"When we are on the train and know our destination, we will let you know, if we can."
Berta Keller-Moses wrote these words in her last letter to her sons Kurt and Siegfried, on the eve of deportation from her home in Aachen to the Terezin ghetto.
Berta Baum and Max Keller were married in 1919, and lived in the village of Warden in the Rhine region of Germany. There were five Jewish families in the village. The Kellers maintained an observant Jewish lifestyle. Max owned a plot of land and was in the cattle trade. Berta and Max had two sons, Kurt (b. 1920) and Siegfried (b. 1923). Max served in the German Army in World War I and was awarded the Iron Cross. He was wounded in a mustard gas attack and never regained his strength, passing away in 1925.
In 1938, Kurt and Siegfried both joined different Hachsharot (pioneer training farms). Kurt managed to leave Germany for Sweden. Siegfried's Hachsharah at Steckelsdorf was damaged during Kristallnacht and he fled to his mother in the village. Berta sold the house and land for half their value and moved to nearby Aachen with Siegfried. In March 1939, Siegfried parted from Berta and immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) with the Youth Aliyah. He never saw his mother again.
Berta married Philip Moses in 1940. Despite Philip's wealth and the fact that he had a son and other relatives in the US, Berta and Philip were unable to leave Germany.
In July 1942, Berta and Philip were deported from Aachen to the Terezin ghetto. Philip was murdered in late August. In January 1943, Berta was deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered. In 1992, Shimon (Siegfried) Keller submitted a Page of Testimony in memory of his mother Berta. In 2013 Shimon donated his mother's letters to Yad Vashem for posterity, as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" project.
Our beloved children,
You probably received our last farewell postcards. We didn't know the exact day [of our departure] then.
As dear Father already wrote, we are leaving on the 25th, so it looks as though we will see each other earlier than we anticipated.
We are sending you a picture of us as a parting gift, and hope that you will receive it. After all, I want you to get to know dear Father, and we very much hope that it will be soon.
Now darling children, be well and pray for us that dear God will watch over us and protect us and all of you.
Dear Betty, we also wish your parents and siblings all the best.
When we are on the train and know our destination, we will let you know, if we can.
Dear Kurt, write to Siegfried that we will be a little closer to him. Perhaps the good Lord will bring us together.
I thank God for uniting me with this wonderful man who loves me so much. My photograph is not so good. It's a passport photo, but you will recognize me.
Now again, with limitless love and warmth I take you into my heart,
I hug and kiss you thousands of times.
Your mother, who loves you.
I also add greetings with all my heart. Farewell,
Dear Kurt, if you are in touch with Walter [Philip's son], let him know about the change of address.