| My parents, Max Liebenau and Dora Liebenau nee Simke married on the 21. August 1921.
During the First World War my father had served four jears on the Western Front in the German Army as a first aider and stretcher bearer.
Both my parents belonged to the Jewish religion, my father being a stronger believer than my mother.
They were well educated, my father working as a representative for a large firm that dealt in textiles. My mother was employed as a stenographer. When my maternal grandmother retired from her small haberdashery shop, my parents took over the business.
On the 23. December 1923 my sister Helga, Carola was born, and I followed on the 17. March 1926. I was given the name Karlheinz, both my sister and I having been named after my grandfather Carl Simke.
We lived in a comfortable apartment in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg, facing the street from the first floor.
My sister und I enjoyed a happy childhood, and we went to the same elementary school in the Sybelstraße.
Boys and girls were taught in different parts of the building.
When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, the whole world for us Jews was turned upside down. Our parents had to give up their shop a few years later, and the non-Jewish pupils at school no longer spoke to us. We suddenly became different people, and we were completely isolated from everything.
Those who taught at universities, or held other higher positions in life, lost their jobs. In time Jewish children were no longer allowed to attend the schools they were in, and had to be taught in Jewish schools. Some blocks of apartments were hastily converted into classrooms, and my sister and I managed to get a placing in the Klopstock Straße in the district of Tiergarten.
My father was more out of work than in, and we finally had to move into a cheaper apartment in the Niebuhrstraße at the rear on the fourth floor.
All Jews were slowly reduced to third-class citizens, a citizenship that we were stripped of in 1935, making us stateless.
It was my mother’s 50th. birthday on the 9. November 1938, and in the night from the 9. to 10. November most of our synagogues were torched, and Jewish shops were smashed up and looted. Many Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration-camps in Dachau und Buchenwald. The pogrom became known as “The night of broken glass” (Kristallnacht). Jews were no longer allowed to visit certain cinemas or theatres. Barred from all restaurants, and park benches were painted in blue and yellow. The yellow ones for Jews only. A few Jewish shops were kept open where Jews could purchase the goods that required. All the non-Jewish shops were barred to Jews.
In March 1939 we had to queue for hours in the cold to be issued with identity-cards. They were made from a thin linen material, with a large “J” for Jew on the front, with our fingerprints inside, and they had to be signed with a middle name, Israel for males, and Sara for females, and the biggest insult was to make us pay a certain amount of money for the privilege.
I was able to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah in one of the three remaining synagogues. They couldn’t torch those, because they were built next to other blocks of flats.
My sister and I were fortunate in finding places on what became known as a Kindertransport to England, and to have someone to guarantee for us. We left Berlin on the 03. May 1939, after having our photographs taken on the previous day.
In between jobs my father managed to learn the baking trade, and his first job was with a Jewish baker by the name of Grienbaum. Friends of ours told my father that with his new skills that there shouldn’t be any problems for my father to find work in England. The only trouble was, that the borders of most countries were closed to Jews wanting to leave Germany.
Jews in general were slowly worn down by persecution and restrictions. Deprived of their livelihoods, having been forced to hand in their valuables, and finishing in poverty.
A lot of praying went on for deliverance from the evil that befell us, but people in other countries just shut their eyes and ears.
My sister and I received 74 letters and cards, including Red Cross cards, that I translated into English many years later. “Letters from a terrible past, 1939/41”
When the Second World War started, my parents sent their mail via a relative in Amsterdamm, and when the Netherlands were overrun by the Germanns, mail came via family in the U:S:A. We received the last post from our parents some time in October 1941. Our parents’ letters were full of love and advice, but they never contained words of despair or hopelessness about their own situation.
My father managed to find work with a non-Jewish baker who asked my father to leave again after a short while. “What would his customers say if they found out that he was employing a Jew?”
On the 27. November 1941 my parents were taken to the Grunewald Station in Berlin, and together with 1.050 other Jewish people, that included whole families, put into cattle-trucks, and I assume that there was standing room only. There were no windows to let in light or fresh air. No food or water, or toilet facilities.
The torturous journey lasted three days and nights. I imagine that when the doors of the trucks opened, the ice-cold air from the outside, and the stench from the inside of the trucks must have been overwhelming. The train had stopped just outside Riga in Latvia, and in the 30. November 1941 everyone was herded into the Rumbuli Forest and shot.
The end had come after having to endure nearly eight years of persecution, being deprived of their German citizenship, forced into poverty, and being despised and degraded in every way. My parents had lived in fear from day to day, not knowing what the next day would bring. My parents had been decent, honest, and caring people, who didn’t wish anyone any harm.
My sister and I couldn’t mourn the death of our parents, because we didn’t know what had happened to them. It meant two and a half years of uncertainty, but we had hoped that our parents had been spared.
The first official report about the fate of our parents came frome the Red Cross when I was stationed with the British Army in Berlin (1946/48).
The mass-graves in the Forest of Rumbuli didn’t make any headlines around the world, a world at war.
I must admit that the atrocities in Rumbuli, some of many in the various countries in Europe, coulds’t have had any meaning to most people, if not all people. But I would like to make notes of the following.
As far as I know, what happened in the forest of Rumbuli has not been mentioned in the press or any other media.
I am now in my 92nd. Year, and I am hoping that somehow the people of the world will get to know about the Forest in Rumbuli, if only to acknowledge what all those poor people had to suffer.
There weren’t thousands of people laying flowers onto the mass-graves, or lighting candles. There weren’t any protests. No gun-salutes or bugle calls.
All together the Germans managed to murder six million Jews in as many years, a third of the worlds’ Jewish population. One and a half million of those murdered were children.
Ten million Germans were members of the Nazi Party, and many more millions were sympathisers of the regime. They were all directly or indirectly responsible for the mass-murder of Jews. The Germans who lived before and during the Second World War shold have been ashamed of themselves. The Germans who gave the world Beethoven and Schiller should have alarm bells ringing, and not follow a man who was mentally deranged and a sadist. In the end the majority of Germans delighted in getting rid of the Jews, and commited the most hideous crime in human history.
My parents lie in a mass-grave, and are not remembered by those who should have helped them to survive. My parents had no weapons to defend themselves with, and very few people offered their help, putting their own lives at risk. The majority of the people in the world just stood by to see us suffer.
There are many places in Europe where Jews have been butchered by the Germans, but one never hears or reads reports about them.
Jews never beheaded anyone, or flown passenger planes full of people into skyscrapers, or driven lorries into crowds of people.
Michael Portillo, who presents the programme, “Railway Journeys in Europe” on television, visited Riga in Latvia in one of his shows. A lovely looking city, with coffehouses, and cheerful looking inhabitants. At no time was there a mention of the Forest in Rumbuli, and its massgraves. Is there anyone living in Riga aware of the graves in the forest?
In compiling this small booklet, I am hoping that all those who are buried in mass-graves all over Europe will at last be thought about, and not as forgotten as they are now.