Margot Singer was born in Berlin, Germany, on February 1, 1922, to Kurt Singer, a musician and neurologist, born on October 11, 1922, in Koblenz, Germany, and Gertrude Horowitz, born in 1885. She had two siblings, Anna Liese, born in June 1919, and Hans, born on December 24, 1922. The family was Jewish but assimilated fully into German culture. It was an intellectual household and the children received musical training. Kurt served in World War I and earned an Iron Cross for his work treating epidemics in a war hospital in France. He returned to Germany and opened his own clinic where he specialized in the treatment of nervous diseases. In 1927, Kurt became the Director of the Berlin Municipal Opera House. He and Gertrude divorced in 1930. Gertrude married Werner Kass and the couple moved to St. Gallen, Switzerland, with Anna Liese and Hans. Margot stayed with Kurt. She was mostly alone but looked after by a group of women. She attended the Furster Bismark Shule.
Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. Margot feared that Kurt would lose his opera position after the Nazi’s rise to power. On April 7, 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed. It maded it illegal for Jewish civil servants to hold public positions and Kurt lost his job. He then co-founded and directed the Judische Kulturbund, a Jewish cultural organization. Margot studied piano at the Academy of Music under Emil Hauser and dance under Gertrude Kraus. She was an active in the Zionist movement youth group, Hashomer Hatzair. In 1938, she decided to go live with her mother in Switzerland. Though she had a “J” for Jew stamped in her passport, she was able to depart by train. Kurt disapproved and did not come to the train station to say good-bye. In October 1938, Kurt received a yearlong appointment to lecture at Harvard University and left for the United States. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. His sister, who lived in the US, pleaded with Kurt to stay, but without a permanent visa, he could not and left for Berlin via the Netherlands in October 1939. He was warned that it was too dangerous to return to Germany and was persuaded to stay in Amsterdam with friends. Margot emigrated to Palestine in 1940, and became Margalit Wachsman. In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Kurt was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in German occupied Czechoslovakia on April 20, 1943. Through the Red Cross, he corresponded with Margot in Palestine. He died from pneumonia on February 7, 1944, at age 58.
Kurt Singer was born on October 11, 1886, in Koblenz, Germany, to Moritz, a rabbi, and Ulla Kurt. Kurt studied medicine and music in Berlin and became a neurologist. He had his own clinic where he specialized in the treatment of nervous diseases. He considered himself an intellectual and an assimilated Jew. In 1912, he founded and conducted the Berliner Aerztechor [Doctors’ Choir]. He served in the German Army in World War I and earned an Iron Cross for his work treating epidemics in a war hospital in France.
After the war, Kurt returned to Berlin. He taught at the Academy of Music, became the music editor for the newspaper Vorwarts, authored books on music and medicine, and contributed valuable research on German folk music and composers. He married Gertrude Horowitz (1885-1957) and the couple had three children: Anna Liese, born in June 1919, Margot, born on February 1, 1922, and Hans, born on December 24, 1922. In 1927, he became the Director of the Berlin Municipal Opera House. He and Gertrude divorced in 1930. Gertrude married Werner Kass and moved to St. Gallen, Switzerland, with Anna Liese and Hans. Margot stayed with Kurt. She remained in school and became an active member of the Zionist movement youth group, Hashomer Hatzair.
Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in 1933. On April 7, 1933, the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed, forbidding Jewish civil servants to hold public positions. Under this law, Kurt lost his job at the opera. Kurt’s former assistant at the opera, Kurt Baumann, drafted a proposal to create a Jewish cultural organization, the Judische Kulturbund, with Kurt as the director. The Kulturbund would “cultivate the artistic and scholarly interests of the Jewish population and provide work for unemployed artists and scholars”. He contacted Kurt and the men recruited the support of prominent Jewish leaders. In April, Kurt met with Hans Hinkel, the Nazi official in charge of Jewish cultural affairs. The two negotiated the following terms: only Jewish plays, performers, and attendees were permitted, and plays could only be reviewed by Jewish critics for Jewish papers. In May, Kurt met with Hermann Goring, Hitler’s newly appointed Minister of the Interior of Prussia. He told Kurt that if he obeyed Hinkel and behaved, there would be no trouble.
