A Survivor’s Story: The Shoah Foundation Testimony of Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer, Part II

By the time she turned sixteen on April 13, 1945, Inge Goldschmidt had been to three concentration camps and beaten by Nazi youth in Kassel and by guards at the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Oederan. She had been separated from her brother, who was sent to the US in October 1938, and then from her parents in 1944 when she was sent from Theriesenstadt to Auschwitz. She had no idea whether her parents were alive and assumed that they were not.1

The day after her sixteenth birthday, she and the others imprisoned at the Oederan camp were transported in cattle wagons away from the Eastern front where Russia was making headway into Germany. They stopped at many camps, and finally on April 21, 1945, Inge and the others were dropped off at Theriesenstadt, the place where she had last seen her parents, Elfriede Engelbert and Rudolf Goldschmidt. She had not seen them in close to a year and did not expect to find them alive. They also assumed she had been killed at Auschwitz.

Someone recognized Inge as she entered Theriesenstadt, and when she told Inge that her parents were still alive and still at Theriesenstadt, Inge passed out. Inge was dangerously sick with typhoid, weighing only sixty pounds. Her mother didn’t recognize her when she saw her. Slowly Inge was nursed back to health and joyfully reunited with her parents.

The war ended, and the Russians took over Theriesenstadt. Even though they were no longer at war, the people had nowhere to go and no way to get anywhere because of the destruction of the train lines and roads by Allied bombing during the war. Inge and her parents stayed at Theriesenstadt until July 1945 when they then returned to Cologne, where they were provided with an apartment.

Transit card from Terezin, Elfriede Goldschmidt, 1945. Courtesy of the family

You can see from their eyes and expressions in this photograph taken after the war some of the effects of their experiences during the Holocaust.

Elfriede, Rudolf, and Inge Goldschmidt c. 1945 Courtesy of the family

Inge joined a youth group of other Jewish survivors; most did not have any family members who survived, and her parents helped many of them, becoming like surrogate parents to her friends. Here is a photograph of her with some of her friends in post-war Cologne.

Inge Goldschmidt and friends in Cologne, c. 1947-1948. Courtesy of the family

These two photographs of Inge taken in post-war Cologne show some of the rubble caused by the bombing of Cologne.

Inge Goldschmidt, c. 1947-1948, Cologne. Courtesy of the family

Inge Goldschmidt, c. 1949 Courtesy of the family

Inge’s brother Gunther sent her this photograph for her nineteenth birthday in April, 1948.

Gunther Goldschmidt, 1948. Courtesy of the family

Elfriede and Rudolf desperately wanted to get to the US and be reunited with their son Gunther, but because Cologne was in the British Sector, they could not get permission to do so. So for three and a half years they waited until Gunther was able to get his parents out, and then once they arrived in the US, Elfriede and Rudolph were able to get Inge out. Apparently children could get visas for parents and vice versa, but siblings could not get them for siblings.

Rudolf and Elfriede Goldschmidt in Bremen, leaving for the US, 1949. Courtesy of the family

Finally in July 1949, the family was reunited. Inge was now twenty years old. Her parents were working at a hotel in the Catskills and had no money.

Rudolf and Elfriede Goldschmidt in the Catskills (Fleishmans) in the summer of 1949. Courtesy of the family

Inge got a job in a factory in New York, and in the fall her parents joined her in New York also where they all lived in a furnished room together. Gunther was in school in Boston; although he came and lived with his family for some period of time, he remained closest to his foster family, never fully recovering from the long separation from his parents and sister. But this photograph captures Gunther and Inge in a joyful moment together.

Inge and Gunther Goldschmidt c. 1950-1951 Courtesy of the family

Inge married Ernst Oppenheimer on October 14, 1950.2 Ernst was born in Augsburg, Germany, on October 17, 1919, to David Oppenheimer and Maria Kraus.3 Ernst had been sent to Dachau Concentration Camp in November 1938  after Kristallnacht, and after he was released, he was immediately sent to England, where he was in the Kushner displaced person camp until he left for the US in March, 1940. He then served in the US Army, where he was stationed at Fort Knox. He also worked on the Manhattan Project.4 Ernst and Inge had two children. Inge, who had been forced to end her formal education at age ten, passed her GED test and went to college and received not only her bachelor’s degree but also a master’s degree. She became a teacher and a librarian and worked in the New York City schools for many years.

