Prejzerowicz family papers
The collection documents the Holocaust-era experiences of the Prejzerowicz, originally of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Included is a postcard sent from Niche Prejzerowicz in Częstochowa, Poland, in 1940 to her brother, Josek Prejzerowicz, in Milan, Italy; photographic postcards depicting Berisch, Rachel, Niche, and Sara Prejzerowicz, and other relatives who perished during the Holocaust; and a family book ("Deutsches Einheits Familien Stammbuch") issued to Josek and Erna Prejzerowicz in Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
- Document Creator
- Judith Saperstein
Judith Prejzerowicz was born on March 17, 1934, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the only child of Josek Aron Prejzerowicz and Erna Friedmann Prejzerowicz. The family lived in Frankfurt, and Josek’s large family (he was one of nine children) lived in Częstochowa, Poland, where he was born and raised. Erna was born and raised in Frankfurt. Her father passed away in 1913, and her mother, Miriam, remarried Leo Kempinski in 1920.
In 1937 the Prejzerowicz family received visas to go to the United States. Every time, however, they compiled all of the necessary papers, more were required, and the visas expired before they were able to use them.
In October 1938, the SS came to the Prejzerowicz family’s home at 5AM to arrest Josek because he had been born in Poland. The next day they returned for Erna and Judith who were also told to report to the train station. Erna and Judith boarded the train bound for Poland, and when the train stopped at the German-Polish border, everyone disembarked temporarily. They discovered that Josek had been placed in a different car of the train, and the family was reunited. Together they then traveled to Częstochowa to join Josek’s family.
In the spring of 1939, Josek received permission to return to Germany in order to liquidate his business. He was not required to return to Poland, and instead decided to go to Milan, Italy where Erna’s parents had settled in 1933. Leo Kempinski began going from embassy to embassy trying to get Erna and Judith a visa to South America which required them to travel through Italy. Erna then went to Warsaw, Poland, to convince the Polish government to give them permission to leave the country, which they eventually received. In mid-August 1939, just weeks before the German invasion of Poland, Judith and her mother arrived safely in Milan, briefly stopping in Berlin, Germany, for the night to visit with an aunt and uncle who were subsequently deported and died in a concentration camp.
In August 1940, two months after Italy had entered World War II, arrests of Jews began. Josek was arrested and sent to Ferramonti di Tarsia concentration camp. Immediately after arriving at Ferramonti, Josek contracted malaria and later had a nervous breakdown. After the war, he was admitted to Volterra psychiatric institute where he was confined until his death in April 1975.
Leo and Miriam Kempinski were sent to the village of Spezzano Della Sila in Calabria, Italy. They were allowed to live openly in the village along with other political refugees and Jews who were sent there but were required to register with the police every week.
In March 1943, due to the many bombardments in Milan, Erna sent Judith to Spezzano Della Sila to live with her grandparents. A few months later in July, the Kempinskis were ordered to report to Ferramonti. Miriam did not feel that this was the best place for a child; therefore, she sent Judith back to her mother in Milan escorted by the 16-year-old daughter of their neighbors. Miriam sent a telegram to her daughter about Judith’s return that Erna never received. The overnight train ride to Milan became a three day ordeal because the train was frequently bombarded by American troops. Eventually, Judith was safely reunited with her mother.
Erna’s brothers, Max and Felix Kempinski, were living with them in Milan. One of them had a boss who in October 1943 had witnessed the deportations of Jews in Rome and warned them to leave Italy. Christian friends of Max and Felix found smugglers who would take them across the border into Switzerland. Max and Felix went ahead immediately. One evening, wearing as much as they could so that they would not have to carry much luggage, Erna, Judith, and about eighteen others took a boat across Lake Como. After dark they walked all night. The smugglers were very kind to nine-year-old Judith, and one held her hand the entire way. When they arrived at the border, there were already holes in the fence from army deserters who had preceded them. The smuggler made the sign of the cross over Judith and pushed her through the hole in the fence into Switzerland. Everyone in their group was allowed to stay by the Swiss authorities, except for Erna and Judith who were considered Polish citizens, even though they were both born in Germany. After three days, the Swiss government contacted the Polish government in exile in London, England, who said that Erna and Judith could stay in Switzerland.
At first, they were housed in a hotel with other refugees, but Erna was able to find a job in Vevey, Switzerland, working as a secretary for a refugee organization. Judith attended a Jewish boarding school. Most of the children attending the school were French refugees.
In April 1945, Felix and Max hitchhiked back to Milan where they witnessed the hanging of Mussolini at a gas station. After the war ended in August 1945, Erna and Judith returned to Milan. Miriam and Leo Kempinski were liberated in Ferramonti. In the summer of 1944 they went to Rome and then returned to Milan. When they returned to their apartment, they found that it had been rented but that all of their furniture and possessions had been saved for them. Max and Felix Kempinski (now Kempin) immigrated to the United States in 1947. Erna and Judith immigrated to the United States in March 1948, and Miriam and Leo arrived in February 1956.
- System of Arrangement
- The collection is arranged as a single series.
- Topical Term
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Poland--Częstochowa.
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Judith Saperstein.
- 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.
Record last modified: 2021-11-10 13:39:26
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