Anneliese Rayburn (née Pfingst) was born in 1919 to Alfred and Frieda Pfingst in Minden, Westphalia, Germany. She was the eldest of three children, including a sister fifteen months younger and a brother approximately 6 years younger. Her parents owned a department store, were well-respected in the community, and were wealthy enough for Anneliese to grow up with a maid, chauffeur, and a private nurse when she came down with scarlet fever as a child.
After Hitler came to power in 1933, despite anti-Semitic incidents, Alfred Pfingst believed that his Jewish family would be safe because he was a veteran of World War I. Kristallnacht, in November 1938, ended that illusion. In 1942 the family was forced to move to Frankfurt after their money, property, and business were all seized by the Nazis. Although their parents were unable to secure passage out of Germany, Anneliese and her siblings were sent to England under the sponsorship of English families. Their parents sewed family jewelry, photos, and money into the lining of the children’s clothing. Anneliese became the maid in one family, her sister became a nanny in a second family, while their brother lived with a third family and was still young enough to be sent to school.
Alfred Pfingst, born 1889, and his wife Freida, born 1893, are listed in the Yad Vashem database as having moved from Minden to Frankfurt in 1939 and then being murdered. The story that Anneliese’s three children recounted is that Alfred and Freida tried every means possible to exit Germany, including securing passage on a boat to Uruguay, but the borders closed tightly for Jews and they were never able to escape. The Pfingsts were first sent to the ghetto-labor camp of Theresienstadt in 1942, but as the Allies closed in on Germany, Alfred and Frieda were sent on the last transport to Auschwitz on October 16, 1944. They survived a short time there, but according to German records found online, both died in Auschwitz on October 31, 1944, just three months before the camp was liberated on January 27, 1945.
By 1940 Anne (as Anneliese now called herself) was 21 and joined the RAF, where she served until 1945 as a weather decipher, sending forecasts to dispatchers that were forwarded to the pilots fighting the Battle of Britain. Anne was based in Aston-on-Down in south-west England. When the war ended in 1945, she was given a week off by the RAF to return to Germany and search for her family. She returned to England believing her parents had perished and said there was nothing left in Germany to ever cause her to return.
In Manchester, England in the spring of 1946, Anne was introduced to her future husband, Sidney Rayburn, by his sister, Gerda Rautenburg Kirby. By 1947 they were married and still living in England. However, when war broke out in the British Mandate of Palestine and anti-Semitism started growing in England, Anne and Sidney emigrated to the United States where Anne had an aunt in Rochester, NY who was married to a physician. Anne and Sidney Rayburn had three children, Allan (born in 1949), Julian (born in 1953) and Carol (born in 1955).
Anne was a gifted seamstress and dressmaker and first worked out of their apartment. Later she worked for B. Forman as a tailor and ended up owning two bridal shops, one in Irondequoit and the other in Perinton. She and Sidney were blessed with five grandchildren. Anne passed away in 1987, just four days after she and Sidney celebrated their fortieth anniversary.
Interview via Zoom with Alan Rayburn, Julian Rayburn, and Carol Rayburn Hershelman on 5/4/2022.
“The Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names,” Yad Vashem Website, https://yvng.yadvashem.org
“Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, https://www.ushmm.org/online/hsv/person_advance_search.php?SourceId=25371
“Jewish Life in Minden and Surroundings,” Kommunal Archiv, https://juedisches-leben.kommunalarchiv-minden.de/getperson.php?personID=I3375&tree=jews