STORY : A Gravestone in Vienna for Jona Spiegel

Written by Eva Floersheim

jona-spiegel-vienna-2005

In March 2005 the grandchild Jona Spiegel in England was informed that his grandmother is buried in the Jewish Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. The grandmother had died in December 1939.

He has also been informed that there is no gravestone on the grave. Now he wants to erect a gravestone in honor of his grandmother.

What will he write on that stone?

“Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939”

Perhaps that will be all.
Everything considered, each word on a gravestone is also a matter of money.

But perhaps he will add the two Hebrew letters פ”נ above the name.
“Poh nikvera” – “Here is buried”. That could be a way of honoring the fact that his grandmother was born, lived and died as a Jewish person.

פ”נ
Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939

Should he add “My grandmother” to emphasize that Emilie Spiegel does have a living grandson? Because it is quite a miracle that Emilie Spiegel has a grandson and that her grandson after so many years has found her grave.

פ”נ
My grandmother
Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939

When Emilie died in December 1939, her daughter Hilde was not in Vienna any more. According to the information found, Hilde’s husband Siegmund Neumann had left Austria in March 1939 and his wife followed him two weeks later. Did they have any children? We don’t know. Now, following the discovery of the grave without a gravestone, it started to look like Hilde and Siegmund Neumann had been caught in the Holocaust too. A search among the Pages of Testimony on the Yad Vashem website, showed a Page submitted in 1956 by Abraham Neumann from Tel Aviv. This page is for Siegmund Neumann born in October 1903 who lived in Vienna before the war, working as a furrier. Siegmund was married to Hilde nee Spiegel born 1903, writes Abraham Neumann. There is no separate Page for Hilde, but for Siegmund Neumann it says he was in Kroatia during the war and that his place of death is unknown. Further research should show if Abraham Neumann is still alive, 50 years after submitting the Page of Testimony.
An additional Page of Testimony submitted in 2001 by German researcher Alex Salm for a Siegmund Neumann born October 24th 1903 who was deported from Koeln in Germany to Auschwitz, should be checked out to see if “our” Siegmund Neumann may have ended up in Germany after March 1939.
So for now, we must do some further research to find out what happened to Hilde Neumann nee Spiegel.

When Emilie died in December 1939 her son Rudolf was not in Vienna any more. Rudolf, born April 17th 1901, had been deported from Vienna to Nisko in Poland on October 27th 1939, never to be heard from again. Was he married? Did he have children? We don’t know.

Probably on Emilie’s gravestone some words should be added to remember her son Rudolf, a Holocaust victim.

פ”נ
My grandmother
Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939

In memory of
my uncle Rudolf Spiegel (1901 – Holocaust)

When Emilie Spiegel died on December 12th 1939, the Germans had already invaded Vienna.
One must assume that Emilie’s husband Leopold Spiegel (born 1872) and her unmarried daughter Elsa Spiegel (born June 24th 1909) attended the funeral as Emilie was buried in plot 20a, row 21, grave 11 at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna.

Leopold Spiegel at some point had moved to a Jewish Old Age Home in Seegasse 9, Vienna. Perhaps he did so after the death of his wife?
On June 28th 1942 Leopold Spiegel was deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt. We do not know when and where he died.

The gravestone could perhaps have this text:

פ”נ
My grandmother
Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939

In memory of
my grandfather Leopold Spiegel (1872 – Holocaust)
my uncle Rudolf Spiegel (1901 – Holocaust)

Elsa, a milliner (hatmaker) by profession, must have had a hard time making a living after the Germans occupied Vienna. In the beginning of 1941 what should have been a purely joyous event happened to Elsa – she got pregnant. Who was the father of this unborn child? He was probably a non Jew, because when Elsa gave birth on Dec 18th 1941 at the Rothschild Hospital in Vienna, only her name is listed. At that time, intimate relations between Jews and non Jews were strictly forbidden.

Elsa named her little son Jona Spiegel.

Jona was not even six months old when his mother Elsa Spiegel was deported on June 2nd 1942 from Vienna to Minsk. She was probably murdered at Maly Trostenets outside Minsk where a memorial tells that 201500 Jews were murdered.

Elsa’s son probably wants his mother’s name on the gravestone.

פ”נ
My grandmother
Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939

In memory of
my grandfather Leopold Spiegel (1872 – Holocaust)
my uncle Rudolf Spiegel (1901 – Holocaust)
my mother Elsa Spiegel (1909 – Holocaust)

After his mother was deported, Jona Spiegel lived in a Jewish orphanage in Vienna till he, together with some other young unaccompanied children, was deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt on Sept 24th 1942.

It is hard to imagine the efforts made in Ghetto Theresienstadt by unknown heroes enabling Jona Spiegel to live more than two and a half years in that ghetto – from being a baby of nine months to a toddler of three years and four months.

Jona was one of the around hundred children alive when Ghetto Theresienstadt was liberated.

Emilie Spiegel’s grandson had survived Holocaust!

After the liberation, Jona spent some time regaining strength in Czeckoslovakia before he and some of the other young survivors were sent to England.

In England Jona was given up for adoption to a Jewish couple.

Jona grew up, married and had children.
Despite his adoptive parents’ objection, he insisted of finding out who were his biological parents and what had happened to them.
He found out that his mother was Elsa Spiegel and that she was murdered in Holocaust.
He found out that his maternal grandparents were Leopold and Emilie Spiegel.
He found out that his grandfather Leopold Spiegel was murdered in Holocaust.
He found out that his uncle Rudolf Spiegel had been among the Jews deported to Nisko in Poland in October 1939.
He found out that his aunt Hilde and Hilde’s husband Siegmund Neumann probably managed to flee Austria in the beginning of 1939, but he has found no trace of them.

It had not been clear when and where his grandmother Emilie Spiegel had died.

Lately, through a website with a database of those buried in Jewish cemeteries in Vienna, Emilie Spiegel’s name turned up. Further investigations through the Jewish community in Vienna confirmed that this was indeed Jona’s grandmother.
I do not know what will be written on the gravestone Jona wants to put on his grandmother’s grave, but in my imagination I see the gravestone as both a gravestone for the grandmother and a memorial for those three murdered in Holocaust – his mother, his grandfather and his uncle.
Five Hebrew letters on Jewish gravestones remind us to keep those no longer alive, a part of the life of those still living.

ת.נ.צ.ב.ה
“Tehiyu nafsham tzrura be-tzror ha-chaim” sometimes translated as “May their Souls be Bound in the Knot of Life”.

The new gravestone in Vienna may only have the minimal text of

“Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939”

But we know that – hidden behind those few words – is the much longer story of a grandson who now has a family grave.

פ”נ
My grandmother
Emilie Spiegel nee Schwarz
1871 – Dec 12th 1939

In memory of
my grandfather Leopold Spiegel (1872 – Holocaust)
my uncle Rudolf Spiegel (1901 – Holocaust)
my mother Elsa Spiegel (1909 – Holocaust)

ת.נ.צ.ב.ה

Written by
Eva Floersheim, Lower Galilee, IL – 15240 Shadmot Dvorah, Israel
April 1st 2005
Last Updated ( Monday, 19 December 2005 )

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