This blog is part 15 of the story of 24-year-old Jew Egon Schoenberger and his flight from the Nazi Holocaust of World War II to New Zealand. Egon’s story has been adapted by Museum writers Greg Meylan and Kirsten MacFarlane, using archive material submitted to Auckland Museum by Egon’s New Zealand family. There will be 24 posts in total.
Egon leaves the Marnix and takes up berth in the more cramped quarters of the Tasman for the final leg of his journey to New Zealand. He finds himself sharing with an elderly man who makes annoying noises and a disagreeable Austrian attorney, but the New Zealanders on board are more friendly than the Dutch on the Marnix and that bodes well for life in what will soon be his new home.
As Egon sailed towards safety, his mother, sister, uncle and his uncle’s wife were still in a precarious position in France. Their plan to find refuge in Britain evaporated when the Germans invaded in May 1940. The Schoenbergers left Reims as the Germans approached but shortly after the fall of France the French police, acting in collaboration with the Nazis, rounded-up the Jews. The Schoenberger women were interned at Camp de Gurs, but Eugen managed to avoid arrest.
Egon lost contact with his family during this period but to his great relief a letter from his mother finally arrived in Hamilton. Johanna’s words to her son filled every available space on the page.
Eugen Schoenberger succeeded in getting his wife Edith out of the camp but Johanna and Doris were left behind. Edith and Eugen escaped via Spain and Portugal and arrived in the United States in 1941.
As letters arrived to Egon, his mother was able to send a telegram now and then to her brother-in-law Eugen in California, these simply said: Bonne Sante (Good health).
The letters kept coming for another year.
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