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Translation of an article in Yated Neeman newspaper on 1/3/13 about the Azkara: KADDISH AFTER 70 YEARS by Shmuel Greenwald (Translated

by Anne Klausner & edited by David Prager) Seventy years have passed since the 6th Adar 5703 (1943), and now the extended family of the uncle the son Uri Strauss Hyd have gathered for the siyum of the Masechta which has been learned in his memory and to mark the day of his martyrdom at the hands of the accursed Nazis, together with his two older brothers in the Sobibor concentration camp. 70 years, such a long period of time, in which family members worked hard to try and unravel the mystery behind the tragic story. For many years the possibility had been considered that maybe he was alive and living somewhere in a foreign country without anyone knowing about his existence. David Prager, Uris nephew, is the person who, about 7 years ago, set out on the long winding journey during which he managed, with the aid of friends and historians, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to locate pieces of information which he cleverly and persistently wove together to write the story of the life and death of his uncle. He delved in museums and various archives, assisted by his cousin (Noam Corb) who learned German for this purpose (DP: not quite true), and working together, through meticulous and exhausting work they succeeded in putting together the pieces of the puzzle until they held the fascinating and (almost) complete picture. *********** The amount of time that passed since David began his journey, together with the amazing technological changes that have taken place in the field of archiving and information storage, made available many materials that until then had been hidden in sealed and guarded archives. Every day that passed brought new discoveries: more and more documents were scanned and uploaded to various museums. Thus he discovered, for example, with the aid of the Dutch Red Cross, the list of the passengers on the train transports during the war years. His frequent visits to Yad Vashem revealed information that led him to make contact with two amateur historians, residents of the Michelstadt region, German non-Jews in their 60s. One of them published a diary that was written during the years of the Shoah by a young girl from Michelstadt by the name of Doris Katz. In the diary, written in German, there appear details of her Jewish Studies teacher, Reb Yehuda (Leopold) Strauss. In answer to the question why these non-Jews were so determined to invest their time and efforts on this subject, one answered that after so many years in which they lived a lie, during which their parents or grandparents generation denied their Nazi pasts, they took it upon themselves as a mission to bring the truth to light. They feel this is a kind of atonement for what their parents did. They have dedicated their lives to this


purpose, publishing articles on the subject of the Shoah, sometimes arousing hostility from their surroundings. Furthermore, the Michelstadt Municipality is currently working on a book, one of a series of such books, bound in yellow, which will be published PG on the anniversary of the end of the war in May 2013, and will deal with the lives of the Jews of the town in the years preceding the war. This is how the other historian found his way to us. ***************** The Jewish Ghetto (Judengasse) museum in Frankfurt lies opposite the main city square, where the Great Synagogue stood - the Bernerplatz shul, which could hold about 5,000 worshippers on a regular Shabbat. A few years after the end of the war, the regional council decided to build the offices of the local National Insurance near this holy ground. When the foundations were dug, layers of antiquities witness to over 600 years of Jewish life were discovered. Today, the museum occupies a small corner of that huge building, situated about 200 yards from the Old Cemetery where the Pnei Yehoshua and other great sages are buried, starting from about 800 years ago. Sadly there is not much left from that ancient cemetery, which holds mainly broken gravestones. However, a wall has been built around the cemetery, around 2 km in length, embedded with little stones about 6 x 6 cm (2 x2 in.), 17,000 stones in all, arranged one after another in alphabetical order, each stone carrying the name of one of the victims of the Holocaust who came from Frankfurt. Amongst these names are the three Strauss brothers. The year 1939, Kristallnacht, The town of Michelstadt Germany: It is a small picturesque town in the middle of Germany, not far from the big city of Frankfurt. The origins of the local Jewish community date back about 350 years. As typified by the Wandering Jew of Europe, small groups of families from central Germany, Prague and other places arrived and settled in Michelstadt. The Jews worked in trade and a few in agriculture, and built a well-organized community with a synagogue, mikve and Talmud Torah. Relations with their non-Jewish neighbours were reasonable, and besides a few odd clashes, life continued peacefully. The Synagogue which was used by the entire community was built in the year 5551 (1791) and was used by the worshippers until their final expulsion in 5702 (1942). The shul survived the Shoah and was not damaged even on Kristallnacht in 1938, not because of the good-heartedness of the locals, G-d forbid, but because it was built of wood which would make the neighbouring houses go up in flames too. However they did break the windows and destroy its contents. There are those who ascribe the survival of the shul to the Rabbi of the town who is buried in the nearby cemetery, known as the Baal Shem of Michelstadt, Rabbi


