The lull before the storm, Pesach at Bad Tlz, 1937. (l to r) Salo, Mina and Mordechai, Oskar, Friedl and Jacob, Leo

The Blechner family taken at Bad Tölz, Pesach 1937.
From left to right, Salo, the parents Mina and Mordechai, Oskar, Friedl married to Jacob and Leo.

Jacob and Friedl Blechner flew to Zurich on August 23 1939. He was not allowed to work in Switzerland and was interned in an alien work camp.

The parents and Salo secured transit visas for Switzerland. They crossed into Switzerland by train on August 27 1939 and were allowed in but told to remain in the border area overnight. The following morning they were thrown out of Switzerland back to Germany. A few days later, Mordechai was arrested in a dawn raid and interred in Buchenwald. He was killed November 14 1939.

Salo was not arrested with his father in Munich and made his way a few days later to Berlin, where he was arrested and taken to Sachsenhausen concentration camp on September 13 1939. Shortly afterwards he was moved to Neuengamme. In October 1942 he was transferred to Monowitz (a satellite slave-labour camp from Auschwitz run by IG Farben). As the Soviet army approached Auschwitz he was amongst those evacuated on a death-march and taken to Dora Nordhausen February 1945. Towards the end of March he was evacuated on another death march to Bergen-Belsen from which he was miraculously liberated by the British April 15 1945.

Ich lebe! I am alive!26.4.45
My dear brother, dear sister-in-law!

I am alive! It is a miracle from G’d. The allies have rescued me. To be able to write to you after 6 years behind barbed wire. How are you? Where are the dear parents and dear brothers? I have been here for 3 weeks and I hope that I can come to you soon. Tell this to the dear brothers.

1000 kisses and many greetings

from your
Siegfried Salo

Sender: S. Blechner
Kriegsgef. Stammlager
Bergen B/ Celle
Kreis Hannover

Mina was on her own in Munich after her husband and Salo were arrested. She was able to write to and receive mail from her son, Jacob in neutral Switzerland. At times she was also able to correspond with Salo in the camps. She was taken in November 1941 on the first "evacuation" of Jews out of Munich to Kowno, Lithuania where she was killed at the Ninth Fort on November 25 1941.

Much of her correspondence has recently been found. There are currently about 250 letters and cards between the various members of the family. More correspondence has been found as other members of the family have searched attics and old cases. These letters provide a valuable and detailed documentation into how the Holocaust affected a typical Jewish family from Munich. They were the feature of an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Munich....