"We are both fine. No news of our dearest ones."
These words were written by Erna and Arnold Korn in their last telegram from Berlin to their son Walter and his wife Chava (Chawa) on Kibbutz Matzuva, a month before the former were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz.
Arnold Korn and Erna Groeger were married before the First World War. Arnold enjoyed writing plays, and Erna was a talented fashion designer, who prepared costumes and sets for the theater. They met whilst Erna was preparing costumes for a play Arnold had written. The couple had three children: Irene-Reni (b. 1914), Gerda (b. 1916) and Walter-Eliyahu (b. 1918).
Arnold fought in the German army during WWI, and was wounded on the frontlines. After the war, the family moved to Berlin. Arnold ran a men's clothing factory that employed some 300 workers.
The family drifted away from Judaism. Arnold was a sports fan and encouraged his children to undertake sporting activities. Reni belonged to the Bar Kochba Jewish sports club, in which she played hockey. Walter and Gerda were members of the Berlin Maccabi swimming club, and took part in competitions.
After the rise of the Nazis to power, Arnold continued to manage the factory. In 1938, Reni married Julian Kadisch, who then traveled to England and acquired a permit for his wife to immigrate. They planned to move on to Australia, but on the day Reni was supposed to join Julian, WWII broke out and her exit from Germany was blocked.
Gerda immigrated to the United States, and Walter joined the Young Maccabi youth movement, participating in the agricultural Hachshara in Gut Winkel, near Berlin. In March 1939, he arrived in Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine).
Arnold, Erna and Reni remained in Berlin. Arnold believed that his service in the German army during WWI would protect him from deportation. On 15 August 1942, Reni was deported to Latvia. Seven months later, on 12 March 1943, her parents, Arnold and Erna, were sent to Auschwitz. All three were murdered. Reni's husband, Julian, emigrated from England to Australia after the war.
In 1941, Walter-Eliyahu married Aliza-Chava Mayburg, and the couple was among the founders of Kibbutz Matsuva. Until the outbreak of war, Arnold and Erna would send Walter a letter every week. Afterwards, from time to time a telegram would reach him via the Red Cross. The last sign of life from Arnold and Erna was sent in February 1943.
In 1955, Walter-Eliyahu Korn (later an Israeli champion target shooter) submitted to Yad Vashem Pages of Testimony in memory of his parents, Arnold and Erna, and his sister Irene-Reni. In 2015, in the framework of Yad Vashem's ongoing "Gathering the Fragments" campaign, Edna Natans, Walter-Eliyahu's daughter, gave Yad Vashem the letters received by her father from his family members. The documents and two photo albums she donated tell the heartfelt story of a family before the war until her father's immigration to Eretz Israel.
21 December 1942
Post Office, Nahariya
We both, all the relatives, [and] Gerda, are healthy. Expecting baby at the end of January. Hope Reni, Paula and Oskar are well. Work is good. We were happy to get your letter.
Kisses, Chava [and] Eliyahu
Sincere thanks for your words. Hope you are happy parents. We are both fine. No news of our dearest ones. Gerda is happy that you are well. Kisses.
11 February 1943