In 1936, Kurt Sommerfeld, a musician in the Kulturbund, emigrated to Palestine and joined the newly formed Palestine Orchestra. To retain Kultubund members, Kurt wrote Sommerfeld in 1937 and asked him to help prevent musicians from emigrating. In 1938, Margot decided to go live with her mother in Switzerland. She had a “J” for Jew stamped in her passport but was able to board a train. Kurt disapproved and did not come to the train station to say good-bye.
In October 1938, Kurt received a yearlong appointment to lecture at Harvard University and left for the United States. On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. His sister, who lived in the US, pleaded with Kurt to stay, but without a permanent visa, he left for Berlin via the Netherlands in October. Werner Levy, Kurt’s replacement as Kulturbund director in his absence, met Kurt at the Dutch border. Werner warned him it was too dangerous to return to Germany. Kurt stayed in Amsterdam, Holland, with friends and former Kulturbund members, Professor Salomon and his wife, Paula Lindberg, a famous singer. In May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Kurt tried to obtain a non-quota visa to the US, but failed. He participated in musical activities, including concerts at the Jewish Theatre, established by the Nazis in 1941. In April 1943, Jews were ordered to report to the Jewish Theater for deportation. Professor Salomon and Paula did not go and warned Kurt against it. Kurt went and was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia, on April 20, 1943. Camp conditions were poor, and Kurt, already suffering from heart disease, was hungry, depressed from being separated from family and friends, and became increasingly ill. Through the Red Cross, he corresponded with Margot, who had emigrated to Palestine in 1940, and became Margalit Wachsman. Kurt died from pneumonia on February 7, 1944, in Theresienstadt at age 58.
Clara Asscher-Pinkhof was born on October 25, 1896, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Hermanus Pinkhof, a doctor, and Adele Beer. She had seven siblings, four brothers and two sisters. As a teenager, she wrote nursery rhymes and stories that were published in children’s magazines. She trained as a teacher and taught at a Jewish school. In 1918, she published her first book, a collection of children’s songs, to familiarize children with their Jewish heritage. While working for a Jewish children’s charity, Clara met Abraham Asscher, a young rabbi. The couple married on April 3, 1919.
Abraham was appointed chief rabbi of Groningen. The couple moved to Groningen and quickly had six children: the twins, Elie and Meachem, Yitzchak, Meier, Roza, and Fieke, born in January 1926. During Clara’s pregnancy with Fieke, Abraham became gravely ill. After an unsuccessful surgery, he died on May 10, 1926. The family stayed in Groningen and Clara lectured and taught, wrote for newspapers, and published children’s books. In 1932, her book “On the Shore”, won an award. In November 1939, her sixteen year old daughter, Roza, went to Palestine to work as a nurse.
Germany invaded Holland in May 1940. Clara and Fieke were forced to return to Amsterdam. Meier and Isaac stayed in Groningen. Clara got a job teaching at the Industrial School for Jewish Girls and was required to wear the yellow star of David badge. Elie and Menachem had married and lived in Amsterdam. Elie and his wife, Flory, went into hiding, and Menachem and his wife, Tamar, were deported. Fieke, Meier, and Isaac went into hiding, but Clara did not. She helped care for children sent to the Dutch theater, a collection center where they were held prior to deportation.
On May 26, 1943, Clara was arrested and sent to Westerbork transit camp. She was put on a list of Jewish prisoners to be exchanged for German prisoners of war held in Palestine. While there, she met a four year old Dutch-Polish-Jewish boy named Mindel Fuld and convinced a female SS officer to put the child on the exchange list. Clara was deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on January 11, 1944. She was interned in Sternlager [star camp], a camp reserved for exchange prisoners. In June, Clara and 2221 other prisoners left Bergen-Belsen for Palestine via Vienna, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Syria, and arrived in July. Clara was reunited with Roza and other relatives. Fieke joined them after the war. To earn a living, Clara wrote articles and drew sketches for English publications.
In 1947, Clara and Fieke returned to the Netherlands. The state of Israel was established in 1948. Clara learned and began writing in Hebrew and became a Hebrew teacher. Fieke married Jacob Langer. Clara’s five brothers did not survive the war; Menachem and Isaac were murdered in the camps. Clara married Asher Czaczes in 1958. In 1966, she published her autobiography. In 1967, Asher died. Clara died in Haifa, Israel, on November 25, 1984, at age 88.