May 9, 199
(Slight additions and changes made in November 2000)
The Herzog Family.
Today, Daniel Terna, our son, is a pupil in the sixth grade of the Middle School. Rebecca Shiffman, Daniel’s Mother, is the daughter of survivors of the Shoah. I, Frederick Terna, Daniel’s father, am a survivor.
Since writing this eighth set of notes in May 1999 I found additional data. These are included here, as are minor changes in the text.
The following account tells the story of the Herzog family before, and after World War II. Lona Taussig, my mother, was born as Lona Herzog in 1898 in Vienna.
All the members of my mother’s family survived the Shoah. The Herzogs were Viennese Jews. Today they are scattered around the globe. Some of them deny their Jewish ancestry, deny the impact of the Shoah on their lives. That influence is quite visible to me. It is an influence on their children, today the third generation of survivors.
The 1930’s were a turbulent time in Austria. Anti-Semitic doctrines received official sanction. In February 1938 Nazi Germany marched into Austria. Austria and Germany became one country. The Viennese rejoiced, enthusiastically welcomed Hitler, and immediately started persecuting Jews. There was a short window of time when it was, at least theoretically, possible to leave the country before the full force of anti-Jewish laws crushed the Jewish community. The Herzogs had to run for their lives.
Some of them are fleeing to this day. More about that continued running away later.
In seven earlier accounts for the Shoah Archive I did not mention the family of my mother. After my mother’s death in 1932 communication between my parent’s families nearly ceased. The Herzogs blamed the Taussig/Terna family for the separation of my mother from her family, for moving to Prague from Vienna where the rest of the Herzog family lived. After 1932 the Herzog family nearly disappeared from my life. I was nine years old then.
After the war I realized that the Herzogs were the only survivors of my family. I found the address of one of them, and that led to all the others. They were ready and willing to re-establish family ties. I was not ready then to relate events of the immediately preceeding years, and they certainly did not want find out.
Otto Herzog and his wife Anna:
Family lore has it that the family of my grandfather Otto Herzog was the third generation of Herzogs living in Vienna. They were grain merchants and dealers in precious stones. It seems that they were quite wealthy. Otto Herzog and his family lived in a rather elegant house on 49 Friedlgasse in Doebling, one of the affluent districts of Vienna. I remember the house, its elaborate entrance, with a wide circular staircase to the upper floors. Large rooms with Victorian furniture were still there when I visited Vienna as a small child.
Was the Family of Otto Herzog related to some of the famous Rabbis Herzog, and thus to the later president Herzog of Israel? I don’t know.
Otto Herzog, son of Wilhelm Herzog and Rosa, born Kahn, was born in 1871 in Vienna. In 1896 he married Anna Rachel Seidl who was born in 1866 in Joachimsthal, a town in northern Bohemia, now known as Jachymov. They had met in Karlsbad, a famous spa in Bohemia. They had six children, three daughters and three sons.
Lilly was born in 1897
Lona, my mother, in 1898
Stella in 1900
Harry in 1902
Eugen in 1905, and
Alfons, the youngest, on September 1, 1907.
We have a copy of Alfonce’s (thus spelled) birth certicicate, “Geburts-Zeugnis of the Matrikelamt der Isr. Kultusgemeinde in Wien, Grund Nummer 01214274 M according “hiemit bestaetigt dass laut Geburts-Protokolles der israelitischen Kultusgemeinde in Wien, Lit.IV, Nr.1895” Alfonce … was born, etc.
This copy of the birth certificate makes me belief that all siblings were thus registered, Alfonce being the youngest one.
I shall write a separate segment about each one of these aunts and uncles, and about their descendents.
Otto Herzog was born January 16, 1871 (the wedding document to Anna Rachel Seidl says “aus Wien”, i.e. from Vienna, rather than born in Vienna.) Otto Herzog died before World War I. While writing these lines I don’t know the date, or the cause of his death. Grandfather Herzog is a hazy shadow in the family’s memory. No stories and no anecdotes about him survived. There is no photo that endured into our days. Late in 1945, after finding, and a few years later meeting my aunts and uncles his name did not come up for discussion. When I asked about him they had no recollection of him. When Otto Herzog died, all, except for his daughter Lilly, were children. I remain baffled and mystified about Grandfather Herzog.
