Category Archives: Memoirs

Happy Birthday, Edgar Hilsenrath!

goodreads: Edgar Hilsenrath (born [April 2] 1926) is a German-Jewish writer living in Berlin. His main works are Night, The Nazi and the Barber, and The Story of the Last Thought.

Hilsenrath was born in Leipzig. In 1938 his mother escaped with her two children to Siret (Sereth), in Romanian Bukovina, where they enjoyed a respite from persecution. At the time that he should have received an entrance card to higher education, he and his mother were interned in the ghetto of Cernăuţi (Czernowitz).

He began to write about the Holocaust after his liberation when he moved to Paris. Hilsenrath also lived in Palestine, Israel, and New York.

According to Dagmar C. G. Lorenz, Simon Wiesenthal Center, “Hilsenrath calls things by their proper names and portrays life first and foremost as physical existence, of whose details the reader is constantly made aware: birth, nursing, feeding, sex, and excretion accompanied by feelings of pleasure and pain. The rhetoric of politicians and political theory are shown to be the schemes of beings ultimately dependent on these bodily processes and subject to physical desires. Hilsenrath’s very approach is a protest against disrespect toward the mortal body, against the tyranny of the mind over matter.”

The Osias “Shike” Stenzler Radautz Booklet

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“The Osias ‘Shike’ Stenzler Radautz Booklet” is a unique document compiled by Osias Stenzler over about three decades until his death in the year 2008 at the age of 99 years. His memory, unlike his eyesight, never faded, even at an advanced age. After the loss of vision, Osias’ sons Daniel and Bondy kept his records from dictation and so we have the rare opportunity to discover a real treasure chest making alive the Jewish life in post WW2 Radautz. The booklet is headlined “Occupations and Professions Practiced by the Jewish Population of Radautz”, but beyond the long list of names it contains authentic notes and remarks on the Radautz Jewish community.


Happy Days of Youth


Czernowitz – In a garden.

Happy days of youth. Unusual “arrangement” and setting – Edy Wagner, head of the Balalaika orchestra, who died too young, top left, my husband’s mother Alma Wagner in the middle, on the right her sister Ruzia Wagner with her famous pigtails, the rest are friends. Both Alma and Ruzia, were very gifted, played the guitar and the balalaika, accompanying themselves to a multitude of Yddish songs. Alma had a beautiful voice and had had some lessons with Joseph Schmidt when he was still a cantor. Alma had a great repertoire and sang and played often for her friends. She passed on her singing gift to our daughter Nadine.


Czernowitz – Stadt der Dichter [City of Poets] by Amy-Diana Colin & Edith Silbermann

Cover_Czernowitz (2)Info-Buch_Colin, Silbermann


Amy-Diana Colin’s (PhD, Yale) much-anticipated book “Czernowitz – Stadt der Dichter [City of Poets]”, the “History of a Jewish Family from Bukovina (1900-1948)” is now at the bookseller’s!

What a literary delectation, something for winter’s eve, but not only! From the blurb we learn: “The report of an exceptional contemporary witness: Edith Silbermann, nee Horowitz, from Czernowitz (Bukovina), actress, reciter, translator, Germanist, publicist, mediator between German and Jewish cultural traditions, narrates her turbulent family history and reports on her youth in Czernowitz before and during WW2. One chapter of this book is dedicated to Paul Antschel (Celan), Edith Silbermann’s friend from the early Czernowitz years until his death. It was for both, Paul and Edith, the first love of their youth. […]”

It is not just a literary delectation, it’s also a listening pleasure, since this precious book comes with two audio CDs including recordings from Edith Silbermann’s sophisticated recitation program. Read, listen and enjoy! It’s a special publication for Czernowitz lovers!

