Margot Kornfeld, geb. Gruschka
01 June 1915 to 08 March 2007 (?)
under construction …
Rokittnitz, on 2nd June 1915
Before the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths
the merchant Jakob Gruschka, resident in Rokittwitz, Jewish religion, announced that in June 1915 a child was born named Margot.
He is resident with his wife Rosa Gruschka, geboren Bloch, in Rokittnitz.
Read and approved by Jakob Gruschka
Registrar Gisovilli (sp?)
Her Marriage Certificate nr 427/1936 in Beuthen
Top right addendum
Martinau 23rd December 1938
Margot Gruschka, mentioned below, has added the name of Sara, according to the regulations for Jewish women announced on 17th August 1938
(Translation by Helga Brown BA Dip. Ed. née Steinhardt)
One extraordinary day
I saw Margot once, for about twenty minutes, in a transit area of some kind at Heathrow airport. I was granted a day off school to go and see her with my dad: she was travelling from New York to Israel to visit her daughter and family.
The two cousins had special permission (from the airport authorities? From some government office?) to meet in what I remember as a small dark room. She and my dad would write to each other sometimes over the years; once or twice I wrote to her myself, or sent her a card, and she wrote back.
She had what I later recalled as a deep New York, German Jewish accent: I retain this memory of her voice from that brief encounter at the airport, but not much more. I think her hair was curly. I was in junior school – quite young at the time – and sadly remember little about it, save that this was a momentous day: I’d never met any of my father’s family before … or since.
Aunt Margot said in one letter to me, when I was older, that she couldn’t understand her grandchildren, and that they couldn’t understand her, as they were growing up speaking a different language to her, which pained her very much.
We wrote to each other for a short time after my father died. I wish I had had the money to go and see her again, but New York was a long way away: time and money were short in those days. She died not that long after my father, I assumed, as my letters and cards now came back unanswered, which they never had before.
In loving memory, Margot. I’m grateful that my father had someone who survived those days with him.
Letter: 16th February 1946
Below is Margot’s first letter to Werner after the war (the original letter in German can be viewed here). It describes her wartime experiences, briefly, and her needs with her child, stuck in the French zone of Berlin in the years immediately following the war. Margot’s light tone belies how desperately short the family are of even such basic needs as shoes and clothing, as well as being reliant on family and international aid for food parcels.
Mr Werner Weissenberg
18 Elmore Road
Berlin, 16th February, 1946
Your letter arrived on the 15th February and I want to reply immediately. I was very glad to at last receive a sign of life from you. I have been searching for you since November via the Joint. Now listen carefully. A cousin of our mother’s has appeared. Erwin Kohn. You know him. He lived in Renthau in the Rittanstrasse. He was a soldier and is probably still in the army. You should write Air Mail to Willy Weissenberg, Nienberg a/w. Oylerstrasse 13 and enclose a letter to Erwin and to me and he will forward it to me. It is not possible to write to him direct. And now I will give you an address quite near to you – Mrs Edith Strauss, 20 Adamson Road, London NW 3. It is the sister of Heinz, who is married there. We are in close contact with her, and she will tell you everything worth knowing. She has sent a parcel. You can imagine what one possesses when one leaves the concentration camp. Lots of lovely things were in it. In my last letter I asked her for various items and I would like to make a similar request to you. If it is at all possible, send some sweets for the child; it is all new to her and there is nothing like that available here. If it is at all possible I would like a pair of shoes for myself – size 37 or small 38, not very high heels, and for Heinz a shirt and a pair of socks size 11 ½ and a few cigarettes. Of course, only if it is possible; you don’t have to send it all at once. Perhaps you have a shirt and a nightshirt to spare; you are the same size. I will be really grateful. Perhaps you could get in touch with my sister-in-law. Perhaps you can write via Erwin; it would be quicker ask him whether it would be possible. He corresponds with his sister who lives in London. It only takes three days if you use Air Mail and you could contact the relatives.
