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Czerner, Fröhlich, and Porges families papers

The Czerner, Fröhlich, and Porges families papers contain correspondence, identification documents, immigration documents, school certificates, photographs, and a photograph album relating to the Czerner, Fröhlich, and Porges families living in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) before and during World War II and the Holocaust. The correspondence centers on the emigration of Max and Irma Czerner from Prague to the United States with their infant son in 1939. The correspondence relates their efforts to secure visas and transportation for their young daughters, Helga and Raya Czerner, who they were forced to leave behind with family. The correspondence also reveals the everyday experiences of the families living under Nazi authority. The biographical materials series contain various documents such as identification documents and documents used in the immigration process. Biographical materials for Max Czerner include his birth certificate; immigration card, June 27, 1939; two passports, 1935-1941; pension and insurance information; identification and immigration documents; personal and professional references for Max Czerner, 1925-1939, 1976; school certificates, 1914-1927. Biographical materials for Irma Czerner (née Frölich) include Irma and Max Czerner’s marriage announcement, 1929; Irma’s immigration card, June 27, 1939; passport, 1936-1939; and school certificates, 1910-1923. Biographical materials for Erwin Fröhlich include identification and immigration documents used by Erwin Fröhlich in his attempts to emigrate from Prague, 1921-1939. These documents include Erwin’s passport, 1929-1941; professional letters of recommendation and support, 1935-1939; materials related to Erwin’s academic studies and medical certifications, 1921-1939; and several copies of Erwin’s curriculum vitae, undated. Biographical materials also include Raya Czerner’s passport, 1939-1941; photocopies of genealogical materials relating to the Czerner family; Paula Fröhlich’s birth certificate, re-issued, 1939; Paula and Leopold Fröhlich’s marriage certificate, 1898; Leopold Fröhlich’s death certificate, 1937; court documents relating to the health of Lotte Czerner, 1930; a photocopy of the will of Adalbert Proges, 1917; and a questionnaire about family origin for Anna Schnurmacher Breza, 1938. The correspondence series largely relates to the immigration experiences of the Czerner family from Prague to the United States. The correspondence includes letters to/from various family members including Paula Fröhlich, Erwin Fröhlich, Irma Czerner, Maz Czerner, and their children Helga, Raya, and Thomas Czerner. A majority of the correspondence in the collection has been translated into English and published in the volume, Letters from Prague, 1939-1941. The financial materials series, 1935-1940, includes receipts and immigration shipping documents. The printed materials series includes a newspaper clipping regarding the apartment building the Czerner family lived in Prague; a newspaper clipping published in German; and a printed postcard of the RMS Queen Mary, undated. The photograph series includes various candid and professional photographs of the Czerner, Fröhlich, and Porges families and friends in Prague before and during World War II, circa 1906-1940. The photographs include the Czerner family skiing in the Alps in Austria, Spring 1936; scenes from a trip to Paris including the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower; Johannesbad, Spring 1936; photographic postcards, circa 1935-1939; and a studio portrait of Tom, Helga and Raya in St. Louis, circa 1940. Also included is Raya Czerner’s photograph album, circa 1934-1940s, which contains candid photographs of Raya, Helga, and Thomas Czerner and their family in Prague.
Pavla Fröhlich (Paula, née Porges, 1876-1942) was born on October 4, 1876 to Adalbert Porges (Albert Abraham, 1848-1917) and Marie Porges (née Lažansky, b. 1854). Her siblings were Herma (Hermína, 1881-1942), Elsa (1885-?), Rudolph (1878-?), Clara (1897-?), Malva (1883-?) and Rosa (Rosie, 1875-?). On November 7, 1898, Paula Porges married Leopold Fröhlich (1863-1937), son of Moses Fröhlich and Franzika Fröhlich (née Fischl). They lived in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) where Leopold and his brother owned a candy and liqueur factory. Their son, Erwin Fröhlich (Ervín, 1903-1942), was born on March 18, 1903 and their daughter Irma Fröhlich (later Czerner, 1904-1990) was born on October 7, 1904. Erwin trained as a physician. Irma was an artist and graduated from the German University in Prague. Moshko Czerner (Max, 1902-1988) was born on January 23, 1902 to Benjamin and Bathsheva Czerner (Schewa Czernerová, 1872-1942) in Sarny, Lipovetska in the Kiev district. The Czerner family spoke primarily Yiddish and Russian. His father Benjamin fled from Russia to escape conscription in the Russian Army. Benjamin was later caught by the Russians, but was ransomed by the Jewish Community. Max’s brothers immigrated to Vienna, Austria where they sang in the opera. In 1914, Max arrived in Prague with his mother and three sisters, Ettel (Etel Czernová, 1889-1942), Lotte (Lota Fuchsová Czernerová, b. June 25, 1909), and Regina. Max’s brother Elisha Czerner and his wife Hella (Helena) also lived in Prague. At some point, Regina Czerner married Armin Davidovic. In 