On 20 July 1942, a deportation train left Köln, Germany, with some 1,165 Jews on board. Among the deportees were Friedrich Bader, his wife Regina, and their seven-year-old son Kurt. Four days later, the train arrived in Minsk, Belarus. The deportees were forced off the train and taken to the Maly Trostinets camp, where they were murdered. Two months later, on 26 September, Friedrich's 14-year-old son, George, was deported from the Mechelen camp in Belgium to his death in Auschwitz. Friedrich's other two sons, Menashe and Adi, survived and immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine).
The names Friedrich, Regina, George and Kurt Bader are documented in the Book of Names, four of the 4,800,000 names of Holocaust victims that have been collected by Yad Vashem and are commemorated in this monumental installation. This is their story.
Friedrich-Lazer-Ephraim Bader and Sara Sibirski got married in February 1925 in Köln, Germany. Born in Köln, Friedrich served in the German Army in World War I. He fought on the Western Front, was injured and awarded the Iron Cross. They had three sons: Joseph-Martin-Menashe (b. 1925), George-Richard-Reuven (b. 1927) and Adolf-Bernhardt-Adi (b. 1931).
Friedrich was a traveling salesman who sold bedding. He would travel outside Köln during the week, and return for Shabbat. He served as the Gabai (beadle) at his synagogue, and the family led a traditional Jewish lifestyle. Friedrich was also active in the Köln branch of "Maccabi" and trained in boxing. Menashe trained in gymnastics as part of the "Agudat Hakoach" movement. In March 1931, about four weeks after Adi's birth, 25-year-old Sara died of pneumonia. Two years after her death, Friedrich married her sister, Regina-Rivka, and their son Kurt-Katriel was born in 1935. The older boys went to Jewish schools in Köln.
Following the Nazis' rise to power in Germany, Regina's two brothers left Germany and immigrated to Eretz Israel. "Thanks to our non-Jewish appearance, my brother George and I walked around Köln fearlessly, like all the German children," recalled Menashe. In 1938, the Baders were forced to leave their home and move to a street on which Jews were permitted to live. In the November Pogrom ("Kristallnacht") on 9-10 November 1938, Friedrich was arrested. His service in the German Army and the Iron Cross he was awarded stood him in good stead, and he was eventually released. The same year, Regina's mother immigrated to Eretz Israel and reached her son Herman in Ein Harod.
The family requested permission to immigrate to the USA. Medical tests carried out at the US Consulate in Stuttgart revealed that Kurt had an ear infaction. As a result, the family was requested to provide another 200 dollars in guarantees from relatives in the USA. This delay cost them their departure opportunity.
"We carried on going to school," relates Menashe, "in greatly reduced classes. Some children had already been evicted to Zbąszyń, and each day, less children came to school. More than half the class were already absent." In December, Menashe celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. A teacher from Luxembourg prepared him, and he read the customary Torah portion. His parents gave him a watch to mark the occasion.
Friedrich tried to get his three older sons out of Germany to relatives, so that they would be reunited later on in the USA. Seven-year-old Adi and George, 11, were smuggled out to Belgium to their paternal Uncle Max. Max took Adi to a Catholic family in the town of Kapellen, and George was brought to a non-Jewish orphanage in Antwerp. Meanwhile, the war broke out, but 14-year-old Menashe also managed to depart. He left through the Youth Aliyah, and arrived in Eretz Israel in December 1939. "When we parted, Father gave me his Tefillin [phylacteries]. It was one year after my Bar Mitzvah," relates Menashe. Friedrich, Regina and Kurt remained in Köln.
Recalling his time in Kapellen, Adi relates:
The lady in the Catholic home where I was staying, was very warm. My uncle brought her material to make herself a dress, and they arranged that he would pay a monthly fee of 120 francs for my care. My uncle paid twice, and all the rest of the time that I was there, additional payments did not materialize… I remember that when I arrived, I cried for four days straight. Every night when I went to sleep, I would recite a prayer that I remembered from home.
Adi walked around Kapellen freely. He attended the local school and went to church. The family he lived with provided everything for him. From time to time, his brother George came to visit. In May 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium. For three-and-a-half years, until summer 1942, Adi lived with the family in Kapellen. When Jews began to be hunted down in Belgium and deported, the Catholic family feared for his safety and their own, and in June, they entrusted him to the Jewish community in Antwerp, and he was transferred to a religious orphanage in Brussels. It was hard for Adi to acclimatize to the orthodox lifestyle there after having lived as a Christian in Kapellen, and in February 1943, he was moved to the AJB (Association of Jews in Belgium) children's home in Wezembeek-Oppem, where the atmosphere was more lenient. Remembering Wezembeek, he recalls:
I learned French… We also learned Hebrew songs. We learned Hebrew words. Each group had a Hebrew name… There were children there from age one to 17. We played a lot, and there were many group activities. We went out to the woods frequently… When I was in Wezembeek, I wrote a postcard to my brother George in the orphanage in Antwerp, and begged him to come and visit.
In the summer of 1944, the Wezembeek children were considered to be in danger, and were dispersed amongst different Christian institutions. Adi was in a group that was moved to a convent in Leuven, where he remained until his liberation by American soldiers.
Eventually, Menashe and Adi found out what had happened to their family. George was betrayed and caught by the Gestapo in Antwerp, and imprisoned in the Mechelen camp. On 26 September 1942, he was deported to Auschwitz and murdered. Max Bader, the uncle who had welcomed Adi and George on their arrival in Belgium, was also murdered. The circumstances of his death are unknown. Their parents Friedrich and Regina and their little brother Kurt were deported from Köln to Minsk on 20 July 1942, and murdered.
Adi Bader immigrated to Eretz Israel in June 1946. Menashe joined the Hagganah, enlisted in the IDF and fought in the battles for Israel's independence in the ranks of the Givati brigade. During the first lull he married his girlfriend, Ruth.
In 2000, Menashe submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of his father Friedrich, his mother Regina and his brothers George and Kurt. In 2013, documents and photographs of the Bader and Sibirski families were donated to Yad Vashem as part of the national project, "Gathering the Fragments", some of which are displayed here.
The same year, Menashe also donated his father's Tefillin [phylacteries], which he received when they parted in Germany on the eve of his immigration to Eretz Israel.