History and literature alone allow me to feel the atmosphere when Otto Herzog was a young man. The political and spiritual climate in Vienna shaped his family. Gay Vienna is a fantasy invented by promoters of operettas. Starting with the Crusades, official and unofficial restrictions, frequent expulsion, social discrimination, ill will and hostility at every turn were the lot of Jews living in Vienna. For Otto Herzog it was the Vienna when Georg von Schoenerer and most other Austrian politicians, among them Karl Lueger, a mayor of Vienna, changed the underlying Christian hatred of Jews, used, and developed political and racial anti-Semitism. It was in the fabric of Jew-hating Vienna where a young Adolf Hitler learned and absorbed his ideology. The articulation of Nazi persecution, brutality, and murder, the oratory that later was translated into action was developed in Vienna. There was also the Vienna of intellectual ferment, of innovation, and the premonition of imperial decline. It was also, at the same time, the Vienna of great authors, musicians, artist, philosophers and scientists. Many of these, were Jews. They were the ones that gave Vienna its cultural flavor, its place in the world. After World War II Vienna became a cultural backwater, a museum about past glory. The best they had for us was a Waldheim.
According to the laws of the Austro-Hungarian Empire there had to be a male executor of a deceased father of a family with minors; the mother had no legal standing. Also, according to the then existing laws, all family assets had to be put into government securities as a trust account for the children. In 1918 at the end of World War I when the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed these securities became worthless, and the family was pauperized overnight. The executor of the assets may not have had the skill to administer such matters. He was, perhaps, dishonest. More than 50 years later I heard Harry Herzog rage about this man. There was a break with other relatives of Otto Herzog. I speculate whether this alienation was one of the ingredients that made two of the sons convert to Catholicism as adults. Anna Herzog and her children had to fend for themselves without family support.
With amazing energy Anna Herzog and her daughter Lilly, who was then about 20 years old, managed to take care of the rest of the children. They developed a jewelry business in post-war Vienna in the midst of a general economic collapse. There was barely enough money to feed five growing children; there were no means to provide for the traditional higher education. A Dutch relief organization was willing to take the three boys to Holland to provide them with food and shelter so that they could recover from the effects of four years of wartime Vienna. Anna Herzog accepted the offer. She may not have known that the organization was under the direction of the Catholic Church working out of Holland. I don’t know how long the three boys stayed in Holland, nor do I know details about that experience.
Decades later I learned that the three sons had acquired a thorough training as mechanical engineers in Vienna without going to a formal school. They became mechanical troubleshooters, but all three eventually became successful businessmen.
Was Otto Herzog’s home a traditional Jewish household? As mentioned above there is no information about him. All his children received a Jewish education. Two of his daughters, Lilly and Stella became Zionists. Their families found a haven in Israel, then still Palestine. My mother, Lona, knew Hebrew. She tried to teach me the Alef Bet at a very early age. Two sons, Harry and Alfons stopped being Jews later in life. More about that below. Eugen’s stance, later, as an adult, was a personal form of acknowledgment of his tradition. He was not a practicing Jew. Translated into our time and into this country he probably would have sent a yearly contribution to the UJA.
Grandmother Anna Rachel Herzog:
After the war, when I met Grandmother Herzog she was eighty-one, and a sweet old lady. This certainly was not the Anna Herzog who had managed to raise six children through decades of adversity. I do not have an insight into her personality or her inner life. My information about her as an active caretaker of her family comes largely by way of her children. What I know about her tells me about her energy, her down-to-earth stance, but little more. She had no time for the pleasures of cultural pursuits, and neither did any one of her children while they were growing up.
Grandmother Herzog, with Lilly at her side, ruled the family with a strong hand. Her word was law. The cohesion of the family was her first injunction. Every one had to do his or her best to contribute. This demand, a necessity in the years immediately following 1918, became a burden as time went on. Any attempt to shape a life independent of the rest of the family created conflict, was the source of discord, of strife. The theme of the Herzog family, their “Leitmotif”, was the mandate to keep the family together, but that included also the hidden and unrecognized ingredient, the struggle to escape from that demand. The reverberation of that dictate makes itself felt even today, long after the six siblings have passed away.
