This page is under construction…
This family story started with my great-grandparents, Hermine and Joseph Bloch.
Else was my grandmother. Her son, Werner, was my father.
Please click through our family tree names on the left for more information about Hermine and Joseph, and about their four children and their descendants, to the present day.
Hermine Bloch, geb. Kohn: 2 August 1854 to 28 May 1942 (?)
According to her marriage certificate, Hermine Kohn was born on 15th September 1854, in the village of Schwieben (now Świbie), which is located in what was then called Landkreis (the district of) Tost-Gleiwitz. Świbie is about 16 miles north of the city of Gliwice, and around 27 miles north-west of the regional capital of Katowice.
We need to confirm her date of birth with further research; however, in a letter from Else to Werner (written on 27th July 1939), she mentions her mother’s birthday as being on August 2nd, so it is possible that there was a ‘Jewish’ birth date and a ‘state’ birth date, which would not have been unusual at this time. From letters, the family clearly celebrated Hermine’s birthday on 2nd August.
Hermine was married in Schwieben to Joseph Bloch on 21st February 1882: their marriage certificate is shown below.
B. No. 8
Schwieben, 21st February 1882
The two people whose signature appears below presented themselves before the Registrar for the purpose of marriage.
Merchant Joseph Bloch of the Jewish faith born on the 25th June 1847 in Bieloschowitz [Bielszowice] in the district of Beuthen, resident of Kattowitz, son of Adolf Bloch and his wife Rosel geb. Cohn, resident of Kattowitz.
Wife Hermine Kohn, of the Jewish religion, born on 15th September 1854, in Schwieben in the district Gleiwitz, daughter of the businessman Julius Kohn and his wife Marie, geb. Loewy, both living in Schwieben.
Witnessed by Wilhelm Kohn (aged 28)
Hemine Bloch geb. Kohn
Schwieben 19 Dec 1938
In accordance with the decree announced on 17th December 1938, all Jewish woman are to adopt the second name of Sarah
Signed Glowitz [sp?]
(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)
Hermine’s family life
Hermine was approximately seven years younger than her husband Joseph, who ran an inn – possibly in Schwieben – as far as we have been able to ascertain from family documents. She would seem to have had a twin brother Wilhelm, who was a witness at her wedding. I assume he was a twin, as he has the same surname and is achtundzwanzig (twenty-eight) when he signs as witness, which would have put his birth year as 1854 – the same as Hermine.
The postcard above depicts buildings in Schwieben around this time: it was very kindly sent to me by Maciek, a Polish researcher who works in this area.
So, Hermine and Joseph married in February 1882 and the first of their children, Else, was born on 8 December of that year. Two years later Fedor, Hermine’s oldest son, was born on 22 May 1884. Kurt was born a couple of years later, around 1886, although we have yet to confirm this birth date (and may never be able to do so because many records in this area were destroyed during the war). Hermine’s second daughter and last (surviving) child Rosa was born around 1895, although again we do not yet have a fixed/certified birth date for Rosa. This would suggest that Hermine was 41 years old when she had Rosa.
According to my father’s notes written after the Second World war, Joseph died around 1916, in the middle of the First World War. Hermine lived with Rosa for a time, presumably helping her with Margot’s upbringing, but then her youngest daughter also died, we believe around 1933.
I cannot know, but assume, that while the Weissenbergs were living in Pless, Hermine was living with her youngest daughter Rosa, which is what one might expect at that time. I assume this because we have not found any reference to Hermine living with the Weissenberg family in the records located to date about their life in Pless (now Pszczyna).
The first we know of Hermine living with my father’s family is from her own letters from Tost (now Toszek), the first of which is dated 30 May 1936. This would fit with the assumption that she was previously living with Rosa, presumably until around the time of her daughter’s death. By this time, her grandson Werner was living in Breslau – at least during term time; he was studying mathematics and natural science at the university.
In Hermine’s letter below, she congratulates Werner on having passed his final examinations.
Letter: Hermine to Werner Tost, 30th May 1936 Dear Werner, Many congratulations from me too. With God’s help you have got through. I hope you will find some employment soon with a good salary. Do you not want to say goodbye to Uncle Martin? He would be very pleased with a visit from you. He will have written to you. Margot is celebrating her 21st birthday with Heinz. Looking forward to seeing you. Lots of love, Grandma
For a time then, Hermine lived with the Else and Leopold Weissenberg at the house and shop on Tost square, shown in its present form in the photograph below. The family shop/house was on the left of the square, just behind the large tree in the centre of the picture. You can see a picture of the house itself here.
