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Carl was one of nine children born to Jewish parents living in a village near the Belgian border. When Carl was 26, he married Joanna Falkenstein and they settled down in a house across the street from his father's cattle farm. Carl ran a small general store on the first floor of their home. The couple had two daughters, Margot and Lore.
1933-39: Carl has moved his family to the city of Bielefeld, where he is working for a Jewish relief organization. Requests from this area's Jews to leave Germany have multiplied since a night last November [Kristallnacht] when the Nazis smashed windows of Jewish stores and burned synagogues all over Germany. Unfortunately, the United States and other countries have immigration quotas so that only a fraction of the Jewish refugees can get visas.
1940-44: Carl and his family have been deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia. As a special privilege, they have been sent here rather than to a concentration camp further to the east because Carl earned the German Iron Cross in World War I. Still, the threat of deportation to a camp hangs over them daily, and they are always hungry. Their 15-year-old, Margot, has been assigned to a detail that leaves the ghetto each day to work on a farm: Sometimes she smuggles back vegetables to them by hiding them under her blouse.
In May 1944 Carl was caught stealing food, and he and his family were deported to Auschwitz. Everyone is believed to have perished there except Margot, who survived the war.
As Nazi anti-Jewish policy intensified, Kurt's family decided to leave Germany. Kurt left for the United States in 1937, but his parents were unable to leave before the outbreak of World War II. Kurt's parents were eventually deported to Auschwitz, in German-occupied Poland. In 1942, Kurt joined the United States Army and was trained in military intelligence. In Europe, he interrogated prisoners of war. In May 1945, he took part in the surrender of a village in Czechoslovakia and returned the next day to assist over 100 Jewish women who had been abandoned there during a death march. Kurt's future wife, Gerda, was one of the women in this group.
As prewar antisemitism intensified, Hessy's family fled from Germany to Paris, France. France fell to the German army in June 1940. Hessy's family was smuggled into the "zone libre" (free zone) in southern France. The family received a US visa in 1941, but was unable to leave before the visa expired and could not obtain an extension. In 1942, the family obtained visas to enter Cuba, where they settled before immigrating to the United States in 1949.
Amid intensifying anti-Jewish measures and the 1938 Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom, Johanna's family decided to leave Germany. They obtained visas for Albania, crossed into Italy, and sailed in 1939. They remained in Albania under the Italian occupation and, after Italy surrendered in 1943, under German occupation. The family was liberated after a battle between the Germans and Albanian partisans in December 1944.
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