- Karen Komar (born Karen Gumprecht) is the daughter of Werner Gumprecht and Edith Jotkowitz Gumprecht. Karen was born on February 29, 1936 in Hamburg Germany. Her older sister Marion was born on March 20, 1932, and her younger sister Renate was born on September 17, 1937. Werner Gumprecht's father died when Werner was still young, so he was brought up by his mother, Anna Levy Gumprecht, who supported the family by working as a seamstress. Edith was the daughter of a religiously observant printer from Lübeck, Wiilhelm Jotkowitz, and a more assimilated mother, Hedwig Freund Jotkowitz from Prague. Werner first worked in an import-export firm, via his language skills, (Spanish and English), but with the onset of Nazi anti-Jewish restrictions he needed to find other employment. He worked as a traveling salesman selling vacuum cleaners and magazines. He dyed his hair blond to look less Jewish as he traveled from town to town. He also developed a business picking up ration cards at designated locations in the Jewish Community for wealthier Jews who did not want to leave their homes for fear of harassment. He was conscripted to digging ditches along with other Jewish men.
Though many of their relatives began leaving Germany as early as 1936, Karen's family did not receive their visas until 1941. An uncle and cousin in the United States wrote affidavits of support for the family, but when these did not produce results, Edith in desperation wrote to the head of the Bulova watch company since her maternal grandmother's last name was Bulowa. Arde Bulova, the Chairman of the Board of Directors and Treasurer of the company wrote back and said that though the two families were not related, he would still write an affidavit of support for Werner Gumprecht. When the family did not receive their visas immediately, Arde Bulova even wrote a follow-up letter on January 16, 1940 to the Consul General in Hamburg complaining that it was taking too long for their paperwork to come through. Probably thanks to Bulova's letter, the Gumprechts finally received their visas allowing them to leave Hamburg in July 1941.
They went first to Berlin where they finalized their travel papers and boarded a sealed train on an official transport accompanied by Gestapo plainclothesmen, which took them through Nazi occupied France to the Spanish border. In Seville while waiting the board their ship, Karen's father wrote an extended letter to the Hamburg relatives left behind describing the problems they encountered making the transport. The Gumprechts together with over 1000 refugees boarded the Spanish freighter, the Navemar, originally built to accommodate only fifteen passengers. The ship had to make a stop in Lisbon so that visas which had already expired could be renewed. Conditions on board the ship were so horrendous that an American newspaper described the ship as a floating concentration camp. Karen and her family eventually arrived in New York on September 12, 1941.
Though Karen and her immediate family survived, forty-nine extended family members are known to have perished during the Holocaust including her grandfather Wilhelm Jotkowitz who died in the Minsk ghetto.