Verblasste Spuren

Obermayer German Jewish History Award 2015 


Thoughts on the Shoah Remembrance Day 2021

MargaretheHansOronowiczIn recent years, I've always posted a photo of myself and the hashtag #WeRemember on Shoah Remembrance Day. I recently received a photo which, from my point of view, should be symbolic for all Shoah victims – especially from the Altenburg County – this year. Why? From my point of view, the photo shows the whole madness of the National Socialist ideology, all the irretrievable loss, the pain.

The photo shows Margarete and Hans Naftali Oronowicz – two happy Altenburg children. Margarete was born in 1930, her brother Hans was born in 1931. They belonged to the loving family of Markus and Regina Oronowicz and had three bigger siblings: Wanda (born 1923), Charlotte (1924) and Leo Nathan (1925). The two siblings, who visbibly got along well, were affectionately known in the family as "Hansel and Gretel". When the National Socialists seized power they had not even reached the age of two or three. They were eight respectively six years old when the family was arrested and interned at home without warning, taken to Leipzig and expelled across the German-Polish border near Beuthen (Bytom) on October 28, 1938. They were back in Altenburg three days later because Poland did not want to accept them. Another ten days later – during the Pogrom Night (“Kristallnacht”) – the father was taken out of bed early in the morning and arrested again. He was only released under the obligation to leave the country promptly. Margarete was nine and Hans was seven years old when the father of the family left the apartment at Pauritzer Strasse 27 to find a safe place to stay in Poland or further east. Little did they know then that it would be the last time they would see their father. And Charlotte also left the family in 1939: She had the chance to get to England on a Kindertransport. On May 5, 1939, Hans and Margarete Oronowicz came to the Jewish children's home in Leipzig – they could no longer even stay with their mother. Wanda worked as a waitress in a Jewish restaurant in Leipzig before she started preparing in 1940 for emigration to the Promised Land in a Hachshara camp. Wanda would never seen again by “Hansel and Gretel” either. Brother Leo also took the opportunity to visit a Hachshara camp around 1940. When Margarete and Hans were released from the Jewish children's home in Leipzig on May 9, 1942 (Margarete was twelve years old at that time, Hans ten), to their Altenburg home they were able to embrace their mother and brother Leo again, though the reason for the returning was no reason to be happy: The following day Regina, Leo, Margarete and Hans Oronowicz were deported to the Belzyce ghetto (Lublin district). Each of them was murdered that same year, maybe even as soon as they arrived. Maybe Hans will have reached his eleventh birthday. Sister Wanda was taken to a labor camp in Paderborn shortly before the family members in Altenburg were deported. On March 2, 1943, she was deported to Auschwitz with 546 other fellow sufferers was and murdered there the following day.

The photo is from Charlotte "Lottie" Gradman (Oronowicz). It is one of the few mementos that she has left from loved ones. Next to her only her father had survived. He had experienced forced labor and fled the camp, went into hiding and was liberated by Soviet troops in 1944. After the war he founded a new family and died very young: in 1955 he passed away. Charlotte Gradman died in Israel in 2009.