Letter from Else to Werner: Tost, 7th November 1936 Grandmother has bought you the cigarettes and also gives you some money. She fetched some flour from Paul and at the same time congratulations from Frau Weiss for you ... I have just received dates from Aunt Hedel regarding grandfather; you probably know the same. I am not writing about school; I have worked it out myself. Grandmother says at that time one started school at the age of 8. All the rest will probably suffice. Mother PS My dear Werner, Many happy returns from me as well, for your birthday. Above all I wish you good health and a generous salary quite soon and that you will soon be a professor, so that all the time and effort you put into studying will have been worth it. Enclosed is a packet of cigarettes and 4 DM. It isn’t much, but perhaps you can go to the theatre and not just smoke. I am glad that you are happy, the beginning is always difficult. Your efforts will not have been in vain. Well, have a great celebration on your birthday. I remain your loving Grandmother
The town’s synagogue, built in 1836 (according to Virtual Shtetl), was destroyed in autumn 1938, as most were across Germany, but while it was still standing, it was located just behind the family’s house/shop on the main square. Her religion seems to have been important to Hermine, judging from comments in her letters, so we must assume that this would have been a comfort to her in all the moving about she was having to do.
Writing a letter for a birthday seems to have been an important part of Upper Silesian life, and indeed, the next time we hear from Hermine is when she writes to Werner on his next birthday in 1937.
Letter from Hermine to Werner: Tost, 5th November 1937 My Dear Werner, Many happy returns of your birthday from me as well. You are not yet thirty, but you have experienced much trauma in your life. I hope the future years will be much more blessed for you, as well as meeting new friends, and especially good health. Mother will have told you all our news - the papers are also full of it. I am enclosing a little something for you; perhaps I will get the chance to let you have something bigger, sweets possibly. Now I want to wish you a Happy Birthday again, and give my regards to your companions for me. From your loving Grandmother Dear Werner, I have just been reading dear Grandmother’s congratulations, and I find them so wonderful they are bringing tears to my eyes. Mother
After this point, Hermine tends to write less. We know from later comments in Else’s letters that her mother’s eyesight and general health are deteriorating. However, we still hear about Hermine in Else’s letters to her son. In what follows, there has clearly been much shocked enjoyment between the women when Werner sends a substantial amount of money home for his mother’s birthday, from his first pay cheque from his teaching post in Frankfurt. Hermine has referred to her grandson as a grossmogul, and fondly insists Else celebrates by baking a cake and sending a piece to Frankfurt for the favoured son.
For her daughter’s 55th birthday Hermine buys Else a box of chocolates, some ginger nuts, and ‘a good pair of gloves’.
Tost, 8th December 1937 ... What are you thinking of, my son? Are you considering yourself to be such a wealthy man when you look at your bank account? Grandma used the word Grossmogul ... You don’t know your Mother very well son if you thought I would immediately want it all for a birthday party. But grandmother insisted that I should bake a cake and she finally convinced me, so I sent you a taster and hope that you like it and I am sure you will be able to use the butter ... Dear Grandma gave me a box of chocolates, some gingernut biscuits and a pair of good gloves.... P. S. Mr Schuft brought Grandma and me 10 marks as a Chanukah present.
The last substantial letter that we have written by Hermine is sent to thank her grandson Werner for his birthday wishes.
Gleiwitz, 2nd August 1938 Dear Werner Thank you for your congratulations for my 85th birthday. I can understand that you were not able to send a message in poetry.* I had great pleasure in receiving your letter. So much has happened since my 80th. Uncle Kurt, Aunt Frieda, the children were all here then. Now there was no one. Kurt Niklaus did come to congratulate me. He was helping his former boss with the cucumbers. He still hasn’t succeeded in organising his emigration. Aunt M wrote a card with a pretty message. She was in a good mood. Thank you again for your kind thoughts. [Leg?]* and partner are in London and [Melfry?]* would like you to know that he would be happy for you to find successful employment. Much love, Grandma Twenty-five years ago everyone went away - we had conscription. Today is just like that - they are all leaving for other countries. So far, M hasn’t been able to obtain a visa. Uncle Fedor sent me 20 marks. Margot has been working in the hospital since June 1st, she likes it there. Heinz will take his exams in September, he is studying very hard. We received a card from a steamboat trip. I had many messages congratulating me from my nieces and nephews; they all wished me a long life! Life is in God’s hands. I hope you will have great luck and satisfaction in your future career. PS If I were a teacher I would give a very good grade for this letter written by an 85 year old. Grandma thinks you should mark it, so you don’t get out of practice [Else] 1 reply coupon enclosed. Note: the translator isn’t sure about names here because Grandmother's writing has deteriorated with her advancing age.