Ernst Oppenheimer and Inge Goldschmidt, 1950 Courtesy of the family

I also learned from Gunther Goldschmidt’s daughter Lisa more about his life after World War II. He married Barbara Cohen on May 16, 1959. They had three children and had moved to southern California by 1962, eventually settling in Encino. Gunther started his own advertising business there and was very successful; more importantly, Lisa described him as a devoted father.He remained close to his foster family for the rest of his life.1

Gunther and Inge’s father Rudolf Goldschmidt died on February 25, 1960, in New York; he was 73 years old.5

Tragically Gunther died from a heart attack when he was only 47; he died on November 30, 1972, in San Francisco, and was survived by his wife and young children.6

Inge and Gunther’s mother Elfriede Engelbert Goldschmidt made the surprising decision to return to Germany when she grew older. She wanted to live in a Jewish home for the elderly there and not burden her daughter. She died there on May 20, 1986; she was 85 years old.7

Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer, who gave this interview in 1996, died twenty years later on January 24, 2016, at the age of 86.8 She was survived by her children and grandchildren, her husband Ernst having died on July 2, 2010,9 when he was ninety years old.

We should all be forever grateful to Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer and those like her who shared their stories and allowed us all to understand not only the cruel side of human nature, but also the strength and resilience of human nature. Inge’s will to survive as a young teenager under the worst of circumstances was remarkable, and her ability to move forward—to marry and have children, to go back and receive a college education and to pursue a career as a teacher and librarian—is an inspiration and a lesson in hope for all of us.

  1. The information in this post, except where otherwise noted, is from the Shoah Foundation interview with Inge Oppenheimer. Inge Oppenheimer, Interview 11370. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1996. Accessed 17 August 2021. The photographs are all courtesy of Marsha Eidlin.
  2. Ernst Oppenheimer, Gender: Male, Marriage License Date: 1950
    Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse:
    Ingeborg Goldschmidt, License Number: 26365, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. Email from Marsha Eidlin, daughter of Ernst and Inge Oppenheimer, August 31, 2021. 
  3.  Ernst Oppenheimer, Declaration Age: 24, Record Type: Petition, Birth Date: 17 Oct 1919, Birth Place: Rugsburg, Bavaria, Germany, Declaration Date: 13 Jan 1944
    Declaration Place: Jackson, Mississippi, USA, Court District: U.S. District Court for the Jackson Division of the Southern District of Mississippi, Petition Number: 400, The National Archives at Atlanta; Atlanta, Georgia; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Ancestry.com. Mississippi, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1907-2008. Name: Max Oscar Oppenheimer
    [brother of Ernst Oppenheimer], Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 19 Apr 1915
    Birth Place: Schrobenhaus, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 16 Oct 2006
    Father: David Oppenheimer, Mother: Maria Kraus, SSN: 092147186, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. 
  4. Email from Marsha Eidlin, daughter of Ernst and Inge Oppenheimer, August 31, 2021. 
  5. Rudo Goldschmidt, Age: 73, Birth Date: abt 1887, Death Date: 25 Feb 1960
    Death Place: Brooklyn, New York, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 4206, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Death Index, 1949-1965 
  6. Gunther Goldschmidt, Social Security #: 488207584, Gender: Male
    Birth Date: 17 Jul 1925, Death Date: 30 Nov 1972, Death Place: San Francisco, Place: San Francisco; Date: 30 Nov 1972; Social Security: 488207584, Ancestry.com. California, U.S., Death Index, 1940-1997. Inge Oppenheimer, Interview 11370. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1996. Accessed 17 August 2021. 
  7. Inge Oppenheimer, Interview 11370. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1996. Accessed 17 August 2021. 
  8. New York Times obituary at https://archive.nytimes.com/query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage-9C04EFD71F3AF932A05752C0A9609D8B63.html; Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/214436745/inge-oppenheimer : accessed 12 September 2021), memorial page for Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer (unknown–24 Jan 2016), Find a Grave Memorial ID 214436745, citing Beth-El Cemetery, Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Lauren A. Hubberman Cohen (contributor 49135178) Burial Details Unknown. 
  9. Ernest Oppenheimer, Social Security Number: 094-14-0365, Birth Date: 17 Oct 1919, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 11375, Flushing, Queens, New York, USA, Last Benefit: 11375, Flushing, Queens, New York, USA, Death Date: 2 Jul 2010, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 

  1. Email from Lisa Goldschmidt, September 25, 2021. Gunther Goldschmidt, Spouse: Barbara Anne Cohen, Marriage Date: 2 Sep 1958, Recorded county: Clark, Page: F01, Ancestry.com. Nevada, U.S., Marriage Index, 1956-2005 

A Survivor’s Story: The Shoah Foundation Testimony of Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer

Antonie Blumenfeld and her husband Siegfried Engelbert died before Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and thus were spared seeing that their daughter Margot and her husband Gustav Neuhaus were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto and killed there in September 1942 and that their granddaughter Edith Neuhaus Kempner was killed at Auschwitz just two months later.

