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Family Stories: Videos of Local Interest

Marion Wimpfheimer

Videos of families who escaped the Holocaust and settled in Ithaca is a project of the Holocaust Education Committee of the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community. Videos were created and produced with assistance from Ithaca College Park Scholars, students at the Park School of Communication.

  • Rose Bethe

    Rose speaks about her experiences as a teenager in Stuttgart in the 1930s, as she was shunned by friends in the classroom, and the laws in Germany changed, requiring her family to flee. She came alone to the U.S. and worked as a ‘scullery maid’ before being admitted to Smith College and continuing her education.

  • Ann Erlich

    Ann Erlich speaks about her life as a child of Holocaust survivors.  Born in a DP camp in Mittenwald, Germany, Ann is the oldest child of a young couple whose large Polish Jewish families were destroyed by the Nazis. 

    Ann explains how, when she was young, her parents did not talk about their past and focused all their energy on making a new life in America.  Their luck in being sponsored by an American soldier, who almost forgot about them when they got off the boat, shows the complete trust that the young refugees had in a kind stranger who eventually became a friend.  Ann tells stories of the network of relationships that were needed just to find a place to live, and the reliance her parents had on her as a young girl who could translate English to Yiddish when they struggled to get settled.  Her story describes the close-knit community of refugee friends that helped each other with every aspect of life in a new country.  It is fascinating to hear how similar her family’s concerns were to new immigrants coming to the U.S. today.  

  • Kurt Gottfried

    Kurt was born in 1929 in Vienna to a family originating in Romania and Poland.   Although he had a doctorate in Chemistry, Kurt's father was unable to find work as a scientist due to anti-Semitism , so started a small company in the apartment building where the family lived,  manufacturing ski-bindings.  Kurt  attended an integrated school on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Summer Palace in Vienna.  After Hitler annexed Austria (the Anschluss, Kurt attended a segregated school in another neighborhood.  He recalls the Kristallnacht as Nazi's rifled through and stole their precious belongings.    Soon after, the family left Vienna by train to Cologne, Germany and paid a smuggler to get them across the Dutch-German border and then to Antwerp in Belgium. They were in Antwerp for about 8 months, while Kurt's father tried to make arrangements to leave Europe.  In August,1939, they were able to leave for Montreal, Canada, where a colleague of Kurt's father, who was in the ski-binding business sponsored them.   Kurt spent the rest of his teenage years in Montreal, and went on to become a world-renowned physicist and human rights activist.

  • Roald Hoffmann

    Roald Hoffmann speaks about the war-time circumstances of his life as a young child in the small town of Złoczów in Eastern Poland.  Born into a happy and loving extended family, he and his parents were imprisoned in a forced labor camp beginning with the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941.  As the risks to their lives became more severe, he and his mother, and several family members found a place to hide in the attic of a school-house in a nearby town.  Roald describes the conditions of the hide-out, and the enormous risks taken on by the school teacher and his wife who hid them.  Ultimately, it was the moral actions of his family’s rescuers that saved their lives.

  • Noemi Kraut

    Noemi Kraut was born in Antwerp, Belgium into a Jewish family of active Zionists who worked in the diamond trade.   After the invasion of Belgium by the Germans in 1940, Noemi’s parents planned their escape from Antwerp to London, England.  They left Antwerp with two small suitcases and young Noemi to the coast of Belgium where they got rides on military trucks crossing into France. Travelling up and down the coast of Belgium and France they were looking for a ship that would take them to England.  Ultimately, an Egyptian sailor took pity on them, and convinced his captain to allow them to board a freighter destined for the U.S..  Noemi and her parents disembarked in England where they lived until the war was over.    

  • Maria Rabb

    Maria is interviewed by her daughter and grand-daughter in Ithaca about her experience as a 10 year old girl whose family hid a Jewish family in their home on the outskirts of Budapest near the end of the war.  Maria's father owned a shoe shop for making custom shoes, and his Jewish employee, Ede Hajos, asked Maria's father to look after his wife, daughters and sister while he was sent to a labor camp.  Maria's mother and aunt took in eight members of the family altogether, and Maria recalls what the conditions were like in their home, as the Germans invaded Hungary in October 1944, and the fascist Arrow Cross party took over the country   Ede Hajos did not return to his family,  but everyone else in his family survived thanks to the courage of Maria's mother and aunt.  In 2011 at the Israeli consulate in New York city, Maria received a Righteous of the Nations award  from Yad Vashem  in recognition of her family's bravery.