Interesting, to me at least, is Hermine’s note here about Werner writing her some poetry for her birthday. My father was not a particularly demonstrative man, nor an especially ‘involved’ father in today’s terms, but without fail he always wrote a few lines of verse in my birthday card each year. And now I know where it came from ….
In this last surviving longer letter, Hermine makes no mention of the upcoming move to Gleiwitz, yet only a few days later, on 8 August, the family are again on the move, as can be seen from this extract from her Gleiwitz residence card, below. Hermine’s letter does, however, sound wistful – she is missing the gradually dwindling numbers of friends and family. Youngsters by this point were being got out of Germany wherever possible, as jobs and homes were being restricted by the anti-Jewish legislation that had been in place for over 5 years by this stage.
Above, I mentioned that the Weissenberg family lived in a house directly in front of the Tost synagogue. Today, there is a memorial to the synagogue on the pavement where it once stood. This memorial stone is shown in the photograph below. The synagogue was burned down on the night of 9th/10th of November, after which many Jewish people left Tost. Our family had already left Tost at this stage – but how terrifying it would have been to have that inferno take place just behind the house.
Any Jews remaining in Tost were deported in June 1942.
As the National Socialist net tightened around Jewish people and our homes and families, the Weissenbergs moved away from their business and home in Tost to Gleiwitz/Gliwice in August 1938. Hermine put a note in the newspaper to let her friends and acquaintances know that she was once more moving house.
During years in which Hermine should have been able to relax and be looked after in comfort, surrounded by her family, the most terrible deprivations and separations were taking place around her. Clearly, this has a marked impact on the health and wellbeing our family matriarch. A few months after they moved – to 10, Wernickestraße, Gleiwitz, Leopold writes to Werner, including a few lines about his mother-in-law, which suggest she is becoming bed-bound.
Gleiwitz, 6th February 1939 PS Also greetings from Grandma who is lying in bed. Did you receive my last letter of the 2nd and the money? Enjoy your freedom and write in detail soon. Your Father
The context to this is that Werner had been arrested in November 1938, along with around 30,000 other Jewish men. The date of this letter was the date on which the family heard that he had been released.
A couple of days later, Hermine writes a note at the bottom of one of Else’s letters to welcome Werner out of the concentration camp.
Gleiwitz, 8th February 1939 My dear Werner At last you will escape from your unfriendly surroundings [trans. note: I think it might say ‘released from imprisonment’]. God will be with you in your future plans. Love Grandma
After this there is a touching note – penned by both mother and daughter – which shows both Hermine’s wish to keep in touch herself with her beloved Werner, and Else’s growing concern about her mother.
Gleiwitz, 28th February 1939 10.30 in the evening Keep well and warm and drink the orange juice if you can. I am well and hope you are. Love grandmother P. S. Grandmother is not as well as she says; we have had the doctor to her. Thanks for your last letter – Love Mother
To be continued …
Information about Hermine from the family letters
As I do not have very much information to draw on about my great-grandmother, below I have tried to form a picture of her from the family letters. The extracts that are by or concern great-grandmother Hermine are outlined below, in chronological order.
Further documentary evidence about what happened to Hermine in the Shoah follows the letters.
Gleiwitz, 5th April, 1939 I went to bed with the intention of not getting up again that day, as I didn’t feel well at all, but after one hour’s rest the doorbell rang. Grandma was also enjoying her siesta. Love from Father and Grandmother And special kisses from your Mother
Gleiwitz, 6th April 1939 Grandma sends her love; she had a heavy cold but she recovered quickly; mine was worse. Love and kisses again, Mother
Gleiwitz, 15th June 1939 P.S. Dear Werner From your last letter I gather you have settled. I wish you all the best and that you will soon obtain an impressive position. Much love – Grandma NB Margot hasn’t found a job in Berlin yet.
