Jewish refugees from the shipwrecked Pentcho, on the island of Kamilonissi.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 03244
1940 October 09 - 1940 October 19
- Photo Designation
JEWISH REFUGEES: IMMIGRATION TO PALESTINE/ISRAEL -- Refugee Ships (1934-1944) -- Pentcho
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rudolph Fellner and Anita Heufeld Fellner Collection
Jewish refugees from the shipwrecked Pentcho, on the island of Kamilonissi.
- Event History
- The Pentcho was an 85 year-old paddlewheel steamer hired by the Revisionist Zionist movement to bring Jewish refugees to Palestine. It departed from Bratislava on May 18, 1940 with some 400 Slovakian Jews and proceeded down the Danube. A few weeks later it picked up over 100 Austrian Jews at the seaport of Sulina, bringing the total to some 510 Jewish refugees. The Pentcho left Sulina on September 21 and after a stormy crossing on the Black Sea, it passed the Dardanelles and reached the Greek port of Mytilene (Metelin) on the island of Lesbos. After the ship was ordered to leave without refueling, the passengers wired the Committee for the Relief of Refugees (CRR) in Athens stating their predicament. They headed for the port of Piraeus, where the CRR arranged for a delivery of food and fuel. The Pentcho left Piraeus on October 3 and four days later reached the port of Rhodes where they were reprovisioned by the Italian authorities but ordered to leave the following day. A few days later, on October 9, the ship's boiler exploded, and the ship broke in two off of the deserted island of Kamilonissi in Dodecanese territory, then under Italian control. The passengers and crew were able to get ashore and off-load their supplies before the ship finally sank. Five men took the ship's only lifeboat to look for rescue. Though they were caught in a storm and lost their bearings, they were eventually rescued by a British destroyer and taken to Alexandria. When the CRR learned about the wreckage of the Pentcho, it alerted Greeks in Herakleion who then endeavored to have supplies delivered to the stranded refugees on Kamilonissi. On October 18 and 19, Italian authorities picked up the refugees on two sorties and brought them to the main island of Rhodes where they stayed for the next year and a quarter in a hastily constructed camp in the soccer stadium of Rhodes. Then, in January 1942, the refugees were transferred to the Ferramonti internment camp in southern Italy. They were kept there until the Allies captured Italy. Most of the Pentcho's passengers arrived in Palestine in June 1944, but twenty-four of them were among the 1000 refugees brought to the US in 1944 aboard the SS Henry Gibbins and sheltered at Fort Ontario. The Pentcho was the last illegal immigrant ship sponsored by the Revisionist Zionist movement. Afterwards illegal immigration to Palestine was organized by the Mossad, the Organization for Illegal Immigration.
- Rudi (Rudolf) Fellner (the father of the donors) was the son of Eugen (Jeno) Fellner (1888-1942) and Stefanie Sohr Fellner (1887-1974). Eugen grew up on the streets of Vienna without much education. He later supplemented his income as an entertainer, singer and magician. Stefanie's father, Julius Sohr, owned a knitting and garment store. They manufactured various women's accessories. She was one of four daughters and all the sons-in-law, including Eugen, went into his business. Eugen and Stefanie married in 1912, and Rudi was born July 6, 1913. Rudi was an only child but grew up together with his cousin Fred Freiwirth. Fred's mother was one of Stefanie's sisters. In addition to elementary school Rudi also studied music and piano at the conservatory until age 13 when he began private lessons with the young composer, Erich Zeisl. As a teenager Rudi would stand at the back of the opera and follow along with the score. By age 16 he began opera coaching. His father wanted Rudi to study law, but he was uninterested and they compromised on pharmacy. It soon became clear that Rudi was unsuited to this profession, and he decided to pursue his passion, music. He attended the Hochschule fur Music and Darstellende Kunst and received a degree in conducting, but it was difficult for him to earn a living. He conducted a symphony the day before Hitler marched into Austria. The following day an agent called to ask if he was racially pure. Rudi replied that he was a racially pure Jew, and the agent hung up. Another day, five young Nazis stopped him on the street while he was enroute to give a private lesson. They made Rudi wash the floor with a toothbrush and threatened to send him to Dachau. Luckily, a former classmate came by and Rudi was released. He then decided that he had to leave Austria. He obtained a passport and on July 8, 1938 flew to Italy. He entered the country on a temporary visa valid for only a few months, but he ended up staying over a year. At first he supported himself as a domestic and then got a job correcting German translations of Italian operas. He received papers to Bolivia only to discover they were invalid. Eventually he received an affidavit to come to America from a distant cousin, Arthur Wise. He then moved to Genoa, supporting himself with various odd jobs while seeking passage to the States. By then WWII had started. On September 25, 1939 he received passage on Conte di Savoia and sailed out of Europe. He arrived in New York on September 23 1939.
