This is Day 17 of the Family History Writing Challenge, the first of two about family adoptions.
The second story is odd on the surface — two adults adopting another adult who already has living parents –but I have a great deal of detail about it; that’s for tomorrow. This first is more traditional, but may be even sadder. I don’t know.
More Analysis from the Emigration Form
Bertha and Adolf Schweizer, the great aunt and uncle who are the subject of this family history search, list a child (“Kind”) named Erika who was born in 1925 on their emigration form. Both Bertha and Adolf would have been in their early fifties when Erika was born, so it’s safe to assume she was adopted. I believe that the fact of the adoption is verified on another of my mother’s handwritten notes about her family, but I can’t find it.
Erika’s “Beruf” or profession, in case you’re wondering, means schoolchild (Schülerin), while Bertha is a butcher (“Fleischhauerin”), feminine form. Damn. I thought I’d gotten them all in yesterday’s post; I’d better go back and do a recount. In several cases I know of, the wives worked in the shops along with their husbands, even if their names were not on the businesses. This is documented: In the picture of Rudolf Kornmehl’s shop, Rudolf is on the left wearing a suit, while his wife, Molly, is in the middle, wearing the butcher’s coat.
But the question remains. Why would a couple in their early fifties or older adopt a child? Were they taking care of her for someone else?
Who Was Erika?
And who was she? There is no record of her birth as Erika Schweizer, no information about her whereabouts after 1938, according to my contact at the IKG, who wrote: “Any further information about her would appear in the historic „Meldezettel“ [residence registration form] of Adolf Schweizer, who until 1927 was also called Abraham Reiter (false Schweitzer).” (I discussed the question of Adolf’s identity in the post “Bertha Kornmehl Gets Married, Part 2.”)
Was she able to get out of the country under another name? Happily, she is not listed as dying along with Bertha and Adolf at Treblinka. But the question of who she might have been born to and what might have happened to her remains a mystery for now. According to the “Meldezettel” form, it can take two months to get an answer to any inquiries. Of course, it would also help if I filled out the (very long and somewhat confusing) request form.
Note: I can find no family pictures that include the Schweizers; I will get into that at another time. The picture at the top of the page is of the Schmerling family at their summer home in Klam, Austria. Because the photo is taken from such a distance, it is almost impossible to recognize the people in it, though I can identify the two Schmerling twins in the front row. I am going to pretend, therefore, that the Schweizers were in it too.