On November 9, 1938, my father, Werner Leschziner, 27, was at work at the Handelsbank Ivria in Leipzig. That night, he was dragged out of his rented room at Nordplatz 2 and thrown, together with thousands of other Jews, into the Buchenwald concentration camp. As synagogues burned all over Germany and their decorative stained glass windows crashed to the ground in what would become known as Kristallnacht, his fiancé, my mother, Lotte, rushed home to her parents who lived next door to one of the large shuls on Gerberstrasse. My grandfather worked as a gabbai at the shul.
In 1939, with the help of my mother and Wim Van Leer, my father managed to get out of Buchenwald and make his way to England. My mother followed later that year, before the start of WWII. Neither of their sets of parents was able to escape and they met their fate in Treblinka (my father’s parents) and Auschwitz (my mother’s parents).
My mother’s parents fled ahead of the Nazis to Antwerp and then to France, where they were rounded up and sent to a series of camps near the French Pyrenees. Eventually, in August 1942, they were transported by the French national railroad to Drancy and arrived in Auschwitz on September 11, 1942. Both then in their 50s, they didn’t survive another day.
Just last week, the US State Department proudly announced a new agreement with the French national railroad to pay restitution/ compensation (what words!) to “the survivors and their heirs.”
Wait — survivors? Yes, the agreement ONLY applies to those who survived the deportations; their spouses, the heirs of those survivors AND, incredibly, to those who survived and died AFTER 1948! In other words, the heirs of those, who, like my grandparents, perished in the camps and were transported by the French national railroad to their deaths, no, we are not eligible to claim anything.
According to the NY Jewish Week: “French President Francois Hollande signed it [the agreement] into law July 24, and the $60 million is scheduled to be transferred to the U.S. by Nov. 30. The agreement provides France with “legal peace” from any Holocaust-related litigation involving the French railroad deportations.”
My grandparent’s names, Avraham and Ida Ehrenreich, appear as deportees on the wall of the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris; on the list of Transport #31 from Drancy to Auschwitz compiled by Serge Klarsfeld, and in deportation records at Yad Vashem.
According to Yad Vashem,
A total of some 76,000 Jews from France, most of them from Paris, were deported by train to the East. Most of the deportees were murdered in Auschwitz. Most of the deportations left France from Drancy. Of all the Jews deported from France to the extermination camps in the East, a total of some 2,500 survived.”
Instead of compensating the descendants of the 76,000 who were murdered; those who were deprived of knowing our grandparents and other relatives, the French are getting their “legal peace” in 2015 by throwing crumbs to the heirs of 2,500 survivors.
So on Kristallnacht 2015, I mark not only the fate of those like my father, who endured, but survived Buchenwald, and my grandparents who perished in Treblinka and Auschwitz, but the ongoing injustice and refusal of the guilty nations to acknowledge the suffering and offer up anything resembling meaningful reparations.