3rd September 1939, the passengers hear the shocking news that war has broken out in Europe.

Next blog: Transport from Camp du Gurs

- a big thanks to Celine Achermann for her translation!

October 11, 2012

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

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Egon’s story: The search continues

This blog is part 17 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

Diary entry 1 September, 1939 (translated). Click for full version

Egon arrives in Port Moresby. Europe is days away from war.

In 1945, when the war had finished and Egon had not heard from his mother and sister for three years, his uncle Eugen recieved a letter from Rio de Janeiro asking after them.

Dear Mr. Schoenberger,
I don’t know if you remember me because it has been about 7 years that I saw you for the last time in Mainz. Before my marriage, my maiden name used to be Ruth Mayer and your niece Doris and I were very good friends.

Letter from Ruth Schild: "Everything is so dreadful"

Some time ago I read your ad in the AUFBAU, inquiring after the whereabouts of Doris and her mother, and that’s why I am taking the liberty today to write to you.

In case you should get any news about Doris and her mother, would you be kind enough to let me know, because I also want to get in touch with her again and try to help them, if this is in my power. Let’s hope that they are safe somewhere.

I also got definite news now that my father died in Theresienstadt already in 1942 or 1943. Everything is so dreadful and we, who were fortunate enough to escape, have to be thankful for that every day.

My brother Martin with his wife and son are living in Rio too and he sends his best regards to you. I got married in 1941 to a friend of my brother and we are living quietly and happily together, working hard but enjoying a peaceful life as a whole.

I do hope that you and your wife are well. Please write to me as soon as you hear something, won’t you ?

Thanking you in anticipation, and with very best regards, I remain,

Yours sincerely,

Ruth Schild

Next blog: The letters of Dr Bacharach

October 8, 2012

Posted by:

Greg Meylan

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Egon’s story: The search for Doris and Johanna

This blog is part 16 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

Egon's Diary 26-31 August (translated). Click for full version

The mostly New Zealand passengers on the Tasman pass the time with on-board games. Their eagerness to partake in distractions leads Egon to ponder the difference between his own journey of escape and theirs for pleasure. There is little in the way of talk about the impending war.

Among Egon’s papers held at Auckland Museum are a bundle of letters which document the back and forth searching by Egon, and his uncle Eugen (who was safely in America with his young bride Edith), for word of what  had become of Egon’s mother and sister. Communication from Johanna and Doris Schoenberger in Camp de Gurs ceased again in 1942.

In the lengthening silence that followed, the chambers of Egon’s heart must have filled with hope and emptied in fear. In the middle of 1943, a man called Ernst Berliner wrote Egon a letter than contains a quiet but desperate concern:

Letter from Ernst Berliner, June 1943. Click for full version

Dear Mr Schoenberger,

I am writing to you to ask if you have heard any news  from Mrs and Doris Schoenberger. Some time ago  I received a letter from an unknown person saying  that both  have been sent to Poland. I am sure you have been informed likewise, and wonder if you know more about it than I do.
Maybe they were able to get in touch with my mother who is in Poland and whose address Doris had; I myself, however, have not heard from my mother since Pearl Harbour.
Should you have any news, please, do let me know.
Best regards, sincerely yours,
Ernst Berliner.

Throughout the war in and the years immediately after, letters like these criss-crossed the globe as Jewish mothers, sons, fathers, siblings, daughters, friends and spouses searched for a scrap of reassurance their loved ones were somewhere alive.

Previous blog: A change of ship

Throughout this series of 24 blog posts we’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions, would like to learn more about any aspects of Egon’s story or share your thoughts please use the comment box. We’ll do our very best to respond and answer your questions And thank you to everyone who has commented so far.

Egon’s story: A change of ship

This blog is part 15 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.

Egon's diary entry for 25 August (translated). Click for full version

Egon leaves the Marnix and takes up berth in the more cramped quarters of the Tasman for the final leg of his journey to New Zealand. He finds himself sharing with an elderly man who makes annoying noises and a disagreeable Austrian attorney, but the New Zealanders on board are more friendly than the Dutch on the Marnix and that bodes well for life in what will soon be his new home.

As Egon sailed towards safety, his mother, sister, uncle and his uncle’s wife were still in a precarious position in France. Their plan to find refuge in Britain evaporated when the Germans invaded in May 1940. The Schoenbergers left Reims as the Germans approached but shortly after the fall of France the French police, acting in collaboration with the Nazis, rounded-up the Jews. The Schoenberger women were interned at Camp de Gurs, but Eugen managed to avoid arrest.

Telegram from Johanna Schoenberger to her brother-in-law from Camp de Gurs.

Egon lost contact with his family during this period but to his great relief a letter from his mother finally arrived in Hamilton. Johanna’s words to her son filled every available space on the page.

Eugen Schoenberger succeeded in getting his wife Edith out of the camp but Johanna and Doris were left behind. Edith and Eugen escaped via Spain and Portugal and arrived in the United States in 1941.

As letters arrived to Egon, his mother was able to send a telegram now and then to her brother-in-law Eugen in California, these simply said: Bonne Sante (Good health).

The letters kept coming for another year.

Next blog: The search for Johanna and Doris