Chava Moskowitz' speech on the occasion of the Stolperstein Ceremony
"I, Chava Moskowitz, stand here today, December 12, 2014, with very mixed emotions. On the one hand, I together with: my sisters Zeldie Yurman from Jerusalem, Tziril Weinberger from New York, my niece Leah Gertzulin from Mexico, and cousin Susan Sanders from New York, are here to represent the rest of our family by commemorating the lives of my mother Chana Gertzulin, ne Ramer, and her parents Yaakov Ber and Leiba Ramer. While on the other hand, it is difficult for us to be on this very soil that many of our beloved ancestors were murdered on by the Nazis.
I first heard about Stolpersteine, when Andreas Jordan contacted me in November 2012 through ancestry.com in regard to my mother’s first cousin Max Tepper and his family. Before WWII, they had lived in Gelsenkirchen, across the street from my mother’s family, and after the war when the cousins reconnected; they continued sharing a close relationship. Unfortunately, we were unable to be at the ceremony for Max Tepper’s family on April 29, 2013, but feel fortunate to be here today.
Being that our grandparents who perished during the Holocaust have no actual gravesite, we jumped at the opportunity to place a stone in their hometown as a remembrance to them. These stones will let all residents as well as tourists in Gelsenkirchen know that the Ramer-Fahn –Steuer family existed and will never be forgotten. In order for this ceremony to be as meaningful as possible and serve as a true remembrance for my mother who survived the war and my grandparents who perished, I would like to take a few moments and give you a brief history of their short lives. My mother was an only child to her parents, Yaakov Ber Ramer born Febuary 9, 1903 and Leiba Ramer ne Fahn born on January 22, 1903. She spent the first 6 years of her life in Gelsenkirchen.
At the beginning of 1938, when times began to become turbulent, my mother’s parent’s sent her on a kinder transport to Holland. Being that she was very homesick, she was only there for a short period of time, and then sent back to her parents in Gelsenkirchen. In November 1938, my mother, Chana, spent the night of Kristelnacht under a bed and witnessed her own father, Yaakov Ber, being beaten by the Nazis in their home on Schalker Strasse. The Nazis only stopped beating my grandfather because they thought that he had died. My grandmother, Leiba, jumped out of the window to run across the street to notify her sister, Sara Tepper. When the Nazis left, she returned home with the Teppers to get medical help for her husband. It was at this time that my mother’s parents decided it was no longer safe for their daughter Chana and she must be sent away on an available kinder transport to England.
In the meantime, her father, Yaakov Ber was deported to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp on March 20, 1940. On our recent trip to Sachsenhausen in April 2013, we were able to pull up some records on my grandfather Prisoner #1750-2. After roll call, his job was to walk a few miles, in the bitter cold, with equipment on his back, to the brick factory – pure slave labor! He died in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in March 1942 from unclear circumstances.
There is very little information on my grandmother, Leiba. She was going to be deported from Gelsenkirchen to Riga on January 27, 1942. However, she fled in December 1941 before the Nazis could deport her. This is the last information we have about her life. Yet, we still hope for new archives to be opened so that we will be able to gather more information.
Thankfully, my mother did not meet the same fate as her parents. Once she arrived in England by the kinder-transport, she was taken in by a non-Jewish family, the Finches. In the beginning, my grandparents were able to correspond with the Finch family, and emphasized the importance of her retaining her Jewish identity. They agreed and assured her parents, that every effort would be made to reconnect her with any family members. In England she was found by her first cousin Max Tepper.
In 1945, at the age of 13, my mother, Chana left England to live with relatives in California, where she adjusted well to life in the United States. At the age of 17 she moved to New York, where she reunited with many close relatives, Max Tepper, Ann (Steuer) Labaton, the Braunstein and Fahn families who all remained very close.
Chana chose to live a religious and orthodox life. She went on to marry a prominent rabbinical student, Rabbi Hershel Gertzulin, in March of 1952. Together they raised their 9 children in Monsey, New York. Despite being an orphan at the tender age of 6, and enduring many hardships alone, Chana was a happy, warm and loving wife, mother and grandmother. She instilled in us the importance of being close to family. Sadly, in the prime of her life, at age 67, on May 15, 2000, Chana’s life was taken in a fatal car accident, together with her eldest son of 42, Yaakov Ber, named for her father, Yaakov Ber Ramer.
I have to thank God for helping make this trip possible. It is hard for me to express my feeling today standing here in the hometown of my mother and grandparents. I never knew my grandparents and it was a big void in my life. As a young child I yearned to find out the whereabouts of my grandparents or any other relatives.I would search for information, at the library; I would walk through many museums all over the world on the holocaust in anticipation of finding a photo of my grandparents. The unknown was so difficult for me to grasp.
Standing here today is the closest thing that I did in my lifetime to feel that connection to my grandparents and I am very grateful.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my dear cousin Susan Sanders who joined us at the ceremony today. My obsession for searching family never ended. Through ancestory.com in August 2011. I connected with many of our cousins, Susan being one of them. We actually met for the first time in my home at a family reunion on September 18, 2011. She is representing her sister Debbie, her Aunt Betty, (who was a niece to my grandparents and first cousin to my mom) as well as many other cousins.
I would like to express some thanks to the people who are responsible for this gathering today. Andreas Jordon – for finding me through anscetry.com and helping make today a reality. After many corresponding emails, we are all gathered here in memory of my mother and grandparents. Special thanks for arranging this ceremony to be videoed, so that the family members who were unable to attend can view it for themselves.
Gunter Demnig – for his brilliant idea of the stolpersteine and from seeing through this project from inception to finish. Rabbi Chaim Kornblum, Mrs. Judith Neuwald-Tasbach, Chaym Guski, and the Chazan Yuri Zemski - for making sure to have a Minyan gathered together here, and to be able to have some closure and say Kaddish, for the first time, by theses stones which will serve in place of their unknown graves.