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Herman Neudorf papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1994.83.2

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    Herman Neudorf papers

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    The Herman Neudorf papers contain the papers of Herman Neudorf, a former concentration camp prisoner and Holocaust survivor. Documents include papers related to his internment at Kaiserwald and Buchenwald including identification cards and personal testimony. Other documents include identification and passes collected while he was a refugee after liberation, and numerous documents pertaining to his emigration to Paris and later Colombia. Also included are various items relating to relatives including death and marriage certificates.
    inclusive:  1912-1949
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Herman Neudorf
    Collection Creator
    Herman Neudorf
    Hermann David Naidorf was born in Gelsenkirchen (Horst-Emscher) in Westphalia, Germany, on June 3, 1925, the only child of Simon Arie and Frieda Grunewald Naidorf. His father, born February 7, 1899, in Łódź, Poland, Imperial Russia, immigrated to Germany as a young man. His mother was born on April 20, 1894, in Herford, also in Westphalia, where her family had lived for generations. Her brother Siegfried was killed in action during World War I (1914-1918.) Simon and Frieda owned a clothing business. In 1933, the Nazi regime came to power and passed laws to persecute the Jewish population. Around 1937, the Germans began to deport Jews of Polish descent back to Poland. At first they were arresting only men, so Hermann’s father left on October 28, 1938, for Dusseldorf to get papers. That day, the Gestapo took Hermann out of school and deported him and his mother to Poland. The Polish authorities did not want the refugees, who lived in makeshift camps. Hermann and Frida were near Zybąszyń and contacted relatives, who sent them money for train tickets to Łódź. Soon after, Hermann’s paternal grandmother in Łódź died of natural causes. His father Simon came to join them. They sought visas for the United States, but the small Polish quota offered no chance to leave until 1943-44. Around February 1939, Simon and Frieda were permitted to return to Germany to close out their store, although there was not much left as it had been vandalized during Kristallnacht in November 1938. Hermann remained with his aunt in Łódź.

    On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Simon was arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. German troops enter Łódź and Hermann saw Jews beaten, loaded on trucks, and taken away. Soon, the Germans interned the Jews in a ghetto. On June 24, 1940, Hermann escaped to relatives in Konski. His mother got permission for his return and he went back to Gelsenkirchen and they lived in Essen. They got monthly cards from Simon. Frieda was told that if they got visas to leave Germany, Simon would be freed, but there was nowhere they could go. Frieda’s mother died in February 1941. In March, Frida received an urn containing Simon’s ashes, a bill for the return, and a note stating that he died of pulmonary tuberculosis on March 14, 1941.

    On January 27, 1942, Frieda and Hermann were deported to the ghetto in Riga in German occupied Latvia. People were beaten as the train unloaded and Latvians took their belongings. They lived 10 to a vermin infested room with no food. There were frequent selections for mass executions. Hermann unloaded ships 12 hours a day, hoping for food. His mother was a nurse with the Viennese group. They met relatives and friends as Jews were sent there from many places. His uncle Robert was a locksmith for the SS and his aunt Else worked in the lumbermill and got them wood for heat. His uncle Hermann, an electrician, aunt Hedwig, and young son Hans were also there. Hermann learned whatever he could, and became a joiner, electrician, and glazier with the army. He learned some Russian and was able to barter for goods with the Russian workers. Word of the German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943 reached the camp and the Germans reacted with mass executions. His aunt Rose died; cousin Hans died of diphtheria, and Hans' mother Hedwig committed suicide. On December 1, 1943, Hermann and Frieda were transferred to nearby Kaiserwald concentration camp and separated. They sometimes saw each other through the high barbed wire fences. He was given a uniform with big white crosses. He saw his first female SS guards, who were even more vicious then the men. His mother got very ill, but he could not visit. Hermann worked in a military vehicle repair shop. He stole parts that he sold to get food to her and she recovered. On July, 27, 1944, the “camp doctor" came with SS guards to make a selection of the healthy to be saved for work and the rest who would be killed. His aunt Else was sent away as all people over 30 in her area were unwanted. Hermann’s mother was put in the death barrack. Hermann stared at the windows and believed his mother saw him and they said their farewells. He watched until the SS beat him away.

    On August 10, 1944, Hermann was taken by ship to Stutthof concentration camp. On August 15, he was sent to Buchenwald in Germany where he did hard labor in the stone quarry. He was prisoner 82609. In September, he was transferred to Bochum subcamp, and on March 18, 1945, returned to Buchenwald. As Allied forces approached the camp, the inmates were loaded on a train, which was soon disabled by Allied aircraft. The prisoners were forced on a death march. One evening, Herman and a few others snuck away and hid in a field. They could hear combat a few miles away. On April 13, 1945, they were liberated by African American soldiers. Herman was taken back by jeep to the now liberated Buchenwald camp.

    The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7. Hermann’s mother Frieda had been shot in Kaiserwald on July 28, 1944. He went to Gelsenkirchen and Essen, but found no surviving family members. Hermann eventually went to Paris. With the help of Jewish aid agencies and a soldier with the British Army, Jewish Brigade, Raymond Feist, Hermann was able to contact his uncle Adolfo Grunewald in Colombia and went to live with his aunt and uncle. On September 15, 1948, he left for the United States. He Americanized his name to Herman Neudorf. He married fellow survivor Bella Silberman, on June 1, 1952, in Chicago. Bella was born in Nuremberg, Germany, on April 15, 1922, to Moses and Taube Weitz Silberman. She arrived in the US via Brazil on the SS Argentina in May 1949. Herman and Bella settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they raised three sons. The couple eventually moved to Florida. Bella, 83, passed away on July 25, 2005. In 2012, two stolpersteine, memorial stumbling blocks, were placed in Gelsenkirchen-Horst in honor of Simon and Frieda Neudorf. They are also, wrote Herman, “a reminder that racial hatred and intolerance has no place”…” and are stand as “a sign of reconciliation in the heart.”

    Physical Details

    1 box
    System of Arrangement
    The Herman Neudorf papers are arranged as four series:
    •Series 1: Concentration camps and liberation, 1941-1945
    •Series 2: Identification and passes, 1945-1946
    •Series 3: Immigration, 1946-1949
    •Series 4: Relatives, 1912-1945

    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

    The Herman Neudorf papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as a result of three separate donations made by Herman Neudorf in 1994 and 1995. These three donations were given separate accession numbers: 1994.83, 1995.112, and 1995.A.0274. These accessions have since been merged, and can be located under the accession number 1994.83.
    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:
    2023-08-23 15:25:06
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