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Dorchester Holocaust evacuee's proof parents died in Auschwitz
3:11pm Thursday 24th January 2013 in Latest
A Holocaust evacuee has finally received proof that his parents were executed in Auschwitz after a photo of his father's suitcase there was sent to him 69 years on.
Harry Grenville, 87, from Dorchester, and his sister were two of the 10,000 Jewish children sent to Britain from Nazi Germany before the war as part of the Kindertransport refugee mission.
Their parents, Jacob and Klara Greilsamer, and grandmother, Sara Ottenheimer, were later rounded up and sent to an internment camp in Czechoslovakia for two years.
Mr Grenville and sister Hannah received brief notes via the Red Cross on their welfare until a last chilling message in 1944 which stated the family were being sent 'east'.
He was 18 at the time and suspected that this meant to the extermination camps in Poland. He never saw or heard from them again.
He received confirmation of their deaths at the end of World War Two but never knew when or where they were killed.
Now Mr Grenville has been sent a poignant picture of an old suitcase that has spent years as part of an exhibit of a pile of cases at the Auschwitz Museum.
On it bears the name Jacob Greilsamer and a serial number.
Mr Grenville, who was born Heinz Greilsamer, said: "Out of the blue a photograph has turned up of a whole lot of suitcases of victims at the Auschwitz Museum.
"They have the names of the victims painted on them in white and low and behold, there on this photograph is my father's name.
"It was a bit of a shock and my heart did miss several beats when I saw it for the first time.
"This is the first evidence I have ever had that my mother, my father and my grandmother actually arrived at Auschwitz.
"I have carried suspicions with me for a long time and now I have this evidence I feel justified in my suspicions."
The photo was recently taken by a Polish visitor to the museum.
Mr Grenville's family owned a successful packaging company in Germany until it was taken over by a member of the SS in 1938.
In July 1939 he and sister Hannah, who was aged nine at the time, were sent to England and lived with a foster family in Cornwall.
Mr Grenville said: "My parents knew there was no possible future for any Jewish children in Germany, indeed nearly one million Jewish children died under the Nazis.
"After my sister and I left they applied to emigrate to America but nothing happened.
"They carried on living in Stuttgart until they were taken by the Nazis and sent to an internment camp in Czechoslovakia in 1942.
"The Red Cross had a system whereby, once a month, we could exchange messages that were no longer than 25 words long.
"In them my parents just said that they were in reasonable health and we just said we were getting on okay at school and were quite happy. It was rather hard.
"In the last message in October 1944 my father stated that they expected to move east.
"We knew what he meant because east meant the extermination camps in Poland.
"In a way my sister and I had come to expect this news.
"Years later, through a historian, I came to learn that all three of them were on the same transport to Poland.
"I suspect the serial number of 960 on the case was the number of the cattle train that took them to Auschwitz."
Panel Before the end of the war Mr Grenville had built up such a hatred of his homeland that he volunteered to join the British army.
He added: "I had a quarrel with the Germans, although I now know it was with the Nazis."
He didn't get the chance to fight in Europe and served as an interpretor at German PoW camps in England. He left the army four years later.
He worked as a biology schoolteacher for 34 years and married his late wife Helen in 1950. They have three children and two grandchildren.
His sister, Hannah Robinson, is now aged 83 and lives in New York.
Mr Grenville is due to give a talk at en event to mark the Holocaust Memorial Day in Dorchester today (Fri).