"What are you up to, my darling? Be well. Lots of kisses from your mother."
Berta Joschkowitz wrote these words from the Będzin ghetto in western Poland to her daughter Rosi, who was in the Oberaltstadt labor camp. Berta was sent with her husband Schlomo and their son Elieser to their deaths in Auschwitz. Rosi and her sister Ruth survived.
Polish-born Schlomo Joschkowitz and Berta Fingerhut immigrated separately to Germany. They met and married in 1918, and moved to Nordhausen. They traded in recyclable raw materials and the family lived well. Their children, Ruth (b. 1920), Elieser (b. 1924) and Rosi (b. 1925), studied at a German school and belonged to a Zionist youth movement.
Following the Nazi rise to power, the family's business was harmed. Ruth moved to the "Ahava" institution in Berlin in preparation for her immigration to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine). After six months, she returned to Nordhausen. She was set to join a Zionist Hachshara (agricultural training in preparation for immigration to Eretz Israel), but never made it. In October 1938, all the members of the Joschkowitz family, none of whom had German citizenship, were deported to Zbąszyń, Poland, and from there they fled to family relatives in Mysłowice. The family then split up: Schlomo, Rosi and Elieser moved to Modrzejów; Berta and Ruth stayed in Mysłowice. The family was reunited in Modrzejów after Nazi Germany conquered Poland.
In 1941, Ruth's cousin, Mordechai-Motek Joschkowitz, encouraged her to come to the Gogolin camp where he worked. She worked in the office there until she was sent to other labor camps.
In 1942, Rosi was sent to the Oberaltstadt labor camp, in the Sudetenland. Schlomo, Berta and Elieser stayed in Modrzejów, and were later transferred to the ghetto in Będzin.
All the while, the family wrote to each other. The parents sent letters to their daughters in the various camps, and the sisters wrote to each other. The parents passed letters from Rosi to Ruth and vice-versa, and letters were also sent to other relatives. In her testimony to Yad Vashem, Rosi spoke about the letters she received from her mother – every two weeks. Each letter began and ended the same – with concern for her daughter's health and a mother's request that she look after herself.
In August 1943, the Będzin ghetto was liquidated, and Schlomo, Berta and Elieser were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz. Ruth and Rosi survived; on liberation, they found each other and returned to Nordhausen, where they had arranged to meet their parents after the war. Since nobody else returned, the two girls went to a DP camp and immigrated to Israel.
In 1956, Ruth Kopach-Joschkowitz submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of her father Schlomo and mother Berta Joschkowitz, and their brother Elieser.
In 2015, through Yad Vashem's ongoing "Gathering the Fragments" project, Rosi Weiss-Joschkowitz gave Yad Vashem the dozens of original wartime letters and postcards in her possession for eternal safekeeping, among them this last postcard from her mother Berta.
Bendsb. [Bendsburg, Będzin],
28 July 1943
My darling Rosi,
We received your postcard of 11 July and were very happy to get it, as always. Regarding Rojsa Magier, I will find out and let you know in the next letter. Here everything is as usual. Nobody goes to work apart from me. It is totally unnecessary. We are the only people from Modrzejów here in Bendsburg, because all the others from Modrzejów live in Schrodel [Srodula – the Sosnowiec ghetto]. Mother and Father often go to […] and to Rojka's uncle. That's all the news from here. How are you all doing? How is it going at work? What is life like in the camp? I think it must be better than it is here.
I will end now. A thousand greetings and kisses from me. Regards to all [the people] from Modrzejów and to Mrs. Steinitz. My dear Rosi, I am happy that you received our greetings. Mrs. Linsberg (?) went to Klettendorf. What are you up to my darling, I hope you are well, how are Ruth… and Frumka Hamburger? I am so happy that you received our greetings. What are you up to, my darling? Be well. Lots of kisses from your mother.
(On top of the card: Regards from Frumka and Ruth…)