The tenacious legacy of Heinrich Ramras

di Paola Chinellato

Three grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and many more great-great-grandchildren: this is just part of the tenacious legacy of Heinrich Ramras (1887-1944), a textile merchant from Vienna that was imprisoned in the Urbisaglia internment camp from 1941 until 1943 and that was later transferred to Auschwitz, never to return.

On Monday 29th April those three grandchildren visited Urbisaglia, in the attempt to follow their grandfather’s last footsteps. Up until very recently, they didn’t know anything about Heinrich’s story: their mother Gertrude, Heinrich’s eldest daughter, never found the strength to tell them the sequence of events that led to his death at Auschwitz extermination camp. It was only when they found Heinrich’s letters to Gertrude that they could finally start piecing the past back together. Some of those letters were sent from a town called Urbisaglia, so that is where they started: they wrote to the town council, who in turn put them in contact with the local group of the Association of Italian Partisans, who has spent the last few years collecting documents and material concerning the Urbisaglia internees, including Ramras.

Upon arriving in Urbisaglia, Yedidya Games Honig, Jehudit Naomi Eduard and Ilana Shaul were welcomed by the mayor Paolo Giubileo, by members of the town council and by Giovanna Salvucci. The three siblings and Giovanna Salvucci then told as much of Heinrich’s story as each of them knew, trying to fill the gaps in his story, and then went to visit Villa Bandini, where the internment camp used to be. Yedidya, Jehudit and Ilana learned that Heinrich asked specifically to be transferred here (we don’t know where from) because he wanted to join his friend Paul Pollak, a Viennese physician (who, incidentally, would be the only Urbisaglia internee to return from Auschwitz); they learned that internees had a somewhat active social life, that they gave lessons to each other and that they took baths in the fountain; they even learned what he ate, thanks to the documents found in the Urbisaglia archive. «We are excited to be here because we didn’t know anything about the history of our grandfather, and when we came here it was touching, it made us cry to see where he spent three years of his life, before he was sent to the worst place. We wanted to feel the history of our family. We can see that it’s a nice place to be. We know that he had a social life here, he could speak to people and he could feel as a human being during the worst time in the history of the Jewish people