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Gerti Blumenfeld


The story of Holocaust survivor Gerti Blumenfeld 1925- , who immigrated with her family to Opotiki, New Zealand in 1939.

Gerti was born in Montabaur (Westerwald), Germany, and enjoyed a very happy childhood up to 1933. Her parents were Albert and Johanna Stern – and there were about 30 Jewish families living in Montabaur at the time, many of them named Stern. Montabaur had a population of some 5000 and Gerti’s father was a hardware merchant, the family living above the store.

When the Nazis came into power, Gerti’s parents realised that their lives in Germany had come to an end but initial efforts to gain immigration papers brought no success. No country was keen on a shopkeeper with a wife and two children, most seeming to prefer younger single people. Meanwhile in 1935 at the age of ten, Gerti had completed her primary school education. While all her classmates were able to go to a regular high school (Gymnasium) that was forbidden for Jewish students and she therefore had to attend a convent school.

Fortunately Albert had a cousin, a war widow from World War I, and the cousin had a daughter who went on a trip to England during her last school year. There she met a young lawyer from Manchester and they fell in love and married. The couple with young child moved to New Zealand when the lawyer was sent on a case there – and he managed not only get a permit for Gerti’s family but also to set himself up as a car mechanic since he never really want to pursue a law career. He was the first person to introduce caravans into New Zealand.

The trip to New Zealand was not without mishaps but in the winter of 1939 the family was eventually reunited in Wellington. To earn some money Gerti was put in charge of looking after three or four boys but then the family moved to Opotiki where her father set himself up in a hardware store, selling mainly plants – onion plants. The store was in competition to the long-established Shalfoons enterprises but Albert’s popularity in the community and with the local Maori meant that business was good. Albert found that learning English was difficult and so Gerti was put into the store to help but then she was able to attend the local high school and thereby complete a full education.

Gerti later met Konrad Blumenfeld and moved to Auckland. They married and raised three daughters (Judith, Nina, and Irene).


Image header (above:) Gertrude Blumenfeld. Reproduced with permission by the Blumenfeld Family © JoM

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