Every one of the three brothers remained unmarried until they were close to 50 years old. In 1947, at a meeting of some family members in Utrecht in Holland, Lilly tried to discourage two of them, Alfons and Eugen from marriage to the women of their choice. They had not asked Lilly or Grandmother Herzog for permission. The result was resentment, and pointed remarks about Lilly’s poor choice of her own husband. Lilly found the chutzpah to question my marriage to my first wife, Stella Horner, implying that her advice would have prevented me from a mistake. This admonition was given at the time when Lilly’s son Otto was secretly married without his parent’s approval.
I shall set down more about Grandmother Herzog’s life after liberation when writing about her sons Alfons and Harry.
Lilly and Josef Kupferstein:
Lilly Herzog, the oldest, felt that she had to direct her younger siblings. This continued well into the time when all of them were adults. The result was bitterness, opposition, and quarrels. I think that a good part of the conversion of Harry and Alfons to Catholicism was their striking back at Lilly’s Zionism.
After World War I Lilly married Josef Kupferstein. My memory of him is quite vague. He was less than a devoted husband, was not liked by the family, and was referred to by the others as ‘that louse’. In 1922 Lilly and Josef had a son who was named Otto after his grandfather. Soon after the inclusion of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938 they managed to leave Vienna and find their way to Haifa, then Palestine. I don’t know when Joseph Kupferstein died. The last time I saw Lilly was in1983 on a visit to Israel. By then she lived in an old age home on the Carmel, she was quite frail, and nearly blind.
During the war their son Otto Kupferstein was an employee of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. After the war his parents sent him to a hotel school in Switzerland. There he met Eva Kylberg, a student at the same school. Eva came from a Swedish Protestant family. Otto and Eva were married without informing his parents. The anger and commotion caused by this decision reverberated long after the fact. Otto had committed the cardinal offence of the Herzog family, making a decision without the prior approval of his mother. To me it is yet another instance of breaking away from the oppressive demand for family cohesion.
Otto and Eva moved to Sweden, and made their home there. More dissent was to follow. Otto Kupferstein changed his name to Otto Herzog. I don’t know whether he officially remained a Jew. My contact with him was quite limited. There was a summer in 1935 in Vienna when both of us were children. Later, in the summer of 1947, we met during a meeting of a part of the family in Utrecht, in Holland, and, much later, in the 1960’s there was a visit of Otto to New York. He gave the impression of a cold person, deliberately keeping a distance, selfish, and somewhat haughty. It was difficult to be the son of his mother Lilly. Family patterns shaped him, and so did history. Family matters were not discussed, nor the impact of flight, of dislocation, and, of course, not the Shoah.
Otto and Eva have two daughters, Cecilia and Ann. Ann was named after her great grandmother Anna Herzog. Ann, the fourth generation of Herzogs I’m writing about here, is married. She has two children. They are now the fifth generation of Herzogs. These children, in turn, are of an age to start their own families. In 1998 Cecilia came to visit us here in New York. She is in her late 40’s, unmarried, a physiotherapist. She too changed her name, this time from Herzog to Kylberg, her mother’s maiden name. Is this another instance of running away from the Herzog family?
Otto, a successful manager of hotels, is retired now, and lives a comfortable life. The family owns a summer place on Gotland, an island in the middle of the Baltic Sea, about 100 miles southeast of Stockholm. According to his daughter Cecily his relationship to his wife Eva deteriorated over the years, today they are barely willing to communicate. Otto suffered for many years from a chronic intestinal irritation resistant to all medication. Seen from this distance, and also viewed as such by Cecily and her sister Ann, his ailment has all the hallmarks of emotional origins.
Is Otto a victim of the built-in family conflict of the Herzogs, of cohesion versus independence? He cut himself loose from his people, his past, his parents, and his wife. He is a survivor. The Shoah shaped his life in unpredicted ways, and it did the same to his children. I don’t think that any one of them is aware of this.
A different set of notes records details of my family. Here I want to mention memories relevant to my mother’s standing in the Herzog family.
