Sara Schreiber’s memories
as told to Benji Schreiber in 1999
My Father's Family
My grandfather Reb Gershon Weinstock's mother lived in Berditchev and died there at the age of 93. There was no communication between Vienna and Russia. Her name was Gisa Feigenholtz (Figwood) married to Moshe Weinstock.
Reb Gershon was born in Berditchev and at the age of 16 [in about 1874] married Matel Stein who was 17 and lived in Kitev (Kuty).
He dealt in diamonds and, especially, in emeralds. In the first world war Kitev was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and he was able to move to Vienna. They were Sadigerer Chassidim. He wasn't in Chassidic garb - he didn't wear a shtriemel but he davened in a Sadigerer Klaus (shtiebel). He was a businessman. I only remember him with a white beard. It was a gorgeous beard and he used to brush it in front of the mirror and it was like white silk. He was very pedantic. He had a very sweet smile, he was very sweet with us. We were very respectful to him - it's not like now kids jump on a grandfather. He was very reserved and we never called him anything but Zeide. When Hitler came he left in 1938/9 and went to Israel with his daughter, my aunt Chane Hinde, who was divorced and lived with grandfather.
He was then about 80 years old. They lived in Tel Aviv and he's buried there [in Nachlat Yitzchak cemetery, Area 11, Row 8, No. 3, d. 2 Cheshvan 1940; his daughter Frima Leah Schreiber is also buried there, Area 11, Row 1, No. 19, d.27 Iyar 1978]. Chane Hinde then married Rav Yakov Moshe Charlap in Israel. They were very happy but unfortunately six months after they were married she died. She was a diabetic on insulin and something went wrong, she had some sort of blood poisoning. I didn't get to Israel until much later. He had another daughter who had been living in Israel since the 1930s, Auntie Gittel married to Pinchas von Mosel.
We lived in the same district as grandfather in Vienna, at Lilienbrunngasse 18/19. My grandmother wasn't one to pop in to us, as I pop in to the grandchildren now. She came back from holiday and used to bring us presents and that's when she would come in. When Uncle Beri - my father's youngest brother - got engaged to Auntie Recha, daughter of R’ Yosef Chaim Kirschenbaum, the Rav of Tarnov, my grandparents went there for the engagement. Afterwards my grandfather had to go back to Vienna on business - it was the only time he ever parted from his wife - and my grandmother went with her daughter, my Aunty Chane Hinde, to a spa in Piwniczna. Grandmother was taken ill there and she died there in 1931. I was eight years old when she died. The wedding of uncle Beri and Recha was then in Cracow, near Piwniczna. A few years ago, when we went to Poland, we made a detour from Cracow to look for her grave. The Jewish cemetery was an embankment on a beautiful river but there was only about one stone standing. The others had sunk into the ground.
My grandparents had seven children and another two, Moshe and Mendel, who died young. I don't know whether he sat and learnt after getting married. He was known as the “Smaragden König” the Emerald King. He dealt with England and other countries. They lived in a nicely appointed flat [Grosse Sperlgasse 28]. We used to go there Friday night after dinner and we used to sit and “krak niss”, crack nuts.
My father was the oldest. He married my mother in 1921. My sister Feigi (later in London was called Fay) was born in1922, I Sara arrived in 1923, Naftali ( Tully) in 1924, Hershi
(Zwi) in 1927 and Esti, the youngest, in 1929.
My father’s sister Yitta married Rav Elozor Horowitz of Melitz. She had two children, Chaya Hindele and Yisrolik, who were both married and had families. They lived in Poland. They all perished in the Holocaust. I have no information on them - they just disappeared.
Chaya Hindele was married to Reb Alter Moshe Eliezer Horowitz, son of Reb Zwi Chaim of Riminov and his wife Sara, daughter of the Vizhnitzer Rebbe - Reb Yisroel Hager (the Ahavas Yisroel). Reb Chaim’s father was Reb Osher Yishaya Horowitz of Riminov (son of Reb Meir of Dzikov, the Imrei Noam) and his first wife. His second wife was none other than Chana Hinda, the daughter or Reb Gershon Weinstock mentioned above.
Auntie Frima [Frima Leah] lived in Chernovitz in Romania. She married Shimon Schreiber, a direct descendent of the Chasam Sofer. He was the son of Reb Shlomo Alexandri, son of Reb Shimon the Michtav Sofer who was a son of the Chasam Sofer. There's a photo in the 'Schreiber' book. She had three children. She and one of her sons, Shmulik, managed to get out and get to Israel but she lost her husband [d. 12 Kislev 1941], daughter Sara and son Hershel.
I remember them from their visits to Vienna. Sara was a beautiful girl and she came to Vienna to study at Beis Yaakov. She had red hair and green eyes - beautiful, she was lovely. She was close to Guggi, also a cousin, and about ten years older than me.
