Here we will let the letters speak. They document Otto, Frieda, Ruth, Siegfried, anda Manfred’s experiences from the time they arrived in Zbaszyn in 1938 until the last letter we have from Otto, Frieda, and Ruth in 1941.
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn, to Karl in Hanover, 4 November 1938:
“… We are here in Zbaszyn, at the border. We are in great need and ask you to send us money, for us and the children: For Otto 2 shirts and 2 pairs of underwear, size 6; for me and the children underwear and socks. We left without anything – can also be used things. Size 38 for me and children’s shoes 33 (boots). We did not sleep for many nights. Now we sleep with 10 people in a room, but we have no money to pay. Thank God we are healthy. We met Paul Schweitzer and Mrs. Londner here. Best regards. Immediate answer. Address: O. Lindenbaum, Wolkowski, Zbaszyn, ul.17 Sierpnia No. 19”
A letter from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn, to Karl in Hanover, 6 November 1938, reads:
“We wonder why we have not heard from you as yet. This is already the third postcard. We are here in a large new mill, together with 500 refugees. We sleep on straw bags. We do not hunger, we have enough bread and butter; cooked food is rare. In this place there are 5000 inhabitants and 8000 refugees. You can imagine that it is very difficult to get mail. In our sorrowful state, the organization is improving from day to day, which means that we shall have to remain here for a long time. There are many doctors and nurses here from Warsaw and Lodz. Since yesterday the mill has been closed and nobody can enter or leave. We would be very pleased if you could send us clothing, especially underwear for us and for the children. We are completely without money, please send us some. Are we to live only on bread; we would like to go and have lunch. Perhaps you could send us the eiderdowns from Unna – we suffer from the cold. How about the shop? What will come of it? We are all healthy. The dear children are lively…” Our address: Otto Lindenbaum, Zbaczyn, Mlnye [Zbaszyn, “the flour mill”]
Letter from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn, to Karl in Hanover, 1938 (date unclear):
“…We received your letter. Attached I send you the power of attorney, but could not have it notarized by the lawyer as this costs 10 zloty. Perhaps it will work as is. Dr. Wolfes can testify that it is our signature. I heard that parcels of 100 kg can be sent as unaccompanied luggage. You must send us the expedition voucher in a letter so that we can collect the parcel at the customs here. We need underwear. We all still go in the same shirt [unclear text …]. We need one pair of underwear for Ruth one shirt and one slip as well for me. None of us has socks. We registered with the committee, but it takes very long until they accept us. Otherwise we are well taken care of. The food is good. Yesterday we had soup with meat and today we shall have pea soup with sausage. Hopefully we shall soon return home. The dear children are very lively. They hop about in the mill as if they were at home. Each one of them gets half a chocolate bar from the nurse. Ruth makes herself useful. She distributes bread and tea to the refugees. I also keep myself occupied to overcome the noises in my head. For today, nothing special [to tell about].
Lots of greetings also for Lea, Rita, Selma, Jakob, Isi and Erna…”
Letter from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn, to Karl in Hanover, 30 November 1938:
I herewith give my brother, Karl Lindenbaum, Schmiedestr. 17, power of attorney to handle my property without limits.
Dear Karl, we are very worried not to have received a letter from you for such a long time. We hope that you are well, as well as Lea and the child. What is happening with Isi and family, and Jakob and Selma? We are very worried.
With us everything is as usual. We are all, thank G-d, healthy. Jettchen informed us that she was in the apartment. Maybe you can get in touch with her, so that the most important things such as bedcovers, underwear and clothing will be sent to us. Is it not possible to cancel the lease for the shop? Otherwise the rental will use up everything. Could you take care of that? Or what else could one do? Otherwise, today – nothing special.
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn, to Karl in Hanover, 5 December 1938:
“… attached we send you the power of attorney. Is a separate one required for the furniture? …When you can, dear Karl, get in touch with Grettchen (see letter of 19 April)… Her address is: D. Nusbaum Gelsenkirchen … (illegible). There is a suitcase with bed cloths and a down blanket. The police and Grettchen know about it. There is a travel bed and a mattress at Mr. Kupferschlag’s (the head of the congregation), which are also ours. In the cellar are coal and potatoes. Today there is not much news . We are healthy … My father was sent yesterday to Warsaw to a home for the blind…”
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn, to Karl in Hanover, 2 January 1938:
“…We can inform you that one parcel arrived. It is the one that contained blankets, socks, pullovers and a coat for everyone and underwear. Hopefully you and little Rita are well again. Our dear children will soon leave here. Yesterday all the children were registered here in the Zbaszyn camp office, examined and photographed. They will probably be soon sent to Holland or to England or to some other place. The children will be well taken care of and will stay there until their parents will be able to join them. Hopefully we shall soon be able to get out of this misery. I shall immediately notify you when the other parcels arrive. … Siegfried and Manfred are now with us at the Mill; otherwise, nothing special (continuation faded and illegible).
