The Reifeisen family was an ‘ordinary’ Jewish family, whose fate is exemplary for the destruction of European Jewry during the Second World War. Ilse Reifeisen, the daughter, luckily survived, but her parents, Simon and Gertrud Anna Reifeisen, shared the fate of many other victims of ghettos and camps. Gertrud died in Stutthof whereas Simon’s death is unknown.
Simon Reifeisen was the eldest of five children, born in 1892 in Bolechów, Poland. Simon studied law and languages. He was fluent in Polish, German, Russian, English and French. From 1915 he served in the Austrian army until he was captured by the Russians. During his time as a prisoner of war he suffered a frozen nose. On 26 October 1924 Simon Reifeisen and Gertrude Anna married in Gelsenkirchen, where they ran a clothing shop. The Reifeisens were rather liberal and socially very active, often receiving visitors.
Ilse Reifeisen was born in December 1926. She grew up as an only child. The Reifeisens were clearly not naïve about the intentions of the Nazis, and on 20 December 1939, Ilse was sent to Stockholm with a so-called Kindertransport of a Jewish organization. There she was housed in an orphanage together with 30 other Jewish children. The change was very difficult, but it saved her life. A few months later she moved to a foster family in Vänersborg. In the meantime, her parents were deported to Riga. Her father probably died there. In August 1944, her mother was deported to Stutthof. The date of her death is not clear, maybe she died in the gas chamber, maybe during the horrible death marches in the winter of 1945.