Hanna (Hannah) Henrietta Lenschitzki was born on November 6, 1922, in Halberstadt, Germany, to an Orthodox Jewish couple, Paul and Rosa Beermann Lenschitzki. Hannah had a brother, Manfred, who was born on September 7, 1920, in Halberstadt. Hannah’s father Paul was born in approximately 1887 in Sandersleben. His father was Isidore Lenschitzki. Hannah’s mother Rosa was born on January 22, 1891, in Sandersleben, to Salomon and Esther Beermann. She had four brothers. Salomon was from Poland and was a well-respected rabbi, cantor, and shochet in Hannover. Hannah’s father Paul was a tailor and operated his business out of their home. In December 1924, he went to the United States because he could not get work in Germany. In 1925, he got very ill and returned home. He died before Hannah’s third birthday. Rosa opened a small kosher grocery store to support her family. Hannah’s paternal grandfather Isidore, a widower, lived with them. Hannah attended a Jewish day school and learned to read and speak Hebrew. In approximately 1930, Isidore died. Hannah’s maternal grandmother Edith also died.
In January 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany. Anti-Semitism increased and it became difficult for Jews to live in a small city like Halberstadt. In about 1934, Hannah and her family moved to Hannover to live with Hannah’s maternal grandfather Salomon. Hannah attended a German school and encountered more anti-Semitism. When Hannah was 14 and Manfred was 16, they were expelled from school because they were Jewish. Manfred learned to be a glazier and could only work for Jewish businesses. Rosa sent Hannah to Hamburg to attend a home economics school. The school was in a Jewish orphanage and the students cared for the orphans and took classes in sewing, cooking, washing, and ironing. As Jewish persecution increased, Rosa wanted to immigrate to the US. She contacted Max Berger, Hannah’s great uncle, to ask for affidavits. Max only agreed to sponsor Manfred. Manfred left Germany for New York in August 1938. On November 9 and 10, the Kristallnacht pogrom occurred and the synagogue in Hannover was destroyed. Hannah’s grandfather could not live without a synagogue and left for the Netherlands a few months later to live with one of his sons. To support themselves, Rosa sewed for other people and Hannah worked as a seamstress in a knitting store. In September 1939, the war broke out. Rosa and Hannah finally got their affidavits but could not leave Germany. On September 1, 1941, they were forced to wear Star of David badges. When Hannah went out, she covered her badge. On September 5, the Gestapo forced Hannah and Rosa to leave their apartment and move into a communal Jewish house. Hannah’s best friend Ruth Edith Katz (b. 1923) also lived in the house. The Gestapo often beat the young men and forced the young women to parade in front of them naked.
On December 15, 1941, Hannah, Rosa, Ruth Katz, and Ruth’s family were deported to Riga, Latvia. They were interned in the ghetto and put into apartments, with about 10 people per apartment. There was still food on the table and clothing in the closets. They learned that the apartments had been occupied by Latvian Jews who had been murdered a few days before their arrival. They were taken out of the ghetto to work daily. Hannah did physical labor, like shoveling snow and carrying wood and cement, and Rosa sewed and sorted clothes for the army. While they were at work one day, Ruth’s family was killed. In April 1943, Hannah, Rosa, and Ruth were sent to Kaiserwald concentration camp. Their heads were shaved and they were issued striped uniforms. Hannah was separated from Rosa. Hannah and Ruth were selected to work in an Allgemeine Elektrizitats Gesellschaft (AEG) factory, where they were taught to work with cables. They slept in barracks with bunk beds and had to stand for appel, roll call, for hours. Many sick or weak women collapsed during appel and were beaten. They had very little food. One officer smuggled them bread because Ruth reminded him of his daughter. One night, an SS guard made Hannah undress and stand in front of him to degrade and humiliate her. As Soviet forces approached, Kaiserwald was abandoned. In late September 1944, Hannah and Ruth were sent to Danzig, Germany, then to Stutthof concentration camp, arriving on October 1. Hannah was assigned prisoner number 94593. She was reunited with her mother Rosa. Rosa had been sent to Kovno concentration camp (Kaunas, Lithuania), then to Stutthof on August 4, 1944, where she was assigned prisoner number 54852. Conditions in Stutthof were terrible, with very little food and no sanitary facilities. Because Hannah and Ruth had worked for AEG in Kaiserwald, they were selected to go to an AEG labor camp. Hannah begged the officer to allow her mother to come, but he refused and they were separated again. Hannah and Ruth were sent to Thorn (Torun, Poland), a subcamp of Stutthof. They worked on cables for AEG. As the Soviet forces approached, the camp was evacuated on January 20, 1945. The prisoners were sent on a deathmarch to Bydgoszcz. Hannah had typhoid fever and could not walk. Ruth pulled her on a makeshift sled and rubbed her frozen feet when they stopped at night. Soviet soldiers arrived in Bydgoszcz and the SS guards fled. Ruth pulled Hannah into the home of a Polish family, who allowed them to stay until the fighting was over. They were liberated in late January.
Hannah was very ill, so Ruth took her to the hospital in Bydgoszcz. After Hannah recovered, she and Ruth stayed in an apartment in Bydgoszcz with other liberated women, then moved to Łódź. They worked for a Polish couple who treated them poorly. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. In July, Hannah returned to Hannover to look for relatives. She learned that her mother Rosa was killed by the Germans when the Soviet Army approached Stutthof. Hannah regained contact with her brother Manfred, who was serving in the US Army in India. She also got in contact with her cousin Gunther Lang, who was serving in the US army. A Jewish organization arranged for Hannah and Ruth to stay with an elderly German couple. In summer 1946, Hannah, Ruth, and Ruth’s boyfriend Uri went to the American zone and lived in a displaced persons camp in Frankfurt for about six weeks, waiting to immigrate to the US. Her cousin Gunther helped her immigrate to the US via the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). On July 18, 1946, Hannah sailed from Bremen on the SS Marine Perch. On the ship, she met Gustav Rat, who was born on April 23, 1911, in Dresden. He was interned in Buchenwald concentration camp from October 17, 1939, until his liberation on April 11, 1945. Hannah arrived in New York on July 27. She Americanized her last name to Lang and lived with her brother Manfred in Utica. Ruth and her husband Uri Joffe also immigrated to the US. Ruth reintroduced Hannah to Gustav, who changed his name to Gus Rath. Hannah and Gus married and settled in Cleveland in 1948. Hannah worked as a seamstress and Gus in a necktie store. They had two daughters. Ruth and Uri settled in Indianapolis. Hannah and Ruth remained best friends. Gus, age 59, died on March 24, 1971, in Cleveland. In 1977, Hannah married Albert Trabitz (1913-2005). The couple divorced in 1987. Manfred, age 83, died on August 25, 2004. Hannah, age 90, died on June 20, 2013.