"I'm leaving today – wait for mail."
Rosa Feier née Fischer wrote these words on a scrap of paper before she was deported together with her 9-year-old son Fritz from the Terezin ghetto to Auschwitz.
Rosa and Zigmund-Zosia Feier lived in Vienna. Polish-born Zigmund was a hat-maker, and Rosa, originally from Hungary, was a clerk. They had two boys, Erich (b. 1923) and Fritz (b. 1935).
In 1939, Zigmund travelled to Shanghai and tried to obtain immigration permits for his family. In October, Erich left Vienna for Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine) via Yugoslavia with the Youth Aliya, as part of what later became known as the Kladovo Šabac group. After many trials and tribulations, only some 200 young men and women out of the approximately 1200 individuals in the group reached Eretz Israel in the fall of 1941, Erich Feier being one of them. Those who remained in Yugoslavia were murdered in the Holocaust.
Rosa and Fritz stayed in Vienna. Rosa's mother, Bertha Fischer fell ill, and not wishing to abandon her, Rosa remained there with Fritz. Bertha passed away in 1940.
On 26 February 1942, Rosa sent her son Erich a short telegram via the Red Cross:
My beloved child, I hope you are healthy. We are well… Hugs and kisses darling, your mother and Fritzi. Live well.
The German word "Lebewohl ", ("Live well ") is an expression of farewell used at the end of letters when the writer knows that he/she will never see the recipient of the letter again.
In another letter Rosa wrote: "I'm stupid, stupid, stupid!" referring to her error in not fleeing Vienna with her young son Fritz when it was still possible.
On 24 September 1942, Rosa and Fritz were sent to the Terezin ghetto, and on 16 May 1944, they were deported to the "Family Camp" in Auschwitz-Birkenau. On 10 July, most of the inmates of the "Family Camp" were murdered.
Erich enlisted in the British Army, and after the war he was reunited with his father Zigmund. In Israel, Erich changed his name to Ephraim Lahav. He and his wife Miriam Forman, a Zionist from England, built their home in Jerusalem. They had two children, Tammy and Yonatan. Ephraim was a journalist and news editor for Kol Israel, and also wrote for the German newspaper "Die Welt".
In 1957, Ephraim Lahav-Feier submitted a Page of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of his mother Rosa and his brother Fritz. In 2012, Rosa's grandson Yonatan Lahav donated letters, documents and family photographs to Yad Vashem for posterity, as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" project. One of the letters he donated is Rosa's last letter, displayed in this exhibition, which was found among the late Ephraim Lahav's belongings.