His parents also searched for a way to emigrate. In early summer 1940, they boarded the Pentcho, a boat sailing illegally to Palestine. On October 9, the ship's boiler exploded, and the ship broke in two off of a deserted island under Italian control. The passengers and crew were able to get ashore before the ship finally sank. Ten days later, Italian authorities picked up the refugees and brought them to the main island of Rhodes, where they stayed for the next year and a quarter in a hastily constructed camp. Then, in January 1942, the refugees were transferred to the Ferramonti internment camp in southern Italy. Soon after, Eugen died from disease. Stefanie later immigrated to Palestine before joining Rudi in the States.
Rudi returned to Europe as a member of the US Army. While stationed in England he met Anita Heufeld. Anita Fellner (nee Heufeld) was the daughter of Samuel Heufeld (born 1891) and Erna nee Weil (born 1892). Anita was born May 26, 1925 in Fischach, a village in southern Germany; her older brother Walter was born in 1920. Samuel Heufeld was a partner in a wholesale tobacco and spirits business and also head of the local Jewish community. After Walter and Anita were prohibited from attending school, Walter went to work as a secretary for a cousin's plastics factory, and Anita worked for a Jewish dressmaker in Augsburg, some 30 kilometers away. On Kristallnacht, Samuel was arrested. Walter hid but was arrested the following day. They were taken to Dachau. Both eventually were released, Samuel first and then Walter in mid-December. He had developed frostbite on his hands and feet and never totally recovered. The family began searching for a way to leave Germany. Walter received an affidavit to the United States, but his quota number was too high to immigrate. Instead he went to the United Kingdom where his cousins had relocated their plastics factory in Wales. Walter initially was interned in the Kitchener Camp, but his cousins petitioned for his release on the grounds that he was essential for their business. On May 18, 1939 Anita came to England on a Kindertransport. At first she could correspond with her parents and even tried to find them employment. This became impossible after the start of World War II, though she managed to write to them via the United States for the next two years. Anita lived in a children's home in Windermere and worked as a dressmaker, but later joined her brother in Wales where she worked as a hospital nurse. In the spring of 1944, American servicemen flooded into Cardiff, and the local Jewish community invited Jewish soldiers to join them for Passover. There, Anita met Rudi Fellner. They became engaged soon after, and after the war Anita came to the United States as a war bride. She also learned that her parents had been deported east and killed, probably in 1942. Rudi resumed his career as an opera conductor and eventually became the head of the Opera Workshop in the Carnegie Mellon Fine Arts Department. Anita worked as a dress maker, including being in charge of all the costumes for New York's Gaslight Club for many years. After the family moved to Pittsburgh, she maintained a thriving private dressmaking business until a year before her death at age 87.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Rudolph Fellner and Anita Heufeld Fellner CollectionSecond Provenance: Kim FellnerSource Record ID: Collections: IRN 187355Second Record ID: Collections: 2015.563
Record last modified: 2017-01-09 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1181621