1918, Bathsheva Czerner returned to Sarny to retrieve copies of her children’s birth certificates. These birth certificates would later prove her children’s eligibility to enter the United States under the Russian quota during World War II. In 1929, Max Czerner and Irma Fröhlich married. They lived a comfortable life in Prague in a modern apartment building with a nursemaid, cook, housekeeper, and chauffeur. Max traveled often for his job as the General Director of the Shell Oil Company in Prague. They spoke German and Czech. Their daughters Helga (1932-2009) and Raya (1934-2007) were fluent in both languages. Their son Thomas (Tomichek, Tommy, 1938- ) was born on September 27, 1938. On March 15, 1939, the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia ended the family’s comfortable way of life. Promised five exit visas by a German officer who wanted to take over their apartment, at the last moment the Czerner family only received three visas. Devastated, Max and Irma had to decide what would be the best course of action. Max was in immediate danger because of his position with the Shell Oil Company. Assured by a friend at the American Consul, who also lived in their apartment building, that exit visas for their young daughters would come through quickly, Max and Irma and their infant son left Prague in May 1939. The girls, Helga and Raya, went to live with their grandmother, Paula Fröhlich. Their Uncle, Erwin Fröhlich, lived nearby and assisted with their care. Max and Irma Czerner traveled to the Netherlands where they continued to try and arrange for visas for their daughters. Among those they contacted for assistance was Martha Sharp, who along with her husband Waitstill, was in Prague on a rescue mission on behalf of the Unitarian Church. They were unsuccessful. On June 27, 1939, Max, Irma, and Thomas Czerner arrived in the United States aboard the SS Volendam. From July to October, 1939, Irma and Thomas remained in Brooklyn, New York while Max worked for the Shell Oil Company in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, since Max had already emigrated, the girls were no longer eligible to leave under the Russian quota. Alternative plans for the girls’ emigration needed to be formed. One possibility was their participation in the Rebesova project, a Kindertransport to England, which in the end did not materialize. Finally, Max was able to arrange for the girls to travel with his brother Elisha Czerner and his family. On September 22, 1939, they left Prague bound for Holland. However, the group missed the ship on which their passage had been booked, and they were sent back to Germany. The ship on which the family was supposed to set sail sunk after hitting a mine in the Atlantic Ocean. Elisha Czerner found places for all of them to stay in Germany among other refugees. After several weeks, they were able to return to Holland and sailed with their Uncle Elisha, his wife Helena, and 14 year old daughter Gertrude aboard the S.S. Statendam. They arrived in New York on October 31, 1939 and the family was reunited. In August 1940, Max, Irma and their children settled in Chicago, Illinois. No longer employed in an executive position with Shell Oil Company, Max took business courses at Northwestern University. He sold insurance and later went to work in the steel business and started the steel brokerage firm, Atlas Metal Products. On October 31, 1941, Irma wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt to ask for help in obtaining affidavits for her mother and brother. A negative response was received from A.M. Warren, Chief of the Visa Division of the State Department, dated November 18, 1941. Despite several desperate attempts, Paula and Erwin Fröhlich were unsuccessful in escaping Prague. Paula was deported to Theresienstadt on July 9, 1942. She was sent to Treblinka concentration camp on October 19, 1942, where she was killed, possibly on her 66th birthday which was October 23, 1942. Erwin was deported to Theresienstadt on November 20, 1942. He was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp on January 21, 1943 where he perish upon arrival. Many of Paula Fröhlich’s siblings, their spouses, and their children, perished during the Holocaust. Due to their status as intermarried couples, Rudolph Porges (1878-1944) and Albina Porges (Albína Porgesová, 1885-1944) and Jacob (Jakub, 1879-?) and Malva Schnurmacher (Malvína, 1883-?) were treated as special circumstances until 1944. Paula’s brother, Rudolf Porges (b. March 22, 1878) married Albína. They had a son named Franta Porges. On October 31, 1941, Rudolf and Albína were deported from Prague to Łódź. Albína died in Łódź on March 13, 1944. Rudolf also perished. Their son, Franta Porges, was deported to an unknown concentration camp late in the war but survived. His son, Paul Porges, eventually emigrated to London then to the United States. Paula’s sister, Hermina (1881-1942) married Adolf Schanzer (1873-1942). They had a son, Ota Josef Schanzer who was born on May 11, 1914. On January 18, 1942, the Schanzers were deported from Pilsen to Theresienstadt. On April 23, 1942, Ota Schanzer was sent to the Majdanek concentration camp where he perished on September 6, 1942. Hermina and Adolf Schanzer were sent from Teresienstadt to Treblinka concentration camp on October 19, 1942. They both perished. Paula’s sister, Elsa (Eliška, b. May 4, 1885) married Karl Brok (Karel, b. May 21, 1884). They had two children, Anna (b. February 22, 1920) and Franta (Franišek, b. October 23, 1912). On July 2, 1942, Elsa and Karl Brok were deported from Prague to Theresienstadt. On December 15, 1943, they were sent from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz concentration camp, where they perished. Their daughter Anna married Vilém Madelik, and had a daughter, Jana Madelik (Mandeliková, b. February 21, 1942). The Madelik family was deported with Anna’s parents on July 2, 1942 and sent to Theresienstadt. On May 18, 1944, they were sent from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz concentration camp, where they all perished. Franta Brok was deported from Prague to Theresienstadt with his family on July 2, 1942. On September 6, 1943, he was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp where he perished. Paula’s sister, Malva (Malvína Schnurmacherová, b. January 24, 1883) married Jacob Schnurmacher (Jakub, b. 1879). They had a daughter, Anna (Aninka) who was born on April 30, 1911. On November 30, 1942, Malva and Jacob were deported from Klatovy to Theresienstadt. They were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp on October 23, 1944. They both died at Auschwitz. Their daughter, whose husband Franz Breza was not Jewish, survived the Holocaust. After the war, Anna sent Irma Czerner the last postcard that Paula Fröhlich had written to Malva, which was dated July 1, 1942. The postcard informed Malva that Paula was about to report for deportation. Malva’s son Karl Schnurmacher also survived. Paula’s sister, Clara (Klara, b. November 11, 1879) married Louis Hirschl, and they a son, Franz Hirschl. On November 2, 1941, Clara Hirschl was deported from Vienna, Austria to Łódź. She perished but her husband Louis, survived. Their son, Franz Hirschl, fled to the Soviet Union. Franz was sent to Siberia after the Germans invaded Russia but he survived and remained in Russia after the war. Paula’s sister Rosa (Rose) married Phillip Vogel (Filip Vogl, 1868-1932). They had two daughters, Erna (later Erna Fischer, 1897-?) and Edith (later Edith Vogl-Garrett, 1904-1995), and a son Arnold (1900-1960). Arnold and Edith immigrated to the United States in 1938. Edith came to the United States as secretary of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In August 1938 she attended a conference of the World Youth Congress at Vassar College. Eleanor Roosevelt also attended the conference, commuting from her home in Hyde Park, New York. Edith asked Eleanor Roosevelt to help her stay in the United States after the student group returned to Europe. Eleanor Roosevelt assisted Edith in obtaining a visa, and assisted Edith’s mother Rose, and her sister Erna to immigrate to the United States as well. Max Czerner worked to assist his mother, Bethsheva Czerner, and his sisters, Ettel and Lotte Czerner, to emigrate. However, these attempts were complicated due to Lotte Czerner’s disability. She was lame and in poor health. Ettel too has been described as difficult and “unstable.” On November 30, 1941, Lotte Czerner was deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp. She was then sent to Riga on January 9, 1942, where she perished. On June 20, 1942, Bethsheva and Ettel were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. On July 14, 1942, Ettel was sent to the Maly Trostinets concentration camp near Minsk, where she died in a mobile gas chamber. On October 15, 1942, Bethsheva Czerner was sent to the Treblinka concentration camp where she perished. Several of Max’s siblings and their families successfully immigrated to New York including Max’s oldest brother Janko (Jack) Czerner and his wife Ann, as well as his brother Karl Czerner and his wife Emily (Popper). However, Karl Czerner committed suicide in 1946. Max’s sister Regina and her husband Armin Davidovic also immigrated to the United States. Helga Czerner eventually became a bookseller and a leader of Great Books in the public schools. She married Ira Weinberg (d. 2017) and they had four children. Raya Czerner, inspired by the memory of her Uncle Erwin, became a Psychiatrist. She married Joseph Schapiro (d. 2013) and they had two children. In the 1980s, Dr. Raya Schapiro became involved with a project at Yale University to create a video archive of Holocaust survivors' stories. Her son, Andrew Schapiro served as United States Ambassador to the Czech Republic from 2014-2017. Thomas Czerner became a physician and married Cynthia Silvert Wax. They had two daughters and live in San Francisco, California. Max Czerner died in 1988, and Irma Czerner died in 1990. After their parents’ deaths, the Raya and Helga found a packet of letters written by their Grandmother Paula and Uncle Erwin. The letters, which are written in German and Czech, recorded the girls' journey to the United States and the deteriorating conditions of Czechoslovakia after they had departed. The correspondence, which Helga and Raya annotated, was published as Letters from Prague: 1939-1941, in 1991. Helga Weinberg died in 2009 and Dr. Raya Schapiro died in 2007.
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The Czerner, Fröhlich, and Porges families papers are arranged into five series. Series 1. Biographical materials, 1898-1988 Series 2. Correspondence, 1919-1993 Series 3. Financial materials, 1935-1940 Series 4. Printed materials, undated Series 5. Photographs, circa 1906-1940s
1 januari 1993
  • Archief
  • EHRI
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