by Marcia Birken and Marci Hochman, daughter of Elli Gupp
Elli Wurzburger was born on July 30, 1930 in Mosbach, Bavaria, Germany to Wilhelm Wurzburger (1898-1942) and Millie (née Strauss) Wurzburger (1906-1942).
Around 1941 when Elli was 11 years old, she, her parents, and paternal grandmother, Bertha Wurzburger, fled Germany for France. There they lived in a work camp with some flexibility of movement outside the camp. One day Elli’s parents left the work camp to conduct business in Paris. They were caught and deported to the Gurs Internment Camp in southwestern France. From there, Millie and Wilhelm Wurzburger were deported to the Drancy Internment Camp near Paris. Records from Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, show they were deported from Drancy with Transport 21, Train 901-16 on August 19, 1942 to Auschwitz Birkenau Extermination Camp in Poland, where they both were murdered. Further investigation at Yad Vashem shows that Millie’s parents, Elli’s maternal grandparents, were also killed by the Nazi’s. Her maternal grandfather, Heinrich Strauss, was deported to Theresienstadt on 8/22/1942 and was murdered on 12/20/1943, while her maternal grandmother, Friederike (née Hess) Strauss was deported to Auschwitz in 1943 where she was also killed.
Elli and Bertha remained in the work camp in France for the duration of the war, where the conditions were difficult and food was scarce. From Elli’s daughter, Marci Hochman, we learn more of the story of how Elli and Bertha came to Rochester with the help of Rabbi Phillip Bernstein and his wife Sophie.
“After the war, around l945 or 46, Bertha wrote to a distant cousin in Rochester by the name of Florence Simon. Mrs. Simon was a member of Temple B’rith Kodesh and a close, personal friend of Sophie Bernstein. Sophie, in turn, wrote to her husband [Rabbi Phillip Bernstein], who at that time was serving in Germany as an advisor on Jewish affairs to the U.S. Army commanders. Through Rabbi Bernstein’s efforts, my mother and grandmother were able to leave Germany for resettlement in Rochester.”
With the Rabbi’s assistance, under the auspices of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), they sailed on the S.S. Ile de France from Cherbourg, France on October 22, 1946, arriving one week later on October 29th in Ellis Island. Elli’s aunt, Florence Simon and her husband Joseph of 572 University Avenue, Rochester, NY were their sponsors. According to the ship’s manifest, Elli was 16 years old and her grandmother Bertha was 72. Both are listed as being of German ethnicity, but their nationality is “stateless.” Together their assets are listed as $100.
Another interesting story that Marci Hochman shared is the following:
“It seems that after the war, the family home in Mosbach was occupied by a German family. My mother’s parents hid some jewelry behind a loose brick in their oven before being taken away and Rabbi Bernstein sent a young army lieutenant to the house to retrieve these possessions. The occupying family refused to let him in. The Lt. gave them one hour to change their mind or a bulldozer would be there to tear the house down! The family must have been aware of my family’s possessions because only a few coins and some wedding rings were retrieved.”
On June 25, 1952, an article in The Democrat and Chronicle newspaper recounts that three Rochester women who had survived the Nazis became U.S. citizens. Elli Wurzburger, age 22, was one of those women celebrated in the article. At the time she was a nursing student at the University of Rochester.
She married Alfred Philip Gupp on January 9, 1955 at the home of her aunt Florence Simon. The elegant ceremony is described as follows in the Democrat & Chronicle announcement of January 10, 1955.
“A canopy of palms flanked by candelabra formed the setting for the wedding yesterday of Miss Elli Wurzburger and Alfred P. Gupp, son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Gupp of Field Street.
The wedding was solemnized at the home of Mrs. Joseph Simon of University Avenue, aunt of Miss Wurzburger. Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein performed the ceremony.
The bride wore ice blue brocaded silk. Her shoulder-length veil was caught to a crown of seed pearls and she carried white orchids on a Bible.
Miss Lucy Swartz attended the bride. She wore a ballerina-length gown of rose taffeta and carried pink roses.
Harold Gupp served as his brother’s best man.
Upon their return from a trip to New York and Philadelphia, Mr. and Mrs. Gupp will reside at 223 Dartmouth St.”
Having received her degree from the U of R, Elli Gupp became a Visiting Nurse until her children, William and Marci were born. She loved to play bridge, took up tennis in her 40s, and volunteered with Hadassah and the Sisterhood at Temple B’rith Kodesh.
She died on October 5,1975 from cancer at the age of 45 in Rochester, New York. The funeral took place in the Benjamin Goldstein Chapel of Temple B’rith Kodesh and she is interred in the Temple B’rith Kodesh plot in Range 7 at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Bertha Wurzburger lived only a short time after coming to Rochester. In October of 1951, just five years after arriving, she also died from cancer. She is buried at Mount Hope in Range 3 in the family plot of Samuel L. Stein, the grandfather of Florence Simon.
Photographs provided by Marci Hochman