Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The English Rose searches for answers to honour her Father

Jane Seymour, Originally from England and currently living in Malibu. Born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg to a Dutch mother and Polish Father, she was convinced to change her name to the quintessentially English Jane Seymour to further her acting career.

Most famous for Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman with US audiences, up  until her recent guest appearance in the marvellous show Forever, my own personal  favourite roles for her were Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeves in 1980 and War and Remembrance about the holocaust in 1982

It is her own family connection to the holocaust that brings Jane to go on her " Who do you think you are ? " journey.

Daughter to RAF pilot John Frankenberg who was a obstetrician, born in the East end from Polish Jewish stock,he was  a squadron leader. He specifically asked to be sent to Bergen Belsen  so that he might to seek out his own cousins who were believed to have been interned there. 

Jane intends to find out just what happened to those women John sought to find and begins her search in Warsaw on the trail of Jadwiga and her husband Herman and their children. Like Jane's father Herman was a obstetrician and that occupation afforded the family status. Prior to the War the lived in a mixed Christian and Jewish neighbourhood with other affluent families. 

In September 1939 the Germans invaded Poland and it was occupied. A year later the first Ghetto was created 400,000 Jews were  enclosed by a ten foot wall in a space of about one square mile, effectively cutting off Polish Jews from the rest of the polish population.

In some ways it was lucky for Herman and Jadwiga that their home fell within the southernmost boundary of the ghetto and so to begin with they were not moved, but life would have been exceptionally hard. The people tried their hardest to carry on with life, but with very few births, Herman would have had to have used other medical skills than those he was a specialist in. By 1942,  80,000 people would have died of starvation and disease. 

The Ad that Herman placed whilst in the Ghetto.

The Final solution was also born in January of that year, the systematic removal of all Jews from Europe. By July  a quarter of a million Jews were sent to treblinka death camp to be "exterminated".

The good news for Jane is there is proof to show Herman and at least one member of the family was smuggled through the court building  from the ghetto into the Arian quarter of the city. This would have been fraught with danger, normally sending children on ahead, adults would need forged papers,to find an excuse to attend a hearing in the courthouse and change clothes, removing their Star of David  arm bands in an effort to seem as non Jewish as possible. This relied on finding a non Jew to provide sanctuary once on the Aryan side. 

However aiding a Jew was punishable by death so some turned traitor . Even as you left the building, you were at risk to be robbed and handed over to the Germans. For the remaining period you would have been unable to walk the streets sequestered to one house, maybe even in a cubby or other hiding place.

After the failed attempt by the Poles to take Warsaw in back  in the Uprising in 1944, 150 - 200,000 normal Poles were massacred. After the Jews, Slavs would be next on the Aryan death lists. 

Tragically for Jane, it seems that whilst  randomly standing at a window watching Germans retreating a random rifleman took aim and fired at Herman  It is thought he was one of the last  physicians killed during the German Occupation.  

The book that reveals how Herman passed away

By June 1945 we know Jadwiga is looking for her family as she placed an ad at the Help-centre where Jews are being aided. The  pre-war numbers of Warsaw Jews at about 500,000, of that number approximately 11,000 survived with only about 1000 being present in Warsaw at the time the ad is placed. For a woman in her fifties to have survived on,  remaining in the city was impressive.

Hanna is thought to have been spotted in Belsen where, Jane's father had indeed gone to attempt to find his cousins, Belsen was in Belgium , but death marches were set up to send Polish Jews and those from other countries from other areas to clear away all traces of the camps before the allies arrived. Jane discovers though that Hanna was never found at Belsen and it was thought  Jerzy passed earlier in the war. She wonders how Jadwiga could stand through such loss.

Herman and Jerzy


Jane at the place Herman was shot.

Jane now turns her attention to Michaela, Jadwiga 's sister in France.

It seems Michaela's husband  Aron was a very important figure for Jews, being the director of ORT, an organisation designed to retrain displaced Jews  in Artisan trades when forced from their jobs for political reasons, a result of Third Reich policies  and had arrived in Paris  himself, from Berlin when Hitler came to power in 1933. 

Paris had become a place of sanctuary for European Jews. That was of course until France declared War on Germany and France entered a period of flux later to be known as The Phoney War which ran from September 1939 until May 1940. People just went about their business until May  10th 1940 when Germany launched attacks on Holland Belgium and then France.

Michaela and Aron Flee to Marseilles in the south of France as refugees from the borders arrive in numbers in Paris. Escaping the oncoming Germans. In just over  four weeks 6 million people abandon their homes in Northern France in a migration South, known as "The Exodus"

France was then  was divided into the Nazi Occupied North and the Vichy run South. The many Jews who had run from the North found that the Vichy Government as Collaborators had an anti Semitic agenda of their own and Jews were being rounded up  and placed in a camp not all that far from Marseilles so Michaela would have tried every avenue to get out of the Port City by whatever means she could.

First was an attempt to gain an exit Visa out of France and an entry Visa for the United States but ultimately Aron's work with the Refugees prevented them from going. Within a year they realise they really must try to leave and try for exit to Switzerland,but the Vichy Government refuse.

In July 1942 French police arrest 40,000 Jews including 4000 children who had not actually been requested by the Germans most of those held were sent to Auschwitz.  Michaela and Aaron make a third attempts of escape, they seek sanctuary in Mexico which is once again denied by Vichy Government.

The Germans invade the Southern Zone making the only egress for Michaela and the family a migration  by illegal means and they make it to Switzerland from SafeHouse to SafeHouse avoiding police patrols as they went and literally making a run for it once at the Swiss Border. Travelling across France on foot or maybe by bicycle they risked discovery at every turn

A week later and they would have been rounded up by a mass collection by German/French authorities.

Sadly it was not all Cuckoo clocks and Toblerones once one got to Switzerland. Although a neutral country Switzerland had strict immigration laws to avoid a mass exodus into their country so, immigrants were contained in internment camps or just sent back. Tens of Thousands were repatriated and most went to their deaths, as the documents Jane holds clearly show them as Illegals, it does not seem likely good things happened to Aron and Michaela on arrival in...

Aron however was proven to have means and his Work with ORT meant he was equipping others for a life after occupation which is exactly what the Swiss authorities  wanted so that after hostilities people might go back home or move on, so it seems Aron was able to move freely, living in Hotels and not bring interred.

Thirty Million people were displaced by the war, with no money, homes destroyed and emotionally and physically scarred, the euphoria at war ending was short lived.

Jane is happy to discover that Aron and Michaela petition the Swiss Government to get Jadwiga brought over to Switzerland, citing her great loss as reason for the urgency.  her joy is short lived however as she realises that a short period after arriving; given a six month Visa, Jadwiga goes missing and is found dead by some small children.

A local new report throws some more light onto the reasons, is seems she found out her Son Jertzy had in actual fact been shot and it seems likely that Jadwiga took her own life. 

Jane completes her sad pilgrimage  at rather beautiful and tranquil place where Jadwiga died, meditating on the strength and bravery of the two women that despite its tragic end is a story of fortitude Bravery and Loss.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing and heartbreaking story --- didn't know any of this about her family. Photos are sad and wonderful.