With the anti-refugee sentiment happening in certain pockets of our country I wanted to share the story of some refugee’s close to my heart and had they not been allowed into the country during the Holocaust I would not be here.
Judith Polak – My grandmother was born on September 7, 1923 to Alfred Polak and Seraphina van Cleeff-Polak in the town Tilburg, Netherlands. On May 10, 1940 the Netherlands was invaded by Nazi Germany after having declared themselves neutral. On that day my grandmother, with her parents, sisters, uncle, future aunt, and cousins, left their homes in Tilburg and everything they knew. One cousin, Bertram, was still in the army and was left behind never to be seen by his family again. Thankfully her father and uncle were prepared and through their dealings in the hide industry had resources in America. As they made their way they encountered the possibility of destroyed bridges or getting stopped by invading Nazi’s. At one point the family got split up and my grandmother’s uncle exclaimed that he had lost all his children that day. However eventually they got back together and made their way to family and friends in London. Afterwards they boarded a ship to Canada which by chance had some other cousins escaping the Netherlands. They arrived on July 29th, 1940 in Quebec.
Harry Rothstein – My grandfather was born on May 19, 1924 in Vienna to Markus Rothstein and Bertha Tillinger-Rothstein. Austria was annexed by Germany in March of 1938 as part of the Anschluss Österreichs and two months later Markus was sent to Dachau. While Markus was in Dachau Harry and his sister Paula were at the ages of 14 and 18 respectively were sent to the US to live with relatives already here while Bertha stayed behind. In September, Markus was transferred to Buchenwald before being released in a prisoner exchange thanks to a Senator Robert Wagner who has some sort of relationship to various family members. In 1943, Harry became a citizen because he joined the army, but up to that point he was minor refugee living with relatives and then his parents. Markus petitioned to become a citizen in 1944 but as of this writing I have not found any other naturalization documentation for him or Bertha.
From 1933 to 1945 the US only took in 132,000 Jewish refugees which was 10% of what was allowed by law. Part of the reasoning for this was because people thought that Nazi’s would be hiding among the Jewish refugees. It was also fueled by the anti-semitic rhetoric of demagogues. Where would the 79 of 80 descendants of my grandmother’s father and uncle be had they been turned away? Where would the 28 descendants of Markus and Bertha be had Harry and Paula been turned away as unaccompanied minors? Where would any of us be if our ancestors were turned away due to irrational fears of the “other”.
Finally I wanted to share the names of other relatives who perished in the Holocaust so their names will live on.
Bertram Polak (Judith’s first cousin) Joachim Hans Sanders (Judith’s first cousin) Bernard Keijzer (Judith’s uncle) Emma Polak-Keijzer (Judith aunt) Albertine Frouwke Keijzer (Judith’s first cousin) Julius Barend Keijzer (Judith’s first cousin)
Siegmund van Cleeff (Judith’s uncle) Jeanette Helena Weiner (Judith’s aunt) Henny van Cleeff (Judith’s first cousin) Albert van Cleeff (Judith’s first cousin)
Other Dutch cousins of varying degrees – James Cats Louisa van Dantzig-Cats Wilhelmina Cats-van Dantzig David van Dantzig Anna van Dantzig Paul van Dantzig Betsy Adele Wiener-Frenkel Salomon Philip Frenkel Reina Polak-Kadiks Joseph Kadiks Rachel Kadiks-Polak Jacqueline Kadiks Rosalie Polak Andries Polak Henriette Polak Arnold Polak Geertrudia Polak-Frenk Michel Polak Meijer de Leeuwe Nathan de Leeuwe Mozes de Leeuwe Andries de Leeuwe
German cousins of varying degrees – Emmy Levy (Alfred’s second cousin) Max Levy (Alfred’s second cousin) Lisolette van Leeuwen (Judith’s third cousin) Hans van Leeuwen (Judith’s third cousin Max van Leeuwen (Alfred’s second cousin) Anna van Leeuwen (Alfred’s second cousin) Helene van Leeuwen (Alfred’s second cousin) Fritz Cohn (Judith’s second cousin
Salomon Isaak Tillinger (Harry’s uncle) Israel Wolf Tillinger (Harry’s uncle) Julia Silver-Tillinger (Harry’s aunt) Charlotte Luisa Tillinger (Harry’s first cousin) Aleksander Tillinger (Harry’s first cousin) Ernestyna Tillinger-Tilllinger (Harry’s Aunt) Israel Chaim Tillinger (Harry’s uncle) Francia/Fanny Tillinger (Harry’s first cousin) Tsvi Seid (Harry’s second cousin) Mendel Kaczer (Markus’ first cousin) Pola Kaczer (Harry’s second cousin) Nechamka Kaczer (Markus’ first cousin) Lionel Kosser (Harry’s second cousin) Eugenia Dzunia Kaczer (Markus’ first cousin) Hirsch Leib Kaczer (Markus’ first cousin) Henryk Krochmal (Markus’ first cousin)
Obviously as a genealogist I have many more names I could add to this list.