“I have finally found the time“
A folder containing letters, photos and family documents was Franziska Gerstmeier’s motivation to retrace the fate of the family of her deceased husband, Gad Klein. His Jewish grandparents, three aunts and an uncle were murdered or had died in concentration camps. Two children in the Klein family had managed to escape. “My husband’s interest in his ancestors grew when he became ill”, Gerstmeier said. “Now I have finally found the time to trace their lives, so that Stolpersteine (engraved stones) commemorating his family can be laid.”
Josef Mendel Klein lived with Liebi and their children Dorothea, Theodor and Karl in Zwickau. There he owned a sales outlet of the Mitteldeutsche Fahrradwerke, Liebi worked in raw materials trade. Both companies were located in wings of the residential building the Klein family lived in at Mühlgrabenweg 21, later renamed Adolf-Hitler-Ring 165. In January 1942 the family was forced to give up their home which was to be changed into a so-called Judenhaus). It is not clear when exactly they had to sell their property to the Nazis for the ridiculous sum of a few hundred Reichsmark. “There is not a lot of information”, Gerstmeier explains. “My father-in-law, Theodor Klein, was a calm, quiet person who, from what my husband said, was not interested in touching on the past. The only information we have is what we find in the letters and in research done at memorial sites and the ITS.”
In 1934 Theodor Klein married his fiancée Frieda Kohn, from Dresden. Her parents and three sisters fled to Lemberg, Ukraine in 1938 following the so-called “Polenaktion”. In Lemberg they were murdered. Theodor und Frieda Klein had already migrated to Palestine via Prague in 1934. He had received letters from his parents and siblings on a regular basis. These letters from the period 1934 through 1935 provide information on the changing state of events at that time, and the hopes, dreams and worries the family had. Yet some questions remain unanswered. “Why only two of the children looked for a way to safety and not the whole family – there’s no accounting for this – it led to their death.” The documents in the ITS archive confirm that Josef Mendel died on 17 November 1943 in Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Liebi was deported to Ravensbrück. She also died from the consequences of her imprisonment in a concentration camp.
“In order to place ‘Stolpersteine’ I need specific dates and details about the family. I started doing research – and all the information led to the ITS”, Franziska Gerstmeier says. “It’s good that I was here, and that I saw the documents. I’ve made some real progress.”