Oral history interview with Carl Wahren
Carl Wahren, born in 1933 in Norrköping, Sweden, discusses his paternal grandfather, who was a secular Jew from an old Swedish-Jewish family; his maternal grandparents, who were not Jewish; growing up in a wealthy bourgeois family; experiencing antisemitism a few times in connection to birthday parties; taking piano lessons from Peter Freudentahl’s mother; his family’s efforts to help Jewish refugees during the war; his family hosting a Finnish child during the war; and writing an anti-Nazi song with his friends.
Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
- Carl Wahren
- Carolyn Östberg
2018 March 26
1 digital file : MP4.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
Record last modified: 2021-02-16 15:53:43
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn616243
Also in Oral history interviews of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Swedish Witnesses project
Oral history interviews of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Swedish Witnesses project
Birgit Blideman, born in 1925 in Malmö, Sweden, describes her grandmother, who emigrated came from Russia in the 19th century to Lund, Sweden; her grandparents' house in the Nöden area of Lund, where her grandfather also owned an antique store; her father, who was a traveling merchant; her mother, who was strictly Kosher on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; having a large meal on Friday and a nice dinner on Saturday; attending a Cheder (Jewish school) and being very interested in her studies; suffering antisemitism at a secular school; socializing with other Swedish Jews in Malmö; a girl, named Rita, who lived with her family while Hitler was in power in Germany; the occupation of Denmark in April 1940 and many Danish Jews fleeing to Malmö; meeting Jewish refugees through the Jewish Union and the Jewish student club; the Jewish social activities in the city; survivors arriving on white buses after the war; her father searching for a man named Seligsohn amongst the survivors and not finding him; working with the survivors from May to November 1945; getting married to Erwin Leiser when she was 20 years old; the public perception of the survivors in Sweden; her commitment to the Jewish state.
Helen Wieder, born on April 10, 1929 in Călinești in Maramureș County, Romania, describes being the oldest of six siblings; her father Herman Wieder, who was a blacksmith and mechanic and had his own forge; her mother Dora Dikker, who was a housewife; the northern part of Transylvania becoming Hungarian in August 1940; her father being called into the Hungarian army in 1940 (she assumes he was part of one of the labor battalions); her family's economic difficulties; learning to weave rugs from a Christian neighbor in order to sell carpets and support the family (this Christian neighbor offered to hide her when Helen's family was going to be deported, but Helen did not want to stay without her family); the Jewish religious practices in her household; the numerous Jewish families living in their area; antisemitism expressed by some of the Christians in the town; the deportation of Jewish residents in May 1944; arriving in Auschwitz at age 13 and being separated from her mother and her sisters; never seeing them again; going to a work camp, where she worked in an ammunition factory; her memories of liberation from Bergen-Belsen in April 1945; remaining in the camp until the first week of July 1945; arriving on July 8, 1945 by ship ( "Rönnskär") from Lübeck to Malmö, Sweden; being one of 10,000 refugees that Sweden accepted to receive; being quarantined and then convalescing in a sanatorium; going to Västerås, where she got work at ASEA (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget) in the workshop; not receiving further education; getting married to Raffaele Fronda, who was from Italy; not knowing any Jewish families who lived in Västerås before the survivors arrived; the survivors founding the Jewish association in Västerås; and not practicing Judaism since she moved to Sweden because she felt she needed her family to do so.
Rosa Koklin, born in 1920 in Stockholm, Sweden, describes her family; having an older sister and a younger brother; her family's emigration from Riga, Latvia in the 1910s; her father, who was a wholesaler of fur products; spending the summers in Riga by the sea; her parents speaking Russian at home and not understanding it; identifying as Swedish while her parents continued to identify as Russian; attending synagogue on Saturdays but not being very religious; attending the religious school of the parish twice a week preparing for confirmation; growing up in the Norrmalm district in Stockholm's inner city; not experiencing antisemitism in school; being aware of the beginning of the war; family members in Latvia and Berlin arriving in Stockholm and living with her family; meeting her husband, Charles, who moved from Norway to Sweden, at a meeting for the SJUF (Scandinavian Jewish Youth Association); getting married in 1943; the deportation of Jews from Norway; learning about the Holocaust from the newspapers; meeting survivors after 1945 in the Jewish associations that she was part of; and how she feels grateful that she was born in Sweden and escaped the Holocaust.
