Vancouver museum seeking Holocaust-era postcards

By Jesse Robitaille

A collection of 28 postcards formerly owned by a stamp collector in Abbotsford, B.C., was recently donated to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre (VHEC).

Now, staff with the VHEC are seeking more information – and hopefully more cards – relating to Sylvia Loewy, who used the cards to write to her husband Fritz after his 1942 arrest and deportation.

“We are wondering if there are other Loewy postcards in other people’s collections,” said VHEC Archivist Shyla Seller, who added she has found two other examples in the “Ed Victor Papers,” which include about 1,800 Second World War-era documents and artifacts held at the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum.

“We’re really interested in finding out how many postcards she may have put out there in search of her husband,” said Seller.

Not knowing where her husband was, Sylvia sent the postcards by registered mail to shtetls – small pre-Holocaust towns in Europe with large Jewish populations – as well as ghettos and concentration camps throughout occupied Poland’s “General Government” territory. The postcards were sent in batches with similar messages explaining Sylvia was living in Sweden and hoping to hear from her husband as soon as possible.

Another card mailed Feb. 3, 1943, was sent by Sylvia Loewy to the Borysław ghetto ‘Drohobycz’ in an attempt to reach her husband, who was arrested and deported by Norwegian state police months earlier.

In the 1990s, Harold Golden – a stamp collector and retired policeman from Abbotsford, B.C. – purchased the Loewy postcards now held by the VHEC. He eventually gave the postcards to Dan Shmilovitch, executive director of Vancouver’s King David School, with the hopes they would be passed on to an archival organization. Shmilovitch then gave the postcards to Robert Krell, founding president and board member of the VHEC, who donated them to the Holocaust-focused teaching museum in February 2008.

Another card mailed Feb. 10, 1943, reads, ‘Mein leiber Fritz: es geht mir gut, ich hoffe das gleiche von Dir.’ It translates to English as, ‘My dear Fritz: I’m fine, I hope the same from you.’

THE LOEWYS

The Loewys were German Jews who left Germany for Norway in 1940.

Sylvia – maiden name Garai – was born in New York on Aug. 18, 1911, and was a dual American and German citizen. She was imprisoned in the Grini concentration camp in Bærum, Norway, on Jan. 22, 1942; however, she was released the following month (possibly due to her American citizenship). She then fled Norway for Sweden and was a resident in Stockholm by December 1942.

From Stockholm, Sylvia mailed several registered postcards to her husband. One – postmarked on Jan. 9, 1943 – was mailed from Stockholm’s Hotel Excelsior and addressed to Fritz at Zbaraz, a town in present-day Ukraine (but then in Poland). Along with chemical censor markings and a numerator marking, the cover features a Zbaraz receiving postmark dated Jan. 20, 1943.

Her message translated to English reads in part: “Dear Fritz, I like it here in Stockholm … I hope you are healthy … Maybe I will get a letter from you once … with greetings and kisses, Sylvia, who loves you.”

After the war, she returned to Oslo, Norway’s capital, where her sister Ingeburg lived. In 1945, Sylvia placed an obituary for her husband in an Oslo newspaper.

She later died in Olso on Dec. 14, 1977.

Fritz, meanwhile, was born on Nov. 27, 1898, in Berlin, Germany. He served in the Imperial German Army during the First World War and also worked in a ribbon factory and in the export trade. He later made wreath ribbons after immigrating to Oslo as a specialized worker.

On Oct. 26, 1942, Fritz was arrested by the Norwegian state police with other Jewish men in Oslo, transferred first to Bredtveit prison – then to Berg internment camp – and deported to Auschwitz on the transport ship SS Donau on Nov. 26, 1942.

He died the following month in Auschwitz, Poland.

In 2018, the Oslo Jewish Museum placed a “stolperstein” – a small concrete cube bearing a brass plate inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination or persecution – at the address where the Loewys lived when Fritz was arrested in 1942.

The cards are all digitized and available for viewing online via the VHEC.

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