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Call for Australian survivors, descendants – The Australian Jewish News

A Sydneysider is calling out to all Australian survivors of the Penig concentration camp and their descendants.

The call originated from an organisation, based in the German town of Penig – locally led by Ringo Grundel – which is gathering stories and building a permanent memorial at the site of its former concentration camp.

Now, Sydney local Robert Gescheit is volunteering to coordinate the Australian response.

Gescheit is a self-described “amateur genealogist” whose own mother Ica (Ilona) was a Penig survivor. Speaking to The AJN, he talked about the revelations he experienced when Grundel contacted him – how he was at last able to corroborate stories told by his mother that had “sounded to me like a movie”.

“I was quite stunned,” said Gescheit of the experience.

Through discussions with Grundel, Gescheit was not only able to verify his mother’s story, but also connect locally with descendants of fellow survivors who had immigrated to Australia. They were able to “get a coffee”, share stories, and commemorate their family members.

Part of the list with Ica’s number, 68528.

Between January and April 1945, 703 girls and women, all from Hungary, were placed on a list to be interned at Penig. It was a labour camp set up to serve the Max Gehrt factory, an aeroplane-parts factory “re-tooled” to supply armaments for the German war effort, as Gescheit detailed.

Gescheit likened the list to the more famous list of Schindler’s, as the group were selected for labour – and were thus spared a death sentence, despite having to survive horrific treatment and conditions (as evidenced in footage taken by the liberators of the camp). Remarkably, Gescheit added, “almost all of them survived”.

However, it was hard for Gescheit to piece together a fuller story without a group effort, and the recent release of the Arolsen Archives, adding, “My mother never knew that she was part of any list.

“My role is to try and get together people I can contact in Australia to get these … women’s stories”, he said.

Gescheit provided The AJN with this list of survivors who emigrated to Australia, with whom (or with whose descendants) he is looking to make contact: Ibolya Vamos (nee Blau), Gizella Heinrich (nee Frisch) Hermina Rich (nee Frisch) – twin sister of Gizella; Ibi Salamon (nee Frojmovits); Magda Tompos (nee Gardos); Piroska Eckstein (nee Laszlo); Zsuzsa Susan Mahrer (nee Madai); Klara Mezei; Veronika Grof (nee Pick); Eva Roth (nee Salzberger); Eva Szego; Margit Szekeres; and Edit Glaser (nee Wilheim).

Those who may be connected to someone on the list can contact Gescheit directly.

Email: [email protected]

More about the project:

Archive containing the full list of names:



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