If you read my dad’s post yesterday, you may have seen the picture he posted of his mother walking with her lover Ferdi and her sister, Aunt Trudi. I had never heard of Aunt Trudi before I started this project. The aunt I had head the most about was always Tante Paula, whom I knew my father had lived with for some time as a boy.
But Aunt Trudi was, apparently, my father’s “favorite” aunt, the one he designated as his “godmother” in order to fit in with his Catholic friends in Brussels who all had endless stories of godmothers who brought them special gifts and candies. Aunt Trudi was also “like a grandmother” to my father, as his mother frequently reminded him.
Let me explain. My grandmother, Gerda Schoken Levy, was the youngest of eight sisters, the only child of her father’s second third marriage. She was quite a bit younger than her sisters and when her mother died during the 1918 Flu pandemic, my grandmother was only 8 years old. It was Trudi, not quite the eldest of these sisters, who took in my grandmother, and along with her husband Harry, raised her.
In my father’s notes, I see he refers to Trudi as Omma Lulu. He says he doesn’t remember much about her, but that he must have been fond of her and Uncle Harry. At one point he “ran away from home” across Nazi-occupied Brussels to go to visit them.
Aunt Trudi was also the mother of Hella and Jerry. Jerry had a problem with his family name (Kwaskofski) and therefore changed it to Kovak. His co-workers referred to him as Mr. Alphabet Soup. Jerry survived the war by heading south, to France. He must have been all of sixteen at the time. I believe he went as far as Algeria, but went back to Vichy France, where he found shelter in one of the OSE (Oeuvre de Secour aux Enfants) farms or castles. OSE was organized in Russia to help Jewish children, and during the war years expanded its range to France where it ran a network of farms, hostels and castles that saved many Jewish children.
Hella was a few years older than Jerry (Gerhard) and was hidden in Brussels by an older man with whom she lived. I know nothing about the nature of the relationship, but after the war she married a man who had returned from Auschwitz, with whom she had two children, who both died quite young.
My Uncle Harry and my Aunt Trudi were both captured by the Nazis quite early and shipped to Auschwitz, where they died.