In November 2017, I received an email from a retired attorney, Stephen Falk, who was residing in a small town, Point Roberts, Wash. He said he had just read a guest column I wrote that appeared in the News Transcript on March 17, 2010. The title of the column was “The 2 Anita Landsbergers.”
Stephen was so excited to find the article and to reach out to me, thinking we might be related. He was trying to construct a Landsberger family tree that ended with my aunt Anita. Did I know what happened to her?
I explained how Anita left her home in Hamburg, Germany, in the late 1930s when her kindergarten school was closed because of the anti-Jewish laws. She left her family and went to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to work as a governess.
In 1939, the Nazis took over Czechoslovakia and my aunt went into hiding.
In December 1941, she was captured and taken to Terezin. She later went to Auschwitz with the number 73050 forever tattooed on her arm.
Of all the stories my aunt later told me about the concentration camps, nothing was more moving than the story of little Anita Landsberger, a 7-year-old girl from Berlin with the same name. My aunt had met Anita in Auschwitz and watched over her.
My aunt told me little Anita’s father was caught stealing a rotten lemon for his sick daughter and on March 7, 1944, little Anita went to the gas chamber. My aunt had been beaten, raped and starved, but nothing was worse than seeing little Anita go to the gas chamber.
For 50 years after the war, my aunt wrote poems to little Anita Landsberger every March 7 so that she would not be forgotten. Some of her poems are in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. This task has fallen on my shoulders since my aunt died in 2004.
Now in 2018 the story continues as Stephen Falk enters into my life and that of the two Anita Landsbergers as a result of that 2010 News Transcript column. We spoke for hours and I sent him memoirs that my aunt left me specifically about her days in Terezin and some of the heartbreaking poems she had written as a tribute so that little Anita would be remembered.
Stephen was very touched by all I had told him and he did some remarkable things. He put me in touch with the Terezin Music Foundation in Boston so my aunt’s papers, drawings and memoirs will find a permanent home in their archives. There is a possibility some of the little Anita poems will be set to music by composers at the foundation, which would be extraordinary.
There is one more amazing thing Stephen did with his detective work and interest in genealogy. He was able to uncover the names and photos of little Anita Landsberger’s parents, Joseph and Ursula Landsberger, who also perished with little Anita on March 7, 1944. They are no longer nameless or faceless.
My aunt did not know their names, only that of little Anita who she did her best to watch over and care for.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was marked on Jan. 27. This year I was overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, but also joy that my aunt Anita Landsberger Lobel, and Joseph and Ursula Landsberger and their little Anita were remembered. And yes, Stephen Falk and I are related.
Barbara Kenas is a resident of Marlboro.