Gleiwitz, 27th July 1939 Don’t forget to congratulate your grandmother on her 85th Much love from Grandmother
Gleiwitz, 12th August 1939 ... Mother has just retired for her afternoon sleep, as has Grandmother. ... Much love from Grandma, Mother and me – Your loving Father
Gleiwitz, 17th August, 1939 ... We didn’t know anything about the happy solution to uncle Kurt’s dilemma; the people only write once in a blue moon and then wonder why we don’t answer promptly. We wrote after Grandma’s birthday; they must have received this, as you received yours at the same time. I hope you receive this one in good time. ... Keep well, my dear boy. Father and Grandma send their love. Lots of love and kisses from your beloved Mother Grandma wants you to know that dear Heinz has his birthday on the 23rd
Gleiwitz, 24th August, 1939 Even if there is not much in it for you, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity. In any case, you can greet Mr Wbg. You met him at Margot’s wedding. While your grandmother was lodging with Mrs Plessner, and you can ask him if matters have been settled. ... Mother P. S. Lots of love from your loving Grandma
13th March, 1940 Nevertheless, we haven’t heated our bedroom as much in previous winters, but we have suffered much from the cold. The house is very exposed, that is why it is so draughty, and there are no rooms that are heated below ours. Father had to stay put for five days. I just suffered with freezing hands and toes. Grandma complains much about the cold, but undoubtedly she is better off health wise than the rest of us. Mother
Sunday, 7th April, 1940 As far as we are concerned I had a bad shock, because Grandmother suffered two strokes. It took two weeks for her to recover slightly; the stress we have been under for some time now is affecting us – we cannot bear the constant moving – even Herr T has to submit to it. It is undoubtedly the cause of her strokes. She isn’t eating much – she would be better more quickly if she ate. I often think how nice it would be if you had results for your efforts, it would have such a happy ending. ... Stay heathy. Much love from Grandma and all the others.
22nd August 1940 Nothing has changed. We still have a boarder for lodger; besides this we may get a schoolgirl to live in our guesthouse. If anything will come of it will be decided in the next few days. It would be very useful, as in this way the rent for our flat will be covered. Otherwise we will not be able to keep up the payments on the flat. ... Ilse sent congratulations to Grandma on her 86th in German writing, with which papa had to help her. Mother
October 1940 Ten days ago we gave up one of our rooms to the mother of our boarder, that is to say, she is sharing the room with grandmother. It involved a large rearrangement. Grandmother thanks you very much for your good wishes. Mother
Saturday, 6th April 1941 ... Heinz announced the arrival of a little daughter Rachel three days ago. Freida is 48 years old today. So now, the grandmother is great-grandma. ... I must stay home, as I don’t want to leave Grandma on her own. Mother
no date, 1941 ... As for grandmother’s left eye, according to the optician she has no sight in it. There is not much sight in the other eye, the right one – it is also weak. I am very unhappy about it. Mother
Gleiwitz, 17th April 1942 ... I hope some of your dear ones will be present during your celebrations and you will have lots of flowers. You will have a pleasant and jolly time. We celebrated my Mother’s 70thbirthday. Seventeen years have passed; some days amongst the years were not unpleasant. ... My Mother is very weak in the last few weeks, suffers with depression and has heart problems. God helps me to maintain my spirits; I don’t want to be left alone. ... My Mother sends you her good wishes, although she is in bed while I am writing. Else
Gleiwitz, 14 May 1942 My dear ones, Today we got the order to present ourselves at the police station on Sunday. I’m certain that our deportation is inevitable. Therefore I am sending you the enclosed. It is better that you should have it than it end up with strangers. In case you don’t receive any more news from me, don’t answer, in case your reply falls into the wrong hands. Please send on my last greetings to my son because it is 99% certain that we won’t see him again. To find his address, please contact the representative of the Jewish Congregation in London and inform him that Werner left Frankfurt on June 2nd 1939 for the Kitchener Camp, Richborough, England. This letter must not be found in your possession. Good health, my dear. May God be with you. He seems to have forgotten us. Lots of love and greetings from your Else
Gleiwitz, 18th May 1942 My Dears, The time has come; tomorrow we will leave, either with or without mother. Mother is not sure, but it is very likely the latter. It is difficult to find the strength to carry on with life. We have to clear our place out. ... Else
22nd May 1942 On the 27th or 28th there is another transport departing and I expect we will be on that. I am just taking one rucksack, as my mother cannot carry one. It will contain clothes for summer and winter, no bedding , and necessities for 2 people. It must weigh no more than 20 kilos, but I wouldn’t be able to carry more anyway. If you pack more than you can carry you have to leave it behind and set off without anything. We can take enough bread for 2 days, sliced and a flask of cold coffee. They are talking about taking us to Poland but a Russian destination is also a possibility. They have even deported an 89-year old woman. Everyone has to go to the police station into the Air Raid Shelter. Else
Gleiwitz 25th May 1942 My Dear Friends, You will have received my letter by now, in which I begged you not to do anything. I hope you are not cross with me because I wrote in such an agitated manner, but I was so frightened. As long as the war lasts, there is nothing I can do. We cannot, of course, go into the occupied zone, my mother and I are just one example. We are perishing. It is just one more wartime sacrifice, isn’t it. Else
nd: 1942 Krenau ghetto Dear Fräulein Hoffmeister ... You ask whether I will remain here for the time being. Because I am doing important work I hope that we will be spared for some yet the journey which my sister and mother have had to undertake. ... Kurt
Notarised declaration - Werner Weissenberg: 27 February 1959 (The original in its full form is here) My maternal grandmother Frau Hermine Bloch geb. Kohn born on 2.8.1854 in Schwieben, Kreis Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, was declared dead from the 31.12.1945 by the judicial authorities in Cologne on 14.1.1959 - Act.Z. 4-II-148/58.
