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Giselle Heimann Ratain Family Holocaust Videos

Identifier: B452


This collection details the Grünfeld Heimann family Holocaust stories. Kurt Heimann and Lotte Grünfeld Heimann married in 1938 and took a train with family to Shanghai in 1940 to escape Nazi violence. They survived in the Shanghai Ghetto alongside thousands of other European Jewish refugees until they were able to relocate in 1948. Kurt, Lotte, and their young son relocated to the United States and settled in Denver, Colorado where their second child, Giselle, was born, and where they ultimately found belonging among West Denver's Jewish community.


  • 1984-2021


Conditions Governing Use

This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. In addition, no permission is required from the rights-holder(s) for educational uses. For other uses, you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Biographical / Historical

Oral history interviews with members of the Grünfeld/Heimann family who discuss their escape from Nazi Germany and experiences as refugees. The Grünfeld family was a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany. Lotte Grünfeld was born on September 3, 1918 in Berlin, Germany to parents Leo and Erna Grünfeld who had emigrated from Tarnow, Poland in 1913. Lotte's cousin, Margot Grünfeld Shafran was born on January 10, 1924 in Berlin, Germany to parents Reuben Grünfeld and Lotte Secher Grünfeld.

The Heimann family was a Jewish family also located in Berlin, Germany. Illes Heimann was born in Eger, Hungary on April 7, 1879 and Jetka Lamm Heimann was born March 14, 1883 in Poznan, Germany/Poland. They had two sons named Kurt and Gerhard. Kurt Heimann was born December 7, 1912 in Berlin and their younger son, Gerhard, was born in Berlin on September 29, 1921. Lotte Grünfeld and Kurt Heimann met in 1936 and were married on October 14, 1938. Soon after, Lotte's cousin, Margot, left Berlin with her parents on a half-freighter, called the "Suwa Mauro" and arrived in Shanghai in August of 1939. On September 16, 1940, Lotte, Kurt, Illes, Jetka, and Kurt's brother Gerhard, followed suit and boarded a train bound for Shanghai, China and arrived at the Shanghai Ghetto in October of 1940. in 1943 Lotte and Kurt had their first child, Manfred. In 1946, Margot and her husband, Richard Shafran, left the Shanghai Ghetto for Poughkeepsie, New York where they ultimately found safety and community. Margot and Richard provided affidavits for numerous extended family members after WWII, including Lotte and Kurt Heimann. In 1948, Lotte and Kurt boarded the freighter SS Gordon bound for the United States where they found their ultimate refuge and established themselves in Denver, Colorado, where their daughter Giselle was born.

Kurt Heimann's cousin Gerhard Schmidmayer married Erna Witches. Erna Witsches Schmidmayer was born on April 20, 1923 in Odessa, Ukraine to parents Solomon and Sonia Witsches. In 1939, Erna departed from Gdansk, Poland on a Kindertransport to England where she became a nurse. In England, she met Gerhard Schmidmayer who was looking for information about his sister Hela Schmidmayer who was a passenger, along with her parents, Solomon and Sonia on the doomed paddleboat Klodovo, stranded in the Danube. In 1947, she married Gerhard Schmidmayer and they emigrated to Israel.

Brothers, George and Alexander Tscherny, were born to parents Mendel Tscherny and Bella Heimann Tscherny. The Tscherny family moved from Hungary to Berlin in 1926 and stayed with extended family members, Illes and Jetka Heimann, until they were able to find a home of their own. Then, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the teenage boys George and Alexander boarded a train to Holland, on their own, to find refuge with Dutch Committee for Jewish refugees administered by Gertrude van Tijn, who ran a training program for youth hoping to emigrate from Europe. Their improbable escape from Nazi Germany led to boarding one of the last passenger ships out of Europe on June 10, 1941, bound for the U.S.A.


.5 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

Oral history interviews with members of the Grünfeld/Heimann family who discuss their escape from Nazi Germany and experiences as refugees.


The collection is arranged into one series: Oral Histories, 1984-2021.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Giselle Heimann Ratain donated her oral history interviews with her father and mother Kurt Heimann and Lotte Grünfeld Heimann and extended family members to the Beck Archives in 2023.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

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