Alfred Kittner’s Handwritten CV in Romanian from the Year 1946


I, Alfred Kittner, was born on November 24, 1906 in Czernowitz. My father, Heinrich Kittner (dead in 1932) was an accountant, my mother, Cecilia Kittner, born Kapralik, died in 1910, when I was barely 3 years old. I attended primary school and high school in Vienna, where my father lived during the First World War, and in Czernowitz. After graduating high school in 1925 and after attending for a year the Sciences Department of the Czernowitz University, I performed my military service as an infantryman in Satu Mare (1928-1929) and then I attended German Studies and German literature courses at Breslau University, where I began my literary career. In 1932, back in Czernowitz, I worked for a year in the accounting department of the Marmorosch-Blank Bank, and in 1933 I started as an editor with the “Der Tag”; (The Day) newspaper in Czernowitz, at which paper I worked as secretary, literary editor, spell-checker, reporter, etc. until 1936, when this newspaper became Czernowitzer Tagblatt. I worked in my former capacity at this newspaper as well, until it was suspended once the Goga-Cuza Cabinet came to power in 1939. This year I also published a volume of poetry. As a publicist, I always fought for the cause of democracy, against obscurantism, and I revealed, among other things, in my articles, the terrorist means and persecution applied by the Czernowitz police against the Communist prisoners. Throughout this time, I have been an occasional collaborator of literary magazines from Viena, Prague, etc.

In 1940-1941, after Northern Bukovina was annexed to the Soviet Russia, I worked as a librarian with the Regional Czernowitz Library, and as a censor of the foreign books, and I collaborated with the Moscow International Literature Magazine. In 1941, I was deported, having been black-listed as a democratic publicist, by the secret police of Gen. Antonescu. With my familyat Bug, after three torturous years in several extermination camps {Cariera pe Bug (Bug Quarry), Cetvertinovca, Demidovca, Obadovca} being freed by the victorious advancement of the Red Army, I returned to Czernowitz, where I restarted my former job at the Library. In the meantime, my brother in law was mobilized as a military medic and a captain in the liberating Polish Army, sent [invitations] for the entire family. This is how I ended up in Poland, from where I returned to my country after my brother in law was released from the military.

In October 1945 I became a librarian with Arlus [Association for closer Ties with the Soviet Union – Asociația Română pentru strângerea Legăturilor cu Uniunea Sovietică] Library, in which capacity I work even to this day, and in January of this year, I began to work as a radio anchor.

[Translation by courtesy of Elena Iuga]

From Anne-Mette Prent of Norway – Her Czernowitz Connection

Just received today from Anne-Mette Prent of Norway, and I hope she will write soon to the list telling us more about the following documents.  Here is an abbreviated version of what she just wrote to me:

Hello Bruce,
A friend has helped me to scan some of the documents from my grandmother. Here are “ Heiratsurkunde”( 2 pages) “Trauungs-Matriken-Schein”( 2 pages), Lehrbefahigungs-Zeugnis”, and two pictures from Weissensee graveyard in Berlin. The poem on Karl Ernst`s stone, I am very anxious to know if anyone in the group knows anything about. I have asked Germanists here in Oslo, but it seems to be quite unknown to all. The inscription on my great-grandparents` stone is in Hebrew, and I have already sent you the German translation. All these documents are in German, my German is worse than my English, consequently, it`s been a job translating everything into Norwegian. But it has been rewarding! I got around 100 documents from The Archive, most of them in Norwegian. I also got papers from the German SS in connection with my uncle Karl Ernst, he commited suicide while being tortured in Berlin, since he was Jewish and a communist. It was in these papers I found that he was born in Czernowitz. The story of my grandmother is in Norwegian, to translate it into English, do you think that is worth it? It will take me weeks! But if you think the group is intterested I will do it. I think I owe her that.

Heiratsurkunde 50 Heiratsurkunde 51 Karl Ernst Matriken-Schein 1 Matriken-Schein 2 Olderforeldre Zeugnis

Book by Hedwig Brener – Just published!

