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Kristallnacht Changed My Life

Oscar and Judy Prager

The evening of the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht saw more than thirty people gathering in the speakers (David Prager's) salon to hear a moving account by Oscar Prager (David's father) of the night of Kristallnacht in his home town of Fuerth in Germany.

Oscar was a boy of 10 at the time, and he told the listeners the details of this dreadful evening and the effect it had on him, his close family, and the local Jewish community. Not long after this night, Oscar and his family fled Germany for the UK, where he continued his education and later married Judy.

Oscar and Judy are now the proud heads of the family of a total of 4 children, 15 grandchildren, and 27 great grandchildren, with more on the way! Jewish souls all living in Israel. Yet even more proof that out of a terrible period in history for the European Jewish communities, we can emerge stronger.

David Prager then gave an interesting account of the trip he took with his father back to his home town of Fuerth, and their voyage of discovery. The talk then focused more on his mother, Judy's side of the family, and what happened to her three older brothers. They were born in Michelstadt, a small picturesque village about 80 km from Frankfurt. David's grandfather was the local Hebrew teacher, shochet, and community leader. After suffering several instances of Nazi harassment there, the family moved for safety to Frankfurt, a large city where many members of the family lived. On Kristallnacht he was arrested and imprisoned in Buchenwald, from which he was released about a month later on condition he left Germany within a month…..or else! During his incarceration, following the shocking pogrom, the parents decided to send their three oldest children, boys aged 8, 6, and 5, by Kindertransport to Holland for safety, where child refugees were welcomed. The boys were fostered out at various families.

Meanwhile, David's grandfather left Germany for England in January 1939, and a few months afterwards his grandmother followed him with her three small daughters, including David's mother, then aged 3.

Contact by mail correspondence with the boys in Holland continued for a few months until the Germans invaded Holland and communications ceased. 

David Prager with his father Oscar

The family never quite knew the details of what happened afterwards, and when, except for the obvious fact that the boys were murdered, together with most of the rest of Dutch Jewry.

During their Roots trip Oscar and David stumbled across a computerized record of all slain Frankfurt Jews, which contained detailed biographies of the three boys, including their dates of death at Sobibor, on March 13, 1943.

This prompted David to embark on a research project to discover more details, documents, and photographs of the family's travails in the 1930's and 1940's.

Two big family reunions were held in Israel to mark the boys' 63rd yahrzeit (several months after this Roots trip) and the 70th. At these gatherings David made presentations on the information gleaned about the boys' experiences in Holland.

In February of 2018 another reunion is planned in Israel to mark the 75th anniversary. Over 100 members of the family will participate, coming from the USA, Canada, England, and France to join in.

Some years ago, David was joined in his research by his younger cousin who, while still in the IDF, wrote a book about the family history during and after the war. He detailed what happened to David's grandparents and his grandfather's eight siblings and their families. This book, originally published in Hebrew, has just been re-published in English.

David's presentation included a review of the family's history. He also discussed his investigation and research methodology, encouraging many of the ESRA audience to conduct research relating to their own families.

The bottom line is that in an age of digitalization of archived material, there is a constant increase of documentation available on the Internet, and access to previously unknown information is becoming easier by the day.

 

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Monday, 20 September 2021

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