Uncle Hershel (Moshe Zwi) was Guggi's father, her mother was Sara, daughter of the Brodi Rebe, David (Dudjale) Manson.] Guggi married an Englishman, Leo Grahame. They met on holiday in Austria - she was going with her brother Yisroel (Srulik) Weinstock and Leo was going with [his brother] Harry Grodzinski. On Shabbes, Guggi was wearing a handkerchief in her sleeve so they saw she was Jewish and they approached her and they became friends. They got married in Vienna in December 1937 and then moved to England. They managed to bring over her parents, her brother Srulik, and she also brought Fay over to London in 1938 after Hitler entered Vienna.
Auntie Gittel (Gittel Yenta) married a Russian, Pinchas Von Mosel. They went to Israel in the early 1930’s. They lived in Jerusalem. They had no children.
Uncle Beri (Yissochor Dov Ber) and Recha also came over from Vienna to London when the war broke out. I don't know who guaranteed for them - maybe Guggi or someone else. They had two children who were small at the time. Marta Rosin is a Professor of Pharmacology and married to Professor Arnold Rosin, who was Head of Geriatrics in Shaarei Zedek. Marcel Weinstock married Sheila. He was a pharmacologist and later he took over the diamond business from Uncle Beri. He is now a supplier for Hatton Garden.
My father was born in 1875. He moved with his first wife to Poland. He had his own bank in Podhaice. Then he moved away. He married young and was married for 20 years and had no children. Then he divorced his wife because he really wanted to have a family and his mother encouraged him to do that. His first wife was called Etel or Esti (Gitel Eti bas Rivka, surname unknown) - Guggi remembers her as a very nice lady. They lived in Vienna for a while. In 1921 he married my mother, Chaya Ides, known as Chayche, The wedding was in Nitra where my mother lived. She was 24 and he was 45 or 46. She wanted a talmud chacham, and she got one. We, as kids, never knew about the first wife. We only learnt about it later - after leaving home. In Vienna he traded from the diamond club. He, his father and Uncle Herschel and Beri were all in diamonds - but independently. It was not a family business.
My father was very religious. He wore a shtreimel and a bekesche on Shabbos and a gartel. He wore a shnipsel, a clip on tie, during the week. He wore long payos behind his ears, but no white socks. His brothers were more modern. His father wore a gartel, a long jacket and probably a bekesche. He had connections with big Rabbonim. I don't know where he learned or who his Rabbonim were. He was always learning and writing. Later in life he did more learning and writing than business. He was a very serious man.
Sara Schreiber outside the Weinstock wool shop
Reb Gershon Weinstock
Marriage Certificate of Gershon Weinstock and Matil Stein
My Mother's Family
My mother's parents lived in Nitra in Czechoslovakia. I only ever met them two or three times. My grandfather died there [on 16th December 1941] before Hitler invaded. We looked for his grave in Nitra but we didn't find it. [Philip Kornbluth found it in 2005, in the Rabbonim row next to R Avrohom Aharon Katz, small and very worn and illegible – could do with replacing.] But my grandmother and my mother's sister and brothers and all the children they were all taken. I don't know where. They all perished with their families. Bella Rappaport was my only family on my mother's side, daughter of my mother’s brother Herchel.
I never went to Czechoslovakia when my mother went. She used to sometimes take Fay with her. I'm not sure how she came to meet my father. My paternal grandparents went to a spa in Lehaschowitz. I have a photo of that. I think he met my other grandparents there. Perhaps they made a shidduch then.
My grandfather on my mother's side, Yissochor Berish Ber, was the Luteviska Rav which was in Poland. He moved to Nitra because of the first World War. He's a descendent of the Noam Elimelech from Lizhensk.
My grandmother was born Sheindel Lieberman [related to Sanz, Bobov and Satmar rebbes]. Her father was the Toporover Rav.
My mother had three brothers all dayanim and a younger sister.
Hershel Zwi [Yechiel Zwi] Ber was a dayan in Hissikov. I never met him. Bella Rappaport was his daughter
Naftali was a dayan in Mushine - which we have visited.
Zanvil was a dayan in Makov.
My mother’s sister Miriam married Dovid Teitelbaum, a cousin of Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rav. It was all white socks at the wedding. My mother went to the wedding and took Fay. I was the domestic girl - I had to stay at home and look after the little ones. I was born in 1923 and the wedding was in 1932.
My mother was lovely. She was knowledgeable, she was jolly, she was friendly. Everybody loved her. She was good looking. She loved life. She loved to know what was going on everywhere. She was a very happy person - I mean in a very sedate chassidish way - but lively!
