January 4, 2019
This month we introduce Holocaust survivor Peter Nash. Peter was born as Peter Nachemstein in 1935 in Berlin, Germany.
Shortly after Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, in November 1938, Peter’s parents received an eviction notice from the owners of their apartment. It stated, ‘Under the principles of the Nazis it is not acceptable for Aryan tenants to live under the same roof with Jews. We therefore demand that you vacate the premises.’
Peter’s family did not vacate immediately as they were unable to obtain entry to another country. The family heard that Shanghai did not require an entry visa. So Peter with his parents, his mother’s parents and his mother’s brother decided to leave Berlin. In April 1939, they took a train to Genoa, Italy, where they boarded a German steamship. Unlike dozens of Peter’s family members who did not leave Europe, their lives were saved. Sadly, Peter’s maternal grandfather died one month after reaching Shanghai, suffering complications from a heart attack prior to the journey.
Peter’s father’s parents in Poland did not want to leave. Soon after Germany occupied Poland, Peter’s paternal grandparents were among over 300 Jews who were sent to Piotrkow Trybunalski ghetto. They exchanged letters between Shanghai and Poland throughout 1940 until April 1941, after which Peter never heard from his father’s parents again. In late 1942, all the remaining inmates of Piotrkow Trybunalski were transported to Treblinka and murdered.
Peter says his parents rarely spoke about Europe and their lives there. Peter’s knowledge of his life before Shanghai he mostly learned from the many letters, photographs and other items that his family brought with them to Shanghai and then to Sydney.
In this photograph, Peter holds the eviction notice which was issued to the Nachemstein family at their apartment in Berlin on 25 November 1938.
Photograph by Katherine Griffiths.