My mother Lona was the rebel in the family. I’m not sure what caused this reputation. I explain it as a rebellion against the pressure to conform. She met my father who then was working in Vienna. They were married in Vienna. I was born there in 1923, my brother Tommy in 1926. Soon thereafter our family moved to Prague, about 200 miles away. Lilly and Grandmother Herzog saw this move as disloyalty, a betrayal of the mandate to face the world as one united family. Communication stopped. There were no letters, no telephone calls, and no visits; my parents were no longer welcome at the Herzogs in Vienna. My mother never saw her mother again. When my mother died rather suddenly of pneumonia in 1932 Lilly came to Prague, went to attend the funeral, and returned immediately home to Vienna. The only one who dared to be in touch with us was Harry. There was an intellectual closeness between Harry and my father. Harry came to visit us in Prague once. In 1935 he invited me to spend some of my summer vacation in Vienna.
Stella and Max Ehrenfest:
Early in the 1920’s Stella Herzog married Max Ehrenfest. In 1939 they succeeded in their flight from Vienna to Rumania. There, in the port of Constanza, they boarded an illegal ship that brought them to Haifa. Their daughter Ruth, born in 1925, had left late in 1938 with a transport of children for Holland. Upon the occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany Ruth went into hiding. Eventually she was smuggled out of occupied Holland into Spain, and in 1944 boarded a ship in Cadiz, and, finally a legal immigrant, was allowed to join her parents in Haifa.
While in Vienna in 1935 as part of my summer vacation I stayed in their apartment, but I spent most of the day with my Uncle Harry or in Grandmother Herzog’s home. I remember the Ehrenfests as a warm and friendly family. When I met them on a very brief visit to Vienna in 1968 they were quite eager to know details about the Terna/Taussig family.
In the 1930’s Max Ehrenfest was an employee of the social security system of Austria. In 1934 after a civil war in Austria, and the subsequent dictatorship of Dollfuss he was dismissed from his job. Laws enacted after the reestablishment of Austria after 1945 allowed him to claim a pension as if he had remained on the job all these years and that included assumed promotions. This pension persuaded him to move from Israel back to Vienna.
In 1947, in Haifa, their daughter Ruth married Werner Juda Meron. Werner was born in Dresden in 1922. I don’t know the circumstances of his move to Israel. In 1942 he had enlisted in the British Navy, and served with a submarine unit in Suez and later in Port Said. After the war he taught English at the Technion in Haifa, he also wrote some textbooks. Starting in 1956 he worked as a translator of technical literature in Vienna.
Ruth and Werner Meron have two children: Michal and Giora Meron.
Michal Meron is an artist, now living in Tel Aviv. She is now married to Alon Baker who had two children from a previous marriage, Gilad and Maya. Michal had two children from her earlier marriage, Eytan and Dovrat. Michal and Alon have two children, Kinneret and Nevo, and they adopted Nir Dwir as their seventh child. They have an art gallery in Old Jaffo. Michal paints in a naïve style. Almost all of her work is based on the Tanach. Her latest work is the visual representation of all parashiot. They are a vivacious couple, enterprising, and good company. They are the first generation of descendents of Grandfather Otto Herzog free of the cloud of family history, where the Shoah is a part of the history of the Jewish people, rather than immediate family experience. They do not show the much-too-frequent survivor’s guilt, they are not running away.
Giora Meron was born in 1955 in Haifa. He married Sonja Schwartz in Vienna in 1983. Both are medical doctors, and they live in Vienna. They have two children, David and Naomi. My only contact with them is by e-mail and FAX.
During the war Eugen and Alfons shared a similar fate. I shall write separately about Alfons further below.
After the Anschluss, i.e. the merger of Austria and Germany, late in 1938 Alfons and Eugen found a way to go to Holland. They had learned Dutch as children in Holland. It seems that the Catholic organization that had cared for them as youngsters after World War I provided false identity papers for them. This allowed them to cross into Yugoslavia, and from there they made their way to Amsterdam. In Holland they concocted a scheme for Grandmother Herzog to join them. War broke out in September 1939, and before long Nazi Germany occupied Holland. They got another set of false papers, and lived the underground life in the Dutch countryside. Grandmother Herzog was hidden in a Catholic convent pretending to be a nun. She was close to eighty years old then. Imagination fails me to picture her in that role.
While still in Vienna Harry, Alfons, and also Eugen were Social Democrats, i.e. moderate Socialists. None of them remained a Socialist after the war. During or soon after the war Alfons converted to Catholicism, and so did Harry who was then in New Zealand. (I shall talk about Harry later.) The subject of their conversion did not come up in conversation with me. My guess is that the seeds were planted while they were in Holland after 1918. Catholic relief organizations were probably eager to add conversion of Jewish children to physical rehabilitation. What was done by force in earlier centuries in our time is practiced by deception. I wonder to what extent Alfons’ conversion was his assertion of independence from the family. Gratitude for sheltering and protecting him during the Shoah may have been another cause.