From: Hartung-Gorre
Sent: Friday, March 06, 2015 3:09 PM
To: Brener, Hedwig
Subject: “Begegnungen mit Menschen und Städten” sind fertig
Liebe Frau Brenner,
gerade sind die fertig gedruckten Bücher aus der Druckerei eingetroffen.
Das Buch ist sehr, sehr schön geworden.
Mit herzlichen Grüßen und Wünschen zum Wochenende
[Google Translation:
The final printed books have just arrived from the printers.
The book is very, very nice.
With warm regards and wishes for the weekend,]
Renate Gorre und Woflgang Hartung-Gorre
Hartung-Gorre Verlag
Inh.: Dr. Renate Gorre
Saentisblick 26
D-78465 Konstanz
Fon: +49 (0)7533 97227
Fax: +49 (0)7533 97228
Zum neuen Buch von Hedwig Brenner
„Begegnungen mit Menschen und Städten“
von Christel Wollmann-Fiedler, BerlinAuf  Menschen zugehen zu können ist eine Gabe, mit ihnen zu sprechen, von ihnen zu erfahren, eine Bereicherung des Lebens. Sich Jahrzehnte später an diese Begegnungen zu erinnern, eine Gnade!
Hedwig Brenner, die Erfinderin dieses neuen Buches, durchstreifte Städte vor unendlich vielen Jahren, begegnete zufällig in Parks und auf Plätzen alten Bekannten oder Unbekannten, die zu Freunden wurden. Die Schilderungen in diesem Buch sind nicht erfunden, erlebt und aufgeschrieben wurden sie von einer kommunikativen weltoffenen sechsundneunzigjährigen alten Dame, einer Czernowitzerin, eben Hedwig Brenner, wie bereits erwähnt. Geboren wurde die Schriftstellerin 1918 in der Bukowina, im deutschsprachigen Buchenland, das einst bis zum Ende des 1. Weltkrieges zur Donaumonarchie gehörte, dann zum Königreich Rumänien kam, 1945 gar zur Sowjetunion und seit 1990 zur Ukraine gehört. In einer liberalen jüdischen Familie wuchs Hedwig Brenner auf, ließ sich von der Vielfalt der Kulturen in ihrer Heimatstadt inspirieren. Auch sie erlebte die Diskriminierung und Verfolgung der jüdischen Bevölkerung in der Nazizeit, kam ins Getto in Czernowitz, überlebte die Gräuel, verließ die Heimat und nahm die Erinnerungen mit. Erst vor dreißig Jahren ist sie in der 3. Heimat, im Heiligen Land Israel, angekommen.
Neugierig und wissbegierig ist Hedwig Brenner seit der Kindheit, wie sie selbst zugibt, beobachtet mit Verve. Diese Beobachtungen und Begegnungen erzählt sie uns in ihrem neunten Buch. Reisen war, nein, ist ihre Leidenschaft. Erst vor einigen Monaten besuchte sie Berlin, hatte Lesungen, traf auch hier wiederum Menschen, die irgendwann ihren Weg kreuzten  und neue kamen hinzu.
Seinerzeit in Ploiesti im rumänischen Petrolgebiet in den Jahren 1945 bis 1982  erlebte Hedwig Brenner so manches während der Ceaucescuadministration. Reisen ins westliche Ausland, in „kapitalistische“ Länder, waren untersagt und somit eine Seltenheit. Hedwig Brenner eroberte das Herz des einen oder anderen, bekam einen Paß mit Stempel und reiste mit vier Dollar Taschengeld ins „feindliche“ Ausland zu Freunden und Verwandten nach London, Brüssel, Düsseldorf und anderswohin. Nur alleine durfte sie reisen, Ehemann und Söhne blieben als Pfand zuhause. Die kommunistische Regierung kontrollierte und reglementierte das Leben seiner Bürger. Erst später, von Israel aus, besuchte das Ehepaar Brenner gemeinsam Land und Leute in Europa und Nordamerika.
Bis ins Detail sind Hedwig Brenner diese Städte mit ihren Sehenswürdigkeiten und Schönheiten  gedanklich geblieben, die Namen der Menschen, der alten und neuen Freunde kramte sie aus der Gedankenschublade und schrieb sie in Haifa in Neve Sha’nan nieder.
Nehmen sie teil an den vergangenen Erlebnissen und Begegnungen dieser alten Dame, lassen Sie sich verführen an Orte und durchstreifen sie mit ihr Städte, die heute anders aussehen als damals, seien sie zu Gast bei Menschen, die Hedwig Brenner in ihren Erinnerungen schildert. Fantasie ist auch eine Gnade und eine Gabe!

Israel..3-4-14 1663

Hedwig Brenner and her son Michael from the USA