Egon’s story: A last handshake and a kiss and then they left
This blog is part 21 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.
On 6 August 1942 Johanna and Doris Schoenberger were deported from Camp de Gurs along with 1100 others.
In his letters, Dr Bacharach (who had become deeply attached to the Schoenberger women during their time together in the camp) described them climbing into the wagon with their heads held high, “a last handshake and a kiss and then they left.”
A few days later Dr Bacharach was also deported. But a few hours into the journey the trains stopped and he was taken off and returned to the camp, for reasons he never understood.
Sometime in the months that followed Dr Bacharach escaped from the camp, making his way across the Pyrenees to Spain and then on to Casablanca, where he wrote a despondent letter to Eugen and Edith Schoenberger in America.
“It is difficult to understand how deep a person can fall if they have to go through that dreadful emptiness but somehow, miraculously stay alive. If it were not for Doris and Madame Schoenberger I would probably have already had a break down, like many others, for the lack of wanting to be alive.
“I have seen many 1000s of people in varying different situations and crises but rarely people like Doris and her mother, how they stuck together and bore those situations and could keep on going and have such a normal friendly relationship between mother and daughter.”
Before she left the camp Doris entrusted Dr Bacharach with a box of clothes, her dowry box full of linen and some items of jewellery she had smuggled out of Germany and was now concerned to be found with.
When Dr Bacharach escaped he was only able to take the jewellery with him. After several days travelling through the Pyrenees mountains he and his companion were held to ransom by their guides. For five days they survived on less than a loaf of bread before eventually parting with the jewellery and being shown the way to safety.
From Morocco, Dr Bacharach travelled to Britain were he joined the army.
He wrote to Eugen and Edith that if Doris was still alive and they found her first: “Please only tell her that I love her, how much I love her. Not even I would be capable of telling her, some things you cannot express in words.”
Previous blog: Coming of age in Camp de Gurs
Next blog: Hope dimming out more and more
Throughout this series of 24 blog posts we’d love to hear from you. If you have any questions, would like to learn more about any aspects of Egon’s story or share your thoughts please use the comment box. We’ll do our very best to respond and answer your questions. And thank you to everyone who has commented so far.
Post by: Auckland Museum
Auckland War Memorial Museum tells the story of New Zealand, its people, and their place in the Pacific.