They were also spared knowing that their son Julius and his wife Ilse and son Werner were forced to leave Germany in 1939 to escape Hitler, but eventually survived and settled in the United States.

And they were spared knowing the terrible ordeals endured by their youngest child Elfriede and her husband Rudolf Goldschmidt and their children Gunther and Inge.

But we must remember their experiences and honor their memories. Thanks to the Shoah Foundation, we now have extensive interviews with many of the Holocaust survivors, including one with Inge Goldschmidt Oppenheimer, my fifth cousin.

I was privileged to listen to Inge’s interview and will attempt in my own words to tell her story. I am grateful to the Shoah Foundation for allowing me to do so. Except where noted, all the information below came from Inge’s interview.1 All the photographs are courtesy of Inge’s daughter Marsha.

Inge was born to Elfriede Engelbert and Rudolf Goldschmidt on April 13, 1929, in Kassel, Germany, just four years before Hitler came to power. She had almost no memory of life in Germany before the Nazis took control. She and her family lived in Kassel until 1938 when they moved to Cologne. Her memories of life in Kassel were terrible because of the persecution and harassment they faced as Jews. She and her brother Gunther went to a Jewish school and were often beaten up on the way home by Nazi youth members. As a result of incidents like that, the school decided to close fifteen minutes before the non-Jewish schools so that children could get home safely.

Here is a photograph of Inge with her brother Gunther taken in about 1934.

Gunther and Inge Goldschmidt. c. 1934-1935. Courtesy of the family

Inge’s father Rudolf was a veteran of World War I and had suffered a serious head injury while fighting for Germany. As a result, he eventually became paralyzed and wheelchair-bound. The family was living on the pension he received for his service in the war while also being forced to endure the anti-Semitism promoted by the government. Rudolf was very well-informed and followed the news on a radio tuned to the BBC, and although he wanted to leave Germany, his disability and their limited resources made that impossible.

Here is a photograph of Rudolf in uniform during World War I.

Rudolf Goldschmidt, c. 1914-1918. Courtesy of the family

Instead the family decided to leave Kassel and move to Cologne in 1938, believing that in the larger city they would be safer and also that life would be easier because it was less hilly than Kassel and thus easier for Elfriede to push Rudolf’s wheelchair. Here are two photographs of Inge from around this time.

Inge Goldschmidt, c. 1938-1939. Courtesy of the family

Inge and Rudolf Goldschmidt. Courtesy of the family

Gunther celebrated his bar mitzvah in Cologne in the summer of 1938, and a few months later in October his parents registered him for a children’s transport out of Germany to the United States. He ended up in St. Louis living with a foster family for many years. He was only thirteen. Inge was only nine and too young for those transports, so she stayed in Cologne with her parents. The photograph below shows the family at the train station in Cologne the day Gunther left for the US.

Margot Engelbert Neuhaus, Gustav Neuhas, Elfriede Engelbert Goldschmidt, Rudolf Goldschmidt, Inge Goldschmidt, unknown man. 1938. Courtesy of the family

Although things were initially better in Cologne than they had been in Kassel, after Kristallnacht and then once the war started in September 1939, conditions worsened. Their phones were taken, then their bicycles, and they lived in constant fear of being arrested. Then when the Allies started bombing Cologne in the early 1940s, they lived in fear of the bombs and poison gas as well. They moved frequently from one apartment to another and were later rounded up with other Jews and taken to a temporary camp outside of the city. By then they were required to wear the yellow star to identify them as Jews. Inge had hers pinned instead of sewn on as required so that she could sneak out of the camp and shop for the family, removing her star to do so without revealing that she was Jewish.

The star Inge Goldschmidt wore in Germany. Courtesy of the family

Elfriede Engelbert Goldschmidt identity card, 1939. Courtesy of the family

Then in 1942 the family was deported to Theriesenstadt. Inge and her mother Elfriede were in one of the barracks together, and her father Rudolf was in a separate men’s barrack. Interestingly, he was living with other men who were disabled World War I veterans. Inge speculated that but for his service in World War I he never would have been allowed to survive at all, given his physical disability.

