Heinrich, Regina and Erna Gruenbaum


Heinrich and Regina Gruenbaum.


Images courtesy of Martin Greenwood.

The names of Heinrich, Regina and their daughter Erna Gruenbaum are inscribed on the Cardiff Reform Synagogue Memorial Tablet; the inscription was sponsored by Heinrich’s and Regina’s son and Erna’s brother, Robert Greenwood (Gruenbaum).


Regina was born Regina Kupfer in Schmalnau, Germany, in 1879. Heinrich was born in Sulzburg, Germany, on 21 January 1883. Erna was born in Gersfeld, Germany, in 1918.


Little is known of the lives of Heinrich and Regina prior to their marriage. Heinrich was a shoemaker and Regina took care of the family home. They had five children: Robert, Hugo, Alfred, Ida and Erna. The Gruenbaum family lived outside of the city of Frankfurt am Main, in the countryside. From the stories that their son Robert told his family, it seems that the family had a happy life in their countryside home where they kept chickens. Robert used to recall to his children that his mother had long hair.


Heinrich and Regina Gruenbaum outside their home.


Image courtesy of Martin Greenwood.

All their children but Erna left Germany prior to the start of the Shoah and ultimately survived. The descendants of the family believe that Erna remained to care for her parents. Robert came to London in 1939/40 where he stayed with a fellow German named Werner Tell. He was sent to the Isle of Man, which was used as an internment camp during World War II for civilians who were born in enemy countries. He was released in 1940 and in November, he joined the British Army where he worked as an interpreter. He remained working in the Army until 1946. Robert changed his surname from Gruenbaum to Greenwood at age 21 and relocated to Cardiff. He met his wife at a dance in London, and they were married at the synagogue in Windsor Place, Cardiff. Robert went on to work in his father-in-law’s menswear shop, A. Rose.


Hugo first moved to the UK and then emigrated to Johannesburg where he joined the South African army; he got married and had a son. Alfred worked as a clerk; he too came to Great Britain before emigrating in 1934 to Cape Town, South Africa. He had two daughters. Ida emigrated to the United States where she settled. She was married in New York, lived in Baltimore and had two children.


Erna Gruenbaum.


Images courtesy of Martin Greenwood.

Heinrich, Regina and Erna were deported from Frankfurt am Main to the Minsk Ghetto, in Belorussia, on 11 November 1941.[i] This was the second deportation to leave the city. The district party leader has set himself the task of making his province and especially Frankfurt ‘judenfrei’ (Free of Jews) as quickly as possible. The empty train arrived in Frankfurt from Łódź, Poland, where it was then given the designation ‘Da 53’ and left for Minsk the following morning with over 1000 Jews on board.


The Gestapo took charge of ordering the deportations for this transport. They forced the ‘Reichsvereingung der Juden in Deutschland’ (Association of Jews in Germany) as well as local Jewish communities to assist in preparing the transports and compiling the lists. The Jews selected for deportation were notified in writing three days prior to the transport; however, they were not informed of their destination. On the day of departure, the Gestapo took the deportees from their homes or from one of the 300 ‘Judenhauser’ (Jew Houses, which were run down and insufficiently heated, that had been set up in German towns in 1939) in Frankfurt where they had been forced to move earlier. They were required to hand over the keys to their homes, which were subsequently searched (along with their luggage) and all valuables confiscated. Any other assets became the property of the Reich. The Jews were taken through the city in broad daylight to the assembly area at the wholesale market where they were confined in the cellars.


They finally boarded the train on 11 November 1941 to begin a six-day journey east to Minsk. Reports from the train state that there was insufficient drinking water so that the people on the train suffered severe thirst and many died during the journey. The train arrived at Minsk on 17 November 1941. Here the deportees were moved through the completely destroyed city of Minsk to an area of the ghetto that had been sealed off with barbed wire. Ten days before, the 6,624 Belarussian Jews from the ghetto had been shot dead. The new arrivals from Frankfurt were confronted by these bodies, which they had to remove. Conditions in the ghetto were deliberately harsh, with up to four families sharing small wooden huts; the cold was extreme, and disease and hunger were rife. Some of the Jewish inhabitants were taken to nearby Maly Trostinets where they were murdered in mobile gas vans.[ii] Only nine of the Jews deported from Frankfurt to Minsk survived the Holocaust.


It is not known how Heinrich, Regina or Erna died during their time in the Minsk Ghetto, but they are recorded as missing and murdered.

Written by Claire Rowe Spiller, JHASW volunteer.





With many thanks to Martin Greenwood, Robert Gruenbaum’s son, for his permission to use the photographs and his insights into the family history.



