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John (Hans) Buchsbaum papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2016.437.1

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    John (Hans) Buchsbaum papers

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    Correspondence, documents, photographs, and typescript memoir, of John (Hans) Buchsbaum (1910-1988), originally of Ostrava, Czech Republic, relating primarily to his experiences following his immigration to first Britain, and then the United States in 1939-1941, and to the experiences of his family in Europe during the Holocaust. Includes correspondence from his mother, Clara Buchsbaum, his sister and brother-in-law, Gretel and Hugo Spitzer, and his uncle, Norbert Babad, 1939-1941. Also included are pre-war family photographs, correspondence with tracing services following the war seeking to determine the fate of Buchsbaum's family, biographical documents, and a typescript memoir about his family written by Buchsbaum in 1972.

    The “Biographical” series consists primarily of a memoir, written by John Buchsbaum about his family in the early 1970s, as well as other documents created or collected by Buchsbaum as he sought to document what had happened to various family members during the Holocaust, as well as their pre-war lives in Czechoslovakia. The memoir, started in 1972 and written originally for his daughter Barbara, contains a history of his parents and grandparents, his childhood memories in Ostrava, his university studies and military service in Czechoslovakia during the 1930s and the events leading up to his emigration, and his experiences in England and his eventual immigration to the United States. Material related to Clara Buchsbaum primarily dates from the post-war period, when he was seeking restitution, and material related to the family of his sister, Gretl Spitzer and her husband and daughter, relate to efforts to contact tracing services to determine what had happened to them, as well as his daughter Barbara’s registration of them as victims at Yad Vashem. Also included are pamphlets and essays about the Buchsbaum family, including the catalog for an exhibit in Ostrava in 2015 that, among other topics, highlighted the role of Ignatz Buchsbaum as a publisher and bookseller, and an unidentified essay about Zuzana (Susi) Buchsbaum.

    The “Correspondence” series consists largely of letters sent from Clara Buchsbaum to her son, John, after he had immigrated to Britain, and then to the United States, written mostly while she was in Italy. In addition to reporting what she knew about other family members, what she was experiencing in Italy, and responding to news from John, she also described the experience of planning for emigration and seeking visas and other documents to leave Europe. Additional correspondence from Buchsbaum’s uncle (and his mother’s brother), Norbert Babad, as well as from his sister and brother-in-law, Gretl and Hugo Spitzer, also detail their own efforts to leave Europe, and respond to John’s efforts to help them. Although the original correspondence was largely written in German, the donor (Barbara Buchsbaum Gilford) obtained the help of a native-German speaker, Kerstin White, to translate them, and her translations accompany each letter.

    The “Photographs” series contains largely pre-war photographs of the Buchsbaum, Babad, and Spitzer families in Czechoslovakia, and older portraits of family members from the early 1900s. In addition, there are a couple of folders of photographs, presumably created or collected by John Buchsbaum, during his U.S. Army service in Germany during World War II, and his visit to Czechoslovakia to see his uncle, Norbert Babad, in the immediate post-war period. The latter photographs are not identified, but most appear to depict events around Czech leaders Tomas Masaryk and Edouard Benes.
    inclusive:  1929-2015
    bulk:  1939-1941
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Barbara Buchsbaum Gilford
    Collection Creator
    John Buchsbaum
    John Buchsbaum (1910-1988) was born Hans Buchsbaum on 24 December 1910, in Mährisch-Ostrau (modern day Ostrava, Czech Republic), the son of Ignatz and Clara (née Babad) Buchsbaum. Ignatz Buchsbaum ran a publishing company based in Mährisch-Ostrau, and in addition to Hans, the family had a daughter, Gretl (born 1907). Following his schooling in his hometown, Hans enrolled in Charles University in Prague, and graduated in 1934 with a doctor of jurisprudence degree. After university, he was conscripted into the Czechoslovak army, in which he served for two years, attaining the rank of lieutenant. After leaving the army, however, Hans was forced to return to Ostrava, due to the death of his father in 1936, and he took over the operation of the family publishing business and bookstore.