Yizchak Aryeh Wormser ztl, known as Zekel Leib, who had a permanent seat in the shul which is still in place today. The grave of the Baal Shem, who died on 4th Tishrei 5608 (1848) is recognized as a place of worship for Jews from all over the world; but also many non-Jews believe in the power of the man who was known during his lifetime as a miracle-worker.. They visit his grave and even leave notes in which they write their requests. The local dignitaries of the picturesque and ancient town also believe in the potential power of the grave-site, especially the tourist and economic value, and make sure to maintain the place. From a distance of 50 km away one can already see signs along the motorway directing one to the grave-site. ************ Reb Yehuda Strauss, one of the sons of Reb David Strauss of Frankfurt, was educated in Batei Midrash in his town, where he learned teaching, shechita, and Bris Mila. When he finished his studies he found work in the nearby community of Michelstadt where he raised his family together with his wife Daja nee Rosemann, around the year 1931. Family Rosemann originated in the city of Hamburg. Mrs. Strauss father served as the head Shamash (Beadle) of the Great Synagogue in the city, continuing his family tradition of serving the community beginning back in 5626 (1866). As loyal citizens of the state, some members of the family enlisted in the Kaisers army and some even took active part in the First World War. Dajas uncle Michael Rosemann would tell the story that during direct attacks on the trenches of the enemy the French and others many Jewish soldiers chose to avoid following orders when it was clear that there were Jewish soldiers on the other side. He also recounted how, during charges, he and his friends would shout Jewish words like Shema Yisrael, Kaddish or Minyan in the hope that their brothers on the other side would hear and escape. In this connection he would tell a famous joke about soldiers in a fighting unit in WWI, who were ordered to bring a captive from the other side, and whoever succeeded would receive a long furlough. Amazingly only one Jewish soldier managed to do this, bringing a new captive every day. Explaining to his commander how he succeeded, the Jewish solder replied: I go to the other sides positions, shout 10th man for a minyan (minimum quorum needed for communal prayers)! and immediately one of the Jewish soldiers joins me... ************ While they lived in Michelstadt, the Strauss couple had three boys and two girls: sons David Hyd, Elchanan Hyd, Uri HyD, and daughters Judith and Miriam (.)" When the Nazis came to power in 1933 ill winds began to blow, and the once calm atmosphere, along with the cordial relations with the non-Jewish neighbours, began to change. The new situation led most of the community to abandon the town for the


safety of the big city of Frankfurt where the situation was less severe. The Strauss family, Reb Yehuda and his wife and 5 children, joined them in 1936, and there the 6th child, their daughter Eva ( )"was born. Another reason for their quick departure was an unfounded allegation and announcement published in a local newspaper by the head of the Michelstadt Nazi party, a man by the name of Fischer, about the alleged sexual abuse by R Yehuda, of a local woman. ************* With the outbreak of violence on Kristallnacht in 1938 arrangements began to be made, both publicly and in secret, and even at the request of the regime, to escape from Germany. Along with all the false arrests of many members of the Jewish community, R Yehuda was also arrested and sent to the Buchenwald camp. After about a month he was released and allowed home on the express condition that he leave Germany within 30 days. *********** As a first step in countering the evil, the Jewish community began organizing groups of children to leave Germany, the main destinations being Holland and England. Great endeavours were made in order to obtain residence visas for the children. The government of Holland agreed to receive some of the children as long as the Jewish communities in Amsterdam and the Hague took responsibility for supplying all the needs of the children. England was the preferred destination, the advantage being both its geographical distance from Germany and its being Germanys adversary. However the British authorities created many obstacles, and allowed entry only to those who had family living there. Mr. Herman Rosemann, Mrs. Daja Strausss brother, had (with Heavenly hashgacha - providence) arrived in London, England in the 1930s in order to study mechanical engineering. He had left on the day that the Nazis came to power: he voted against them and then left the country, moving to England where he received citizenship. This was what enabled him to take part in saving dozens of Jewish children and adults through family connections which he presented to the British authorities. Mr. Hermann Rosemann later merited to make Aliya and to become a member of the Mekor Chaim shul in Petach Tikva until he passed away several years ago. This dedicated brother made huge efforts in order to obtain an entry visa for his brother-in-law R Yehuda Strauss who had only 30 days to leave Germany. Still while he was in Buchenwald R Yehuda and his wife decided that their 3 sons, David, Elchanan and Uri would join the groups of children leaving the country in a rescue mission by train the Kindertransport.


