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  • Writer's pictureHarry Sassoon

1941: Journey Through My Ancestors' Hell

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Throughout my research, 1941 stands out to me the most to have been the most terrible year for my ancestors. Murder, the Holocaust, the Blitz and subsequent pain for those who survived. I'd like to start with some of their stories, how I found out the information and the impact this still has.

The Farhad - Baghdad, Iraq - June 1-2 1941

I attended a viewing of the film Remember Baghdad in early 2018. I knew my paternal grandfather's parents were Iraqi and lived there and was simply curious about what life was like. I must admit, I didn't know much and pretty much most of my knowledge now of life for my ancestors in Iraq is from this film. I had never heard of the Farhad.

The day after I see the film, I send an email to a great-uncle, asking him for more details about his grandparents. He then informs me that his maternal grandfather, my great-great-grandfather, was one of the victims after being bashed on the head to his death. My great-grandparents by this time had thankfully moved to England by this time and were not directly affected.

Farhad was a pogrom against the Jews 1-2 June 1941. Between 175-780 Jewish people were murdered, and over 1,000 injured, with 900 Jewish homes and hundreds of Jewish-owned shops destroyed and looted.

I do plan at some point in the future to learn more about Jewish life in Baghdad, and hopefully in the future once the situation has calmed down, perhaps I will be able to visit.

The Blitz, East London - WASSERSUG ancestors - great and great-great-grandparents

In late 2018, I found out that my maternal grandfather's maternal grandparents, the Wassersugs (but called themselves Samuels) owned a cinema on 101 Cable Street, East London, called the Cable Picture Palace, founded in 1912, dubbed as "the Cable". My great-grandmother Marie used to work in the box office before my grandfather was born with her siblings and mother. In the year 1941, the Cable was bombed during the Blitz. Since that time, the site has never been built on. I have taken it upon myself to one day find a photo of the Cable. I have found drawings online and have been sent photos of the building before it became the Cable, but there are no photos of the Cable anywhere to be found so far.

The Blitz - GRABOWSKI ancestors - grandmother and great-grandparents

My grandmother and her parents left Breslau, Germany in late 1939. While in London, my grandmother has fond memories of sleeping in a hammock over her parents. She was evacuated to Bath, would attend church every Sunday and remembers the family having a car, in the 1940s, so they must have been very wealthy. Sadly, she does not remember their names but has fond memories getting along with the other children and not wanting to go home.

Breslau, Germany - GRABOWSKI/NEUSHDADT - great-great-grandmothers

Both of my great-great-grandmothers had been widowed prior to World War 2. They were both living in Breslau and saw themselves as Germans first and Jewish second however Nazis saw them as Jews. They were deported on 25th November 1941, shot and murdered on 29th November 1941 in Kaunas, Lithuania. My grandmother had always believed that they perished in Auschwitz, and for her to find out the truth at a late age had provided some closure, however she does want to visit the site one day which is now a museum.

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