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Beruh family correspondence

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2011.137.1

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    Beruh family correspondence

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    The Beruh family correspondence comprises letters written between members of the Beruh family beginning after Gerda and Sonja’s transport to England in 1939 until Gerda and her mother, Nechama were reunited in 1945. The bulk of the letters are written by Gerda to her mother, though many letters include notes from Sonja as well. Three letters to the sisters from their father, Yaakov are also included. A small series of photographs are also included in this collection. Images include Gerda as a teenage girl and two images of groups of children.
    inclusive:  1939-1945
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Gerda Ilan
    Collection Creator
    Gerda Ilan
    The Beruh family consists of Polish born Jews, Nechama Chume (1896-1956) and Yaakov Beruh and their daughters, Gerda Beruh Ilan (1927-) and Sonja Beruh Chain (1928-), born in Vienna, Austria. Nechama, a skilled seamstress, and Yaakov, an accountant, owned their own business in Vienna making threads. As persecution against Jews increased, the family sought to flee the country and after obtaining affidavits from Yaakov’s younger brother in the United States, they applied for visas. The American consulate however, denied the family and told they would have to wait one year because too many Polish citizens had already been granted visas. The family then attempted to flee to Italy, but did not have the money to do so. For this reason, Gerda and Sonja were sent on a Kindertransport to England in January 1939. Shortly after their transport departed, Yaakov was arrested and murdered in Buchenwald.

    Through an arrangement made with a former au pair living in England, Gerda and Sonja stayed with a wealthy family for a short period of time. The girls were then transferred to hostels in Newport and in London. Gerda studied at the technical college in London and graduated in November 1944 when she began to work in an office. Sonja continued with her studies as well and graduated high school. During this time, Nechama attempted to immigrate to Palestine illegally and was deported to Mauritius. She was deported on the SS Patria, which was bombed in the Haifa Bay, killing over two hundred Jewish refugees. Nechama was on the top deck at the time and managed to survive by breaking a port hole and escaping the sinking ship. She was allowed to stay in Haifa on humanitarian grounds, where she settled and obtained work as a seamstress. At the war’s end in 1945, Gerda joined her mother in Palestine. She completed her studies in sociology and in 1954, married Michael Ilan.

    Physical Details

    4 folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Beruh family correspondence is arranged as two series:
    • Series I: Letters, 1939-1945
    • Series II: Photographs, undated

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Received and written by Gerda Beruh (donor) during WWII. Donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2011 by Gerda Ilan.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-08 07:39:43
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