Wolf Zajac letter
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1939 August 28
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Anna Leist
The letter was written by Wolf Zajac, in Poznań, Poland, on August 28, 1939, to Lydia Zajac (now Kessler) who was in England. A translation in English is also included.
- Document Creator
- Anna Leist
Anna Zajac (later Leist) was born on January 28, 1925, in Mannheim, Germany, to Dora Swierkowska and Wolf Zajac. Dora was born on May 24, 1899, and Wolf was born on May 22, 1893(?), both in Zgierz, Poland, near Lodz. They moved to Mannheim soon after they married and lived there until 1930, when they moved to Berlin. Anna had seven brothers and three sisters, but two brothers died soon after birth. Felix, Samuel, Jacob, born January 1926, Henni, Joseph, and Lydia, born September 24, 1930, were all born in Mannheim. The two youngest, twins Hella and Hermann, were born in 1931 in Berlin.
Wolf was self-employed as a tailor. Following the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship in 1933, Jews were the targets of increasingly harsh persecution. In 1935, Wolf was deported to Posnan, Poland. Dora and the children were to have followed him, but Dora was ill with tuberculosis. Unable to care for the children, she placed all the children, except the two eldest sons, Felix and Samuel, in the Ahawah Children's Home in 1936. The twins were transferred to a different children’s home. Felix and Samuel stayed with Dora, who died on January 5, 1938. At this time, Lydia was transferred to a different orphanage. In April, Samuel left to join their father in Poland. Felix went on Hachsharah in Berlin to prepare to emigrate to Palestine. He was deported on October 28 to Poland and was found near the border by his father. Felix and Samuel then went to Warsaw and joined a Zionist group, hoping to leave for Palestine.
Anna, Henni, Jacob, and Joe lived in the Ahawah orphanage until December 14, 1938, when they left Germany on the second Kindertransport (Children's transport) to Great Britain. After landing in Dovercourt in Harwich, they were taken to an orthodox hostel in London set up in an unused mansion by the West Willesden synagogue in cooperation with B’nai Brith. In January, Jacob, now Jack, was the first Kinderstransport refugee to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in London. Lydia arrived from Germany on August 13, 1939, and was placed with a foster family. When the war began in September, Anna and her siblings in Willesden were separated. Jacob and Joseph were sent to Margate for a short while, then sent back to live in a boy’s hostel in London. Joseph later was sent to Birmingham. Jacob joined the Jewish Brigade, a military unit organized by the British in Palestine. Anna and Henni were evacuated to the countryside. Anna soon returned to London where she lived in a hostel during the Blitz, the heavy months long bombing assault on London. She was bombed out of her lodgings and made homeless twice during this time. She worked in an ammunitions factory and, when she was around eighteen, moved out to live on her own. She had Henni and Joe come live with her. Anna was able to correspond with her father in Poland all these years. She received a letter from her father from Poland, dated August 28, 1939, telling her how happy he was that she was in England, that he missed all of them very much and hoped to join them. After this, there were no more letters. Lydia lived in several foster homes in London and then was sent to the Beacon hostel orphanage.
The twins Hella and Hermann were sent from Berlin to Sweden in 1939, but were sent back because of problems with their papers. The issues were soon resolved and they went to live with a family in Sweden. Felix and Samuel had fled to Vilna (Vilnius, Lithuania) when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, but after eight months, reached Palestine where they joined the British Army. Sometimes during the war, which ended in May 1945, Felix and Samuel were stationed in Naples, Italy. Jacob’s Jewish Brigade unit was also in Naples and, quite by chance, the brothers met for the first time since 1938.
After the war ended in May 1945, Anna learned that her father had been sent to the ghetto in Lublin, Poland, where it is presumed that he perished. Hella remained in Sweden where she eventually married. Hermann decided to join his brothers, Felix and Samuel, in Israel. Samuel later immigrated to the United States. After the Jewish Brigade was disbanded, Jack emigrated to the US in February 1948, with the assistance of his godfather who lived there and submitted an affidavit of support. Anna also was able to go to the US, arriving there on February 22, 1948, where she was welcomed in New York City by her Uncle Nathan, who had submitted an affidavit on her behalf. One year later, Anna made arrangements for Joe, Henni, and Lydia to join her in America. They arrived on July 5, 1949. Henni died on August 25, 1986. Samuel passed away on January 26, 2001. Anna worked for the Hebrew Free Burial Association for over thirty years. Anna, 87, passed away on July 12, 2012.
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The letter was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Anna Leist.
- Conditions on Access
- No restrictions on access
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Record last modified: 2018-10-12 10:18:38
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn514629