Thousands of children were moved from late 1938 to Holland. David, Elchanan and Uri were taken in by family Levison in The Hague. One witness account tells us that the first group of children, including the Strauss brothers, was welcomed by the Queen of Holland herself, who put the operation under her supervision. One of the daughters, Judith, (Davids mother) who had received a visa too was supposed to have been with this group, but when the train arrived at the Dutch border, her mother had second thoughts and decided that she would take her back home with her a fateful decision that saved the daughters life. Mrs. Strauss returned to her hometown of Hamburg where she waited with her 3 daughters until the visas to England arrived from London. This was because the eldest daughter Judith, as mentioned above, had been initially registered to travel to Holland, and changing this required lots of bureaucracy; it took another 2 months until the German Exit and English Entrance visas arrived, enabling the family to (partially) reunite. *************** At this stage the family was unwillingly split: the sons were in Holland with family Levison, and the parents and daughters were in England, missing them and waiting eagerly and impatiently until they could join up once more. This opportunity arose at one point when a small limited window of time opened (between Spring 1939 and the outbreak of WWII in September 1939) in which it was possible to bring children over with the help of Machers (Agents/Middlemen) who demanded large sums of money. The money was raised from good Jews in England and it was handed over to these Machers. The preparations were completed, everything was going according to plan and the long-awaited day arrived. The parents arrived at the train station; any minute now, they were sure, they would be embracing their three sons after such a long time missing them. The train stopped, three children alighted from it accompanied by a government clerk. He directed them towards Mrs. Strauss. She spotted them, went towards them and hugged them closely as if they were her children. Their name was indeed Strauss but these were not her children! It was immediately clear to her that even though she doubted she would ever get to embrace her own children again, if she did not hug these children to her as if they were her own, their own fate would be in great doubt too. Indeed, it is about people like her that we say Who is like unto Your people Israel!. ! **************


When the Germans invaded Holland (most of whose residents cooperated with the Nazis) life became much harsher. The Jews were forced to wear the yellow star, they had to pay monetary fines, and many limitations on their movements were enforced throughout Holland. In the summer of 1942 most of the Jews of the Hague were expelled to the Westerbork camp and to other camps, with the Germans being aided by the local Dutch to expose the Jews hiding places. The operation was carried out secretly and with other distractions in order not arouse riots and resistance from the Jews. The Jews were concentrated in a central transit camp near the railway which led to Germany and Poland. At the end of the war it became clear that more than 80% of the Jews of Holland had been murdered in the Shoah, thanks to the cooperation of their non-Jewish neighbours. In the Hague only about 1,200 Jews were left out of 18,000 that lived there before the outbreak of war. ****************** The Westerbork camp lay in north-east Holland. It was set up at the end of 1939 by the Dutch government in order to house Jewish refugees who entered the country illegally. The costs of its building and maintenance were sent to be paid by the Jewish community of Holland. During the years 1942-1944 it was used as a transit camp for Jews who were expelled from Holland to the death camps in eastern Poland. About 100,000 Jews were sent from the camp to the death camps in Poland and Germany. In Nisan (April) 1945 the camp was liberated by the Allies, at which time there were 876 survivors. The German commander of the camp was sentenced at Nuremberg to 10 years imprisonment. ************** As mentioned above, the three Strauss brothers, David, Elchanan and Uri were sent with groups of children to Holland where they stayed for about three years with various foster families. A young (childless) couple, Yitzchak and Rosalie Lange, kept an eye on their needs and welfare. Yitzchak was a native of Frankfurt, his father Reuven had apparently been friendly with R Yehuda Strauss. This couple tried all they could to make life as pleasant as possible for these children in a foreign land, far from their parents. Every few months, until the outbreak of war when postal services between England and Holland ceased, postcards and letters from the boys would arrive in England, in


