In this centenary year of the start of the First World War, one of my ancestors fought on the side of the Austrians. My great great uncle Felix Kohn/Kerber was born on the 5th April 1894 to Rudolf Kohn and Gisela Löwenstein.
At the present time, I do not know when he joined the Army, but by the time he died on the 9th December 1917, he had been awarded the Silver Bravery Medal and the Karl-Truppen Cross.
Today is the 70th Aniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet Army in 1945. Many people suffered at the hands of the Nazis and families were ripped apart.
My grandmother's family was one of them. Her grandmother Gisela Löwenstein was shot in 1942 in Riga and her mother Hulda Frankenbusch was captured by the Germans in France in March 1944. Initally she was sent to Drancy and in April 1944 Hulda was transported to Auschwitz. As a family, we don't know if she survived the journey, but if she did, she would have been sent straight to the gas chamber as her health was not great.
My grandmother did not know for sure what had happened to her mother and was forever haunted by the fact she could not help get her mother to safety.
My grandmother's fathers family did not fair any better. Although her father Rudolf Frankenbusch survived by coming to England, the rest of his family perished and their names are commemorated on the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue in Pra…
Over the next few months, I am going to transcribe some of the letters and post cards that my grandfather Sidney Waterfall sent to his parents and siblings while he in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War 2. When the war started, Sidney did not immediately sign up, as he had registered as a conscientious objector. At the local tribunal, held in Leeds on the 27th February 1940, Sidney stated
My objection is based on religious grounds. I am a birthright member of the Society of Friends. I have regularly attended Quaker Meetings since I was about seven years old. I was educated at the Friends School at Ackworth, Nr. Pontefract, Yorkshire, and i have been a member of the Skipton meeting all my life.
I wish to state, however, that I am quite willing to undertake non-combatant duties.
The result of the tribunal was that Sidney should be put in the R.A.M.C. The photo below is of Sidney in his uniform in about 1940.
After being captured, Sidney remained
in the transit camp on Crete for five months before being moved to a permanent
camp.Eventually he was allowed to
receive post from home while he was in the transit camp.
When it was time
for Sidney to be moved to a more permanent camp in Germany, Sidney was shipped
from Crete to Greece and then he was moved on to Atheneum Greece to
Salonika. While he and the rest of the
prisoners were in Salonika, Sidney mentioned that the beds in which they were
given were full of bed bugs. To try and
prevent them they used to stand the beds in tins that were full of petrol. After Salonika Sidney and the other prisoners
were piled into cattle trucks and were transported to Silesia via Vienna on the
trans-continental railway. There were about 40 people in each truck and
apart from straw on the floor; there was nothing else in the trucks. Every so often the prisoners were allowed off
the trucks in order to go to the toilet.
Sidney arrived at Stalag VIIIB at Lam…