Friday, June 1, 2018

Tracking Family: January 10, 1944- Mama, Ella Doeppner

Transport Card for Ella's Deportation



Osoby dosle do Terezina z ruznych uzemi, prezily v Terezine podle publikace MSP, repatr. odbar: ,,Terezin-ghetto"

Döppner Ella

roaina data : 4.8.1889
puvodni transp. oslo 14155- I/105 - Berlin
folio v knize ,,Terazin"  70


This writing is in Czech, so I put it in the google translate for the best chance of translation:


People arrive at Terezin from different countries, according to the report by the Ministry of Transport, repatriated in Terezín. odbar: ,, Terezin-ghetto "

Döppner Ella

birth date: 4.8.1889
original transp. Oslo 14155- I / 105 - Berlin
folio in the book "Terazin" 70

This is the blog I've been dreading. Ella's deportation. I have a lot to share with you, and I don't even know where to begin. I think I'll share with you what Renate told me of the day the Gestapo took Ella to the holding place (the sort of way-station ghetto in the city where people were contained until they could be sorted into groups for deportation).

Renate is my Opa's cousin. Ella's little brother, Kurt, was in a relationship with a woman named Charlotte (Lotte) who in 1939, gave birth to their only child together: Renate. She was only five years old at the time of Ella's arrest, but she was able to tell me about it:
Yes, at that time I was a very little girl, and everything I know about Ella was told to me by my parents, mostly by my mother. I have only vague memories of her, and they are full of very loving, tender and warm feelings. When we could not visit Aunt Ella anymore, I always asked for her and missed her very much. That is one thing I can remember myself. 
Ella was the favorite sister of my father. To the other 2 siblings (Martha who was married to Erich Stier later on) and Walter (who was killed during the 1st world war) he did not have such close ties. 
As the “latecomer” Ella always spoiled him, and gave him, after he had already gobble up his share, always some of her chocolate...
Ella was the only one of the Fraustaedter family who knew that her brother Kurt had a connection with my mother. (Marriage between Jews and Aryans was forbidden as Race desecration, and punishable by law) and that I was his daughter. My mother on a family visit to Ella, was always introduced as one of her pupils (Ella tutored...) under a false name, just in case somebody might say the wrong thing. 
On the day Ella was picked up by the Gestapo, my mother happened to go there, since she had planned to meet her. I was dropped off at Mrs. Ruhstadt’s (the neighbor) and only felt the excitement, and as the Gestapo had left, and only the jewish guard was in the apartment, my mother helped Ella pack up the few belongings she was allowed to take. 
Ella was totally distraught and naturally full of fear and despair. 
She was sent to a so-called exit-camp on Grosse Hamburger street in Berlin, and from there she was deported to Theresienstadt.
This is the only first-hand account we have of Ella's arrest. It is of course filtered through the memory of a 5 year old and the re-telling by her mother. However, it feels pretty accurate, as it echoes the stories of other arrests. Something Renate mentioned in this letter was the presence of a Jewish guard. I did not understand this until I was given more information. Some Jews were appointed as guards or sort of leaders in their location. They kept the peace, kept people compliant, in return they and their family might receive preferential treatment and protection. This worked for some of them, but not all. 

When I visited Berlin, I went to Grosse-Hamburger street to see where Ella was first taken. This mini-ghetto on a side alley was home to a Jewish cemetery and a sort of retirement home for elderly Jews. At the time Ella was taken to the area, the cemetery had been razed by the Nazis, creating a flat area with hidden souls now unmarked. The home cleared of all residents. Now it was a dumping ground for unwanted Jews, to hold them like inventory waiting for shipment. 

When Ella was taken to this place, it was January- maybe December. January 10th was her deportation date, the day she left the train station. I don't know the date of her arrest. Ella came to this flattened graveyard to sit with her unfamiliar neighbors in the cold of a Berlin winter, waiting for whatever was next. 

This is the view of the flat grounds of the cemetery from the entrance.

This is a memorial for the Jews who were brought to this ghetto. In the background you can see the gated cemetery grounds covered in a thick carpet of periwinkle, gravestones eerily missing. It was a Nazi habit to raze Jewish gravesites and destroy evidence of Jewish life, even their death.

After she was sorted into the group for transport to Terezin (now in Czech Republic), or as the Germans called it: Theresienstadt, Ella was bussed to the Berlin Moabit/Putlitzstrasse train station. At the Grunewald train station for the S-bahn, there is a small memorial for the Jews deported from Berlin. The memorial is called Gleis 17 (Track 17). I went there to see the memorial and was struck by the simplicity of it, and the profundity. The track is no longer in service, it's found just above and around the functioning S-bahn train station. When you go up the steps and turn the corner, you see a long, abandoned track with fat rows of iron platforms. Each row is inscribed with a date, the number in the transport, and the destination. It is stunning. Here are some pictures of the memorial and the platform piece with Ella's transport recorded on it:

A long view of Gleis 17 Memorial
The platform row representing Ella's deportation transport.