which they would send regards and recount how they were feeling well and being looked after by foster families who took good care of them. ************** As mentioned above, in the summer of 1942 the expulsion of the Jews of the Hague began and they were required to arrive at Westerbork. However not everyone presented themselves. The Germans, with the cooperation of the Dutch, began making arrests according to address lists, and transferred many more to the camp. Two of the Strauss brothers, David and Elchanan, arrived at the Westerbork camp in Elul 5702 (October 1942). Their brother Uri did not arrive with them because apparently he was hidden with a family in a village near the Hague. David and Elchanan stayed in the camp for about 6 months. A long time afterwards, survivors of the concentration camp recounted how they knew nothing about the fate of those leaving the camp on their way to the death camps in Poland. This was for a simple reason: when we got on the train, the Germans gave out postcards to the passengers and forced them to write that everything is fine and that they are travelling eastwards to the Russian or Polish border. Indeed, when they disembarked from the trains at the gates of the Sobibor death camp, the postcards and letters were taken from them and loaded onto boxes on the train returning to Westerbork, where the residents would read the letters written by their friends. However not all the trains passengers bought the story of the postcards. Quite a number of them understood that their fate was sealed, and they chose to tell the real story and then threw the postcards out of the train windows with the hope that they would somehow reach their correct destination. Some of these postcards indeed were found during the war and after. The Sobibor death camp, located in the Lublin region, was one of the camps included in the Reinhardt Operation whose aim was the destruction of the Jews in the region under the control of General Guberman ( ) in Poland. About 250,000 Jews were murdered in the gas chambers which were operated by Soviet tank engines, and their bodies were burnt immediately afterwards. The camp operated from spring 1942 until the autumn of 1944 when it was closed after the famous great escape from the camp, which involved about 600 prisoners of whom only about 60 survived. It should be noted that out of 37,000 people who were sent from Westerbork to Sobibor, only eighteen (18) people survived the war. Fifteen of those were girls who were on the train on which the Strauss children travelled and who had volunteered to serve as nurses in the Westerbork camp. One of them, Mrs. Sofia Engelsman, lives today in the Beit Juliana Retirement Home in Herzliya. In her testimony at Yad


Vashem, she recounts that as a midwife she merited to deliver all 21 of her grandchildren her revenge on the Nazis. *************** At this stage there is an unexpected twist to the story. On the 29th Shvat 5703 (7th March 1943) (we learn after 70 years) it was written that 2 days previously, Uri joined up with his two older brothers after having been rounded up from his hiding place together with his foster family. The three of them were put on board the train to Sobibor with about another 1000 people, men, women and children, 1,005 in all. How happy they all were to meet up at last. The Lange couple wrote this on a postcard that was sent from Westerbork to a family Leibowitz in Switzerland. The date on the postcard was 29th Shvat (7th March 1943). Most of the message was from Mrs. Lange but in between, in poor and confused writing, the brothers added love and kisses to our parents. In fact this is the great discovery that the family found out during the 1960s, apparently after the Leibowitzes died and after Davids grandfather (R Yehuda) had contacted the Red Cross in 1957 to find out about the fate of his sons. The second postcard was written on the train on the 3rd Adar (10th March 1943). The brothers, apparently on the advice of the adults, threw their postcard from the train window. A German citizen who found it, sent it on the same day to the address written on it. Thus the postcard found its way to the Leibowitz family in Zurich, Switzerland only after several years. The Strauss family lived for many years in the hope and assumption that maybe their children were still alive and living somewhere unknown. [DP notes: The above three paragraphs represent the journalists version. All we know for certain is that it took many years for this postcard to arrive in London to the Strauss parents. How it got from the train to them is not known.} *************** On Shabbat 6th Adar 5703 (13th March 1943) the train arrived at Sobibor, as registered in the precise German lists, and on that day the three Strauss brothers, David Hyd (age 12), Elchanan Hyd (age 11) and Uri Hyd (age 10) were put to death. They were killed along with another 37,000 Dutch Jews who were murdered and burnt in the Sobibor death camp. The camp operated until 15th Cheshvan 5704, the day on which, as mentioned above, the prisoners revolted. Immediately afterwards the camp was destroyed in order to erase the evidence of what happened there. Today there are archeological digs being carried out.


