The Pels Family

»Deported to their Deaths« – panel 21 – Biographies

The family patriarch Josef Jakob Pels (b. 1889) died in February 1941. Hertha (b. 1904), Lore (b. 1926), and Erwin (1927-1945) stayed together in Riga until July 1944. In the concentration camp Stutthof, Erwin Pels was separated from his mother and sister. He died on March 10th, 1945, in Kaufungen, an outpost of the Dachau concentration camp. The two women, who were suffering from typhus, were liberated on March 11th, 1945, after a two-month-long death march.

Fear dominated the time in the concentration camp; “this was our life, and nobody thought that we would be released again.” Despite the danger, Lore Pels took, “of course, everything that was not nailed down because nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Her family was her support system. “I can’t remember anybody. People could really only think of themselves and of survival – (…); everything was so awful (…); people also were not interested in talking to others.”

Hertha Pels did not want to return to Germany under any circumstances, and mother and daughter emigrated to the USA. Lore Pels married the Riga survivor Leo Oppenheimer (1921-2003). At first, she rarely talked about her time in the concentration camp and was focussed instead on her future. She is the president of the Society of Survivors of the Riga Ghetto Inc. that was founded in 1971.

Picture credits

Region of Hannover, Lore Oppenheimer, New York


Exhibition: Deported to their Deaths
Duration: December 15th, 2011 to January 27th, 2012
Location: Neues Rathaus Hannover, Bürgersaal
Panel: 21 from 39 – Biographies
Size: 650 x 2050 mm
Technique: Digital print on Alu-Dibond