War ravages family historyPrescott Valley woman probes heritage
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
By DORINE GOSS The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT VALLEY -- Terri Brahm is looking for her heritage.
She is the daughter of a German man who was not quite 5 years old on Sept. 8, 1944, when the Gestapo took him and his mother and placed them in a Jewish ghetto called Theresienstadt. They sent his father, Hans, to Auschwitz and he died there. He was 34.
Terri's father, who was born Uri Hanauer on Feb. 6, 1940, changed his name to Ralph when he became an American citizen in 1952. His citizenship certificate shows a grinning 12-year-old. He was thrilled finally to have an American name.
Uri Hanauer took the name Ralph when he became an American citizen in 1952. His daughter, Terri Brahm of Prescott Valley, said he was so happy to have an American name.
He was one of 15,000 children who entered the prison camp between 1941 and 1945. Only 132 children survived. His mother, Ursula, was pregnant when she entered the camp. She gave birth to twins and the Germans took the newborns away immediately. She never saw them again.
The Jewish family had escaped capture until September 1944 because Ursula's mother was Christian and she hid them in her Berlin home for the first several years of the war.
Her father and grandparents had a chance to go to Israel, said the Prescott Valley woman, but Ursula wouldn't leave her ill mother. When the mother died, the family lost their hiding place.
The nine months that her father spent in the concentration camp when he was 4 and 5 years old changed his life, his daughter said.
She remembers him saying, "There is no God. He wouldn't have let this happen." Other than that, he didn't talk much about the five years of his life before he came to the United States.
"I knew he'd been in a concentration camp. I knew something bad had happened, but I didn't know to what extent.
"We were close, and he was very protective of me. I never knew why. He probably was afraid he was going to lose me."
Unfortunately, when she was 20, Terri lost her father. He drowned in a boating accident in San Diego in 1981. He was 41.
She and her father had never reached that point in their lives in which they could sit down together and talk about his life, about her grandparents and her great-grandparents. He had confided only the basics to her mother.
When Terri started developing a real interest in her family history about five years ago, her grandmother already was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. That left only her great-aunt Ilse, her father's aunt, but she was reluctant to talk about the family's experiences during the World War II years.
She did tell the Prescott Valley woman about her great-grandfather, Max Hanauer, who invented the raincoat and built a brick factory to manufacture the raincoats in Berlin. He had come to San Francisco in the early 1900s, but returned to Germany after the 1906 earthquake. Terri has photographs that her grandfather took after the earthquake.
She said he built the Behrens Bauman Nachfolger raincoat factory in Berlin, probably in about 1909, and that in the late 1930s the Nazis took the factory away from the family. But that's all Terri knows.
Aunt Ilse died in December, and she had started "to open up" only just before she died.
Terri has started to do some research, but has run into brick walls because she doesn't speak German and she's not even sure where to start. Hanauer is a fairly common German name, although she does know that her family originally is from Bavaria.
Her aunt Ilse had told her that Jewish families destroyed personal records during the war to protect themselves from the Nazis. And that makes the search even more difficult.
She'd like to talk to anyone who could help direct her research or anyone who has heard of the Behrens Bauman Nachfolger factory in Berlin.
While she searches for more information about the family's factory and her family history, she has a few mementos to cherish. Not long ago a cousin found a worn envelope in a box that had been stored in the garage.
The envelope contained her father's "transport papers" -- his official release papers from Theresienstadt -- dated June 1945. She also has papers that permitted him to come to the United States on Aug. 23, 1945.
She has his junior high school diploma from a school in the Bronx, City of New York, and honor certificates for music, art and English.
While she has a little more of her father's history, she'd still like to know more about the family heritage and the factory.
Use tbrahm@cable one.net to contact Terri by e-mail or phone her during work hours at 759-3171.