A Desperate Letter to Their Son in Sweden

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On 6 November 1941, parents Paul (1886–1943) and Sophie (1893–1943) Berliner wrote a letter to their son, Gert, who was living in Stockholm. A letter full of concern and uncertainty. A letter that unsparingly reveals the parents' situation, but whose words have quite clearly been heavily censored.

"We will write to you every third day"

The context of this censorship is explicit. Two weeks before the letter was written, the first deportation of Jews from Berlin had taken place and in all likelihood, Paul and Sophie Berliner were on the list. "As long as we are still here, we will write to you every third day." Nine days later, they were able to give their son the all-clear for the time being.

Final Sign of Life

In July 1939, shortly before the Second World War broke out, the Berliners had sent their 15-year-old son to Sweden on a children's transport (Kindertransport). This saved his life. They were able to stay in contact by letter over the following months and years, since Sweden was not involved in the war. The last note from Paul and Sophie Berliner was in February 1943.

A Time of Uncertainty

Gert Berliner did not hear of his parents' fate for some time. A postcard with an addressed reply card that he himself had sent to Theresienstadt in April 1944 was returned to him with the endorsement "Only standard mail permitted." Paul and Sophie Berliner had already been deported the previous year, in May 1943, from Berlin to Auschwitz where they had been murdered.

Emigration to the US

In 1947, Gert Berliner emigrated from Sweden to the US. He became a painter, filmmaker, and photographer.

(9) Selected Objects from the Archive Alle anzeigen

Selected Objects from the Archive

Adoption contract Gloeden and Loevy

Even a Jewish-sounding name could be cause for discrimination. So the siblings Erich and Ursula Loevy chose to be adopted by Bernhard Gloeden, a grammar school teacher and family friend.

A desperate letter to their son in Sweden

"As long as we are still here, we will write to you every third day," wrote Paul and Sophie Berliner to their son, Gert, who was living in Stockholm, on 6 November 1941.

Martin Riesenburger’s Service Card

A provisional document from February 1953 certified that Martin Riesenburger was a rabbi responsible for pastoral care in East Berlin prisons.

Index cards from the British Army

Thousands of German emigrants fought against Germany in the British Army during the Second World War. In case of capture, they had to change their names, as these index cards document.

Frieda Neuber's Leather Pouch

Shortly before being deported to Theresienstadt, Frieder Neuber gave this leather pouch to her niece. The letters inside it document her desperate attempts to leave the country.

Memmelsdorf Genizah

In February 2002, workers renovating a house discovered a burlap sack filled with papers and personal items when they opened up a section of the ceiling. The house had been owned by Jews from 1775 to 1939.

Red Cross Letter to Emmy Warschauer

After the outbreak of the Second World War, the aid organization’s message service gave emigrants a way to contact relatives in Germany. That’s how Emmy Warschauer received confirmation that her daughter was alive.

Letter of Protection for the Jews of Ichenhausen

Until the nineteenth century, the residence and trading rights of Jews in the German territories were defined in letters of protection (Schutzbriefe), which had to be purchased.

Journeyman’s Book Belonging to the Shoemaker Leopold Willstätter

Leopold Willstätter traveled around southwest Germany and France as a journeyman from 1836 to 1843. The journeyman's book with a precise description of him also served as a form of identification.


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