This Leica camera belonged to passenger Oskar Blechner. Like most emigres from Nazi Germany, he was permitted to take out only a small amount of money. In case of emergency, items, such as camers, could be sold. Loan courtesy of Anthony Blechner

Oskar Blechner, sitting on deck, summer 1939

Polish-born Mordechai (Markus) and Mina Blechner raised their four sons Oskar, Salo, Jakob, and Leo in Munich during the interwar period. After the Nazis came to power, Oskar and Salo moved to Berlin and worked in a trouser factory. In October 1938 the Blechners were among the 17,000 Polish Jews the Gestapo forcibly expelled from the Reich into Poland.
The Blechners soon returned to Germany but realized the need to emigrate as Nazi persecution of the Jews increased. Leo left for the United States; Jakob emigrated to Switzerland. Oskar boarded the St. Louis for Cuba to await his number on the Polish quota for America.

Oskar Blechner's Polish passport, showing English immigration stamp prohibiting him from working.

When the ship returned to Europe, Oskar went to England and survived the war in relative safety. Through Jakob, Oskar learned the fate of his family. In late August 1939, Swiss border officials turned his parents and brother Salo back to Nazi Germany. Only days later, Mordechai was taken to Buchenwald, where he was killed. Salo was arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Their mother Mina was deported in November 1941 to Kovno, Lithuania, where she was killed.

Salo withstood slave labor in the concentration camps of Neuengamme, Auschwitz-Monowitz, and Dora-Mittelbau. He was liberated at the Bergen-Belsen camp by British troops on April 15, 1945.

Oskar and Gwen Blechner's wedding day. March 8, 1942.

The Blechner family website is not a product of Museum research. Therefore, the Museum cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information provided on the Blechner website, and the Museum disclaims responsibility for any errors in the information provided.
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