******************* After the war, when R Yehuda searched for details about the fate of his sons, he discovered information leading to his two nieces, the daughters of his sister from the Peterson family, who were deposited by their parents in a Belgian convent. He made great efforts to bring them out and they grew up in his house and even got married with his assistance. During the years after war, after making his own calculation, he kept all the days of Sefirat HaOmer (the period between Passover and Pentecost) as estimated memorial days. R Yehuda served as the Chairman of the Shochets (Ritual Slaughterers)Union in London until 1973 when he retired. In 1974 he passed away and is buried in London. ******************** In Elul 5765 (September 2005), David Prager (who is named after his uncle Hyd), the grandson of R Yehuda, and together with his father R Asher (Oskar) Prager, travelled on a roots trip to Germany. The week-long trip took in visits to Michelstadt, Sulzbach, Fuerth and Frankfurt. At the end of the trip, a short while before their flight back to Israel, David and his father entered the museum in the Jewish ghetto (Judengasse) in Frankfurt. There, almost miraculously, they discovered documents originating in Holland, in which the date of the execution of the Jews of Holland was mentioned. With the short time available to them, they quickly riffled through the papers which included the names of those killed, and suddenly the names of the Strauss brothers, David, Elchanan and Uri Hyd popped up, and next to them the date of their martyrdom 6th Adar 5703 (13th March 1943). David finds it difficult to express the huge emotion that swept over them at the time. Here, finally, 63 years later, the circle is closed. From now on we have an exact date on which we can say Kaddish for our uncles. Seven years later, on Sunday 7th Adar 5773 (17th February 2013), the family marked the memorial day with a siyum of Masechet Chulin, which the grandfather (Leopold zl) had learned regularly as a shochet, the tractate having been divided up amongst the entire family, in Israel and abroad. In the second part of the evening there was a screening of new documents which have recently been discovered in Germany and Holland which shed light on the pre-war life of the family in Michelstadt, the life of the boys in Holland, the last days of the boys on their way to Sobibor and in the camp itself. More than 100 descendants of R Yehuda and Daja Strauss took part in the memorial evening, in which happiness and sadness coincided and mingled.


Together they brought to life the words of the verse (Psalms 76:6): In order that the latter generation would know, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn will stand up and recount to their children.

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It is all written in the (Sefer) Torah About the Sefer torah that was written by a Polish refugee, and on the postal connection between two close countries, England and Holland, that was rerouted via an uncle living in distant Uruguay. ************** Rav Mordechai (Gustav) Rosemann, one of the brothers of Mrs. Strauss, emigrated to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he served as the Rabbi until 1951 when he made aliya to Israel and worked as the headmaster of a school in Ashkelon. Uruguay remained neutral during the war, and thus, absurdly, there was a postal connection between the Strausses who lived in England and their sons who lived in nearby Holland via the uncle who lived on the other side of the world. My great grandfather, (says David Prager), the father of my grandfather R Yehuda (Leopold) Strauss who lived in Frankfurt was considered quite a wealthy man the result of the financial crisis affecting Germany between the wars. My greatgrandfather was clever and asked what do people need when there is hyperinflation? and bought cows, and thus lived from the sale of milk and meat, thereby saving his family financially. Around the year 1928 a Polish refugee arrived in Frankfurt and asked to live with him. He asked the refugee how could he pay rent? The man answered, I have no money but I am a sofer (scribe) and I can write you a Sefer Torah. My greatgrandfather agreed. The man indeed stood by his word, but while he was writing the Sefer, during 1929, my great-grandfather died, after which the man finished the Sefer Torah. The writing was completed by the sons and daughters of the great-grandfather on the Sunday of the week of Parshat Vayetze, 6th Kislev 5690 (December 1930) this is according to what is written on the Etz Chaim (the wooden poles of the Torah). This Sefer Torah was lent to Rav Mordechai Rosemann, the brother-in-law of my grandfather R Yehuda Strauss, who travelled in 1939 to Montevideo, Uruguay, since he did not know if there would be a kosher Sefer Torah there. Before he emigrated to Israel in 1951, R Yehuda Strauss sister Jenni Strauss, who ran a boarding house in the town of Cordova in Argentina, asked if she could receive the Sefer Torah on loan, and her brother agreed. After a time, when she retired around the year 1960, she brought the Sefer Torah to London, where it was placed in the Yekkish (Germanic) shul Munks in Golders Green. Some years later, in 1968, when I was barmitzvah, my grandfather gave the Sefer Torah to me as a gift.

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Before I made aliya in Autumn 1987, I went on a pilot trip to Israel in order to look for work and a place to live. It was the exact week in which we read the parsha (portion) Send your people out. I brought the Sefer Torah with me and placed it for safe-keeping in the Yekkish shul in Petach Tikva Mekor Chaim. The Sefer is well kept and is in regular use until this day in the shul, and on the day of the last yahrzeit we merited to read the parsha from it in the company of many family members who gathered from different countries. The 82-year old Sefer Torah carries on its back the story and the many different turns and migrations that my family has taken over the last 80 years. The Polish refugee wrote two Sifrei Torah. When my cousin, who lives today in Canada, was barmitzvah, my grandfather gave him the second Sefer as a gift. Two years ago the Sefer began to crumble and it has now been placed in the Geniza (interred). Thank G-d, the Sefer which is with us in Mekor Chaim, is still in use throughout the year, R David concludes his emotional story of the never-to-be-unravelled chain that unites the Strauss family with the way of the Torah.

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