A rare encounter between descendants of family friends during the Holocaust era occurred at Yad Vashem this week. Recently, Marcel Calef, a resident of Miami, Florida originally from Colombia, was notified by his cousin, Daniel Camhi, of a Yad Vashem facebook post detailing illustrated postcards they had never seen before but which contained a familiar name. As it turned out, the postcards were drawn by their great-grandfather, Professor Alfred Grotte in Germany between 1936 and 1941.
Calef contacted Yad Vashem and was informed that the postcards, which are part of the Yad Vashem art collection, were part of a wider donation of dozens of illustrated postcards, letters and photographs, given by Moshe Posener to Yad Vashem through its "Gathering the Fragments" campaign. Posener had inherited the illustrated postcards from his parents, Franz and Ellen. They were used by Ellen's parents, Hugo and Gretel Lewin, after the Poseners left their hometown of Breslau (then Germany, today Wroclaw, Poland) in 1936 and moved to Liechtenstein.
The postcards were illustrated by Grotte, a family friend of the Lewins, with personal and elaborate drawings in the style of a children's book. The colorful postcards were used by the Lewin family to correspond from Nazi Germany and keep in touch with their children and grandson in Liechtenstein.
Prof. Grotte was deported from Breslau to the Grüssau transit camp in Silesia in 1942 and from there to Theresienstadt, where he died on June 17, 1943. His wife, Klara, was murdered in Auschwitz. Hugo and Gretel Lewin were deported from Breslau in 1942 to Izbica, Poland, where they were also murdered.
For decades, Posener, who immigrated to Israel in 1961 from Liechtenstein, never knew the full story of Prof. Grotte until now when descendants of Grotte, living in the U.S., chanced upon a particular social networking post that translated into a meaningful correspondence and eventually a personal meeting at Yad Vashem this week. During the visit, Posener and Calef traded family stories and looked together at documents and pictures from the Holocaust period that Calef had brought to donate to Yad Vashem so that they may be preserved and provide additional information to this fascinating story.
"It's so very exciting and interesting," said Moshe Posener following his meeting with Marcel Calef and his family for the first time. "Now we have the full story behind Prof. Grotte, which for so many years was just a mystery. Here is a person with flesh and blood, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren!"
Yad Vashem's "Gathering the Fragments" campaign encourages people with Holocaust related material in their possession to bring them to Yad Vashem, where they will be protected for posterity, along with the unique stories behind the items. Each of these items joins all the other material in the Yad Vashem collections, so that together all these fragments of information can tell the fuller story of the Shoah.
Since the beginning of this program in 2011, some 120,000 items have been brought to Yad Vashem, including photos, documents and artifacts. People wishing to donate material should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +972-2-644-3888.