MANCHESTER DIARY
Norbert reads mother's letters after 70 years

PROJECT: Corinne Stoops and daughter Natasha with school children in Hockenheim

FOR the first time in 70 years, copies of a German-Jewish mother's last communication with her son and daughter have been uncovered.

Germany-born Norbert Barrett recently learned his mother, Regina Fleischhacter, had been trying to communicate with him and his half-sister Erna in 1939.

He received two postcards that were originally posted after they were sent to safety, dated July 7 and August 31, 1938.

The Heathlands Village resident is the youngest of six siblings and was the only one who survived the Holocaust, except for his half-sister Erna.

Norbert received the postcards from his daughter, Corinne Stoops, who had returned from a visit to his hometown of Hockenheim with daughter Natasha.

Corinne said: "My dad went back to Hockenheim in 2005 to unveil a memorial cobblestone.

"There is an artist who paints cobblestones outside the houses of where Jews used to live to commemorate their lives.

"He was invited back to unveil remembrance cobblestones which had Norbert's family name on at his former family home.

"But he was unable to travel so I took his place with Natasha.

"It was a moving experience, but at the same time uplifting."

Corinne and Natasha went in December with a project that was linked to the local Protestant and Catholic churches and was paid for by the local council.

She said: "As part of a school project, we were taken into a class to hear all about my dad's family.

"We met with a couple who showed us around the town and gave us the postcards that were sent by his mother.

"They were addressed to Erna Fleischhacter and were intended for the both of them to read.

"Erna was working as a nanny at the time in Liverpool, so his mother only had her address, not my dad's."

Norbert was born Horst Norbert Baumgarten to Ludwig and Regina.

In 1937, aged 16, he was supposed to go on the Kindertransport to Britain, but his name was removed from the list.

He finally escaped the Nazi regime to England in November, 1938, where he furthered his education and served for five years in the engineers in the British Army.

When Corinne brought the postcards back, Norbert broke down reading his mother's handwriting again.

She said: "He sobbed and nearly collapsed. After 70 years he felt a connection again with his mother as he recognised her 'lovely handwriting'.

"She loved her son and always made a fuss over him. The sentences she wrote to them were of general chit-chat and explaining how proud she was of her children. It was hard for him to read the writing and is taking him a while to decipher the German words as her handwriting is uneasy to read."

The couple they had met on their trip had made it their life's work to research Norbert's family and will be writing a book about them.

They knew the family surname, Baumgarten, and knew there was a connection between Corinne and the family.

She recalled: "I don't know how they found the postcards and why they never reached my dad.

"The originals are in the possession of a private collector in Germany, who refused to give them to us, but gave us photocopies to give to my dad."

Corinne and Natasha knew that Norbert's mother had a large family as she was the youngest of 12 siblings.

Corinne added: "I put two and two together and realised we had met some distant relatives.

"My dad also couldn't understand what happened to his half-sister so it was great to read the letter addressed to her and find out some more out about her."



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