2 Degrees of Separation

By: Georgina Rosenberg Katz

They say there are 6 degrees of separation but I beg to differ.

I met Danna Horwood, the founder and Executive Director of Margaret’s Legacy in 2013 when I started dating my now husband. Over time we became good friends and I’m so grateful for that. We connected on many levels but the one level that connects us more uniquely is the fact that we both have a history with the Holocaust. I am a second generation survivor and Danna is a third generation survivor, both backgrounds Hungarian.

Fast forward ten years, and Danna along with Hamilton Jewish Federation is set to open the new Margaret’s Legacy Holocaust Learning & Jewish Advocacy Centre in Hamilton. With our shared history of the Holocaust, I became involved as a volunteer. At the time, the foundation had a Holocaust Researcher working for them named Cory Osmond. I asked Cory if he wouldn’t mind looking into the history of my mother, but only if he had some extra time. Although my mother spoke often about what happened in those times, I was curious to know more about her history. My mother passed away in 1999 and I knew there was plenty I did not know.

Cory played a pivotal role researching the Holocaust and Margaret and Arthur Weisz’s history in preparation for the opening of the centre. However, I am personally so grateful that Cory also uncovered some interesting similarities between Danna’s grandmother Margaret (the Foundation’s namesake) and my mother Sura. I do believe that everything happens for a reason.

Here is their story as uncovered by Cory Osmond.

Coincidence #1 – Budapest & Aushwitz

My mother Sura (Sara as she was known in Canada), by fate and chance survived and escaped a concentration camp in Slovakia at the mere age of 13 and fled to Budapest, Hungary which was considered the one safe haven in Nazi occupied Europe for Jews. Here is where the first coincidence occurred between my mother Sura and Margaret. They both lived in Budapest in 1944 but they were in fact not safe there. They were both deported from Budapest to Aushwitz in June 1944. There is a possibility that they were even in the same barrack. 

How lucky were they both??? 

Coincidence #2 – Gross Rosen

The second coincidence between the two was that they were both in Aushwitz from where they were both offered work detail at a sub camp of Gross Rosen in Czechoslovakia. Margaret left for Gross Rosen’s sub camp Parschnitz at the end of August 1944. One month later, in September 1944, my mother was offered the same opportunity at Gross Rosen at a sub camp called Zillerthal. My mother was only 13 at the time and it was a near impossibility that she would not have been sent to death. Children were not of any use to the Nazi’s, so how lucky was she??? Why was she spared??? My mother said it was because she looked older than her 13 years and therefore the Nazi’s could use her for work. Cory thinks that it could have been because she spoke several languages and the Nazi’s needed that. 

“I walked for days in the cold and snow wearing wooden shoes” - Sura Wiesel Rosenberg

“To have survived these marches was a miracle” - Cory Osmond

Coincidence #3- Death March

On February 17, 1945, believing that the British and US forces were getting close, the Nazis wanted to evacuate the camps and sent the inmates (both my mother and Margaret) on death marches. They were called death marches because they walked hundreds of kilometres in the snow often to their deaths. It was winter time and I very clearly remember my mother telling me “I walked for days in the cold and snow wearing wooden shoes”.  Cory tells me, she was one of the lucky ones to have had any shoes! Most were barefoot in the snow. Between 50-60% of inmates died at this time. As Cory said “to have survived these marches was a miracle”. My mother and Margaret both miraculously survived these marches.

Margaret and Sura were both miracles. Danna and I are miracles!!!

(Georgina & Sura – Toronto 1966)             

(Margaret 1961)

Sura walked days to the next camp Gablonz where she was liberated on May 8, 1945.

Margaret was also liberated on May 8, 1945. Although both Margaret and my mother both survived, they did lose much of their families. 

Coincidence #4 – Escaping Communism

Escaping Communist Eastern Europe was no small feat for any surviving Jews, but A MUST in order to rebuild a Jewish life for themselves, their families and their future children. Margaret met Arthur and emigrated to Hamilton Ontario in the 1950’s. In the 1960’s my mother and father (Imre) also emigrated to Toronto Ontario only 75 kilometres away from Hamilton and spent some time in Hamilton as we had some relatives here. 

Coincidence #5 – Everything Happens For A Reason

Danna & I met and became friends only to discover that there was more to our connection than we could have ever realized. The women Danna and I loved so dearly, the women that shaped us and made us who we are today, walked a very similar path during one of the darkest times in our history. And now, I want to believe that those same women are looking out for us and have brought us together here in Hamilton as good friends.