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn (at “the Mill”), to Karl in Hanover, 10 January 1939:
“…Today we received a small package (from you). … This week Otto built a bed from old planks. The (camp) committee today gave us a big pillow and one bed sheet. We are immensely happy with it and at home the “new” bed awaits us… but that is the situation. Of what you sent us, we received only one package. According to your list, there should be 5 packages and 2 bags on their way. Hopefully they will arrive soon. Please write as to whether you sent them by post or by rail service. How are you, and what are your plans? We do not know what will be our lot. The children are on the list for their journey to England but we do not know when this journey will take place. … Starting today, Siegfried and Ruth are studying English. Otherwise everything is as before…”
Letter from Frieda and Otto Lindenbaum in Zbaszyn (“the Mill”) to Karl in Hanover, 15 January 1939:
“…Received your… postcard … yet the things have not arrived. These are not only the parcels for us, as other people are also waiting for their dispatches. As soon as the things arrive I shall inform you …Ruth and I need a new dress. I am still wearing the same dress in which I arrived. In addition we each need a pair of shoes. I don’t know the exact size of the children, but we measured the soles from the point to the end of the heel. Manfred’s shoes from point to sole are 22 cm. long, and Siegfried’s are 24 cm. long. … Otto wears 41, Ruth 37 1/2, and I (low heels) size 38. … What is happening with our furniture? Could it not be sent…or otherwise be put into storage? When we get somewhere and we already have most of the necessary furniture I shall no longer see the new life as so difficult. … If the furniture is sold the outcome will be so small that we will not be able to transfer it to here. As we are so far away from our house and property and you can help us so little and in addition such difficulties are involved, we leave it to you. What has become of our silver cutlery? In addition, please don’t worry too much about us. What will become of all these many people will also become of us. In the meanwhile we are not starving. I have a strong belief that we shall get out of here one day. Dear Karl, the next time you send a parcel, please don’t forget to add some pairs of socks and a tefillin (prayer phillacteries) with two dark straps. Last week Otto built a bed from old boards and it is great to sleep on. You cannot imagine how fast a person can adapt.
If it is possible, I ask also for a new coat for Ruth, size 40, for me, size 42 and for Siegfried (size 9). Otherwise nothing new for today. Best regards to all our friends…”
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn (“the Mill”) to Karl in Hanover, 19 April 1939:
“… The birth certificate has still not reached us. As I wasn’t able to register to emigrate to England, I need these documents urgently. Therefore I wrote to Grete Weisner in Unna – she will be able to help. Please reimburse her for her expenses. … What’s new? When will you all be leaving? Here we are in good health and there is no news…”
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn (“the Mill”) to Karl in Hanover, 2 May 1939:
“So, our Ruth also left us. Saturday evening she left for inner Poland to Nowisiolki several hours travel from Warsaw, to a training camp. Today we received our first letter from her. She was still very tired from the strenuous journey but wanted to describe everything in detail. Anyhow, she seems to be very happy and seems to like it. Nevertheless, I beg you, dear Karl, to make all necessary efforts in England so as to prevent having the children so far away from each other. … If you want to get direct mail from her (Ruth), please send her a prepaid return postcard because she has only 2 zloty for any unexpected expenditures. When will you travel? Otherwise, everything here is as before. Ruth’s address is Poczta Choroszcz, Nowisiolki, Bialistok Provinz
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn (“the Mill”) to Karl in Hanover, 10 May 1939:
“… We received a long letter from Friedel (in Palestine) in which she announced her engagement. We were very happy to hear the news and answered her immediately. If you leave one of these next days then I would like to give you the address to which I wrote to sort out matters for the children. The forms have been submitted and I attached two photos for each child:
Federation of Polish Jews in Great Britain
24 Aldgate, London C3
You have not yet sent the birth certificates. Apart from this, here everything is as before. Has Isi left already?”
Postcard from Frieda, Otto Lindenbaum’s wife, in Zbaszyn (“the Mill”) to Karl in Hanover, 19 May 1939:
“…We hope that you are now close to your target and that little Rita will soon follow. We have received excellent letters from Ruth. I cannot believe that she will soon be traveling. I shall send over one of her letters. She is really happy and content and the work brings her joy. It is really a pity that Adi and Bubi were not here; they could have also gone there. Anyhow, it is better than staying at the camp and not being able to learn anything.