While in hiding during Nazi occupation of Holland, Alfons and Eugen were laborers for an orphan home. With a lot of understatement and self-effacing modesty they admitted to having helped downed Allied pilots, hiding them, and then helping them to escape. They were in the area of Arnhem in the fall of 1944 when the assault of British glider and parachute units failed to capture a bridge across the Rhine. After the war they received citations, medals, and all sorts of honors for their quite dangerous involvement. From other people in Arnhem I later learned that they were well known for their exploits.
In 1953 Eugen married Emmy Steinweg, a widow of a victim of the Shoah. I had met her earlier, and found her to be a positive, optimistic and friendly person. Her family had lived in Munster in Westphalia. Eventually Eugen and Emmy went to live there. They opened a business for tobacconist’s supplies. I don’t know details of Emmy’s life before her marriage. At that time it was still rather difficult to talk about the years of persecution.
During the early1960’s Eugen and Emmy came to visit New York. It was a happy reunion. The conversation was about daily activities, the past was not mentioned. Eugen died in 1973. Emmy is still alive, writing holiday greetings in a shaky hand.
After the war Alfons lived in Utrecht, in Holland, in an old traditional family home. The house looked and felt very much like brownstones here in Brooklyn, except that the front was entirely built of bricks. Grandmother Herzog found her home there. This was the sweet old lady I met when invited by Alfons to spend a few weeks in his home. She was still in good physical shape, but her mind was getting confused, her time and space were becoming indistinct. There was a live-in lady to see after her needs.
Alfons had started to manufacture aluminum pots and pans. Once a year he went to visit every one of his customers. In the summer of 1947 he asked me to be his driver while he went to see buyers from Zeeland in the south to Friesland in the north of the Netherlands. Because of that I know most small towns in Holland.
It was also a get-together of a part of the family. Grandmother Herzog, Lilly, her son Otto, my first wife Stella Horner, I, Alfons, Eugen, and also Emmy and Gerdie, both not yet married, were there. Except for Lilly’s attempt to push everybody around it was a happy occasion.
Later in 1947 Alfons married Gerdie. Gerdie’s family lived near Arnhem. I don’t know about Gerdie’s background, and I did not feel that I could ask questions. Talking about the past had set limits in the family. I only assume that she was a Catholic, though I have no proof. Gerdie was a remarkable person, generous, polite, and thoughtful, always ready for a friendly smile. She too was active in the rescue of Royal Air Force pilots during the war. That may have been the occasion of their first meeting.
Observing and listening to Alfons I tried to understand his conversion to Catholicism. There were no obviously visible signs, I don’t recall any church attendance by him, I don’t remember seeing a cross in his home. I know that both he and Gerdie were regular and frequent visitors to Israel. There were no books in his home to hint at a stance, a spiritual inclination, indeed there were no books at all there. To me this is a puzzling phenomenon in the life of a person with a Jewish background. Could this be yet another sign of running away from a book-centered people?
There was a pause of more than twenty years before I came to see Gerdie and Alfons again. Stella Horner and I moved from Paris to New York, Alfons and Gerdie moved to Wellington in New Zealand.
Harry Herzog, who is the last of the six siblings I have to write about, invited Alfons and Gerdie to join him in Wellington. Harry was married and had become quite successful, and, at a time when Holland was only slowly recovering from the war, Wellington was a thriving community. Alfons and Gerdie opened a car repair shop there. They had a child, but the youngster died, presumably of diphtheria, when nine years old.
Before leaving for New Zealand a decision had to be made where and how to care of Grandmother Herzog. She was frail and disoriented, she needed full-time attention.
At first she went to live with Lilly in Haifa. While I don’t know more than the fact of Grandmother Herzog’s leaving Israel and going to live with Harry in Wellington there are ample reasons explaining the move. It was soon after Israel’s declaration of independence, and the attack of Arab armies. Lilly did not have the resources to take proper care of her mother. At that time Harry was relatively well to do, and had all the space needed. In Wellington, Grandmother Herzog lived with Alfons and Gerdie. Here I have to speculate again: There were three children in Harry’s home, and there were times when Harry’s wife was hospitalized because of manic depression.
