Saturday, January 25, 2020

(1927 - 2017)

Because of its neutrality, Sweden became a temporary haven for refugees during the pre and postwar exiles period. This would mark its national history with its thousands of personal desperate journeys and stories. Approximately 3000 Jews fled Germany in the early 1930s. David and Rosa Katz were among them.

Rosa Katz (b. Rosa Heine) was born in Odessa and died in Stockholm in 1976. In 1907 she started her studies in psychology at the University of Göttingen, Germany, with the acclaimed mentor David Katz (1884 - 1953) who received his first academic appointment at the Institute of Psychology when he was 23. He was to become her future husband. They married in 1919. She obtained a doctorate in psychology in 1913 (recognition and retroactive inhibition). 

In 1933 David Katz's academic employment at the University of Rostock ended with his dismissal by the Nazi regime. Katz was considered, by the Nazis, a "Jewish-Marxist professor" who should not be entrusted with the education of future Aryan academicians. David and Rosa Katz were able to immigrate via England to Sweden. 

Rosa Katz led research on psychology of children at the Psychological Institute of the University of Stockholm. In 1937, David Katz was appointed professor of education and psychology at the University of Stockholm and became the founder of psychology chair at this university.

When Jewish refugees arrived in Sweden in 1945 Inga Gottfarb (1913 – 2005), a social worker, stood at the harbor in Helsingborg to offer help. With goodwill and great intensity, she helped the suffering refugee women who arrived in Sweden on Count Bernadotte's White Buses. In her book The Perilous Oblivion, she wrote about her personal experiences interviewing survivors who had been liberated from concentration camps. 

"I remembered the arrival of the first Jewish refugees in Sweden in 1933. At that time, the refugees had no right to work and had to live on a small grant from the Jewish community and its members.

In 1945, the flow of refugees increased. The deepest impression on her life, however, was the arrival of concentration camp survivors in Sweden in April 1945, just before the end of the war. The small Jewish community in Malmö had called on her to come and help with their welcoming of refugees. She saw them coming to the harbor in southern Sweden in the White Buses as part of the Bernadotte expedition – all in all over twenty-one thousand refugees from twenty-seven different nationalities, of whom 5,000-6,000 thousand were Jews arrived on those buses.

"The White Buses" was a program undertaken by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government in the spring of 1945 to rescue concentration camp inmates and transport them to Sweden. The program was initially intended to rescuing citizens of Scandinavian countries but expanded to include citizens of other countries as well. The White Buses program resulted in rescuing more than 15,000 prisoners from concentration camps, 

Following the rescue, it was always on Inga Gottfarb’s mind to find out what happened to them following the rescue. She interviewed about sixty refugees who had arrived in Sweden from German camps during the spring and summer of 1945, after the Auschwitz camp was liberated by the Russian army in January 1945.

There were about 150 rescue centers in Sweden. Over 100 physicians were given the task to offer immediate care to the survivors. The refugees responded to the help and goodwill they were offered with gratitude. Women in particular, were very depressed, despondent, and felt degraded.

Among the refugees was Elisabeth Goldberger (1927-2017) or Tamar as she would later be called. Elisabeth was born in Hungary and spoke German fluently because she had studied German in school. After her survival from Auschwitz, with no surviving family, she was offered to stay with the German speaking Rosa and David Katz family in Stockholm. The Swedish authority however, required that Elisabeth pass a formal "German Culture Exam" in order to qualify for a family placement. The Katz family took her immediately and with that started a long process of recovery, and a return to normalcy. Her weight was only 27 kg upon arrival and had to struggle with various infections.

The time that followed was one of healing, growth, adjustment to normal life. Elisabeth detailed later several memorable events at the Katz' home, such as her birthday party with family friends, their two sons Gregory (b 1922) and Theodor (1920 – 1997) and traveling with them to Copenhagen. She was considered a permanent guest and lived with them from 1945-1947. She studied at a school nearby the home, and later found a job in the area. Elisabeth later recalled their kindness and the love that the family had given her. When the idea of adoption was suggested by the Katz family, she objected to it because of her sincere longing to immigrate to Israel. This path was, as it turned out, was not seen positively by her host family.

Then, Elisabeth Goldberger decided, like many in the refugee and Aliyah community, to change her first name to a Hebrew name, from Elisabeth to Tamar. Tamar decided to start her path to Palestine and had to do so illegally. 

The Haim Arlozoroff, an immigrant ship named after the Zionist leader during the British mandate of Palestine, was a decommissioned US Army boat, purchased in 1946 by the Jewish Agency and used for moving Jewish refugees from Europe to Palestine. The ship left Trelleborg, Sweden, on 27 January 1947 carrying 664 passengers mostly female survivors of the concentration and death camps, 18 to 25 years of age, waiting to go to Palestine. The ship arrived at Le Havre, France, to stock up on supplies, and by the end of February 1946 reached the port of Metaponto, in Italy, where 684 more survivors boarded the ship, totaling 1,348 passengers. 

Waiting to board the Haim Arlozoroff in Metaponto was Ervin Porat, born 1926 in Budapest, Hungary. Irwin had fled Budapest and was waiting to board along with 100 male refugees from Hungary. Ervin then changed his first name to Haim.

The journey of hope. began. Tamara meets Haim and falls in love. Arriving at the shores of Bat-Galim, Haifa, the ship with new immigrants was caught by the British and was sent back to British detention centers in Cyprus for 1 year in quarantine. This period was ironically considered a safe respite for the refugees. The following year was one of building morale, preparing to make aliyah, pursue the cultural bond by learning one language shared by all, to read and write Hebrew and sing the familiar Hebrew songs. 

At the beginning of 1948 before the Day of Independence Yom Haatzmaut, they arrived in Israel. Tamara and Haim had befriended many other Hungarians during this season and well prepared to embark on the unknown as pioneers and nationbuilders. They decided to start a kibbutz by the name Beit HaEmek (House of the Valley) in northern Israel, in the western Galilee where they ended up staying for 2 years. They received a certificate of Aliyah from the Jewish Agency upon arrival and with that were given a personal loan from the agency of 26 Israeli pound. The money was trusted to the kibbutz.

When they would eventually be leaving Galilee, the money was trusted to the kibbutz. When they, two years later decided to move on, they also left behind any contributions they had made to the kibbutz. They left for a moshav Beit Elazari House of Elazari in central Israel, located three miles south of the city of Rehovot.

Tamara’s relationship with the Katz family was by her own choice broken. Her journey into the wilderness, the pioneer work of building the land, became a too strong contrast to her past life in Sweden. She along with many of her landsmen pursued the building of a nation, a recent attained statehood, no longer exiles. But free. 

Tamara and Haim had two children Gadi and Dorit, both currently living in Israel.

In the passing of Tamara Goldberger last year, her children Gadi and Dorit have generously shared her story as well as private photos with us to document her story. And for that we are so very grateful!

With kind appreciation