"I can hold my head up high"
Anne Meininger wrote these words in her last letter, sent from France to her daughter, Hilde Garti, in Bulgaria.
Eugen Meininger and Anne née Stern lived in Göttingen, Germany. Eugen was in the cattle business. In 1913, their daughter Hilde was born, and their son Franz-Josef was born about 8 years later. In October 1935, Eugen was informed that his trade license had been revoked, and that he had to stop working immediately. Eugen died of heart failure at home the same day. He is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Göttingen.
Hilde married Robert Garti, a Bulgarian Jewish dentist who came to Germany to study, and moved with him to Bulgaria , where their daughters Renée (later Rina Lavie) and Jeneline-Jenny (later Gila Ofir) were born. In 1937, Franz-Josef immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) with the Youth Aliyah, and settled in Kfar Yehezkel.
After the birth of her granddaughter Renée, Anne travelled to Bulgaria to visit her family. She then visited her sister in the US, and from there, returned home to Germany.
In 1940, Anne fled to Luxembourg, moved to France, and was incarcerated in the Gurs camp. She wrote her last letter to her daughter on 30 August 1942 in the Les Milles camp, and from there, was sent to Drancy. On 1 September, she still managed to send a postcard with birthday greetings to her son Franz-Josef in Eretz Israel. That was the last anyone heard from Anne. On 7 September 1942, she was deported to her death in Auschwitz.
Her son Josef joined the British Army and fought in the ranks of the Jewish Brigade. He later married Dvora whom he met in Kfar Yehezkel and they helped establish Moshav Batzra in the Sharon region. In 1948, Hilde, her husband and daughters immigrated to Israel from Bulgaria. In the 1960s, Josef changed his name from Meininger to Mann.
Over the years, Anne sent letters to her family. She sent her granddaughters postcards from France, illustrated with cheerful drawings. In all her letters, she made no mention of her difficult circumstances, and remained resolutely optimistic. Displayed here is her last letter to her daughter Hilde, written on the occasion of Hilde's 29th birthday.
In 1999, Hilde Garti (Meininger) submitted Pages of Testimony in memory of her parents, Anne and Eugen. In 2011, Anne and Eugen's granddaughter Gila Ofir donated Anne's original letters and postcards to Yad Vashem as part of the ongoing project "Gathering the Fragments".
My darling, darling children,
Today, on your birthday, my thoughts are intensively focused on you. My dear Musch, I hope that you had a good time today, given the circumstances. What wouldn't I give to be with you? We must be patient, that day will yet come. We have been in the camp since Wednesday, and I am truly all right. You at home don't need to worry about me. I am together with many acquaintances, but we will not be staying here although I don't know when we will be leaving. In any event, write to me at Gusty: 7 Rue St. Francois Le Sales, Annecy (Haute-Savoie). She will send the mail on to me.
I hope that you are all right, my loves. Just don't worry about me unnecessarily. The main thing is that we can receive news from each other. Keep writing to me diligently, and send me sweet pictures. It's the mischievous one's [Anne's son, Franz-Josef] birthday the day after tomorrow. This year these are not happy days for me, but I can hold my head up high. You know your mother, she's brave like that. I would love to go to my friends, Otto and Marta, as then I would have pleasant, good people around me. They would definitely be able to help me. Maybe I'll visit Tiltchen. The weather is very good, and I'm in the fresh air all day. You probably have a lot of work. If I was with you, I could be very busy and helpful. When I see you, I will open wide, surprised eyes. I wish it would already happen.
I'm finishing for today. My four dear ones, stay well, and keep writing to me conscientiously.
I kiss you,
Your loving Mutti [Mother]
Dear Ms. Hilde,
First of all, I would like to apologize for not having written for so long, but I've truly always been busy. Unfortunately, we have too much time on our hands now but this too will pass. We are all destined for the same fate, and we need to comfort one another. I hope that you, your husband and your dear children are still all right. I am kept informed by your mother, who is a woman more precious than gold. We are always happy to see the sweet pictures.
Warm regards to beloved [……..] from me.