A conflict arose between Alfons and Harry over the care for their mother. This discord became quite serious. Much later I heard only Harry’s version. Years after that, when I asked Alfons at one of my visits he did not want to discuss the sequence of events, the memory of it was still too painful. I shall mention more about this when talking about Harry.
Because of his break with Harry Alfons and Gerdie went back to Holland. They bought a small hotel in Arnhem on the embankment of the Rhine. Alfons had stopped running.
Alfons as well as Harry suffered from severe asthma. This made me wonder and reflect. Other members of the Herzog family were free of asthma or comparative symptoms. To the extent that asthma has a psychosomatic ingredient why is it that the two members of the family that converted to Catholicism were affected? Otto Herzog, Lilly’s son in Sweden, who turned away from his Jewish past, has an ailment that manifests physical characteristics that point at psychological origins. I sense the enduring aftermath of the Shoah.
After more than 20 years I went to visit Gerdie and Alfons in Arnhem in 1968. Their hotel was a little jewel, overlooking the river. Gerdie cooked, Alfons was host, bartender, entertainer, and master of ceremonies. While there I marveled at their skill as innkeepers. Many, perhaps the greater part of their patrons, were former paratroopers and pilots, whom they had helped during the war, and who came to visit the places where many of their comrades had died. The hotel had a clear view of the bridge and the area that had been the objective of their assault. Alfons and Gerdie had the skill to create the atmosphere for a happy reunion of comrades who had survived the assault on Arnhem. Both hosts and guests were active participants in an action, which, if successful, could have brought the war to an earlier end. These were good reminiscences.
After my visit in 1968 I went to see them whenever I went to Europe, the last time when our son Daniel was a little child. Gerdie and Alfons had closed the hotel, they were getting too old to run it, and many of their regular guests were too old to make the trip back to Arnhem.
Among my aunts and uncles it was Alfons with whom I spent most of the time after the war. I visited him several times, each visit lasting several days. There was a happy and warm exchange of feelings, friendly teasing and repartee. All of these dealt with the moment or with plans for the next day. His feelings about the past were well shielded. I tried to read between the lines, but I did so in vain. His diffidence was my only clue about the strong presence and impact past events had on his frame of mind.
Alfons died several years ago. After Alphons’ death Gerdie, within the limits of age, was doing well. She traveled, visited relatives in Vienna, and in Israel. Gerdie died, 74 years old, March 16, 2000.
Harry was my favorite uncle. In 1935, when he invited me to spend part of my summer vacation in Vienna I knew that I was going to have a great time. Harry taught me to sail, taught me to swim; he was my fun uncle. For a short time I may have been the child he did not have until much later in his life. Harry was vivacious, he was enterprising, quite athletic, and always ready to suggest some interesting activity, to go bicycling or flying a kite. He was a happy guide. There was good conversation, he instructed, he informed and educated, and I did not notice it.
Among the six siblings Harry was the one that was intellectually most gifted. I don’t know how he felt about the family structure. In the 1930’s Harry, Eugen, and Alfons, all three grown men, though more than 30years old, were living in the home of their mother. Today it is easy to criticize the configuration. The political, the economic, and also the emotional ingredients may escape me. Grandmother Herzog was still quite vigorous then, her will and her decisions made themselves felt.
Before 1932 Harry came to visit us in Prague while my mother was still alive. All I remember is his being present. He must have come without letting his family know. There was correspondence between Harry and my father. Harry understood why my family moved from Vienna to Prague.
We may have to speculate about Harry’s exposure to the destructiveness of the Nazis in Vienna before 1938, to their violence, to their demeaning behavior against Jews. He certainly was quite aware of it, and if he was not an immediate personal victim, his circles, and his friends certainly were early targets.
The “Anschluss” of Austria to Germany early in 1938 endangered all Jews in Vienna. There were far too few countries willing to accept refugees, particularly foreigners without money. My father succeeded in getting a passport and travel papers for Harry so that he could go to England. I was not told about this except in most general terms. I assume that these were forged documents. I don’t remember the exact date of Harry passing through Prague. History and logic tell me that it must have been between the Anschluss in February 1938 and the annexation of the “Sudetenland” by Germany in the fall of the same year. Harry surprised my father by his superb knowledge of English. It was free of any accent; he had acquired the most correct upper class Oxford pronunciation. This, in my opinion today, was a mistake. He took a plane, a direct flight from Prague to London. Upon arriving in England he was immediately suspected to be a Nazi spy, and arrested.
