Family photographs

Above, family photograph. Source: Werner Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained

I have categorised these photographs as best I can, given that I don’t always have very much information about who is depicted. I know Werner (my father) when I see him, and I know the pictures of ElseLeopold and Hermine, because they were in our home when I was growing up. But some of the photographs I didn’t see until after Werner died, so the only information we have is what’s written on the back. Sometimes this is quite detailed; sometimes, there is no guide.

Margot Gruschka, Beuthen, nd. Source: Werner Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained


Context

Many hundreds of thousands of photographs will have been destroyed by National Socialists when they took over private homes and businesses from 1933 onwards; others will have been destroyed or lost by the families who went to live in these homes and businesses that had belonged to other people. Jewish families were given a few hours – sometimes only minutes – to decide what to take and what to leave. As the war years progressed, families were often only allowed to leave with what they could carry in a single bag.


Letter from Else, Extract, 22 May 1942, translation – “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.” Source: Werner Weissenberg, pers. archive, copyright retained


The last few precious family photographs taken in such knapsacks and suitcases to the extermination camps were generally destroyed immediately.

After the war, around 2,400 were found hidden away at Auschwitz (http://thelastalbum.org/content/). This must have been done at great personal risk to prisoners who, knowing that Jews were being exterminated, had hidden them in order to retain at least some evidence of Jewish life and culture.

Above, Gedenkstätte Börneplatz, Memorial to the Shoah, Frankfurt am Main, 2017
Source: C Weissenberg, pers. archive

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