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Fred Vendig papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1999.A.0089.1

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    Fred Vendig papers

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    The Fred Vendig papers includes biographical materials, a pocket calendar, correspondence,
    immigration papers, personal narratives, photographs, and printed materials documenting the Vendig
    family’s expropriation by the Nazi government, 1939 voyage aboard the M.S. St. Louis, refuge in
    Belgium, internment in French concentration camps, refuge in Switzerland, and immigration to the United States.
    Biographical materials include birth, marriage, and death certificates; identification papers; and student, citizenship, refugee, and camp papers. The records trace the Vendig family’s precarious citizenship, refugee, internee, and immigrant status through Germany, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, their release from Rivesaltes, and their immigration to the United States. The collection further includes materials documenting Fred Vendig’s uncle, Fritz Vendig, who was killed at Verdun during World War I, and his grandfather, David Vendig, who died in 1930.
    The 1939 pocket calendar was used by Charlotte Vendig as an address book, birthday calendar, account record, notebook, and diary, with a few entries through 1959.
    Correspondence files include photocopies of letters Charlotte Vendig wrote aboard the M.S. St. Louis to her family and original letters she wrote to her family from Aix-en-Provence and Bex; letters Ernst Vendig wrote to his family from internment camps St. Cyprien and Gurs; illustrated notes from Fred Vendig to his family; postcards documenting Ernst and Pauline Vendig’s registration for reparations; and correspondence between Ernst Vendig and Captain Gustav Schröder after the war.
    Immigration papers include correspondence and affidavits documenting the Vendig family’s efforts to immigrate to the United States.
    Personal narratives include English and German versions of Charlotte Vendig’s Holocaust experiences. She describes antisemitism under the Nazis, losing the family business, unsuccessful emigration to Cuba aboard the M.S. St. Louis, refugee life in Belgium and France, internment in Les Milles and Rivesaltes, release, and refuge in Switzerland.
    Photographic materials include four photo albums and eighty eight loose photographs depicting the Vendig family and their journey aboard the M.S. St. Louis. The albums include photographs of Ernst and Charlotte Vendig’s families, prewar life in Germany and on vacation, childhood photographs of Fred and Henry Vendig, and the family’s journey aboard M.S. St. Louis. Loose photographs depict Ernst and Charlotte Vendig’s families, the Vendigs aboard the M.S. St. Louis, fellow passengers after they disembarked in Belgium, Henry Vendig in Brussels, and the Foreign Labor Battalion (GTE) camp in Aubagne.
    Printed materials primarily consist of clippings from German and Swiss newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s and include articles written by Ernst Vendig describing the refugee experience. This series also includes brochures and a history describing the town of Hachenburg as well as a prayer book printed in 1859.
    inclusive:  1859-2002
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Fred Vendig
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Stephanie Vendig
    Collection Creator
    Fred Vendig
    Fritz Dieter Vendig (Fred, 1932-2001) was born in Kaiserslautern, Germany, to Charlotte (née Berstein, 1907-1988) and Ernst Vendig (1899-1956). Ernst was born in Kaiserslautern to Paulina (Lina, née Marx, 1872-1959) and David Vendig (1865-1930). David and Paulina married in January 7, 1894. During World War I, David served for over a year in a German Field Artillery Regiment. Charlotte was born in Hachenburg, to Jenny (née Stern, 1867-1940) and Isaac Bernstein, a cattle dealer. Charlotte had two brothers, Ernst, and Robert, who, with his wife Gertrude left for the United States before the war, and a sister Anne, who married Jules Heim and moved to Zurich, Switzerland. Charlotte and Ernst Vendig married on August 17, 1930. Soon after this, Ernst’s father died following a car accident. They lived with Ernst’s mother Lina. Ernst owned a store which sold ready-to-wear clothing for men and women. Charlotte worked with Ernst in the business. Fritz had one younger brother, Heiner (Henry, 1937-2003).

