Hermann Renkazischock: His story
By Esther Ellen Weiner, his daughter
My father Hermann Renkazischock (later shortened to Renka and dropped the extra ‘n’ in Hermann) was born in 1907 in Munich, Germany the fourth of six children to Russian parents who emmigrated to Germany to escape the almost certain conscription into the army of my grandfather and to seek a better life for the family. Three of their children, a daughter and two sons were born in Russia. My father was the first child to be born in Germany followed by another daughter and one more son.
Music, sports and zionism were my father’s passions. He played the violin having gravitated to this instrument at an early age. He later became the first violinist in an orchestra in Munich and later still played in Kitchener. To this day I have his violin. Not only was classical music an important part of his life, but he was equally immersed in the operatic repertoire. A love of which he passed on to me.
My father was very active in the Zionist sport club, Bar Kochba where he competed as a sprinter. Track and field were his great interests in sports.
Professionally, he aspired to become a doctor. However, his parents who had a fur shop in Munich needed his help with the business. As a dutiful son he put his dream aside and became a furrier instead.
My parents married in 1934 and I remember being told that guests arrived for the wedding which was held in my grandparents home, in discrete groupings of twos so as not to arouse suspicions of a conspiracy gathering.
I was born in 1937 and my sister eighteen months later in 1938. We were babies when in November 1938 the Nazis entered our apartment looking for my father. They did not find him there or anywhere else. He managed to evade the Nazi dragnet by staying in different homes each night until my mother signalled to him via a pre-arranged method that it was safe to return.
Clearly he needed to get out of Germany as soon as possible. But how? He was stateless. That mystery was recently solved when we found out that he was issued a Nansen passport that paved the way for his exodus from Germany in March 1939 and refuge in the Kitchener Camp. He was 32 years old and left behind his wife and two very young children with no assurance that he would see them again.
My mother, Lina, was a very strong and fearless woman who, on more than one occasion, stood down the Nazis,even when threatened by them to be sent to Dachau, managed to get us as well as her father out of Germany. We arrived in London in August 1939 just in the nick of time. By May of 1940 we finally got our visas for the States, leaving from Liverpool on May 22nd on the ship Samaria.
A Tribute To My Father, Herman Renka (Renkazischok)
Kitchener Camp – March 1939 to December 1939
There are many memories of my father, as anyone would have of their parent, but what stands out now, as I reflect on the past years, is the love and passion he had for music and for Judaism. They were a big part of his life. In Europe he played the violin in an orchestra, and despite the fact that he didn’t continue playing publicly when we came to this country, music was always in our home. He passed that on to me. To this day, when I hear a beautiful Beethoven, Mozart, or Tchaikovsky piece, I think of my father and it brings tears to my eyes. The tears are twofold – one for the beauty of the music – and one for thinking how much he would have enjoyed it.
Judaism was always a part of his being. He was proud to be a Jew, and was a staunch Zionist and ZOA member (Zionist Organization of America). In his writings, my father fought for the State of Israel and for peace.
Being separated from his wife and two young daughters during his time at Kitchener Camp was difficult for my father. However, Kitchener was a safe haven from the horrors of an impending war, and I am grateful that he was there at that time, as I am sure he was as well.
During 1939 and 1940 my family, thankfully, was always one step ahead of being trapped by the coming war. Enduring the horrors of Kristallnacht while still in Germany, my father was able to leave for England in March of 1939 and the rest of the family was able to arrive in England one month before Germany invaded Poland, which was the start of World War II. Our good fortune continued when we were able to leave England for America on May 22, 1940, just prior to the start of the Blitz – the German bombing of England.
My father’s qualities and traits are of an intelligent, soft spoken, kind man, and my love for him will live in my heart forever.
A Tribute To My Mother, Lina Renka
Wife of Herman Renka (Renkazischok), resident of Kitchener camp, 1939
My mother gave me life and she also saved my life. She was instrumental in getting my family out of Germany during Hitler’s reign. Her very strong disposition and determination enabled her to stand up to Nazi officers and plead for our visas.
As we get older we tend to reflect on the things that have happened in one’s life, and thinking back on what my mother did for my father, my sister, and me makes me wish that I could thank her once again and give her a long loving hug. As her daughter, I wish that she never would have had to be put in a position to stare into the face of a Nazi officer and plead for her family’s safety. My mother was a remarkable woman who confronted danger during those terrible years, and with persistence she achieved what she set out to do.
She is sorely missed, and is forever in my heart and in my thoughts.