a A

Professor Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg from the United States at the ITS

There are two vital connections with Bad Arolsen in the life of Biology Professor Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg. In 1955, her uncle Kurt came to the small Hessian town and spent two years at the International Tracing Service to oversee the microfilming of documents for Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in Israel; and the director of the ITS, Professor Rebecca Boehling, who, together with co-author Uta Larkey, told the story of her family in their book 'Life and Loss in the Shadow of the Holocaust', published by Cambridge University Press (UK) in 2011. This was a good enough reason for the American academic from Baltimore to visit the ITS.

The 65-year-old told a group of ITS staff about the story of the loss of her grandmother, her great aunt and other relatives in the Holocaust. The sisters Selma and Henriette (Henny) Kaufmann, grandmother and great aunt of Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg, lived outside of Essen (Altenessen) before the Nazis came to power, and owned a small dry goods business, Geschwister Kaufmann. It was one of the oldest Jewish businesses in Alten-Essen and it was hit hard by the boycott on Jewish businesses that the Nazis imposed in 1933.

Selma's daughters, Charlotte (Lotti) and Marianne (Nanna), managed to leave Nazi Germany in time, for Palestine and the U.S., respectively.  Her son Kurt, however, was arrested during the pogrom on the 9th and 10th November 1938, and was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp. In the so-called "Reichskristallnacht", the Nazis put pressure on Jewish citizens throughout the country with the aim to accelerate their expulsion and to "aryanize" Jewish property. During these two days, 26,000 Jewish men were arrested. Even though the majority of detainees had been released by the beginning of 1939, they were badly scarred by the experience. Kurt got out of the concentration camp at the end of 1938, and in early 1939, he and his wife Hanna emigrated to Palestine.

In 1941, the sisters Selma and Henny - 70 and 66 years of age at that time - had to move to Cologne into a so-called 'Jew house.' A few months later, they were deported from the transit camp Cologne-Müngersdorf to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. All the children's efforts to bring their mother and aunt to safety failed.

"The contact between the three children had been very close", remarked ITS visitor Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg, the only daughter of Marianne. Her mother spoke only rarely about the Holocaust, but Professor Ostrand Rosenberg found  innumerable letters left behind that her mother had received from her siblings. "They constantly exchanged information about what was happening in Nazi Germany and how they could possibly support their mother and aunt from abroad. After the end of the Second World War they tried tirelessly to shed light on the fate of their loved ones."

From June 1955 to November 1957, Kurt led a team that microfilmed 20 million pages for the archive in Yad Vashem. During that time he also began researching the whereabouts of his mother and aunt in the ITS archive. His findings confirmed that his mother and aunt had been 'evacuated' to Theresienstadt on the 16 June 1942 and the 26 July 1942, respectively.

During her visit in Bad Arolsen Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg, together with Rebecca Boehling, went to see the house at the address Große Allee 36 where her uncle and his wife Hanna had been living for two years. "I remember his stories about Arolsen only vaguely", she said. "After his mission in Germany he came and visited us in the United States. His health was in bad shape ever since his arrest, and he died shortly after his 60th birthday."

It was characteristic for many families affected by the Holocaust that this time was hardly ever talked about, Suzanne Ostrand-Rosenberg related. "Questions remain unanswered - only in fragments did we find out about the past." After the book on the family history was published in spring 2011, the grandchildren and several great-grandchildren  of Selma and Henny met all together for the first time in Essen. Two 'Stolpersteine', commemorative brass plaques, were installed on the footpath in front of the Geschwister Kaufmann former business premises. "It was incredibly emotional to see my cousins and their children," Professor Ostrand-Rosenberg remembered.