It took a while before he could clear himself from the accusation. He decided that he would do better in Australia, and he went there. From Australia he continued to New Zealand. I don’t know the dates or even the years of these moves.
In New Zealand Harry married Elsie, who was born in Wellington. Eventually they had a daughter, named Ann after her Grandmother, and two sons, John and Robert. In the years before leaving Vienna Harry had been involved with the production of the forerunners of plastics, namely Bakelite. In Wellington he started the manufacture of small plastic items, enlarged the scope of his activity, and eventually became source of a whole range of plastic items. Today his firm is run by his sons, and is one of the major manufacturers of plastics in New Zealand.
After the war, while I lived in Paris, there were only a few letters from Harry with very little information about himself or his family. In 1947 or perhaps 1948 Harry was to come to Paris on a business trip. I was happy, and most eager to see my favorite uncle again. Waiting for him at the Gare des Invalides I saw him coming up the stairs, and he was smiling faintly. His exterior appearance was largely the same, he, however, had become a perfect Victorian gentleman, reserved, soft-spoken, with very, very proper, and formal manners. There was a veil around him, a barrier that kept emotions from flowing out or flowing in. It took me a good while to accept and to understand the change.
Harry had come to attend an exhibition of plastic extrusion machinery. I accompanied him as translator, though that was hardly necessary since the sales personnel spoke English. Later I found out that Harry spoke perfect French but wanted to hear the small talk of the vendors. He felt that machinery he had developed was years ahead of the models on sale.
Harry suggested in Paris that we, my wife Stella Horner and I, move to New Zealand. He could secure our immigration there in spite of New Zealand’s barriers to immigrants from continental Europe. He would help us in every way possible. During Harry’s visit in Paris he and I had a modicum of conversation about religion. It was that little exchange that caused me to turn down his offer. Well before Harry’s visit we had decided to go to the USA where Stella Horner had two uncles. I knew about the muffled anti-Jewish sentiment in New Zealand, and I wanted to live in a country where I could express myself without looking over my shoulder.
The subject of religion came up more than once. Harry seemed to have the need to explain his conversion to Catholicism. It took a lot of empathy on my part to keep the discussion on a detached footing. Harry’s statements about Jewish life and tradition were appalling. I know how well informed his siblings were; two of them were active Zionists. He repeated worn hackneyed images, catechism phrases. Harry was a textbook example of a person living on mutually incompatible levels, doing so comfortably, and without awareness. The Catholicism he expressed was so primitive that it surprised me. He certainly was not the devout believer who went to mass and confession week after week. I wonder whether he went to church at all. My conclusion was that his Catholicism was a notification that he did not want to be affected by his Jewish origin, that he wanted to distance himself from the turmoil of his past. The decision not to join Harry in New Zealand was an easy one.
Another element of Harry’s conversion and also that of Alfons makes me ponder. Why did both choose to join another minority group within their new countries, why did they pick Catholicism?
After our arrival here in New York Harry came a few times on business trips. There was little information forthcoming other than events of his children growing up. One of the themes that did come up was his conflict with Alfons about Grandmother Herzog. It was the same old Herzog story of one of the siblings trying to tell the other how to live, and how to take care of each other. Harry claimed to be the elder, and Alfons claimed to know the needs of their mother. It was he, Alfons, who knew her best, who had provided for her needs all these years. This is Harry’s side of the story. Alfons, when this came up in conversation, was much too hurt to elaborate. Harry and Alfons never made up. There seemed to have been even a conflict where to bury Grandmother Herzog. I don’t know the site, and I suspect that this eventually nice, sweet old Jewish lady is buried in a Catholic cemetery in far-away New Zealand. An unanticipated conclusion of a life disrupted by the Shoah, but after much tribulation she lived into old age, to a natural death.