Ancestry.com, All Family Trees results for Fred Grunebaum: Fred Grunebaum from tree Joseph Perkins Teagle (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/categories/42/?name=Fred_Grunebaum&count=50&name_x=1_1> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, All Family Trees results for Heinrich Israel Grunebaum: Heinrich Israel Grünebaum from tree Joseph Perkins Teagle (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/categories/42/?name=Heinrich+israel_Grunebaum&birth=1883&birth_x=0-0-0&count=50&location=3257.3250&name_x=1_s> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, All Family Trees results for Hugo Grunebaum: Hugo Grunebaum from tree Joseph Perkins Teagle (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/categories/42/?name=Hugo_Grunebaum&birth=1915&count=50&name_x=1_1> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, All Family Trees results for Regina Kupper: Regina KupPer from tree Joseph Perkins Teagle (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/categories/42/?name=Regina_KupPer&birth=1879&birth_x=0-0-0&count=50&location=3257.3250&name_x=1_s> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, All Family Trees results for Sara Tannenbaum: Sara Tannenbaum from tree Joseph Perkins Teagle (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/categories/42/?name=Sara_Tannenbaum&birth=1852&birth_x=1-0-0&count=50&name_x=s_s> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, Free Access: Europe, Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees, 1939-1947 for Heinrich Israel Grünebaum (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/61758/images/0412_70350490_1?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh40&_phstart=successSource&pId=6921010> and <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/61758/images/0413_70350491_1?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh43&_phstart=successSource&pId=6921011> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934 for Hugo Gruenbaum (1934) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/1068/images/K_2004_080763-0476?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh25&_phstart=successSource&pId=17352444> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, Hugo Gruennebaum in the U.S., Newspapers.com Obituary Index, 1800s-current (1988) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/discoveryui-content/view/588645818:61843?indiv=1&tid=&pid=&queryId=a3c9516e7d12598372ae39c796693839&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh23&_phstart=successSource> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957, for Ida Gruenebaum, Hamburg, May 1938 (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/7488/images/NYT715_6156-0075?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh30&_phstart=successSource&pId=23473306> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 for Hugo Grunebaum, Southampton, 15 June 1934 (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/2997/images/41039_b001405-00318?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh2&_phstart=successSource&pId=142671974> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Ancestry.com, U.S., Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995: Ida Eckstein (2021) <https://www.ancestry.co.uk/imageviewer/collections/1192/images/M1164_52-4385?treeid=&personid=&rc=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=Hoh9&_phstart=successSource&pId=2163024> [accessed January 2021]


Find a Grave, Herman Eckstein (2021) <https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/35820590/herman-eckstein> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names: Erna Grünebaum (2021) <https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11511377&ind=1> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names: Heinrich Grünebaum (2021) <https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11511400&ind=1> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names: Regina Grünebaum (2021) <https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=11511519&ind=1> [accessed 7 January 2021]


Yad Vashem, Transport, Train Da 53 from Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt a. Main (Wiesbaden), Hesse-Nassau, Germany to Minsk, Ghetto, Belorussia (USSR) on 11/11/1941 (2021) <https://deportation.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&itemId=9437934&ind=0> [accessed 7 January 2021]


[i] The Minsk Ghetto was created in July 1941 after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Up to 100,000 Jews were forced into the ghetto. To make room for new prisoners, some of the ghetto’s inhabitants would periodically be rounded up, taken to nearby forests, and shot by the Einsatzgruppen. The Minsk Ghetto was first used to house Jews from Minsk and the surrounding area, but subsequently, Jews from elsewhere in Europe were also relocated there. The German Jews were housed in a separate ghetto and forced to work on labour projects for the German war effort. The ghetto was liquidated in late 1943 and the inhabitants either shot or sent to the Sobibór Extermination Camp, where they were gassed upon arrival.


[ii] Maly Trostinets is a village on the outskirts of Minsk in Belarus. The concentration camp was originally built by the Nazis in the summer of 1941 to house Soviet prisoners of war after the invasion of the Soviet Union. Many Jews from Europe were sent here after being housed in the Minsk Ghetto. Many of the victims were taken to nearby woods, forced to dig a pit, and shot in the back of the neck. Many of the those detained in the camp were forced to sort through the belongings of the murdered victims and to maintain the camp. Mobile gas vans were also used to murder Jews. In the autumn of 1943, the Nazis began exhuming the bodies of those murdered and began to cremate their bodies to hide all evidence. The 4,000 Jews that remained at the camp were murdered. It is estimated that around 65,000 people were killed here. When Soviet troops liberated Minsk, they found very few surviving Jews.