‘I can’t believe the coincidence’

8 October 2018 – 29 Tishri 5779

By Alison Turner
Liberal Judaism Archivist

This is a remarkable story from the archives of war-time memoirs returned to the family that wrote them.

Vanessa Wolfman of Rye, East Sussex, phoned me offering books and papers from her late father, Mr J Wolfman of Liverpool. I was glad to have them, and in October 2012 she sent them.

There were a few books on Progressive Jewish subjects, which I added to the archive, and there was a Holocaust memoir from Ian Bachrich, which had been translated from Czech into English by his cousin, Dr Eric H Strach, also of Liverpool.

There were letters from Dr Strach to Mr Wolfman and from Neil and Sandra Pike of Nottingham Progressive Jewish Congregation to Dr Strach from 1991. In the Liverpool Shul magazine, they found to their great pleasure Dr Strach’s article “Return to Austerlitz”, which was a subject they had been researching for the previous two years. Nottingham has a Torah scroll from Austerlitz and they had contacted people in the USA, UK and Israel looking for information on the Jewish community but with no luck.

Dr Strach wrote to Mr Wolfman that he was preparing a memoir of some Jewish families in Austerlitz (now called Slavkov) and was contacting family members for more information. He also enclosed a copy of his cousin Ian Bachrich’s memoirs. Ian had spent happy days in Austerlitz as a boy and survived Terezin, Auschwitz, Dachau and Kaufering – before returning to Prague and later moving to Israel.

These memoirs were unsuitable for the archive, so I was unsure where to place them and set them aside. In 2018 I contacted The National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Newark, Nottinghamshire and asked if they would like them. Kate Sinclair replied that they would and I duly sent them to her.

She responded “I thought you would be interested to know about a very strange turn of events. We had some guests on site today who have turned out to be the daughter and son-in-law of Erich Strach, who wrote one of the letters and translated the memoir for his cousin.

“Luckily I received your parcel before they left the site, realised it was the same family and was able to reunite them with the items. They said the manuscript was a document they knew existed but had lost any copies of it, so it is amazing that it has come to light.”

They do not visit regularly, the last time they visited was over 10 years ago when Erich was still alive, and they arrived the very same day as the memoir which had sat in the corner of my archive in-box for so many years. Erich was known to the Smith family who founded the museum and still live next door, that is why they visited, and I am delighted at the coincidence.

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