    Following the German occupation of the Sudetenland in 1938, Hans, his mother, and his sister’s family began to look for ways to emigrate, seeking visas with the help of a cousin in the United States, Benjamin Buchsbaum. Following the German occupation of the remainder of Bohemia and Moravia in early 1939, however, Hans was warned by a Gestapo agent who knew his family that he was in danger and needed to leave Ostrava by the next day, which he did, leaving his mother and sister behind. He travelled to Prague, where he obtained a British visa, and then further onward to the Netherlands and England, arriving there in June 1939. Hans originally settled in Torquay, where some family friends lived, and apprenticed at a leather factory, in order to learn a trade that he could use in the United States. During this time, he learned that his mother had managed to leave occupied Czechoslovakia for Italy, and was allowed to stay there for an extended period of time. Since Italy had not yet declared war on Britain, he began efforts to bring her there, but after the fall of France in 1940 and Italy’s subsequent entry into the war, she was unable to leave. Unable to join the British Army to fight the Germans, Hans—now John—renewed his efforts to immigrate to the United States, moving to London to facilitate this. With the assistance of his cousin, Benjamin Buchsbaum, he eventually obtained a visa and arrived in the United States in February 1941. He went to Philadelphia and lived initially with the family of Ben’s wife, Catherine, whose brother, Jimmy, on the day following John’s arrival, invited him on a double date with the woman who would eventually become John’s wife, Eleanor Sanders. The two married in 1943, and shortly after that, John was inducted into the United States Army, in which he served in military intelligence, eventually being deployed in Britain and in Germany, where he interrogated captured German soldiers, and following the war, he served in Nuremberg at the International Criminal Tribunal, helping translate and prepare documents for the trial.

    Upon returning to the United States, he continued to serve in the Army, initially working in Washington in the analysis of documents from the war, but he also returned to university, studying at Georgetown University, from which he eventually earned a doctorate in history, with his dissertation on the topic of “German Psychological Warfare on the Russian Front in World War II.” He continued to work in military intelligence, being deployed to Germany once again in 1952, and then in a succession of assignments in the United States in the late 1950s. Following his retirement from the Army in the early 1960s, he taught history at Pace College (later Pace University) in New York City and Pleasantville, New York. He retired from the university in 1985, and died in May 1988.

    During World War II, his mother, Clara Buchsbaum fled to Italy, where she lived in San Donato from June 7, 1940 to April 6, 1944. She was taken with a group to Rome on April 6th, imprisoned for one night, and then transferred to the Fossoli Camp near Bologna. She was deported from there on May 16 to Auschwitz where she was killed. Grete Bloch and Grete Berger, two other women with whom she had been sheltered in San Donato, were transported with her and their deaths are recorded as May 23, 1944. It was assumed that Clara was killed the same day, but someone from her hometown of Ostrava, CZ reported to the Municipal Offices in Ostrava after the war that they witnessed Clara being taken to the gas chamber on September 30, 1944.

    John’s sister, Gretl (1907-1942), who had married Hugo Spitzer (1899-1942), with whom she had one daughter, Zuzana (Susi, 1931-1942), remained in Ostrava, and tried unsuccessfully to emigrate. They were deported to Theresienstadt on 30 September 1942, and then a few days later, on 5 October 1942, to Treblinka, where they were murdered. Clara Buchsbaum’s brother, Norbert Babad, survived the war in Czechoslovakia, although he was interned at Theresienstadt and reportedly escaped from a transport bound for Auschwitz, and was hidden for the duration of the war. He remained in Czechoslovakia following the war, living there until his death in 1958.

    Physical Details

    German English Czech
    1 box
    System of Arrangement
    The John (Hans) Buchsbaum papers are arranged in three series, and within each series alphabetically by folder title: I. Biographical, II. Correspondence, III. Photographs.

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Donor holds copyright to the unpublished writings of John Buchsbaum. Unpublished writings of Clara Buchsbaum, Hugo Spitzer, and Gretl Spitzer are in the public domain. Other material 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

    Barbara Buchsbaum Gilford donated the John (Hans) Buchsbaum papers to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2016. Barbara Buchsbaum Gilford is the daugther of John Buchsbaum.
    Record last modified:
    2024-07-01 15:32:55
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