The name of Fritz Weissenberg is inscribed on the Cardiff Reform Synagogue Holocaust Memorial Tablet; the inscription was sponsored by Edith Adler (née Weissenberg), his sister.
Fritz Weissenberg was born in Zawodzie, a district of Katowice in nowadays Poland, on 18 November 1885, to Rosa and Jakob Weissenberg. Before World War II, Fritz lived in Frankfurt and Berlin in Germany. He worked as a banker, was seemingly not married, and had no children.
The German Minority Census lists Fritz as living at Heilbronner Straße 5, Schöneberg, Berlin, on 17 May 1939. During the war, Fritz remained in Berlin.
Fritz had a younger sister born on 8 June 1893, Edith Adler (née Weissenberg) who married the dentist Dr Eugen Adler, author of Die Schmerzstillung in der Zahnheilkunde des Altertums (Pain Relief in the Dentistry of Antiquity). The family lived in Zabrze, where daughters Ursula Rosa (01/05/1914) and Eva (05/16/1918) were born.
Edith Adler featuring in materials held by the Zabrze Museum.
Image credit Zabrze Museum.
The Adlers moved to the UK in 1938. A List of Aliens, to whom Certificates of Naturalization have been granted, published in the London Gazette in October 1947, shows Eugen Adler as living on Cathedral Road in Cardiff in September 1947. Edith and Eugen were amongst the founder members of the Cardiff Reform Synagogue.
Eugen Adler's details in The London Gazette, 17 October 1947.
Image credit The London Gazette.
Edith and her husband tried very hard to help Fritz emigrate to escape Nazi persecution, but unfortunately, potential host countries were unwilling to accept professional bankers in the way they did doctors, dentists, etc., leaving Fritz stranded in Germany.
Fritz was deported with Transport 32 from Berlin to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Extermination Camp, located in German-occupied Poland, on 2 March 1943.[i] This transport was the 32nd to leave Berlin for the ghettos and killing sites in Eastern Europe and was thus designated “Osttransport 32”. It departed from the city’s Putlitzstraße Station in the Moabit district of Berlin on 2 March 1943 and arrived in Auschwitz the following day.
The vast majority of the passengers, “until that year they had been working as slave labourers for the Nazis, but then Slav prisoners were drafted in to take their jobs”.
Fritz’s fellow passenger Herbert Nossen described the long, overnight journey as “horrific”. According to historian Rita Meyhoefer, just 26 of the deportees on this transport are known to have survived the Holocaust.
Fritz Weissenberg listed in the ‘Shoah – Block 27’ exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Image courtesy of Natalie Evans.
Fritz was murdered in the Shoah, presumably gassed at Auschwitz. He would have been aged about 57.
Edith Adler submitted a Page of Testimony for her late brother to Yad Vashem in 1978.
Page of Testimony for Fritz Weissenberg.
Image credit Yad Vashem, Hall of Names.
Written by Nicky Getgood, JHASW volunteer.
With thanks to Stephen Joseph, Fritz Weissenberg’s great-nephew, who provided helpful information.
Adler, Eugen, Die Schmerzstillung in der Zahnheilkunde des Altertums (H. Adler, inh, E. Panzig & Company, 1920), 61 pp
De Quettevelle, Harry, ‘German Railway Displays its Holocaust’, The Telegraph, 24 January 2008 <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1576464/German-railway-displays-its-Holocaust-shame.html> [accessed 9 March 2020]
Mapping the Lives, Fritz Weissenberg (2020) <https://www.mappingthelives.org/bio/eda876c9-efb7-4f85-8309-60674d21a2c4> [accessed 30 September]
The London Gazette, 17 October 1947, LIST of ALIENS to whom Certificates of Naturalization have been granted by the Secretary of State, and whose Oaths of Allegiance have been registered in the Home Office during the month of September, 1947. <https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/38100/page/4884/data.pdf> [accessed 30 September 2020]
USC Shoah Foundation, Herbert Nossen – deported from Berlin to Auschwitz on 02.03.1943, online video recording, Yad Vashem (2013) <https://deportation.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&itemId=5092741> [accessed 29 September 2020]
Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names: Fritz Weissenberg (2020) <https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=1457622&ind=1> [accessed 29 September 2020]
Yad Vashem, The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names: Fritz Weissenberg (2020) <https://yvng.yadvashem.org/nameDetails.html?language=en&itemId=4139167&ind=2> [accessed 29 September 2020]
Yad Vashem, Transport 32 from Berlin, Berlin (Berlin), City of Berlin, Germany to Auschwitz Birkenau, Extermination Camp, Poland on 02/03/1943 (2020) <https://deportation.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&itemId=5092741> [accessed 29 September 2020]
Zabrze Museum, Adler Edith z domu Weissenberg <http://www.muzeum-miejskie-zabrze.pl/adler-edith-z-domu-weissenberg.php> [accessed 30 September 2020]
Footnotes and endnotes.
 Zabrze, also called Hindenburg O.S., full form: Hindenburg in Oberschlesien, from 1915 to 1945, is situated in Silesia, modern-day Poland.