Inger Josephson, born in 1928 in Stockholm, Sweden, describes her parents, Gunnar Josephson and Maud Ellen Gabrielle Boheman; being the youngest of four siblings (she had three brothers, Åke, Carl, and Erland); her maternal grandmother who was Jewish; her father, who was the CEO of Sandberg's Bookstore in Stockholm; her father's role from 1937 to 1962 as the chairman and leader of the Mosaic Assembly (which is what the Jewish Assembly in Stockholm was called); her father's involvement in the community's relief work for Europe's Jews during the period 1933-1945; her father's brother, Ragnar, who was a professor of art history, a member of the Swedish Academy, and at one time director of the Dramatic Theater; her family belonging to Stockholm's Jewish bourgeoisie as well as the Swedish cultural elite; not attending the synagogue as a family and not celebrating Jewish holidays; having a Christmas tree; not experiencing antisemitism; hosting a German Jewish girl during the war, which Inger did not appreciate as a teenager; feeling guilty later about how she treated this woman when they were young; her memories of Kristallnacht; how the stress of the war has stayed with her; going to Paris, France in 1949 and working as a social worker for a year; meeting many Holocaust survivors; and living with 30 other students from around the world as they helped with the refugee relief efforts in Paris.
Eva Cohn, born in 1929 (some of her personal documents say 1927 because she had previously decided to pretend to be two years older to work), describes growing up in Kal, Hungary; her father, who exported fruit and vegetables; her parents, Samuel and Ethel Kallus; her three brothers (Bela, Miklos, and Tibor) and three sisters; living a traditional Jewish life in a small rural community; her brothers having to all enroll in the Hungarian Army in 1943 and carrying out forced labor behind the German lines at the Russian front (all three survived the war); the move of her two oldest sisters, Jolan and Ersebet, to Budapest in the spring of 1944 (Ersebet died in Bergen-Belsen and Jolan survived); being deported to Auschwitz with her parents and her youngest sister, Mira; being the only one chosen for work, while the others were murdered immediately upon arrival; living in the children's barrack for three months; being transferred to slave labor in a factory in northern Germany; working to assemble radio transmitters; the evacuation of the factory into a salt mine; being liberated in spring 1945; going to Denmark with one of the White Red Cross buses; going to Malmö and then to Osby; being quarantined with a hundred other girls for about a month; Hungary's ambassador to Sweden recruiting a famous, former dancer Bea Lajtai to help the girls with the Swedish language; befriending Bea Lajtai; getting married in 1948 to Franz Cohn; studying various subjects and taking student exams; identifying as Swedish; going to the synagogue for holidays; and the importance to her of having a daughter.
Ester Rytz (née Grynwald), born in 1927 in Łódź, Poland, describes her family, including her five siblings; her family being forced to move to the Łódź ghetto in 1940; living with sixteen people in a small apartment; her work making German uniforms; being deported to Auschwitz with her sister, brother-in-law, and little brother; being separated from her brother-in-law and little brother; being sent with her sister to a labor camp; eventually being sent to Bergen-Belsen; being liberated from the camp by British troops in April 1945, at which time she was near death; remaining in the camp for a few months; being transported to Lübeck, Germany, where she was received by the Red Cross; being sent on the ship "Rönnskär"; arriving in Malmö, Sweden on July 11, 1945 with her eleven-year-old sister; gathering at the Linnaeus School for three weeks; the reactions they received from people in Sweden, who were shocked by their physical states; her work in Uddevalla, Sweden as a seamstress; living in a hotel with other survivors and receiving coupons to eat at restaurants; moving to Borås, Sweden after her older sister moved there; working with women's clothing along with other survivors; working for Algot for a short while and then Oscar Jacobsson; getting married in the 1950s to Léon Rytz; starting her own design company; visiting Israel and feeling at home there; telling her children about her experiences during the Holocaust; attending synagogue and celebrating Jewish holidays; the importance of her Jewish identity to her; returning to Łódź once and not enjoying the trip; and her reflections on what is happening in contemporary Sweden.