I wrote constantly to Aunt Elsa and Grandma. They left in 1942, they wrote to me before that. You can imagine what state they were in when they began their journey. Just consider an 86-year old – such an impossible occasion. I am sorry dear Werner to inform you that the old people, the sick and the children were all gassed. Those who went to Poland and your mother would not have survived. It is terrible what suffering was inflicted on all; you are the only survivor on your maternal side. We don’t have a single relative in Germany. We also suffered greatly. It wasn’t easy with a small child. It was better in Theresienstadt. Every day we worried. Are we being sent to Poland or not? We were unlucky and lucky, whichever way you look at it. I was very ill with typhoid for half a year and that was the reason we could not move on. I weighed 57 pounds. I had already been given up. The doctors could not do anything for me but God didn’t want to let me go and my child needed me. On the 13th March my daughter will be five years old. Time passes. We were taken from November 1943 until July 1945, when we returned to Berlin. Thank God it is all over. We live in the hospital. It is still standing. Many buildings have been destroyed but they are being reconstructed.
Heinz is a senior nurse and gives massages. I am just a housewife, but I am ill a good deal, as a consequence of my beautiful time in the camp!
At present we live in one room but we should soon get three, so that the child can sleep on her own and we can live like human beings again. We want to move to Brazil (Sao Paulo), where Heinz has a brother. Our papers are already there, but it can still take time. Joint sends us a parcel of food once a month; there are some welcome goods in them. What do you do? Are you working? Were you in the Forces? Have you married? Berlin is Russian. It is divided into four zones – American, English, Russian and French. We live in the French zone; if you travel to the west you see the English. If you travel North, you see Russian. Isn’t that interesting. You go completely nuts with all the different languages you hear. Can’t you come here and teach me English? I am going to attend a course. You wouldn’t recognise Berlin now, it is so smashed. Now I have given you all the current information. Did you actually know that your Father died of a heart attack in Gleiwitz in 1940? My hand is aching, so that is it for today. Enclosed a photo of the child. Do you have one of you? Hope to hear from you soon.
Love from your cousin
Heinz sends his regards. I have greetings from little rabbit. I told her Uncle Werner has written. A pity we can’t see each other.
Greetings from Heinz
Letter: 21st April, 1946
Iranische Strasse 2
I have already written two two detailed letters and still get no response. You can now write directly by post. With my (schwg.?) living in London, we are the last connection. Her (?) last letter through the post was 14 tg (days?) on the road. We even get packages by her (?) … but your letters will also arrive now. Now also a brother of papa has reported living in new york. We’re doing quite tolerably and we are waiting for emigration. Namely, we want to go to Brazil; a brother of Heinz lives there. He is already in the process to get the papers. The March (?) was a brother of the Bethuen Kohn Jungens from here. Ritterstrasse. Hopefully you know who I mean. Went into a camp after London 39. And then came to the military, was last stationed in Germany at the (wesser?), and came here to visit his niece and us for a 7-day holiday. Is now called captain Edgar Cennedy. He journeys now back to London forever. Because he has finished his period of service. Depends on his uniform to the brand (?) he said. I was delighted, one could replace old remembrances. Also, dear Werner, write me soon. And whether you have received the other letters. If not, I will report again in detail about our relationships and what has become of them. Until then, very many greetings from your cousin Margot
PS Heinz and Rehalein (let gruhsen?). This letter has a picture of the child in it. Hopefully you get it.
Letter to Werner from Margot: 17.12.1961
“I was sick again, but I will answer your last letter today …
I had to wear a Jewish star. And I applied for my father, who has been gassed in Auschwitz. The thing runs now. I have testified that my father is likely to have been sent to a KZ. With my birth certificate, he has all from me. But if you do not know anything more solid about earlier things for reparations, write the lawyer that he should contact me. And I will give him the best information I can provide. Anyway, my dear Werner, enough for today. Let me hear from you soon and with very good greeting, your dear cousin, Margot.”
“Dear Sybil – received your letter and it was very nice to hear from you. With me it is a long time – 21 years – since I had to stand up at night, and at this time it was still different. It was during the war, and I had to go every night in the cellar, my daughter was sleeping, and I had to wake her up. It is over thanks god, and now she is a young lady. Perhaps I am pretty soon a grandmother. Then I will visit her in Israel.”
Transport to Theresienstadt
Although we still have a number of letters to get translated in order to gain a fuller picture of what happened to family members, we know from documents that Margot was transported on 22 November 1943, from Berlin to Theresienstadt.
This transport is outlined in some detail on the Yad Vashem site, given here as a PDF: