The seventieth anniversary of the carpet bombing of Dresden this week brings to mind a remarkable beneficiary of this dark moment in history. Last May I visited my relative Peter Müller at his house in Blankenfelde, outside Berlin. He is the oldest survivor on my mother’s side of the family – we share the same great grandparents (Martin and Hildegard Ephraim). His grandmother Dora was the sister of my grandmother Vera (married name Vera Neumeyer).
In February 1945, when living in Dresden his mother Erika was given orders by one of the Jewish personnel forced to work for the Nazis. She was to report for deportation to a work camp. It presumably spelled the end.
Yet the deportation never happened. The bombers arrived instead. Dresden was destroyed on the very eve of their planned departure. Nothing was working and all was chaos. The Jewish official urged those due to be transported not to turn up. And so they stayed away. No one came for them.
The official typed list shown here is that of the intended deportees who never left Dresden. Erika – given the compulsory middle name ‘Sara’ by the Nazis in 1939 – born on 20 December 1909, was then aged 35. She appears as number 127 on the list.
The Nazi order to adopt the name of Sara
The second document here is six years earlier. Dated 24 March 1939, it was issued by the Dresden police and required Erika Müller (nee Schweig) to adopt the middle name Sara, in accordance to a law passed on 1 January 1939 (which required all Jewish women to adopt the name Sara and all Jewish men to adopt the name Israel).
The letter states that a fee of 3.50 Reichsmarks is payable for registering the change of name. Failure to pay will result in property being seized.
The Dresden connection lives on
As it is, three of my relatives (also Dora Ephraim descendants) still live in Dresden, and we see each other regularly: Vera Gunkel (married to Wolfgang) and her daughter Claudia Winkler, and Cornelia Böse.
It’s very special to us that such a connection has lasted all those years.