The Frankfurt Family Moshe, Toni, Ruth and Edith Bukspan
“In eternal memory”
By Martina Faltinat
Moshe Bukspan emigrates about the year 1920 to Frankfurt, hoping to find a life more comfortable and more safe. His brother Shimon comes to Germany as a soldier, stays and becomes a tradesman in Frankfurt. Both brothers, the elder one Shimon born in 1894 and the younger one Moshe born 1903 come from Galicia which in those days belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian-Monarchy. Shimon has the Polish citizenship by which he and his family are driven into exile in 1938, an act which finally saves their lives. Moshe comes to Frankfurt around 1920 as stateless citizens. He dies in a concentration camp, his wife and two daughters are deported and killed.
„Zur ewigen Gedechtnis“– „In eternal memory“: Greetings from Frankfurt into exile
On June 21st 1939 11 year old Ruth Bukspan wrote in Frankfurt the following poem into the autograph book of her 13 year old cousin Regina:
“In eternal memory.
You step out into life, one thing keep up, your parents’ home!
And even if your lot will be brillant, don’t forget that was it that raised you.
In memory of your cousin Ruth Bukspan
21.6.1939 Ffm (Frankfurt am Main)”
In October 1939 Ruth had to experience that her cousin Regina and her family had been thrown out of Frankfurt, their home town, by the Nazis. Ruth therefore knows how endangered her own life and that of her family is in the Frankfurt of 1939. With „the parents’ house“ that is in the centre of the poem in the autograph book she emphasises the place that still protects herself and gives her the hope that it may in future also protect herself and her cousin. In the poem the future („the lot“) is seen with hope, also because from the child’s perspective the protection through the parents’ house can stand against all hostilities and attacks from outside. With the last line of the poem she encourages herself and her cousin in exile: „Don’t forget that we have a good parental home that we can trust!“
Ruth could not know that the program of destruction of the Nazis would destroy all social ties, all relationships and rules as well as eliminate her family.
An autograph book in exile
Regina Bukspan quoted this poem of her cousin Ruth in Tel Aviv, where the autograph book together with further objects had been sent from the Bukspan’s flat in Frankfurt Uhlandstraße. Regina and her family and to leave their flat in a rush at the end of October 1938, had been forcefully deported into no-man’s land between Germany and Poland and luckily could emigrate to Palestine at the beginning of 1939.
The brother of Shimon, Moshe Bukspan, Ruth’s father, had been able to get some objects out of the Bukspan’s flat in Frankfurt Uhlandstrasse which the Bukspans had left behind, books, photos and records and sent them into the exile of Regina and her family in Tel Aviv.
From Galizien to Frankfurt
Moshe Bukspan was married to Toni Laufer. They had two daughters, Ruth, the author of the above poem, born in 1928, and Edith, born in 1935.
Both were born in Frankfurt. Her parents came from Galicia. Her mother, née Toni Laufer, was born in Cwitowa in 1903; father Moshe Bukspan was born in the town of Brzesko in Galicia in 1902.
When Moshe Bukspan and Toni Laufer were born in Galicia in the beginning of the 20th century, they lived under the reign of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. As inhabitants of one of the crown countries they had no status as citizens but were subjects. By the end of world war I in 1918 the double monarchy dissolved, in 1919 Galicia was allocated to the reestablished state of Poland. Moshe and Toni Bukspan were stateless in this new state of Poland.
What did it mean to be stateless? After World War I more and more international borders could not be crossed unless you had valid passports, many states demanded visa which were granted only on the basis of national passports. Undesired minorities as the Jews from Eastern Europe were refused those passports and therefore the right of liberalness. Germany in those days, during the Weimar Republic, was one of the few countries open to migrants from Eastern Europe.
The Bukspans seized that possibility and emigrated to Frankfurt about the mid-twenties. Here brother Shimon lived with his family, and in Frankfurt they could hope for a better life. But their status of statelessness did not change. Not even, when their daughters Ruth 1928 and Edith 1935 were born in Frankfurt. They did not get the German citizenship, but were stateless as their parents.
The policy of the town of Frankfurt towards the immigrants was ambiguous. On the one hand there were hardly any naturalizations, as those were granted only after 10 to 20 years of residence in Frankfurt, on the other hand the immigrants were very welcome as workers and employees.