“My grandmother was born in Schwieben, Krs. Gleiwitz.
Little has stayed in my memory about her life.
As far as I know, she spent her entire life in Oberschlesien.
She married in about 1880 – and my grandfather owned an inn. He died towards the end of the First World War. His inn was sold after his death and my grandmother lived mostly with my parents or with a sister of my mother.
In 1942 she had to leave the Gleiwitz residence with my mother and it is likely they finished in Auschwitz.
Their three surviving children probably all perished in the same or in a similar manner.
My efforts to know their location, and the location of the rest of their family after the end of the war, were unsuccessful.”
[Written by Werner Weissenberg – one of many letters and documents used here in an attempt to re-build our family tree]
What follows is a translation of a letter that constitutes an acknowledgement by the German government of Hermine’s wrongful death, which included this formal breakdown of events, and also refers to the subsequent compensation payments – pretty much all of which were used for our education during my father’s lifetime
The heritage community of Frau Hermine Bloch born 2.8.1854 in Gleiwitz, last living in Gleiwitz
Under plenipotentiary Herr Rechtsanwalt Dr R G
Will be for harm to freedom of the deceased, pursued for the time 19.9.1941 to 19.4.1945, according to federal law, be paid compensation for victims of national socialism
FACTUAL DECISIONS AND REASONS
The prerequisites of no.s 4 and 185 BEG are given, because the deceased earlier lived in Gleiwitz, OS.
Reasons of exclusion or refusal in the sense of no 6, 7 BEG are not visible.
She was restricted in her freedom as follows:
from 19.9.1941 to May 1942 she has worn the Jewish star in Gleiwitz
from May 1942 to 19.4.1945 she was imprisoned in a concentration camp or prison, probably Auschwitz
from May 1942 to 19.4. 1945 she was illegally forced to live in inhumane conditions.
The following information is held in the Bundesarchiv online, number 843984:
Bloch, Hermine, geb. Kohn
Born on 02nd August 1854 in Schwieben / Tost – Gleiwitz / Schlesien
Resident of Gleiwitz
Deportation destination: from Gleiwitz
28th May 1942, Auschwitz, extermination camp
For those unfamiliar with the historical detail of this period, careful records were made and retained by the various forces working under the National Socialist government.
All deportations through the year 1942 from Gleiwitz, where Werner’s immediate family lived, are believed to have been to Auschwitz, although it is not possible to confirm this at present for reasons outlined elsewhere on this website. See the following link for an in-depth discussion: Yad Vashem_Transport from Gleiwitz Oberschlesien
The next document, from the Bundesarchiv_Chronology of Deportations from the German Reich, provides a list of deportations, and some information about them. This chronology is retained online in the Federal Archives, which are maintained by the German government.
The transport list showing great grandmother Hermine’s entry is here (no.28):
Clicking on any image on this website will enlarge it, so that you can read it for yourself in detail.
On the transport lists, as you can see in the image above, Hermine and Else (and many other people) were registered at Niederwallerstrasse/ Niederwallstraße 17, Gleiwitz (the address is now in Polish – Dolnych Wałów 17, Gliwice).
We have been able to access a Google Street View of this property, as follows:
As far as I can tell from my translations, this address was a ‘meeting house’ (gemeindehaus) for Jewish people, rather than being their home address, which we believe to be Wernickestrasse 10.
02 March 2015
Yad Vashem is now showing the names of some of our family members, as more material is gradually being uploaded.
The entry for Hermine is below. I will be uploading additional family information there in due course, as part of the Shoah collection.
Update: 20 March 2015
Gleiwitz residence card
I have outlined the discovery of the Gleiwitz Residence Cards on my grandfather Leopold’s page: here is the image of Hermine’s card, from the Centralna Biblioteka Judaistyczna/Central Jewish Library website.
This tells us that Hermine (and presumably Else) moved to Niederwallstrasse 17 on 1 December 1941, so they were there for about 6 months. The information given on the card suggests it was some kind of ‘holding’ place for Jews ahead of deportation. Conditions must have been horrific, with so many on the transport list given as living at this address. It also tells us the name of someone with whom Hermine must have been sharing her space/room – Silberman, I think it says. It confirms the date of death/deportation as 28 May 1942.