April 9, 1878 — Fusstenheim, Germany
A Jewish merchant, Heinrich ran a dry goods business with his wife, Yennj, in Ruchheim, a small town in the Rhine River valley. Their son, Kurt, had emigrated to America after World War I. Their daughter, Ida, had helped them in the business until she married. The Baehrs' store took up the first floor of their comfortable two-story brick house. In the summer, they enjoyed their garden in the back.
1933-39: The Nazis have come to power, and many Jews have decided to leave Germany. Our niece, Luise, recently sailed for America. She used to visit us every summer and was like a younger sister to our Ida. Yennj and I have thought about leaving Germany, but couldn't do it without taking Ida and our granddaughter, Freya. Anyway, Ida's husband doesn't want to leave his business. And who would sponsor us all to come to America?
1940-42: Yennj and I, with Ida and her family, have already been deported to two detention camps in southern France. When we arrived at the first one, Gurs, it was winter--cold and rainy--and we had only straw to sleep on. Six-year-old Freya came down with a high fever and severe earache and almost died. Now, at Rivesaltes, her parents have a chance to get Freya out of the camp to safety through an aid society that arranges to hide children with French families in the countryside. We all wish Freya goodbye.
In September 1942, a few days after Freya left the camp, 64-year-old Heinrich, his wife and his daughter were deported to Auschwitz, where they perished. Freya survived the war.
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