 Yad Vashem, Transport 32 from Berlin, Berlin (Berlin), City of Berlin, Germany to Auschwitz Birkenau, Extermination Camp, Poland on 02/03/1943 (2020) <https://deportation.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&itemId=5092741> [accessed 29 September 2020].
 Harry De Quettevelle, ‘German Railway Displays its Holocaust’, The Telegraph, 24 January 2008 <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1576464/German-railway-displays-its-Holocaust-shame.html> [accessed 9 March 2020].
 USC Shoah Foundation, Herbert Nossen – deported from Berlin to Auschwitz on 02.03.1943, online video recording, Yad Vashem (2013) <https://deportation.yadvashem.org/index.html?language=en&itemId=5092741> [accessed 29 September 2020].
[i] The Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration and Extermination Camp.
In April 1940, after the invasion of Poland, Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction of a concentration camp on the site of the former army barracks in Oświęcim, in occupied Poland: thus Auschwitz, the largest and most infamous of concentration camps came into existence.
Rudolf Höss was its first commandant, from 4 May 1940 to 10 November 1943, followed by Arthur Liebenschal, who remained in the post until 8 May 1944 when Höss returned to Auschwitz for the extermination of the Hungarian Jews.
Auschwitz had over 40 sub-camps and a forced labour camp at Monowitz, the site of the IG Farben industrial complex, producing synthetic rubber and liquid fuels. Life was extremely difficult; hunger, disease, hard labour and punishments made it hard to survive. Roll call was particularly gruelling, with prisoners having to stand for hours in the freezing cold or in the searing heat to make sure that numbers tallied.
The first inmates were Polish political prisoners, but when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Himmler ordered an extension to be built in the village of Brzezinka, to be constructed and inhabited by Soviet prisoners of war and to hold 100,000 prisoners; this would become known as Birkenau.
Executions were common; the main place of execution in Auschwitz I was what is known as the death wall in Block 11. In September 1941, around 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 other prisoners were executed using Zyklon B in the cells of Block 11. As the Final Solution was being implemented throughout Europe and with the arrival of Jews at the camp, two makeshift gas chambers were constructed called ‘The little red house and little white house’; these were old converted farm cottages located on the outskirts of Birkenau. As more and more Jews arrived, four more sophisticated gas chambers and crematoria were built. As Jews came into the camp, they were selected either to work or to die. Mothers with children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled would be separated out on arrival. They were deceived into believing that they were going for a shower but were then gassed – Crematoria 2 and 3 had a capacity to gas approximately 1,400 victims each in one go and Crematoria 4 and 5 approximately 750 people each. Those who were not selected for death were taken to baths, shaved, tattooed, and given camp attire. Many had no idea that their families had been murdered until they were told by other prisoners. During its history, over 400,000 prisoners were registered in the camp. The wooden barracks which people were crammed into, sometimes up to 1000 people per building, were overrun with lice; this, along with unsanitary conditions, caused death from diseases such as typhus. Horrific medical experiments were conducted by camp doctors, mainly in Block 10, including by the feared Josef Mengele and Carl Clauberg. Mengele experimented primarily on twins and those with genetic conditions, such as dwarfism. Clauberg’s expertise was in the field of forced sterilisations.
In February 1943, Roma and Sinti families arrived and were housed in Birkenau in the so-called ‘Zigeuner Camp’ (Gypsy camp). Around 21,000 are believed to have been housed there. However, in August 1944, the liquidation of the Gypsy camp began, and they were all subsequently murdered in the gas chambers. In July 1943, families from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They too were housed together. The Nazis liquidated this camp in 2 stages, in March and July 1944, when they were all gassed.
In May 1944, the Hungarian Jews started arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau, some 400,000 of them; most were murdered in the gas chambers.
Sonderkommando (special squad), mainly Jews, were forced to work in the gas chambers, to help undress the victims, then remove and burn the bodies, and clean the gas chambers ready for the next transport. Some of these men even came across their family members in the piles of corpses. Their life expectancy was short as they were ‘Geheimnisträger’ (bearers of secrets): They were living witnesses of the extermination of the Jews of Europe. They staged an uprising on 7 October 1944 and destroyed Crematorium 4. Around 450 of them paid for it with their lives. Writings by the Sonderkommando were found in the grounds next to the ruins of the Crematorium, attesting to the atrocities witnessed. Those who did survive, went on to provide crucial information to the world regarding the genocide of the Jewish people.
Gassings ceased in early November 1944 and plans to dismantle the gas chambers and hide any evidence began. The camp was evacuated on 17-18 January 1945, as the Soviets closed in. Inmates were forced to march in sub-zero temperatures and if they could not keep up, were shot at the side of the road. The prisoners were then transported to other camps deep within the Reich. Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz on 27 January 1945. 1.3 million people perished in Auschwitz and of those around 1.1 million were Jews. Today, Auschwitz-Birkenau has hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, who bear witness to the crimes committed by the Nazis. It is one of only a handful camps which is still intact and is preserved by the Polish government and Jewish organisations.