Wittenberg

Fading letters reveal family's holocaust story

Growing up in the safety of Britain, Jonathan Wittenberg was deeply aware of his legacy as the child of refugees from Nazi Germany. Yet, like so many others there is much he failed to ask while those who could have answered his questions were still alive.

After burying their aunt Steffi in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, Jonathan, now a rabbi, accompanies his cousin Michal as she begins to clear the flat in Jerusalem where the family have lived since fleeing Germany in the 1930s. Inside an old suitcase abandoned on the balcony they discover a linen bag containing a bundle of letters left untouched for decades. Jonathan’s attention is immediately captivated as he tries to decipher the faded writing on the long-forgotten letters. 

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Written mostly in German and dated primarily between 1938 and 1939, the letters chart the struggle of Jonathan's great-aunt Sophie, who resided in Czechoslovakia with a wealthy Czech nationalist, but was receiving the letters while visiting the rest of the family Palestine. The letters warn Sophie not to return, but according to Jonathan's father "she wouldn't hear of it," thus sealing her fate. 

Jonathan has written a book about his family's story called 'My Dear Ones': One Family and the Final Solution, published by William Collins.