Once, and once only, Harry’s his wife Elsie came along for the trip. We went to see her in the hotel where they stayed. Elsie looked, and acted very much like a friendly schoolteacher, indeed she had been a music teacher before her marriage. Her soft voice, her gentle demeanor seemed to befit Harry’s Victorian comportment. With a slight change of apparel they would have been welcome to join company at five-o-clock tea anywhere in the British Empire of the 19th century. What a change for a nice Jewish boy from Vienna!
Harry died in his sleep in 1986. Elsie and I keep in touch by mail.
In letter after letter Elsie asked me for more details of Harry’s life as a young man. Harry had kept his past to himself, stressing the present. It seems that he wasn’t subtle at all in his refusal to disclose details about his life before his arrival in New Zealand. It caused a rift between him and Elsie, and the outright hostility of his children. After Harry’s death John and Robert came to accept the idea that they would have to live without that information. Ann, however, was seething, feeling that her mother knew more than she was willing to tell. Elsie was pleading with me to tell her more so that her relationship with her children could be repaired. Now there were even grandchildren asking questions about their grandfather.
I decided to try to answer her questions. My letter was hedged at every turn by an acknowledgment that my reasoning could be wrong, that I was appraising a life of another person, that some of it was armchair analysis, that even some of the data were open to questions. The letter was an outline of Harry’s life described in the preceding paragraphs, his history before his arrival in New Zealand. It said that it was rather obvious that he did not want his family to know about his Jewish family, the fate of some of his family during the Shoah, that he wanted to shield them from a potential persecution as descendents of a Jewish father.
Harry wanted to get away from his past, a past that was the cause of early insecurity, hunger, and deprivation, persecution. He distanced himself from a war that was to destroy all the good parts of his memories. He wanted to shed his Jewish past, his Socialist past, Vienna, Austria, Europe. He went as far away as possible. Yet when he took all these steps there was still Harry with all the weight of the past on his shoulders.
His inner needs put up barricades he did not want scale. His survivor’s guilt disrupted his family life but his family had no clue to his reasoning. I’m rather sure that neither he, nor his family, was aware of the term survivor’s guilt. They did not know that there was help available to gain some understanding, that their anguish was one of the consequences of the Shoah. I hope that my letter helped Elsie. It was too late for Harry, but not too late for his children and grandchildren.
With the exception of my brother Tommy all the descendents of Grandfather Herzog survived the Shoah. Those who allowed their past to become part of their life found ways to live with that past. Of the three who tried to distance themselves, two, Alfons and Harry suffered from severe asthma, and Otto, in Sweden, has an ailment that seems to be a psychosomatic one. Otto’s marriage is a marginal one. Harry’s family was, and to some degree is conflicted to this day. Those members of the Herzog family who went to Israel, their children, grandchildren, and also the fourth generation found ways to live with their past.
Added in 2002. (I made this addition part of the notes above.)
Otto Herzog was born January 16, 1871
Son of Wilhelm Herzog and Rosa, nee Kohn
Anna Herzog was born March 31, 1866 in Joachimsthal (Jachymov) in Bohemia,
Daughter of Josef Seidl and Marie, nee Schonfelder
They were married March 22, 1896 in Vienna,
(Matrikelamt der Israelitischen Cultusgemeinde Wien, Leopoldsstadt, Litera F., Nr. 250)
Added in 2003:
This information comes from a recent newspaper article:
After the start of WWII in the British Isles all German and Austrian nationals were detained. This included also Jewish refugees to England. In 1940 there was a transport of detainees to Australia on the HMT. Dunera. The Dunera arrived in Melbourne September 6, 1940. Recently there was a reunion of this group in Australia.
Question: Was Harry Herzog one of the Dunera group?
Added in 2006:
Checking with the Sidney Jewish Museum a Ms. Tinny Lenthen wrote in her e-mail of 05/28/06: Hermann Herzog arrived in Sidney on the Dunera according to a list in the back of the book ”The Dunera Affair: A documentary resource book”.
See archiv08B for my letter to Giora whether Harry Herzog was born and registered at birth as Hermann Herzog.
Added in August 2006:
Daniel visiting Ruth and Werner in Vienna, asked them about Harry’s first name on his “Geburtsschein”, his birth certificate. All Daniel brought back were the birthdates of:
Harry Herzog : 10.3.1903 I assume this to be March 10, 1903
Alfons Herzog : 1.9.1907 September 1st, 1907
Stella Herzog : 1.10.1900 October 1st, 1900