Leon Rytz, born in 1927 in Warsaw, Poland, describes his mother and aunt who imported tea and sold it to local businesses; living in the Warsaw ghetto with his family during the war; being taken by the Nazis one day in 1942 and never seeing his family again; being taken to "Umschlagplatz" and then Majdanek; building barracks for a few months; being transported to Treblinka and escaping during the journey; joining a partisan group in the forest; participating in several raids; escaping the partisans because they began killing the Jewish members; going to Warsaw in 1943 and seeing the city in flames; being captured by the Nazis and sent to the labor camp Skarzysko-Kamienna, where he produced war materials; being sentenced to execution after a failed escape attempt and being saved by a lady unknown to him who said that she had a diamond in her shoes that they would have if they let her brother live; the evacuation of the camp to Czestochowa; being sent to Buchenwald then Dora-Nordhausen, where he remained until February or March 1945; the evacuation of the camp and being sent to Bergen-Belsen; escaping from Bergen-Belsen with Russian prisoners; being picked up by American troops and taken to a camp in Farsleben, Germany; being relocated to a settlement between Hamburg and Lübeck; meeting a Swedish nurse who smuggled him on a boat to Sweden; being quarantined in Helsingborg for three weeks; living on a kibbutz with other young Jewish refugees; going to Borås, Sweden, where he lived for most of his life after the war; studying at the textile institute; getting a job at the Oscar Jacobson factory; starting his own company, producing children's clothing; how the majority of Jewish survivors living in Borås worked in the textile industry following the war; the importance of meeting with other survivors of the Holocaust; the effects of the war on the maturity levels of the youths who survived it; meeting his wife, Edit, when he was 20 years old; the life they built together; the psychological remainders of the war; the importance of tending to democracy and maintaining Jewish traditions; and contributing to the building of a synagogue in Borås.
Börje Eliasson, born in 1927 in Stockholm, Sweden, describes his family; the family's large apartment and houseboat; his two sisters, one of whom was much older; his mother, who was born in Stockholm; his maternal grandmother, who grew up in Sundsvall, Sweden, where her father was a teacher and butcher; his maternal grandparents' move to Sthlm; his paternal grandparents, who arrived in Lund in the 1880s; growing up in a very religious, Orthodox family, originally from Poland; the family's original Polish name, Bashewsky, which they changed to Eliasson; attending the synagogue on Warendorfsgatan; attending the religious school of the Jewish Assembly; having a bar mitzvah and being confirmed; having some non-Jewish friends; being part of the scouts; participating in Jewish associations, including being involved in the SJUF (Skandinavisk Judiska Ungdoms Förening), where he was the editor of the association magazine; his great commitment to Rodef Chesed; his family's discussion on Nazism and what was happening in Germany; his parents and grandparents being very engaged in the war; his experiences with antisemitism at school; the occupation of Denmark and Norway in 1940 and the wave of Jewish refugees coming to Sweden; being involved when the refugees arrived; hosting two girls in their home; the children's homes where Jewish children who survived lived; living with survivors, but reacted strongly only when he saw pictures from Auschwitz on the cinema; marrying a Jewish woman; never thinking of moving to Israel; and his children, who attended a Jewish school, and their engagement with Judaism.
Peter Freudenthal, born in 1938 in Norrköping, Sweden, discusses his Jewish father and Catholic mother, who were both musicians and arrived in Sweden from Germany in 1928; his older brother Otto who was born in 1934; his grandfather, who was a rabbi in Nürnberg, his father’s work as the conductor of the Norrköping philharmonic orchestra; his family receiving Swedish citizenship in the early 1930s; his father successfully relocating his family from Germany to Sweden in late 1938; the Nazi occupation of Norway and Denmark in 1940; his grandmother suffering from a severe depression and her suicide on her 65th birthday; his family’s participation in the Norrköping Jewish community; the Kibbutz outside of Norrköping in Lindö; and hosting refugees in their home.
Ingert Glasman (née Hoffman), born in 1932 in the borough of Södermalm, Stockholm, Sweden, discusses being a Jewish child in Stockholm during the Nazi era; her mother, who was a Swedish-born Jew, and her father, who had immigrated to Sweden from Lithuania as a young man; keeping kosher until they gave it up due to war-time food rationing; not knowing much about the persecution of the Jews in Europe; Jewish community in Södermalm; and learning about the Holocaust after the war ended.
Leopold Sommerfeld, born in 1926 in Gothenburg, Sweden, discusses the Jewish community in Gothenburg; the presence of Swedish Nazis in Gothenburg during the 1930s and WWII; growing up in Olivedal, a working-class area in Gothenburg; attending a regular Swedish public school; his parents, who were orthodox Jews from Grajewo, Poland; not being aware of the persecution of European Jews when he was a child; helping Jews who arrived in Sweden from camps in Germany; meeting his future wife who was a survivor; his belief that his experiences during these years strengthened his Jewish identity; and his identity as a Jew in Sweden rather than a Jewish Swede.