It is very hot here and among our belongings there are no light clothes. I left several light clothes at your place. Could you possibly give them to somebody who will reach us here? … Thank God we are all healthy and have only one wish – to get out of here! What news is there from Paul and Toni (Schweitzer)? Are they not able to travel? Best regards also to Selma and Jakob, Lea and Ritalein…”
Letter from Otto and Frieda Lindenbaum in Augustow, Poland, to Isi in London, 21 July 1939:
“… We are wandering once again. As I hurriedly wrote earlier in the postcard, on Monday, 17 July 1939, we were on our way to Grodno in eastern Poland. Unfortunately, we were unable to take your advice and go to Dolyna because we are considered refugees and displaced persons, and we must follow the instructions of the Committee. (Even) if we had gone to Dolyna, it is doubtful whether the Jewish Committee there could have supported us despite Uncle Kalman’s efforts and recommendations (Uncle Kalman lived in Dolyna, the Lindenbaum’s town of origin). In a situation such as this, the local committee would be unable to take upon itself to support a family of five.
Everyday, in the committee office in Zbaszyn, they posted notices with names of places that are prepared to take in displaced persons, including those who have no relatives in Poland. Last week, it was announced that Grodno could take in 25 displaced persons, and the four of us (the parents, and the two boys, Manfred and Siegfried; Ruth was in the training camp) reported and announced that we wanted to move to Grodno. When we arrived at the train station here in Zbasyzn, a man came and read the names of the two boys as scheduled for departure on the (Kinder)transport. Since meanwhile our destination has changed, I know nothing about what happened to them after we separated. At the train station I somehow managed to write a postcard to Ruth telling her to come to Warsaw on Wednesday (19.7.1939) so that she could connect with the Kindertransport.
When we arrived in Grodno, they transported us in automobiles to the building of the local committee, where we were shocked to learn that they would not be able to take us in. They transferred us to a hotel and gave us dinner. The next morning, we were dispersed to nearby villages. We were put on buses that took us to Augustow, a small town some 3 hours travel from Grodno, with 18,000 residents – 3000 Jews. The trip itself was lovely – all we saw were forests, water and sky. We’ve never seen such a beautiful landscape. In Augustow we were received by representatives of the community – the Rabbi, the president and other dignitaries. Everyone was very nice and promised that we would want for nothing. They put us up in one room where Otto and I are sleeping, and gave us 15 zloty and two kilos of meat. I need to cook for the two of us and for a young man who came with us. If we don’t have to pay for lodging, the sum that we received should last us a week. If we could get more support, we would be able to get along until we journey to England.
Could you please inquire with the London committee as to whether the children have arrived and where they were sent? Perhaps you could ask them to not separate them, and for them to be in a Jewish environment. Please, make an effort regarding the children’s arrangement and to expedite the handling of our permits …”
Augustow bei Denemerk
ul. Krakowski 35
Letter from Otto, Frieda and Ruth Lindenbaum (Manfred and Siegfried’s parents) in Grodno (under Soviet occupation) to the family in Palestine, 5 May 1940:
“…Finally, finally, we received a letter from you. Two days earlier, on April 30th, we received a long-expected and emotional letter from England. It was a small epistle (“ein kleines Briefchen…”) in Siegfried’s angelic handwriting. He wrote that he was healthy and lived in Brighton, directly on the seashore. He goes every week to the movies and studies in a good school. Manfredchen is not together with him and lives in another town. He speaks good English already and he is well. They send their addresses and ask whether we can write them in English and if we can read their English text. Ruth, who is studying English here in school, has made use of all her knowledge and wisdom and wrote immediately – in English – to both foster parents. So, thank God, the children are alive and are in good health and we are now at ease. We often receive letters from Bubi. He gets letters from his parents – they are in good health. We also received letters from Paul and Toni; they are also in good health.
As for us: Please do not worry; we are all well. Otto now has another job. He works as a night watchman. As for myself, for one month I have been working in the same office as a janitor and running errands, distributing letters, and such. At the beginning we had difficulties with the Russian language. Now it is much easier and things are moving on. We both earn sufficiently and the three of us live quite well – you should not worry. We live in one small room and have enough time and tranquility (“ruhe”) to pursue our studies of Russian. … Your letter was a most happy event for all of us. It was a day of joy, since for 9 months we heard nothing from you… (wrote Frieda).
“I’m adding the addresses of the children. Please stay in contact with the people (the hosts) and see how they’re both doing.