Many lived in the east end of Frankfurt. A friend of the Bukspans, Naftali Schimmel, born in 1924, wrote in a letter from May 12th, 1999 (Jewish Museum Frankfurt): “My parents came from Galicia-Poland to Germany before World War I and married in Frankfurt in 1913. … My childhood began in the Uhlandstreet 19. Then we moved to the Lange Strasse 49… and moved back to Uhlandstrasse 51. Up to our expulsion in October 1938 we lived in Uhlandstrasse 54. In our district there mainly lived Jews from eastern Europe called eastjews (Ostjuden). Their flats were in Uhland-, Ostend-, Schwanen-, Windeck-, Rückert-, Theobald-Street. Our Kindergarden was in the Baumweg and the school in Röderbergweg-Tiergarten. In the east end of Frankfurt there also lived Jews of German origin…”
(quotation: Website of the Institut für Stadtgeschichte der Stadt Frankfurt am Main – vor 1933 – Jüdisches Leben – Ostjüdische Einwanderung von der Reichsgründung 1871 bis zum Ende der Weimarer Republik 1933)
Everyday life in the Frankfurter Ostend
Also Moshe and Toni Bukspan lived in the east end with their two daughters, first in Hinter der Schönen Aussicht 4, then in Mainstreet 14 and later in Mainstreet 24. Moshe was a shoemaker, his workshop was situated a couple of houses further on, in Mainstreet 13.Toni took care of the household and the children.
Ruth attended the Israelitic Elementary School in the Roederbergweg like her cousins Regina und Berti. The children often came into Moshe’s workshop after school, in order to watch him at his work.
1933 – 1942: Boykott – Arrest – Deportation
As for everybody else, after 1933 nothing remained as before for Moshe, Toni, Ruth and Edith Bukspan. First the economic livelihood of the family was destroyed by the boycott of the shoemaker business. At the end of October 1938 they had to witness the sudden and violent deportation of their relatives to Poland. In June 1939 Moshe secretly took some important objects out of his brother’s flat in Uhlandstrasse and sent them to the family’s exile in Tel Aviv. Among them also the autograph book into which his daughter Ruth had written the memorial poem for her cousin Regina. That was, as far as we know, the last contact between the two girls.
In the months after the November pogrom of 1938 family Bukspan moved to Rechneigrabenstrasse 15. Probably they didn’t move voluntarily but were forced to move there. We don’t know, whether they were no longer able to pay the rent in Mainstrasse because of their bad economic situation or whether their landlord gave them notice to leave the flat because they were Jewish.
A few months later, on October 14th, 1939, Moshe was arrested. Early in the morning the Gestapo picked him up from his flat in Rechneigrabenstrasse 15 and took him to the prison of Preungesheim in Frankfurt. There he was kept in so called protective custody from October 14th 1939 until April 29th 1940.
On April 29th Moshe Bukspan was deported to the CC Sachsenhausen, situated in a district of the town of Oranienburg, in the north of Berlin.
On August 7th 1941 Moshe Bukspan was transferred from CC Sachsenhausen to the men’s camp of CC Ravensbrueck, not far away in Northern Brandenburg near the town Fuerstenberg at the river Havel.
According to the prisoners’ list Moshe Bukspan was „transferred“ to the CC Ravensbrueck on March 23rd 1942. Aim and purpose are concealed on the list. It had to be hushed up that Moshe Bukspan as well as the other prisoners on this and other lists were deported from CC Ravensbrueck to Bernburg on the river Saale and murdered there.
In Bernburg, situated in the south of Magdeburg in Saxonia-Anhalt the Nazis erected a killing institution for the euthanasia-program on the area of the Psychiatric Clinic, in which from the beginning 1942 also CC prisoners were murdered. The exact date of Moshe Bukspan’s death is not known, certain is only that the date given in the list is wrong; probably the date of death was actually 8 to 10 days earlier.
The CC administration wrote to the family: Moshe „parted from life by committing suicide“, „an urn with his ashes can be picked up at the Gestapo Center in the Linden Street in Frankfurt.“ Moshe Bukspan’s ashes were not in this urn, neither was the cause of death „suicide“, and the date of his death was a wrong information. His family buried him on July 17th 1942 on the Jewish Cemetery at the Eckenheimer Landstrasse in Frankfurt.
Toni’s, Ruth’s and Edith’s Fate
Toni and her daughters Ruth and Edith, then 14 and 7 years old, were deported „eastwards“ two months later, on September 24th 1942 in the 10th deportation from Frankfurt and probably shot in the dunes of Raasiku in Estonia, together with 237 other people.
At the train station of Raasiku/Estonia, about 35 kilometers from Tallinn, SS people probably evacuated the sagos on September 30th 1942 and separated the passengers. Old people, mothers and children are loaded into buses prepared to drive them into the dunes. There a ditch has already been dug for the planned massacre.
