A suitcase, inscribed with the words “Margarete Sara Katz Magdeburg”, appears for one fleeting moment in a German propaganda film taken of German Jewish deportees arriving at the Warsaw Ghetto. We see the faces of the Jewish deportees, but cannot identify them by name; we cannot know their personal stories.
In an effort to recover the world that once existed behind the owner of the suitcase, we searched Pages of Testimony in Yad Vashem’s Shoah Victims Names Database. The Pages were submitted by family in the United States and included pictures of Margarete, her husband Sally, and their ten-year-old daughter Brunhilde.
The Pages give us basic biographical information about the family members and tell us that they were deported to a concentration camp. The relatives, who submitted the Pages of Testimony did not know the details of their deaths - only that Margarete, Sally and Brunhilde had simply disappeared, vanished like so many others.
From the list of Jews deported from Magdeburg to Warsaw that appears in our Lists Database, we learn that Margarete, Sally, and Brunhilde Katz were deported from Magdeburg, Germany to Warsaw on April 14, 1942. The arrival of the transport in Warsaw two days later is mentioned in the diary of Adam Czerniakow, the Chairman of the Warsaw Judenrat (Jewish Council): “At 6 [a.m.] the train with the German Jews arrived. There seems to be 1,000 people. I had the transport brought to the Library of Jewish Studies.”
The German Jews in Warsaw were among the first Jews to be sent to their deaths in the Treblinka death camp in July 1942.
A fleeting image of a suitcase in a film began a search, which ultimately led to the recovery of the identity and fate of one family, one more story rescued from oblivion.
The Nazis and their collaborators sought to murder each and every Jew and to obliterate their memory. Where the attempt to annihilate was made, there must be the attempt to remember. The Shoah Victims Names Database and the Lists Database are an attempt to retrieve their names and to ensure that they will never be forgotten. The names and stories of millions of Shoah victims have not yet been identified. These databases are therefore a work in progress.
“If we wish to live and to bequeath life to our offspring, if we believe that we are to pave the way to the future, then we must first of all not forget.” (Prof. Ben Zion Dinur, Yad Vashem, 1956)