‘Whenever I read the names of my own family on the memorial plaques, it does something to me. For me, this is a place of mourning and a place of remembrance. Mourning that my relatives were disenfranchised, persecuted, deported and ultimately murdered; but also mourning that this part of the family has left a gap behind that cannot be filled. A piece of our identity is missing, and sometimes you imagine what it would have been like if the family had remained a part of us.’
Tom’s great-great-grandmother Lina Czeniek, née Henoch, was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto on 31 January 1945 as part of the penultimate transport from Hamburg, along with 18 others persecuted as Jews. She survived and returned to Hamburg. Her sister Else Biskupitzer, née Henoch, and her husband Karl Biskupitzer were deported from Hannoverscher Bahnhof to the Minsk ghetto on 8 November 1941 and murdered there by the SS. Four other siblings and their families did not survive the Shoah. Tom’s great-grandmother, who was also called Lina, had converted to Christianity as a teenager. She hid in the countryside in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and was able to survive the Nazi persecution. The family held on to their Christian faith even after the war. Their Jewish identity was kept a secret and eventually forgotten.
Tom learned about his family’s history of persecution in 2013 through his mother’s research. Tom and his mother then went on to research other relatives who had been persecuted and murdered under the Nazi regime. They took part in the laying of Stolpersteine [stumbling stones] for their family members in Hamburg, Berlin and Wrocław (Breslau). In 2021, Tom produced a short film about his family history as part of a seminar at HafenCity University Hamburg.