Ilse met Guenther in Puerto Montt where both their families had settled, having fled Nazi Germany just at the start of the Second World War. In fact Ilse came on the same boat from England to Buenos Aires - Argentina and then continued by train to Chile with Geunther’s cousin Margo Brauer. Neither knew each other at the time. Ilse had escaped Germany by leaving on the kinder transport.
Born in 1927 Ilse spent her early childhood in Breslau (Silesia) later to become Poland. Her parents Max Goldschmidt and Lucy (Mamlok) came to live in Breslau (part of Poland) in the 1920’s. Ilse and her elder brother Hans lived a sheltered life, and enjoyed the company of their family maid (who was also Jewish). She would invite them from time to time to her parents place in the countryside to sit on the horses. Ilse also fondly remembered outings to cafes in Breslau with her grandparents. Ilse and Hans both learnt Hebrew at a Jewish school. Ilse learnt to play the violin, loved running and belonged to a Jewish youth club.
Her Father was in the textile business. As Hitler gained power and the anti-Jewish feeling intensified Max did not at first believe it would continue or get any worse, until the events of the Kristallancht. Ilse's Mother did fear for the worse and urged Max to make plans for the family. However when Jewish men were being called up for “work camps”, the family maid took Max and placed him with others who were in hiding. Max however, could not bear this and did turn himself in to the authorities. He was interned for one month when Ilse’s Mother Lucy was able to convince the authorities that the family had a ticket to Shanghai, China. She did not have one; a ticket was being circulated amongst the Jewish community at the time. Max was released and this gave the family some time to make a plan to flee Germany.
Hans left first on the kinder transport and Ilse would beg her mother “When will it be my turn?” Ilse was 12 years old when she left for England in 1939. Meanwhile her parents received tickets to travel to Chile, from Lucy’s brother-in-law. They arrived in Chile on New Year’s Day 1940. The family were not reunited for another seven years.
Families in the UK were found as sponsors for some of the kinder transport children through the Jewish organisation Hizim. Ilse first lived with a Jewish family who were very good to her and treated her like another daughter. Unfortunately the family were interned as aliens once war broke out and Ilse was taken in by another family. This family however, took it upon themselves to treat Ilse more like a maid than a member of the family. She had to work all hours, whilst also doing her schooling. The family said in front of their guests that they were saving the allowance given to them for looking after Ilse to give to her when she left so that she would have a ‘nest egg' to set herself up. However the family never did. Ilse began work at a hosiery factory when she was 15 years of age, and still lived with the same family for another four years. Ilse learnt to sew while she was employed at the factory. Meanwhile Hans was doing farm work in Scotland. One weekend, Ilse travelled to visit him and saved up the biscuits that were given out at the factory for morning tea; as a gift for him.
The Red Cross were able to reunite the family. Ilse and Hans went to Chile in 1946 by boat but weren’t given any special treatment, as they were stowed in the hold. As Ilse recalled it was “third class removed”, accompanied by rats! They were then held up in Buenos Aires for 5 days before continuing the journey by train over the Andes into Chile where they were met by their Father. It took a further 27 hrs to travel by train again to Puerto Montt in the South. Their parents had established a clothing business, and the two worked in the shop. Ilse had lost all her German language and now was learning to speak Spanish. Hans eventually returned to the UK and married the daughter of a Rabbi, they remained there. Ilse stayed on Chile into the 1970’s.
Guenther and Ilse were married in 1950, had three children and lived above Guenther’s father’s shop. Ilse had maids to help her and life was good. Then there were two significant events – one was the earthquake that happened in May 1960, Guenther was away on business at the time and Ilse had to fend for herself with three young children. The quake however, didn’t deter them. It was only when Allende came to power followed by a new Communist regime in the early 1970’s that they felt they had to leave. Guenther looked for work in many countries and finally settled on life in New Zealand. Ilse, Steffi and son Ralf (Ron had already left Chile and was studying in Switzerland), left the business to the staff and told authorities that they were taking a holiday to NZ. This was the only way they could leave. A few years later the shop and all their assets were lost in a fire. Guenther and Ilse bought a house in Kohimarama, Auckland; and have lived there since 1973 to the present day.
Ilse was interviewed for the Holocaust Oral history project in 2001. This story and podcast are sourced from that interview.
Header Image (above:) Ilse Brauer with Guenther Brauer. Reproduced with permission by the Brauer family © JoM