04/11/2023 News

Sara, not Surcis – new information about one of the children from Bullenhuser Damm

20 Jewish children were murdered in the basement of a former school on 20 April 1945. We now also know the correct spelling of Sara Goldfinger’s name and her date of birth.

In 1944, 20 Jewish children were separated from their families at Auschwitz Concentration Camp and subsequently deported to Neuengamme Concentration Camp. The children were aged 5 to 12. At Neuengamme they were subjected to medical experiments involving the injection of live tuberculosis bacilli carried out by Nazi SS physician Kurt Heissmeyer. With the Allies nearing Hamburg, the children, who had witnessed this crime, were murdered by SS men in the basement of a former school on Bullenhuser Damm.

The SS did not succeed in completely covering up this crime. After the war, former prisoners of the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Neuengamme gave testimonies about what they had heard regarding this crime; they were also able to name some of the children.

A handwritten note from Rose Grumelin, or Rucza Witońska as she then was, played an important role. She was the mother of two of the children murdered at Bullenhuser Damm and had been deported with them to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. After her liberation, she noted down the names of the children who had been taken there along with her daughter Eleonora and her son Roman.

One of the eleven names she wrote down was Surcis (or Surcia) Goldfinger. She also wrote down the prisoner number ‘A 16918’ from Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Prisoners of Neuengamme Concentration Camp recalled a girl with the surname ‘Goldinger’. The prisoner number shows that the girl was deported to Auschwitz Concentration Camp from Ostrowiec near Radom in Poland.

In the late 1970s, the journalist Günther Schwarberg went in search of the families of the murdered children. He was able to put names to most of the children and find the relatives of several who had survived the Holocaust.

However, no relatives of the girl identified as ‘Surcis Goldinger’ from Ostrowiec had thus far been found.

Italian author Maria Pia Bernicchia and historian Alberta Bezzan from the Fondazione Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea (CDEC) in Milan were struck by the unusual first name ‘Surcis’. The name is not common neither in Polish, Yiddish or Hebrew; as for ‘Surcia’, it is a term of endearment for ‘Sara’. And indeed, the name ‘Sara Goldfinger’ was found on a list of murdered Jews from Ostrowiec at the Yad Vashem International Holocaust Memorial. The list had been compiled in 1972 by her uncle Chaim Eliezer Yehuda Goldfinger. Her parents are listed here as Yitzhak and Hadasa Goldfinger. Another reference to Sara Goldfinger is a Page of Testimony at Yad Vashem, created in 2010 by Isser Gerber. The Holocaust survivor from Ostrowiec was eager to keep alive the memory of as many murdered members of his community as possible. Unfortunately, he has since passed away.

Could Sara Goldfinger be the girl referred to only as ‘S.G., age 11’ in Dr Heissmeyer’s notes on his research?

Alberta Bezzan travelled to Ostrowiec, Poland, and located Sara’s birth certificate. She found out that Sara Goldfinger was born there on 20 September 1933, the daughter of Icek Goldfinger and Hudesa Goldfinger, née Mincberg.

She was therefore actually 11 years old in 1944 when Dr Heissmeyer carried out his tuberculosis experiments on the children at Neuengamme Concentration Camp. Did this mean that Sara Goldfinger had now been unequivocally identified as the child previously known as ‘Surcis Goldinger’?

The Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial contacted the archives in Ostrowiec to ask whether they had knowledge of any other children with the surname Goldfinger or Goldinger whose first name began with an ‘S’. This was not the case. We therefore now assume that Sara Goldfinger is the girl the SS murdered in the school basement on Bullenhuser Damm on 20 April 1945.

What else do we know about Sara Goldfinger?

She was born in Ostrowiec on 20 September 1933, at Aleja 3 Maja (Third of May Avenue), at street number 3. On 3 August 1944 she was sent from a forced labour camp in Ostrowiec to Auschwitz Concentration Camp along with 305 women and children. She survived the selection and was given prisoner number A16918. Her parents Icek (Yitzhak) and Hudes(s)a Goldfinger died in the German extermination camps, as did her sister Chava, who was named after her grandmother. Her grandparents Yaakov and Chava and her uncles Shmuel, Menakhem, Tzvi and Leib did not survive the Holocaust either. She was one of the 20 Jewish children taken to Neuengamme Concentration Camp on 28 November 1944 and subsequently murdered at Bullenhuser Damm on 20 April 1945.

That is all we know about Sara Goldfinger at present.

The Foundation of Hamburg Memorials and Learning Centres and the Children of Bullenhuser Damm Association are most grateful to the Italian initiative by Alberta Bezzan and Maria Pia Bernicchia and the painstaking research work they have undertaken. It shows that the story is by no means over and that new research continues to bring new information to light. We hope to be able to find out more about the Goldfinger family.