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Egon’s story: Hope dimming out more and more

Egon’s story: Hope dimming out more and more

Thursday, 1 November 2012

This blog is part 22 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.

In the last week of his voyage to New Zealand Egon writes nothing in his diary but that the boat is making progress. His thoughts must have been focussed on the perils faced by his family in a Europe at war and his own prospects of finding safety in New Zealand.

Egon's sister, Doris (in the late 1930s), and his mother, Johanna (in the mid 1920s).

Schoenberger family.

Following their deportation from Camp de Gurs in August 1942 Johanna and Doris Schoenberger were interned in Camp Drancy on the outskirts of Paris. Dr Bacharach received a brief letter from them and then nothing more was heard.

On 8 October 1942 they were transported to Auschwitz and murdered.

Letter from Edith to Egon: "Hope is dimming..".

Schoenberger, Egon. Papers 1892-1960s. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS-2002-74.

It took the Schoenbergers nearly four years to confirm their deaths, with the news appearing to come from Dr Bacharach himself. In love with Doris he had clung to the hope of finding them alive with as much passion as the Schoenbergers.

But in one of his many letters to Edith and Eugen Schoenberger in America he appears to have passed on grim news. In February 1946 Edith wrote to her nephew-in-law Egon: “ Dr Bacharach’s letters are terribly sad indeed, and it is our deep and unending sorrow that hope for our loved ones, your mother and Doris, is dimming out more and more. I can imagine how you feel about it over there so all by yourself, Egon dear.”

The Schoenberger family grave in Mainz.

Schoenberger family.

The news also reached the family that both of Egon’s aunts, who had remained in Mainz, had killed themselves in late 1942 rather than face deportation to the death camps.

On 13 September 1946 the Jewish Refugees Committee confirmed the worst: “With reference to the enquiry you submitted for the whereabouts of your mother and sister, Johanna and Doris Schoenberger, we are now sorry to inform you that, according to information recieved from the United Kingdom Search Bureau, Johanna Schoenberger and her daughter, Doris, were deported from Drancy to Auschwitz on the 8th October, 1942. We deeply regret that we are not in a position to let you have more comforting news.”

In August 1947 Egon arranged with the Jewish National Fund for trees to be planted in the name of his mother and sister.

A portion of a letter showing the fine handwriting of Capt J Bacharach. This one was written after the war.

Schoenberger, Egon. Papers 1892-1960s. Auckland War Memorial Museum Library. MS-2002-74.

Previous blog: A last handshake a kiss and then they left

Next blog: The librarian

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.