She wore a sheitl. Her mother wouldn't wear a sheitl made out of hair. She wore a sternen tiechel to cover the hairline. My mother was the modern one of her children with the sheitl in Vienna. In Nitra people would come to her father with sheilos. My mother was very frum. She was a very good all rounder. All I can say is everybody loved her. She was a very nice person. I think of her cooking, cleaning the kitchen, we would go out to museums and places like that. She was very smiley, often had friends calling. She made clothes for us. We went to buy materials. She was very good at knitting and sewing. I got a lot from her. When I was only eleven I made the challos every Shabbes. And I made the Shabbes kuchen, which is a yeast cake filled with chocolate. And the kids always said to me 'Put more chocolate in! Put more chocolate in!' And it never came out as well when I tried to make it later in London
Mother opened a wool shop in the last few years at Leopoldsgasse 22 because my father wasn't doing much business. He wasn't very well. He had a heart condition and he was diabetic. I remember him injecting insulin. There's lots of diabetes in my family. My father, his father and at least two sisters. Auntie Frima was diabetic but funnily enough she said that the concentration camp cured her of diabetes. We had friends come round and we used to visit friends on Shabbes and sometimes taking things to hospital - in Vienna we had an Eruv - and she would visit people and pay respects. My family were well respected in the community. If I said my name to anyone they would say "Ah! Reb Gershon's einikel!" He was well known. My father was quieter, more to himself. Reb Gershon was a rich man, more outward in his personality. I don't remember my father having many friends. He sat and learnt by himself.
By the time I left Vienna I was already grown up and life was very serious. I was 16 when I left home. I had learned corset making. I had private customers. I would take measurements, take an order, have a fitting and execute the order. My father used to do the bookkeeping for me.
Fay was the oldest by eleven and a half months. Then me, then Tuli, Zwi and Esti. I'm quite sure we were fighting a lot as all kids do - especially Tuli. The second district was the Jewish district. We lived in a flat above a shtieble which was the Belzer Klaus. Usually my father only davened there, because it was the floor below our flat but he wasn't a Belzer Chassid. On Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur we used to go where my grandfather davend at the Sadigerer klaus. My father used to blow the shofar and my grandfather used to call the 'Tekiah'. That was a standard thing year after year. My father was a baal koreh as well. He had no official communal posts.
There was one orthodox Jewish School in Vienna that was called the Wiener Talmud Torah and we all went to it. The headmaster of that school was Dr Yoel Pollack who was the father of the recent headmaster at Horev in Jerusalem. It was a very frum but yekish school. They taught literature as well, something of everything.
At home we spoke Yiddish with my father and Deutsch with my mother so that we should be able to speak Deutsch but between them they only spoke Yiddish. My father spoke and wrote a perfect Deutsch.
When I think of him I always picture my father sitting writing on a particular table. At night it was our children's sleeping room and during the day we would also eat there. He would always write very quickly and then used to add up as if writing the sums with his finger on the table, very quickly.
I don't remember him learning with us. He didn't like noise and rows. We always had to be quiet. Especially Shabbos afternoon when they had their rest the kids had to be quiet so we used to play cards. We had three huge rooms and a kitchen - but it wasn't a big flat. He learnt Torah with the boys.
We had help. One au pair was with us for five years, Vali Vratanina. She was wonderful. She ate in the kitchen.
We went on holiday to villages in the mountains around Vienna - Steinhaus am Semmering or Kobersdorf. We used to take a taxi and pack it up with dishes and everything because we used to take over a country cottage and stay there for six weeks. We had outings and picnics. There were always other Jewish families staying nearby. When I look back now it seems a bit more serious, we didn't just run around. There was more decorum.
[After the Anschluss, March 1938:] It was horrible. Everything changed. Most of the family went away. We were scared to go out of the house. We had a shop that my mother opened in the years before the war selling wool and knitwear. We needed extra money then. One day I was walking with Fay towards the shop and two Nazis came and pulled Fay away from me and pushed me away 'You go home'. I run to my mother's shop and I said "Mama they took Fay away". At that time she still had a Polish passport. She got hold of her passport and started running to find her. I don't know how she knew where to run, she found her and got them to release Fay, saving her from scrubbing the stones.
On Kristallnacht we saw them throwing taleisim, books and everything out of the shul window below us onto the street and setting it on fire and I thought we were going to be next.
I remember the day after Kristallnacht I had an appointment to deliver a corset to a customer and she was going to travel the next day. I didn't want to let her down - I'm terribly yekkish with appointments. And I left the house in the morning there wasn't a soul in the street. It was eerie and scary. And I went to this lady and I got back home alright. But when I think of it now - why I ever left my flat I don't know.
