Orly Silvas and Ehud Zweigel
“Life changed from one minute to the next”
The Frankfurt family Shimon and Malka Bukspan and their four children Aaron, Regina, Berti and Sonia
By Martina Faltinat
Simon comes to Germany as a soldier, stays, becomes a tradesman in Frankfurt and merries Malka Hakel from Frankfurt. They start a family and build up a secure existence. Shimon – like his younger brother Moshe who is also living in Frankfurt – were born in Galicia. 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 as a stateless citizen. He dies in a concentration camp, his wife and two daughters are deported and killed.
Multikulti im Frankfurter Ostend
The siblings Orly Silvas, born in 1955, and Ehud Zweigel, born in 1958, were both born in Tel Aviv, Israel, and have been living there ever since. Their mother, Regina Zweigel, née Bukspan, was born August 9th, 1926, in Frankfurt/Main in the hospital of the Israelitic Community, Gagernstrasse 35. She died 19th june in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Regina’s parents, the grandparents of Orly Silvas and Ehud Zweigel, were Malka and Shimon Bukspan. Malka Hakel, born in 1900, and her family were from Frankfurt. There Malka met Shimon Bukspan who had been born in Poland and had come to Frankfurt as a soldier in the course of World War. He stayed in Frankfurt and worked here as an independent business man in his own business, a big textile ware house with two branches. Shimon was a Polish citizen, as he did not get the German citizenship.
In 1922 Malka and Shimon were married. In the beginning they lived in Luisenstrasse, in the north end of Frankfurt. Later, when the family expanded, they moved to Uhlandstrasse in the east end of Frankfurt. Here they lived with their four children, one son and three daughters: Aaron, born in 1923, Regina, Orly’s and Ehud’s mother, born in 1926, Berti, born in 1929 and Sonia, born in 1933.
Shimon worked in the business, Malka ran the big household and took care of the children. The flat in Uhlandstrasse 25 was on the fourth floor and had four rooms: a beautifully furnished living room, which was used on holidays only, one room for the parents, one for son Aaron and one common room for the three daughters.
School in the neighbourhood
In 1933, at the age of six, Regina started school. She was sent to the Israelitic Elementary School sited in the Roederbergweg, near the family’s flat in the east end of Frankfurt. Aaron, Regina’s older brother, had been a pupil here already since 1929. In August 1933 he changed to the Samson-Raphael-Hirsch School, the Israelitic secondary school sited directly next to the Zoo.
From 1933: Economic troubles and fears
In January 1933 Hitler had come to power. At first family life went on as usual, at least externally/on the surface. But the Nazi appeals to boycott Jewish shops in April 1933 had negative effects on the economic situation of the Bukspan family. Already in 1936 they had to give up their business. They tried to survive on their savings and small side-incomes. Not only their financial situation became more difficult since 1933. They also suffered from the increasing discriminations and exclusions that followed the declaration of the “race laws“ in September 1935 and aggravated the pogrom atmosphere enormously.
Also the children of the Bukspans got the feeling of it. They were scared in public, felt intimidated, spyed on, were excluded, non-Jewish neighbours and friends turned away from them with few exceptions. Aaron often was bullied openly in the street and even beaten up. Increasingly he even was afraid to go outside at all. To be on the safe side, he changed to the other side of the street when he had to fear aggressive attacks from by-passers or other students.
From 1936: Plans to emigrate
From 1936 onwards the parents were considering emigration. They didn’t see any future for themselves in Germany and prepared for the emigration of the whole family. They applied for a visa for Palestine and one for Australia and they supported Aaron’s decision to leave the secondary school in order to start a practical training in the Jewish „Anlernschule“, a kind of vocational school for semi-skilled professions in the Fischerfeldstrasse. This kind of training could maybe be useful to him in Palestine or elsewhere.
All was prepared, and then their life and all their plans changed from one minute to the next.
October 1938: Life changed from one minute to the next
It was on a Friday at the end of October in 1938, when the Gestapo entered their flat in Uhlandstrasse. Malka Bukspan was at home together with Regina and her youngest daughter Sonia. Berti was in school and father Shimon was in the Synagogue with Aaron.
„Pack your things, one trunk each, put on warm clothing, get to the station
quickly, you have to leave Frankfurt!“ They were scared to death, you can’t imagine, how scared they were.
One Gestapo man stayed with Regina and Sonia, and the other one accompanied Malka to school in order to pick up Berti. Neighbours informed Shimon and Aaron so that they hurried home from the Synagogue at once. One trunk with clothing each. The Gestapo officers sealed the flat. They took the Bukspans to the main station in Frankfurt from where the whole family was deported within few hours. What had happened?
October 1938: The pogrom before November, 9th, 1938
Shimon Bukspan was a Polish citizen. His wife Malka too, even though she and their four children were born in Frankfurt. Poland had the intention to deprive the Polish citizenship of those Jewish citizens who had lived in Germany for a long time. In that case the German government could not have deported their formerly Polish Jews across the German-Polish border.
Therefore the German government deported 17.000 Polish Jews living in Germany by force across the border at the end of October 1938, before the November pogroms in 1938. In the border town Beuthen/(Bytom)upper Silesia the Bukspan family and many other Jewish Germans from all parts of the German Reich were left to themselves. They had no information whatsover, they didn’t know what would happen to them in the next hour, they had no shelter, it was the end of October and cold, they had neither food nor water, the desperation was enormous.