    On January 30, 1933, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and the Nazi regime passed legislation to disenfranchise the Jewish population. Nazi Party SA members, known as brown shirts, stood guard at the Vendig store entrance to stop customers from entering, as part of a boycott of all Jewish businesses. After three weeks, the threatening crowds lessened, but the news media continued to spread anti-Jewish propaganda. Charlotte wanted to leave Germany, but Ernst and his mother did not. Around this time, Charlotte’s parents went to live with her sister Anne in Zurich. In the summer of 1935, Ernst was arrested while talking to two friends. They were accused of holding a political meeting and held for three weeks. At the end of 1936, Ernst’s business was Aryanized and he was forced to sell the store. The family moved to Berlin, where Ernst had established a clothing factory. Ernst closed the business which was losing money in 1938. Ernst was arrested during the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, and imprisoned in Oranienburg concentration camp. Dr. Hugo Heim, a former Deutsche Bank director and relative by marriage to Fritz’s aunt Anne, secured Ernst’s release after three weeks. Ernst had been beaten and his head shaved. The family prepared to leave Germany. Fritz’s mother had a brother and sister-in-law in the United States, but they had missed the US quota deadline, and sought Paraguayan visas. Then a new law passed, requiring the payment of an exorbitant Jewish tax for wealthy people seeking to emigrate. They could not get passports until that was paid, and by then, their Paraguayan visas expired. They arranged first class passage to Cuba on the ocean liner MS St. Louis. Their furniture and other belongings were shipped ahead to New York.

    Fritz, his parents, brother, and grandmother, Lina, left Hamburg on May 13, 1939, and arrived in Cuba on May 27. Nearly all 937 passengers were Jewish refugees, hoping to escape from Nazi dominated Europe. The plan was to wait in Cuba for permission to enter the US, but Cuban authorities denied entry to all but 28 passengers. Despite urgent pleas to the Cuban and American governments, the refugees were denied permission to enter Cuba or the US and had to return to Europe on June 6. As a member of the ship’s passenger committee, Ernst, along with the other members, worked to resolve this emergency. As a result, Jewish aid organizations convinced four European governments, Belgium, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, to admit the passengers rather than return them to Germany. The Vendig family disembarked in Antwerp, Belgium. In April 1939, the family settled in Brussels, with the aid of the American Joint Distribution Committee. They had no money since they were only allowed to take ten marks with them when they left Germany. Fritz attended school and quickly learned French.

    In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, beginning World War II. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium. That morning, Belgian police arrested Ernst as an enemy alien. Belgium surrendered on May 28. The family’s identification papers were taken and replaced with a passport marked J for Jew. Charlotte tried to get the family to France, as she had promised Ernst. They reached La Panne, but the fighting made it impossible to reach France and they returned to Brussels. Their landlord Mr. Couvrer welcomed them and let them stay, even though they had no money. Fred returned to school. After several months, they received a Red Cross postcard from Ernst. He was in St. Cyprien internment camp, and then Gurs, in southern France. A Dutch couple gave them money to hire a smuggler to take them to France with false papers. They went to Chessneuil. Charlotte contacted Ernst at Les Milles camp, and he was given a short leave. In May 1941, the family settled in Aix-en-Provence in Free France, and Ernst visited one day a week. In August 1942, Ernst was sent to Aubagne work camp. He warned them that the Germans had begun deporting prisoners to concentration camps in the east. Charlotte’s brother, Ernst, his wife Elizabeth, and their children, Franz, 6, and Eva, 5, had already been deported from occupied France. On August 4, 1942, the entire family was interned at Les Milles. Men and women were housed separately. The camp commandant took pity on the family and kept them from four deportation transports. But the next month, they were sent to Rivesaltes camp where transports were loaded for Auschwitz. Ernst found a guard from Les Milles and reminded him they were exempt from deportations, and they were not put on the waiting trains. Then a woman with a Red Cross armband, Charlotte Leuenberger, found Charlotte and told her that her sister, Anne, had sent her to get the family to Zurich. She was also able to secure the release of two friends of the family. They traveled by train from Aix to Evian, and then were smuggled over the border to Switzerland on September 14, 1942. They were confronted by the border police, but were allowed to stay because of the young children and their grandmother, as well as the required paper work from Zurich. They were sent to a refugee camp in Bex, and later moved to Maur. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Charlotte’s brother and his family had perished in the camps. The family immigrated to the United States in 1946. Fritz and Heiner Americanized their names to Fred and Henry. Fred moved to California, and in August 1959 married Stephanie Klakoff (b. 1936).

    Physical Details

    2 boxes
    2 oversize boxes
    1 oversize folder
    System of Arrangement
    The Fred Vendig papers are arranged as seven series: I. Biographical materials, 1907-1964, II. Calendar, 1939-1955, III. Correspondence, approximately 1929-2002, IV. Immigration papers, 1939-1952, V. Personal narratives, approximately 1980, VI. Photographic materials, approximately 1910-1976, VII. Printed materials, 1859-1998

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    The donor, source institution, or a third party has asserted copyright over some or all of the material(s) in this collection. 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

    Fred Vendig donated the Fred Vendig papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by in 1998 and 1999, and his widow, Stephanie Vendig, donated additional material in 2013. The accessions previously cataloged as 1999.317.1 and 2013.486 have been incorporated into this collection.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2023-07-11 10:49:20
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