We didn't wear yellow stars. At first our family was marked off as Polish rather than Jewish because my mother had a Polish passport. The Jewish shops were closed down. We never had anything to do with the goyim. We didn't go on buses - everything was local. Round the corner there was a sweet shop. I was very friendly with the lady. I sold her some wool and I taught her how to knit. At every stage I would tell her how to do the next bit. She knew I was Jewish but she didn't stop me coming. Later she got a bit nervous. Her husband said something to her and she told me, in a friendly way, that she couldn't help herself and I would have to stop coming.
Fay went to London.
My brother Zwi was by that time learning in Yeshiva in Nitra, with my grandparents. My parents felt that at least he was out.
Tuli and Esti went on a kindertransport organised by Rabbi Dr. Solomon Schonfeld in December 1938. Esti was sent to a very nice frum family in Sunderland. My father used to correspond with them in Yiddish until the war. Tuli learned in the Schneider Yeshiva and he went from house to house in the East End to see if someone would guarantee for me. He found an old couple, his name was Samuel Meranovitch, who had a blind daughter in her 30’s.. They had older children who were all married. Perhaps they thought that I would be a companion to Hetty but she was so independent she didn't really need me. Then I also came on a kindertransport organised by Rabbi Schonfeld - but you could only come if you had somewhere to go. And that's why I'm here. I wouldn't be here otherwise I can assure you. Tully saved my life!
Those last months were very sad and very tense. The shop was closed down and my father didn't go to business. We had no income. My whole family had left. My father sat and worked on his manuscripts. We applied for an American Affidavit and for a Certificate to go to Palestine. We waited for both. There were quotas but it just didn't come. Then I left in June 1939 three months before the war broke out. Fay had left in April a few months before me.
I remember leaving. My father came downstairs and just came up the road with me - he couldn't bring himself to go any further. My mother came to the Bahnhof, the train station. There were about two hundred children there, maybe more. A whole kindertransport. It was the last I saw of my dearest Mother - waving on the train station. We were still hoping we'd see each other again. We knew they were taking people away right left and centre. We didn't know exactly what they were doing with them.
A son of a cousin of my mothers, called Yesrul Shapiro, who is also a cousin of the Freshwater family, was taken to a prison. His mother had already left and I remember my mother taking him fresh shirts and things. I think he got out in the end.
In England I went to the Chief Rabbi's office in the East End to see if I can help bring my parents out. And he said 'we'll try and do what we can' and 'what does your father do?'. He wanted a CV for my father and my father wrote it - I've still got it.
War broke out in September and in October my father was taken away to Buchenwald and died very soon there. They sent my mother back his ashes. Really where he's buried isn't really a body. You see in the beginning they were Yekkish. They were orderly, they wrote down names and who’s who and what happened. Later on there was nothing like that.
My mother was left alone. She joined a group who left illegally to go via Belgrade, Yugoslavia to Palestine. They were placed in a transit camp in Kladovo until they would get the papers to go on. They waited and waited. There's a whole Kladovo story - how they didn't let those people go on. Philip has documents about it. We have letters from there. They were very sad letters. But they were learning English and were cooking and fending for themselves. They existed. My uncle Teitelbaum brought my brother Zwi over from Nitra to Bratislava when her boat stopped there and passed him over a wire fence to my mother - and then had to rush back. I think my auntie had just had another child. Zwi was with my mother and he was learning English. His English was better than mine is today, I can assure you. He used to write to me later from Palestine - I already had three children - have I got any erziehungs probleme, have I got problems bringing my children up. He escaped from there on the only children's group that made it to Palestine. I've got the document. It took two months in transit and he got to Israel in the end. When Hitler came to Yugoslavia he shot all those people. There was a lady in that camp with my mother, a Mrs Saroka, who got out. I don't think she's still alive but a few years ago she was ninety-something. And my mother gave her a piece of paper to tell us where my father's grave is [main Vienna cemetery, Gate (“Tor”) 4, Group 21, Row 19, Number 17]. And she got out and we got that piece of paper. If not, I don't think we would ever know. In the 1980s we made a trip to Vienna.
Herschi (Zwi) got to Israel. He was very good at physics and mathematics. During the war of independence he was in a convoy with a lot of doctors trying to take supplies to Hadassah on Mt Scopus and they were all killed. In 1960 when we dedicated a Magen David Adom ambulance in his name at David Schreiber’s Bar-Mitzvah, Uncle Pinyu, that's Auntie Gittel's husband, invited men who used to be friends of Zwi's. They had dedicated a theses in his name. And this uncle always used to say that there's a particular lady who's still crying for Zwi. He wasn't married but he obviously had a good girlfriend. He was 22. I remember him as a sweet little boy because he was hardly eleven when he went to Czechoslovakia and I haven't seen him since. We have pictures of him from Israel and as a child as well.