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Susie & Edit – Third true story from Fleeing Europe
By Sarah Goodman & Hadassa Goldberg
Mother’s sister, Molly, married Siegfried Goldstein in Germany, where their two daughters, Susie and Edit, were born. After Kristallnacht, Siegfried realized that the family had to escape from Europe as soon as possible. He had close business contacts with the Jewish community in Holland, and decided to first evacuate their daughters from Germany to Holland. Siegfried traveled to Holland with the girls, who were ten and eight years old, and placed them in the temporary care of a Dutch Jewish family, with the hope that the family would quickly be reunited.
While the girls were safe in Holland, Molly and Siegfried were closing their business in Germany and trying to get passage and permits for the whole family to Palestine. Susie and Edit received British entry permits to Palestine and tickets to board a Youth Aliyah ship sailing from Holland. The British were allotting visas only for children; therefore, Molly and Siegfried were denied entry passes. With the help of the Jewish Palestine underground movement they received passage on an illegal ship. Their ship was scheduled to leave Germany a few days earlier than their daughters’ ship. They would have preferred to travel together as a family, but the Haganah, which was also active in Holland, convinced them not to do this. Siegfried was promised that the girls' ship would be sailing in a few days and they would soon be reunited with their daughters in Palestine. The illegal ships were unseaworthy, old and dilapidated. They were overcrowded and the British Navy hounded them. The British were constantly on the lookout for illegal immigrants and caught most of the boats before they reached the shores of Palestine. Then they either sent the passengers back to a war-torn Europe, or placed them in detention camps on Cyprus. Since the girls had legal passage to Palestine, Molly and Siegfried were assured that the British would not harm them. Believing this, the parents set sail for Palestine and - miraculously escaping British detection - landed safely.
In May 1940, the Germans invaded Holland. The invasion took place just a day or two before the girls’ scheduled departure, and Susie and Edit found themselves trapped in Holland. Sometime after the Nazi invasion, the Dutch foster family placed the girls in a Jewish orphanage in Holland. At this point, their parents, who were already in Palestine, lost all contact with their daughters. Their father, Siegfried, feeling responsible for his daughters' bitter fate, died in 1941 of a broken heart. Molly was devastated at her double loss of husband and children. Over the ensuing years, the family encouraged her to remarry and build a new family.
The Nazi Gestapo (Secret State Police) systematically rounded up the Jews of Holland and placed them into ghettos. Later they were transported on cattle trains to concentration camps. All the children in the Jewish orphanage, including Susie and Edit, were captured. In spite of the fact that the girls had tickets to board a ship sailing to Palestine and British entry permits, the Nazis refused to release them. Initially, they were sent to Westerbork, a work camp, and placed in the children's compound, 'Stalag 35'. Westerbork was located in Holland near the German border and life there was very harsh and unbearable. The Jews were forced to work long hours in poor conditions and received inadequate food rations. Nine months later, some of the Jewish prisoners, including Susie and Edit, were transferred to the infamous concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen. Life became more unbearable than it had been in Westerbork. Fortunately, Susie was ordered to work in the kitchen, which gave her an opportunity to smuggle food to her sister. Although it was forbidden and punishable by death, she frequently endangered her life by tucking raw carrots into her boots for her sister, Edit.
Five and a half months later, they heard of their imminent release from Bergen-Belsen. They had heard rumors like this before and therefore found it hard to believe. However, this time it was true. They were sent to Palestine in June 1944 as part of a group of 220 children who had British entry certificates. Their release was in exchange for 440 Templar Germans living in Haifa at the time. One of the main reasons the girls were part of this exchange group was that Susie had the foresight not only to preserve their documents but also to constantly remind the authorities of their existence. All the other children with them possessed similar documents.
The children boarded a train, which wound its way through Vienna, Austria; Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Bucharest, Romania and Sofia, Bulgaria. The train trip took approximately ten days. From Bulgaria they traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, and boarded another train, which took them through Lebanon, into Palestine. They passed through Rosh Hanikrah and Acre, and then finally arrived in Haifa. This was the last train from Lebanon to reach Haifa during the war. (This rail line has never been reopened.) By now, Susie and Edit were 16 and 14 years old and had not seen their parents for five and a half years.
One day, the Cuban newspapers reported on the exchange of German Templars for Jewish children. Our parents saw an announcement about this exchange, which also reported the children’s names. They were very excited to note that their nieces, Susie and Edit Goldstein, were listed as part of this group. They immediately sent a telegram to Palestine, to Mother’s sister, Molly, informing her of her daughters’ imminent arrival in Haifa. Words cannot describe the joy and excitement of the family when they heard that the girls were safe and on their way to Palestine.
The Youth Aliyah, overburdened with a huge influx of orphaned Jewish children, automatically dispersed them to various kibbutzim. Uncle Mechel, Molly’s brother-in-law, had a difficult time getting the girls released into their mother's custody. It was necessary to prove that the girls were indeed Molly’s children. Once he succeeded in his mission, the girls were finally reunited with their mother in Haifa after many painful years of separation. The only language they remembered and spoke was Dutch, while their mother, Molly, spoke Hebrew and German, causing them difficulty communicating with each other.
To add to their frustration, when they met their mother, Molly, she greeted them with her new husband, Zvi Zuckerman, at her side. The one thought that had constantly given them strength during their horrible imprisonment was the hope of eventually being reunited with their parents. Now they were faced with the harsh reality of their father’s death and their mother’s remarriage.
In October 1946, two years after their arrival in Palestine, their mother, Molly, tragically died in a car crash. Zvi survived the accident and eventually immigrated to America, where he remarried and lost contact with his stepdaughters.
Sarah: “I remember coming home from school one day when I was ten, and finding Mother weeping broken-heartedly. She had just received news of the untimely death of her sister, Molly. Mother had not seen her sister since they had both fled Germany years before.”
After their mother's death, Susie and Edit were raised with great devotion by our grandparents with the help of Aunt Berta and Uncle Mechel. The two sisters grew up, married and continued living in Haifa. Susie married Yossi Muenster, who was our Father’s first cousin, and they had two children, Bracha and Ishai. Edit married Yaacov Laske and they had three children, Chaya, Moshe and Rami. All of Molly's grandchildren married, had children of their own and are all living in Israel today.
For more articles on Holocaust Jewish History, see our Holocaust Archives
from the August 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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