Siegfried: 62B Cormbe Road, Brighton, Sussex
Manfred: 34 St.Mary St. Ely Cambridgeshire England “
Letter from Otto, Frieda and Ruth Lindenbaum from Grodno (under Soviet occupation) to Siegfried, in England, 22 May 1940:
“…My dear and beloved son, we haven’t yet received your response to our previous letter, but we’ve decided that from now on we’ll write to you once every three weeks. How are you? Are you healthy? Are you diligent in your studies? What is the taste of the food and the air in England? Is the teacher satisfied with your work? We all miss you both. Do you go outside of the house often? Do you sleep in your own room or do you have roommates? Write to us about what you’re learning in school? Are you learning only English or an additional language as well? As you read this letter, you’re surely thinking that your mother has become curious… but it’s not a matter of curiosity as much as I’m worried about you. I must know how you are and everything that you’re doing. I know that it’s not easy for you to write and tell us these things. But when you answer this letter, set it before you and answer all of my questions… You don’t have to write it all in one day. Divide the task of writing into two or even three days…Now I have another request – write me exactly how Manfred is doing. How long were you together and since when are you apart? Do the people with whom he’s staying write to you? How often do you meet? How is he doing? Take care that he isn’t sad and we hope that you both will be healthy and happy. I am sure that you are behaving wonderfully but it’s a good idea to remind you to be nice and good to your hosts.
“Our situation is good. We’re healthy, working and earning well. You don’t have to worry about us. Ruth goes to school, where she studies Russian and English…”
Letter from Otto, Frieda and Ruth Lindenbaum (parents of Manfred and Siegrfied) from Grodno (under Soviet occupation) to the family in Palestine, 22 May 1940:
“… Your letter, dear Isi brought us great joy, especially when reading of your efforts to bring us news from our two dear children. We believe that in the meantime you received our last letter in which we wrote that we received a short letter from Siegfriedchen. … [יש סתירה כי באחד התרגומים כתוב “ בכתב-ידו המלאכי, לכן הורדתי]He wrote us a letter in German, only a few lines, in which he writes that they are well. Manfred lives in another town and speaks fluent English. He lives near the seashore and during the summer swims daily. We were overjoyed with their letter; it was an explosion of joy. It was the first sign of life after 9 months and we would like to know much more. In Germany, Siegfried went to school for only 2.5 years, then, in Zbaszyn he missed 9 months of school. He then came to a foreign land and endured so much spiritual stress. One should not wonder that he has difficulties writing in German.
I feel uncomfortable that Manfred was sent to another town. The two boys are very close and I hope that they meet often. You may imagine that we miss the children very much and I suffer much because of their absence. Let us hope the time will come when we shall again have our children with us. Thank God these are two excellent, well brought up boys and I am sure that the foster parents will have no trouble with them. I am only afraid that little Meni will be longing for home. Due to your help, I am sure that I’ll now have regular news from them and all others.
You should not worry about us. As I have already written you Otto works as a night watchman and I work – in the same office – as a janitor, running errands distributing letters and such. We do not work too hard and earn sufficiently for a decent life. We live in one room. Ruth goes to school, she studies English and Russian. Ruth is a very gifted girl and is praised in the school for her work. She is very intelligent and after 1-1.5 years, will be able to earn her living. She grew to be a tall girl – she is taller than me…”
Letter from Otto, Frieda and Ruth Lindenbaum from Grodno (under Soviet occupation) to Siegfried in England, 8 January 1941:
“…Today we received your dear letter. You cannot imagine the joy it brought us. Eight months have passed since we received your last letter. We did not know what to think; we worried terribly about you. From your letter I understand that you, my darling Siegfried, and you, my darling Meni, are healthy. Please God that this letter should find you in good health. Your letter was 3 months on the way. Above all, we are very pleased that you, my sweet Siegfriedchen, can still write German so well and tell us everything and we can read it ourselves and understand it. We are especially pleased to hear that Manfred is healthy and became strong. Yet, my dear Sigfriedchen, why don’t you write about yourself – whether you also became healthy and strong? I want to hear the same from you. Do you get good food in this home? I long for you so much! Hopefully the war will soon end and we will be able to see one another again. …My dear sweet Monicken! I was very pleased that you go to school and that you can read and write. You are both my dear good children and when the war is over we will hopefully meet again. Remain healthy. And you dear Monicken be good and well behaved with the people with whom you are staying. When you write a letter, you can write it in English. Rutchen can read it. I greet you and give you a hearty kiss from your Mother.
My dear madam, I thank you very much for what you are doing for our children. Please write us again in English. With my very best greetings and heartfelt thanks,
The family archives contain many more documents and certificates, but the above letter is the last that arrived from those family members who remained in the areas under Nazi control, whether in Germany itself or in the areas occupied by the Russians in the East. Otto, Frieda, and Ruth were likely sent to Auschwitz or Treblinka.