Inge’s memories of life in Theriesenstadt are horrendous. She was scared and hungry all the time and often very ill. Her knee became infected, and she had to have it drained in the camp hospital without receiving anesthesia. They lived with bed bugs, lice, and a lack of sanitary facilities. They had no news of what was happening in the war or outside the camp itself.

Inge lived at Theriesenstadt for two years, and then in 1944 she was sent to Auschwitz and separated from her family. She was now fifteen years old and sick with typhus. Despite being sick, she knew enough not to let on and so did not get transported with those who were ill and were instantly killed when they arrived at Auschwitz. The train to Auschwitz was a nightmare—all of them standing packed into the cars with no food and sleeping standing up with only a bucket for a toilet.

She remembered vividly her arrival at Auschwitz. They arrived at night, and it was bitterly cold. The Kapos (Jewish prisoners forced to act as guards and agents for the Nazis) were screaming at them all to move out of the train while armed Nazi guards surrounded them. Inge went with the other women into one large room where they were forced to strip and have their heads shaved. They took cold showers and were disinfected and given rags to wear. She recalled one woman going into labor and giving birth during this ordeal and remembered hearing the women around her screaming when they realized they would never see their children again.

Inge was only at Auschwitz for a few weeks, but her memories of that time and place were seared in her memory. She recalled standing for hours each day in the snow for inspection while the guards selected those who would go to the gas chambers. Once she needed to urinate so badly that she just squatted on the ground and was beaten by the guard for doing so. At one point she was so despondent that she was going to run into the electric fence and kill herself, as she’d seen others do. But a kind woman convinced her not to, and so she survived.

After a few weeks she was selected to be sent to another camp near Leipzig, Germany, called Oederan. Oederan opened in September 1944; three transports brought five hundred women from Auschwitz to work in a munitions factory in a converted thread factory. Inge worked in the munitions factory making bullets; she recounted how she and the other prisoners tried to do things to sabotage the machines, although they knew they could be killed if they were caught. While at Oederan, she saw bright lights in the distance and asked innocently if that was the sun. It was in fact the fires from the Allied bombing of Dresden, which was about 35 miles away. A guard, thinking she was being disrespectful, punched her in the mouth and knocked out one of her teeth.

On April 12, 1945, the day before her 16th birthday, Inge heard that FDR had died, and she was bereft, believing that America was their one hope for survival and that FDR was a hero. But the news about the war was also starting to break through, and there were rumors that the Russians were coming to liberate them. What would she do if she survived to be liberated? What would she learn about the fate of her parents?

To be continued…

  1. Inge Oppenheimer, Interview 11370. Visual History Archive, USC Shoah Foundation, 1996. Accessed 17 August 2021. 

My Grandmother’s Cologne Cousins: More New Records

Aaron Knappstein, our Cologne guide, really pulled the rabbit out of the hat when he found the Schopfloch death records for my four-times great-grandparents, Amson Nussbaum and Voegele Welsch, but his magic tricks did not end there.  He also was able to locate birth records for a number of the children of Jakob Schoenthal and Charlotte Lilienfeld.

My great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal had two siblings who did not immigrate to America, and his older brother Jakob was one of them.  Jakob married Charlotte Lilienfeld and was a merchant in Cologne.  He and Charlotte had five children: Johanna, Lee, Meyer, Henriette, and Erna. They were my grandmother Eva’s first cousins.

I’ve told their stories in prior posts.  Four of the children survived the Holocaust.  The two sons, Lee and Meyer, immigrated to the US long before Hitler came to power, and Erna escaped with her son Werner during the 1930s.  Johanna and her husband spent time in the Gurs concentration camp and came to the US after the war.  Tragically, Henriette and her husband were murdered by the Nazis.

Thus far Aaron has located birth records for four of the children: Johanna, Lee, Meyer, and Erna.  I hope that he is able to find the record for Henriette as it would indeed be tragic if her record was the only one that did not survive, just as she was the only sibling who did not survive.

Here are the records that Aaron has thus far located:

Birth record of Johanna Schoenthal (Nr. 3030/1880)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 113

June 5, 1880



Birth record of Lee (Leo) Schoenthal (Nr. 5717/1881)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 113

December 6, 1881



Birth record Meier Schönthal (no. 606/1883)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 113
February 7, 1883
05.15 in the morning



Birth Record Erna Schönthal (no. 577/1898)

father: Jakob Schönthal (tradesman)
mother: Charlotte Lilienfeld
both jewish religion
Köln, Breitestraße 85
March 27, 1898
08.15 in the morning