DP baby returns to camp and visits her mother’s grave
August 14, 2012 | Jewish Tribune
Larry Anklewicz Special to the Tribune
THORNHILL – Hynda Kofsky Halpren arrived in Canada in the arms of her father. The year was 1948 and Hynda was only 7 months old. Upon her arrival, not only did Hynda leave behind the German Displaced Persons (DP) camp where she was born, but she also left behind her mother.
Hynda’s parents were Polish Jews who fled to the Soviet Union upon the outbreak of World War II. After the War, they returned to their home in Lodz and discovered that most of their family members had been murdered and their old homes were gone. There was nothing left for them in Poland.
Hynda’s parents and her older sister, who had been born in the Soviet Union during the war years, found refuge in the DP camp in Hofgeismar, in the American occupied zone of Germany. In 1947, Hynda was born, but her mother died three days later from complications resulting from the birth.
Seven months later, Hynda, her father and sister arrived in Canada, where her father’s sister already lived, and began a new life in a new country.
The family settled in Toronto, where Hynda grew up, got married and moved to the Hamilton area.
Many years later, Hynda began researching her family roots and discovered that Hofgeismar had built a museum.
Hynda contacted the head of the museum, Helmut Burmeister, who was able to find the precise location of her mother’s grave. Later, email exchanges with Julia Drinnenberg, the deputy of the Judaica section of the museum in Hofgeismar, informed Hynda that a reunion of those who were born in the DP camp was being planned for 2012.
Hynda decided to take this opportunity to fulfill her longtime wish to visit her mother's grave and to meet some of her fellow Hofgeismar DP siblings.
A few weeks ago Hynda arrived at the town of her birth. Several other DP babies from Canada, the United States and Israel had also taken the opportunity to join the reunion.
The town residents provided a very warm welcome to the visitors. They were welcomed back by the mayor and the museum in Hofgeismar had mounted special displays, using many of the photos and documents sent by the DP babies, as well as the work of Ephraim Robinson, the former town photographer.
When the DP babies arrived at the local cemetery, most of them stood at the entrance. Hynda entered and quickly found her mother's grave. Julia took a photograph that encapsulated the scene and sent it to Hynda’s son David. In the accompanying email Julia told him that his mother “knew exactly where she could find the grave of her mother and she went there quickly while all the other visitors were busy taking pictures from the entrance.”
Hynda spent several long, quiet moments in front of the grave. In some ways she had finally been reunited with her mother and her mother would have probably been very proud if she had known that Hynda was now a mother and grandmother and that the family has grown and flourished in the land where Hynda had arrived so many years ago in the arms of her father.