The Polish government left their undesired Polish citizens who had been deported forcefully by the Germans to their fate in the no-man’s-land of the German-Polish border for more than 24 hours.
Poland did not let their citizens enter the country, and they could not return to Germany, their home country. Thus the family Bukspan and many other people spent helpless hours between hope and desperation, until at last the border to Poland was opened.
As Shimon Bukspan had relatives in Poland, his family was allowed to move on, first to Katowith/Katowice), later to Krakau (Kracow), where they lived in forced exile for several months, until they got the visa for Palestine they had applied for in January 1939.
January 1939: Lets go to Palestine!
In 1936 the Bukspans had applied for two visa, one for Palestine and one for Australia hoping that at least one visa would be granted. As it happened the visa for Palestine was sent to the Bukspans first. Fortunately a relative from Frankfurt, uncle Moshe, who was stateless and therefore had not been affected by the deportation of the Polish jews in October 1938, could send to the Bukspans in Crakow who had longed to get the news, the visa for Palestine.
Now the target was set: Palestine. The family started their trip right away, as soon as January 1939. They left Crakow by train to Constanta/Romania and entered the ship “Transsilvania“ for Alexandria/Egypt on January 29th, 1939. From there they took another ship to Tel Aviv.
The Bukspan family arrived in Palestine without any means. On their enforced deportation they had only been allowed to take one piece of luggage each. They had to leave their whole goods, furniture, cash, savings and valuables behind in Frankfurt. Some months after the family’s arrival in Tel Aviv they got mail from Frankfurt. Uncle Moshe from Frankfurt had managed to enter the sealed Bukspan flat in Uhlandstrasse and got out some objects within two hours and they sent them to the family in Palestine.
In carts came photos, prayer-holy books, the phonograph and records, a candelstick, Regina’s bicycle, the sewing machine „Singer“, the childrenbeds of Regina und Berti, some more housewares and Regina’s autograph book with the poem of her cousin Ruth.
Beginning a new life in Palestine
At their arrival in the port of Tel Aviv, cousin Elyakim welcomed them.
They found a little house to rent near in Kfar Abraham, a few kilometers east of Tel Aviv. The difference between the living standard the Bukspans were used to in Germany and what they found here in Palestine was huge.
There was no electricity in the house, toilet and shower were outside the house in the yard. Also the school situation was not to be compared. Because of the lack of teachers, buildings and school materials three school levels had to be instructed together.
Regina had to end her school career already at the age of 14, in order to support her family financially by working as a seamstress in Tel Aviv.
Also Aaron, the oldest son, contributed to the family’s maintenance by working as an unskilled worker in a Kibbuz. Later he was trained as a radio technician and served in the Israelian army.
Mother Malka was completely busy with running the household, raising the children and cultivating a kitchen garden. Father Shimon also worked in Tel Aviv during the first years. Each day he went there by bike from Kfar Abraham, in order to produce Jute bags in a factory. Two years later, around 1941, the family moved into a flat in Rashi Street 5 in Tel Aviv. Simon Bukspan took up an own business again, lending table clothes to cafés.
The exile becomes a new home
In 1953, Regina, the oldest daughter of Malka and Shimon, married Heinz Zweigel. He originally came from Ziegenhals in Upper Silesia, today Gucholazy in the southwest of Poland.
He also had to escape from Germany and landed in Tel Aviv on the same ship as the Bukspan family a couple of months before. In 1955 their daughter Orly was born, in 1958 their son Ehud, who both have brought up two own children each.
Finding roots of the Bukspan family in Frankfurt
“We always heard about the good things in Germany before the war … it was good seeing the places about the family was talking all the years: Uhlandstraße, the cemetery, the Main river, the Eisener Steg … “ (Orly Silvas, 2015)
In 1998 Regina Zweigel, born Bukspan, came to her town-of-birth, Frankfurt, on the visiting program. In 1994 Aaron Bukspan and his wife Yael had already followed the invitation of the Frankfurt magistrate. Aaron spoke to students of a vocational school and told the students about the life and fate of the Bukspan family.
In 2015, Regina’s descendants, daughter Orly and son Ehud came to Frankfurt.
Orly was accompanied by her husband Moshe, Ehud by his daughter Maja, granddaughter of Regina. Regina did not live to see that, she died in her new home country Israel in 2012.
Encounters in a German Gymnasium
Orly and Ehud accepted an invitation of the Gagern Gymnasium where they met students during their history lessons.
They told them the story of their family and discussed with the class the following subjects: Can you forgive if you had suffered so much? The young generation is it responsible for what the Nazis did? How difficult is it to build up a new life in a new country? Where do the second and third generation feel home? Is it interesting for them to come back to the former home of their parents and grandparents?
To read more about these encounters please see the homepage of the Gagerngymnasium Frankfurt .
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
- Israelitische Volksschule in Röderbergweg
Shoemaker’s workshop in Mainstraße 13
Shimon and Malka Bukspan and their four children were deported from Frankfurt to Poland during the so called “Poland Action”
- In 1939 from Poland via Romania to Palestine
In June 2017 stumbling stones for their murdered relatives, Moshe, Toni, Ruth and Edith Bukspan 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
- Monica Kingreen, Hg., Nach der Kristallnacht, Frankfurt 1999.
Orly Silvas, Ehud Zweigel, Martina Faltinat
Text and Research: