Walter Frankenstein


Walter Frankenstein was born in 1924 in the Polish town of Flatow in Northeast Germany, called West Prussia. When Walter's father Max died his mother Martha continued to run the family grocery and tavern.

When Hitler came to power in 1933 the situation changed in Germany. In Flatow, the Jewish population was subject to attacks, and the Nazis stopped people from entering shops owned by Jews.

In 1936 the headmaster declared that Walter and other Jewish children were no longer welcome to the school. As there were no Jewish schools in his home town, he was sent to Berlin where, thanks to his uncle, he was given a place at a school and the Auerbach children’s home.


In the summer of 1936, Walter – who was then 12 years old, moved to the Auerbach children's home in Berlin. It was close to the Jewish school. Walter got to know many new friends, and on Sundays, he visited his uncle Selmar and his wife, Ottilie.

In October 1938 Walter's mother was forced to close the general store and leave the house. During the November Pogroms, shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed. From the children's home, Walter and his friends could see the flames from several synagogues in Berlin that had been set ablaze.


In 1941 Walter met his true love, Leonie. As Jews, they had to wear the Star of David, but Walter and Leonie agreed to take it off. They were cheeky and courageous and went to places where only "Aryans" were welcome.

The Jewish construction school was shut down; the Jewish community employed Walter. At the beginning of 1942, an order came from the Gestapo: all craftsmen were now to start working for them.

In January 1943 Leonie and Walter's first son, Uri, was born. They agreed that nobody would be allowed to deport them. Instead, they would go underground. When that day came, Leonie and Walter burnt the cards that were marked with "J" for "Jew". To conceal their identities, they started to call their son Peter, and Leonie used Gerhard as her surname. In order not to arouse suspicion, Walter decided to call himself Franz after his father-in-law, and sometimes Frank.


During 1943–1945 Walter and Leonie had to go from one hiding place to another. On several occasions, they were close to being discovered. Many friends helped out and found places where they could go.

Leonie's mother could feel somewhat secure since she was married to a Christian man. However, she was discovered by a neighbour that noticed she had not used "Sara" as a middle name on her identity paper. She was arrested and soon after sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In 1944 Leonie and Walter's second son, Michael, was born. Leonie concealed her identity by giving the name of a Christian schoolfriend. When the authorities couldn't find the proper documents, they started asking awkward questions, and Leonie didn't dare stay but went back to Walter in Berlin

1945 and Postwar Experiences

When the end of the war started closing in, and the battles in Berlin became harder, there was a risk that the house where Walter lived with his family would be hit. They went to an underground station where there were small bunkers.

The Red Army captured Berlin in 1945. Walter and his family had survived, but the Russians found it hard to believe that them when they and the other Jews came out of their hiding places.

Even after the war, Walter and Leonie were subject to antisemitism, and they decided to leave Germany and go to the British mandate Palestine. A few years later, in 1956, the whole family started a new life in Sweden.