Many deportations left from this very track, but according to Yad Vashem, Ella's transport did not. Yad Vashem is a Jewish organization that among other things, provides a database of information on the Holocaust. Their website calls them "The World Holocaust Remembrance Center." They are an excellent source, and the librarian at the Holocaust Museum in DC directed me there for information on Ella's deportation. They have detailed information on her specific deportation, which you can find here. I've condensed the information for those who hate clicking on links here:
Transport I/105 from Berlin, Germany to Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia on 10/01/1944 
Remember the Europeans date things by Day, Month, Year. So January 10th, 1944.
From the Fall of 1943 onwards, the deportation of the remaining Jews from Berlin to Theresienstadt was carried out amid heavy aerial bombings (“The Battle of Berlin”). Allied air strikes caused severe damage to the German capital’s infrastructure and to the Nazi Security Services facilities. Under these circumstances it was difficult to organize transports, but they did not cease.  
This is interesting to note, there was a bombing mid-December that greatly affected railroads, which might explain why Ella's transport left from a different location. However, unfortunately it did not end deportations. Ella's time in the exit-camp and during transport was not accompanied by any major air raids. The bombings in December and January were December 17th, and then the next was January 28-29. These were the major bombings, I'm not sure if there were smaller ones in between. Time really was a precious commodity. The quicker the Allies could win, the better chance the remaining Jews had of survival.
In December of 1943, a memo signed by Heinrich Müller (Head of the Gestapo) was sent to all local Security Police offices. It stated that it was now possible to deport Jewish spouses of mixed marriages that were terminated by divorce or death to Theresienstadt...
This is very interesting to me, as it helps explain why Ella was able to "hide" in plain sight in Berlin for so long. Her marriage (though divorced) to August, an "Aryan," was a protective connection. Although marriage between Aryans and Jews were forbidden, and frequently encouraged to dissolve, some couples kept it together and somehow managed to be low on the priority list for the Gestapo. Those who divorced legally out of fear of retribution, may have still been together. The Nazis knew this and kept this tangle on the back-burner. Any Aryan connection meant that someone of "importance" was paying attention to that Jewish life. Of course this was not an air-tight seal of protection, but it did the trick for many for a long time. In December of 1943, the exemptions got smaller and smaller, and Ella's luck ran out.
The vast majority of (the transport) were patients of neurological wards from all over Germany who had been brought to Berlin. The transport also included divorced Jews from mixed marriages or Jews whose Aryan partner had died.
The procedure of dispatching the transport was different from the smaller transports. From the assembly camp the deportees were taken with trucks to the train station, where they had to wait for hours until everyone was registered and counted. This procedure lasted from the afternoon until the evening, when the train left Berlin. They traveled all night long and arrived the next morning in Theresienstadt.
The train's route took the deportees from Berlin to Dresden and along the river Elbe to Decin (Tetschen), Usti nad Labem (Aussig), Bohusovice (Bauschowitz) and finally to Theresienstadt... The transport was given the reference I/105 in the Theresienstadt ghetto listings, where the Roman numeral I refers to Berlin...
Ella's train mercifully took a fairly straight shot and did not endure some of the stops for hours and days that other trains did. There were 352 or 353 Jews on this transport (the number varies depending on the source).

That's the information. Now to process it. It is impossible, right? My husband and I have a way of talking about things that are hard to let go of, hard to process- we say we have trouble letting it filter through. It sits in our brain, in our guts. We ruminate about it, and it churns in our stomach, percolating but not filtering. This, Ella's deportation, it doesn't filter. The woman whose letters I have been reading, full of love and yearning for her children, she is deported. She's lumped in with the rest on a train like we learned about in school.

These massive stories of horror have a built-in safety. The sheer mass of numbers gives us the ability to pass it by, to not have access because it is so impersonal and too big for us to grab a hold of. But Ella. I can grab her letters, predict her questions and laugh at her chiding Opa to keep his hands out of his pocket when he has a picture taken. Ella brings the masses into focus. She is a person that in many ways, I *know*, and her insertion into this massive story means that I can no longer hold it at arms length. Now I'm tangled in it, swirling in the whirlpool of souls that all had stories and personalities and hopes and faults and dreams and quirks. Now she has brought a microscope to the holocaust, I am forced to look closer and see what is there. I am forced to feel it instead of read it. My heart hurts, literally right now I feel a pain. My gut is tight. My brain is murky.

It just won't filter.

Ella, Mama, my great-grandmother, is deported on January 10, 1944.


  1. I am so sorry. This feels like a death in my own family. I think we all knew you'd have to post this eventually and I purposely refused to 'see' any reference to Ella not surviving when it might have been hinted at in other posts. Now my fear is to see how this affects Tom. I'm not looking forward to that, either. Thanks again for sharing these soul-wrenching stories from your family history. I will forever remember the opening lines of her letters. God bless.

    1. Her deportation is indeed heartbreaking, but she did survive the deportation.

  2. This is really heartbreaking. I am so sorry for her. I just did some research about my great-grandmother, who was deported in January 1944 and your information about the Gestapo meme about mixed marriages expplained to me, why she was deported comparatively late. Her husband had already died, but she had one child. Her brother, wo also lived in a mixed marriage had no child and he was deported in March 1943. So having a child might also have played a role. I feel the same about processing it. It is so difficult, even in these times. But I am happy to hear, that many other people like you keep the memory alive. Katrin from Germany

  3. A great aunt of mine survived, another great-great aunt was murdered at Theresienstadt in 1942. I found my family member's card at

    The card text with the accents follows for those like me who found your site trying to avoid entering all the odd characters:

    Osoby došlé do Terezina z různých ůzemi, přežily v Terezinĕ podle publikace
    MSP, repatr. odbar: ,,Terezin-ghetto"

    rodná data:
    původní transp. čislo
    folio v knize ,,Terazin"

    1. Thanks to your comment, I found some new documents on that site- thank you. I'm sorry for your family's suffering and your loss.


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