“The people were deported from the station of Raasiku in groups. In order to calm them down they were told they would be taken to a bath house. In the dunes, about 15 metres away from the ditch hidden by coppice the bus stopped, the people were pushed out, shouted at all the time, ordered to undress as fast as possible, so that there was no time left for consciousness. The people must undress, throw their valuables into a suit case. At a distant place their gold teeth are pulled out while they are still alive. Also, they already heard shots and the screams of people dying. Then they were forced to go into the three-meter deep ditch on some kind of ramp. They had to lie down on the corpses of those who had already been shot und were executed by an Estonian commando of six to eight men. The adults were shot first, then the children. The ditch filled up with corpses more and more, in the end the people still alive were shot from the edge of the ditch. The site of the crime afterwards is covered with sand, heather grew over it. In order to smudge the traces of their crimes the Germans started to dig out the corpses of the killed in 1944 and to burn them. Bones uncharred were crushed to flour and buried in or spread across the fields together with ashes.“ (Monica Kingreen, ed., After crystal night, Frankfurt 1999, p. 381)
The persons left over from the transport – about 250 women and 100 men were taken into a forest camp guarded by Estonian police and were separated according to gender. Again and again there were selections and transfers into other prisons or camps, e.g. to Kaiserwald near Riga. Some have to do forced labour with the company of „Philipp Holzmann“ in Reval. In 1945 only few prisoners reached Bergen-Belsen, where they were liberated by the British army. According to the present state of knowledge seven people from Frankfurt survived their deportation to Estonia. (after: Monica Kingreen, ed., After crystal night, Frankfurt 1999, p. 382/83)
Orly Silvas and Ehud Zweigel, descendants in the second generation of the Bukspans, visited the memorial wall as well as the grave of Moshe Bukspan when in Frankfurt on the visiting program in 2015.
At that time the wish arose to put stumbling stones for Moshe and Toni Bukspan and their two daughters Ruth and Edith in front of their house in Mainstraße. A laying of the stones is planned for June 2017. Orly Silvas and Ehud Zweigel, the initiators of the stumbling stones, the two cousins of Ruth and Edith, Berti und Sonia, and further members of the family intend to travel from Tel Aviv to Frankfurt in order to attend the laying.
Orly Silvas, geb. Zweigel
née Zweigel, born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1955, is living there
born in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1958, is living there
Participating at the visiting program in Frankfurt::
Orly Silvas und Ehud Zweigel: in 2013
their mother Regina Zweigel, née Bukspan: in 1998
their uncle Aaron Bukspan: in 1994
- Regina Bukspan, born in Frankfurt in 1926, died in Tel Aviv in 2012
- Heinz Zweigel, born in Bad Ziegenhalz/Upper Silesia in 1923, died in Tel Aviv 2012
- Marriage: in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1953
- Malka Hakel, born in Frankfurt in 1900
- Shimon Bukspan, born in Galicia, Polish nationality
- Marriage: in Frankfurt in 1922
- their children born in Frankfurt: Aaron, in 1923 (died in 2015); Regina, in 1926 (died in 2012 in Tel Aviv; Berti, in 1929, Sonia, in 1933, both live in Tel Aviv
Greatuncle Brother of grandfather and his family:
- Moshe Bukspan, born in Brzesko/Galicia in 1902
- Toni Laufer, born in Cwitowa/Galicia in 1903
- Marriage: in Frankfurt 1926, their children:
- Ruth Bukspan, born in Frankfurt in 1928
- Edith Bukspan, born in Frankfurt in 1935
Israelitische Volksschule in Röderbergweg
Shoemaker’s workshop in Mainstraße 13
- In October 1939 Moshe Bukspan was arrested by the Gestapo in Frankfurt and jailed in the prison of Preungesheim/Frankfurt.
- In May 1940 he was deported to the CC Sachsenhausen
- In August 1942 he was deported from there to the CC Ravensbrueck.
- In spring 1942 he was taken to the killing institution in Bernburg at the river Saale and murdered there probably at once or a few days later.
- His wife, Toni Bukspan, and both daughters Ruth and Edith were taken by train from Frankfurt to Estonia in the framework of the 10th deportation beginning at September 24th, 1942 and probably shot in the dunes of Rasikuu, near Tallin, Estonia.
In June 2017 stumbling stones for the murdered Bukspan-Family will be layed in the Mainstrasse in the old town of Frankfurt.
- Oral and written informations by Orly Silvas and Ehud Zweigel and their Family
- Christa Herbert, Summary of the Discussion with Aaron Bukspan in a Vocational School
- Christa Fischer and Hartmut Schmidt from the Stumbling Stone Initiative
- Gottfried Kößler, Fritz-Bauer-Institut Frankfurt
- Mr. Mayer Szanckower, Verwalter der Jüdischen Friedhöfe Frankfurt
- Archive of the memorial Ravensbrueck
- Archive of the memorial Sachsenhausen
- Memorial for the victims of the NS „Euthanasia“ Bernburg/Saale
- ITS Bad Arolsen
Orly Silvas, Ehud Zweigel, Martina Faltinat