Elli Ginsburg – Straussburg Shoah (Holocaust) story.
As told to Yohanan Loeffler on 10/5/2010 and on 3/5/2011, in her nursing home in Hertzelya, Israel.
(Translated from Hebrew by Yohanan Loeffler 23/11/2014).
deportation order to all Jews was published one day
after the Nazi Germany took over Austria in March
family, who lived in Lackenbach TempleGasse street,
had 24 hours to pack all they could carry and leave to
Her father, Shlomo Yitzhak Ginsburg, ran around all day looking for a vehicle that would take them. In the end of the day he found one.
They had to leave their house with most of their belongings behind in Lackenbach and left for Wien.
Elli was a
young child, about 11 years old. She can’t remember
much but eventually they settled in a 3 rooms flat in
Wien that belonged to a single male Jew:
they got 2 of the rooms and shared the kitchen and the bathroom.
later, in January 1939, in a cold and snowy day, her
family arranged for her 18 years old sister Flora to
be smuggled into Switzerland,
where their aunt (her mother’s sister) lived. They paid some guys, who made their living from smuggling people, a huge sum of money.
Elli, who by
then was 12 years old, had the insight that she has
got no choice but to join her sister. She asked her
father, but he would not let her.
Without telling anyone, she packed her pyjamas and a few personal belongings in her school bag and asked her father just to join them on their way to the train station,
where Flora was supposed to take the train to Innsbruck. On their way she tried to persuade him again to let her go with her sister but he refused.
Only in the last minute, in the train station, her father let her go. She did not say good bye to her mother and her brother; she never saw her parents and her brother again.
In the train
they joined a mother with 4 years old boy from the
Blumenthal family who wanted to join the father in
Switzerland. Together they formed a group of four on
their way to Switzerland:
Elli and Flora Ginsburg and the Blumenthal mother and child.
A man was
waiting for them in the Innsbruck train station. He
took them and they walked for a long time; a few times
the guide handed them to someone else.
Eventually they ended up in an official building where all were wearing black uniform, possibly the SS headquarter.
They were placed in a room and were told to wait without further instructions. Once in a while somebody would open the door, look at them and leave.
passed by. They had no idea what is going to happen
and they became more and more stressed. The boy was
spoiled and a crier and the mother was desperate.
They were both a burden from then and on.
waiting and waiting, half dozing, half asleep. The
night passed by and in about 4 o’clock in the morning
the door opened, a man came in and called them to join
He took them out to the cold, dark, empty street and instructed them to walk by themselves straight down the road, and then turn left till the corner of the next block, which they did.
Another man was waiting there; he sent them further away, again by themselves, to the end of a far away street to a meeting place near a fence. Another person was waiting there.
He showed them where to cross the fence through a small gap in the barbed wire. They snicked in one by one, scratching themselves, and made it through the fence.
told to walk all the way to the other side of that
wired land. It was an afforested bushy area; it was
snowy, dark and freezing.
They were exhausted, hungry, shivering and desperate. The mother did not function and Elli had to carry the child on her back the whole way.
It was a
long way to the other side; they started to lose hope
when they reached the fence. Following the
instructions they walked a bit along it until they
found another gap in the fence.
All of a sudden a man got up from the bush. They were sure it is their end, but the guy said in German: “Welcome to Switzerland”!
They could not believe that they made it; but they also knew that it was only half the way, because if the Swiss police will stop them they would be sent back to Austria.
walked with them to the local train station. He
instructed them to “wait till the train to Zurich
He mentioned that somebody will pass them the tickets, and to wait patiently as it will take time. He disappeared.
There they were sitting on a bench waiting, people coming and going around them.
entered the station and they jumped and wanted to
board it. Elli asked somebody in German if this is the
train to Zurich and was told that it was not.
They stayed in the station. They did not want to ask the officials, they were scared that somebody will call the police. Nobody approached them with tickets.
The hours were passing. Then, eventually, a train came into the station and an announcement was made – the train to Zurich.
They were shocked – here they are going to miss the train not having tickets, what will they do?
to argue if to take the risk and board the train or to
Elli said to me that the whole way she, the 12 years old, took command over her sister and the Blumenthal mother, which she did also there and then, in the train station:
Elli decided in the last seconds before the train departed, to board the train! She had the intuition to leave the border train station, just to keep going.
Elli said that she has always been a spoiled girl, and she had no idea and still has no idea where she got the strength, the leadership and the decision making ability.
They made it
into the train and found a vacant cabin. They settled
in and shut the door behind them.
Elli had in mind to get as far as they can away from the Austrian border so if they are caught they may have a chance. The train kept going;
they were frightened, dirty, hungry, tired, losing any hope. They were expecting the conductor any second.
The train kept going. Every movement and footsteps in the corridor would make them scared to death.
All of a
sudden a knock was heard at the door. They were sure
that this is the end. They were desperate.
The door opened, a man stepped in and what he did was the most amazing thing that ever happened to them in their life:
he handed them train tickets, and in seconds turned around and ran away.
They were saved and they survived.
mother Malvina (nee Neufeld) and her brother Avraham
Adolf (Bubi) were deported from Wien to Poland and
survived the war;
but in 1946 tried to smuggle their way to Switzerland, probably via Ukraine, and disappeared, simply vanished. Nobody knows where and when and how they died.
Her father Shlomo Yitzhak was deported from Wien and perished in Buchenwald in 5th of May 1940.
May 2011, Hertzelia, Israel.
The silver artwork were made by her father,, Shlomo Yitzhak Ginsburg הי"ד.
Her father's silver artwork used to decorate
the Lackenbach Synagogue.
Some of them were taken to Israel by Rabbi Krausz.
Shlomo Yitzhak was deported to Buchenwald
where he perished on 5th of May 1940.