- Erich Wolfgang Zielenziger is the son of Kurt Zielenziger (b. 2/21/1890) and Lilly Weyl Zielenziger (b. 12/18/1892). He was born on February 6, 1920 in Berlin where his father was an economist and journalist. Kurt also served as press secretary to the Mayor of Berlin. Shortly after Hitler's assumption of power in 1933, the family left Germany for Lycee, France. The following year, Erich's father decided that the family should follow one of his colleagues, Alfred Weiner, to Amsterdam. There, Erich's father became the leader of the Jewish Central Information Office, an organization created to fight antisemitism. Erich decided to visit his grandparents in Potsdam before meeting up with his family in Holland. He didn't want to move to Amsterdam because it would entail getting used to another country, but his parents insisted that he follow them. Erich ended up moving and enjoying Holland. He went to school, learned Dutch in four months, and graduated from high school in 1938. Erich also joined Maccabi Hatzair, a Jewish youth movement.
After graduating from high school, Erich got a job with a Jewish-run import/export company. He worked there until 1941 when the Germans fired all the Jews in the business. Earlier, Erich's father lost his job as well. Alfred Weiner decided to move the organization to London. Erich and his father were supposed to move to London as well, but Germany invaded Holland in may 1940 before they acquired travel documents. Erich decided to live at a Hachshara, a training camp north of Amsterdam for young Jews hoping to flee to Palestine. On June 11, 1941 the Gestapo raided the hachshara camp and rounded up 800 youth. The boys were deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Fortunately for Erich, he happened to have been riding his bike during the raid and was able to hide out at a funeral home. After this event, Erich went to Deventer to work for two months. He eventually got a job in the emigration department of the Joodseraad (Jewish Council) which temporarily exempted him from deportation. Through his job with the Jewish Council, Erich was brought to work in Westerbork, a transit camp, from December 1942 to March 1943. It was there that he realized the seriousness of deportation east.
Erich's parents had stayed in their apartment in Amsterdam where his grandmother had joined them after her husband had died in Potsdam. Erich's grandmother was arrested in the summer of 1943 and deported to Westerbork where she died a few months later. On September 30, 1943, Erich's parents were sent to Westerbork and then to Belsen in February of 1944. They had received passports for Ecuador but never had an opportunity to use them. Eric's father died on July 19, 1944 in Bergen-Belsen. While in Amsterdam, Erich received a letter from his mother's sister in Geneva stating she had received a postcard from Erich's mother saying that she was fine but was a widow. This is how Eric learned that his father died. Erich's mother was a passenger on the "Lost Train" to Theresienstadt that had been liberated by the Russian army. She died of typhoid fever on May 15, 1945 in the village of Troebitz where the train was stopped.
After his parents were deported, Erich went into hiding in the apartment of Frits and Jacoba Blom. He stayed with them for about a year and a half until December of 1944. He then moved in with Arthur Connor until Germany surrendered on May 5, 1945. After the war, Eric volunteered with the Joint Distribution Center (JDC) to help other Dutch survivors. He then immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York on November 29, 1946. He died November 20, 2010.