The family Klein-Thalheim

The family had great travel plans, but they were unable to fulfil them. Their daughter Nelly was an orphan during the war.

The family Klein-Thalheim
Elisabeth Thalheim

Koloman Klein (°28/09/1891 in Kisnana, Hungary) married Elisabeth Thalheim (°29/05/1901 in Vienna) in Vienna on 6 January 1924. From this marriage their daughter Nelly (°03/12/1924 in Vienna) was born. Koloman worked in Austria as a salesman. On 25 August 1939 the family arrives in Belgium, after a few days they register in the aliens’ register. In this register they state that they left Austria voluntarily and that they do not identify themselves as political refugees. They also plan to emigrate to America within two to three months. When the family arrives in Belgium, they receive subsistence from Jewish relief organisations. They settled in Clemenceaulaan, but soon moved to Anderlechtstraat in Brussels. They changed these two addresses several times.

However, problems arose when the Klein-Thalheim family wanted to arrange their passports. Koloman explains to the Belgian authorities that these are in England. They absolutely need these passports to go to China, which seems to be their new destination. However, the war soon catches up with the family.

When Germany invaded Belgium in May 1940, anti-Jewish measures were introduced by the German occupation authorities. Jews were obliged to register from the age of 15. Nelly registered in the Register of Jews on 18 December 1940, her mother Elisabeth a few days later, on 23 December. Father Koloman was in France at that time and was deported from the internment camp Drancy on 17 August 1942. He may have been arrested in the course of May 1940 and placed in Drancy. He never returned. By 1942, when Elisabeth and Nelly registered with the Jewish Association, they were living with Elisabeth’s mother Karoline Kohn (b. 24/09/1877 in Vienna) in Anderlecht Street in Brussels. Elisabeth takes English lessons in preparation for her migration to China. She writes an English essay: ‘What I would like to do if I had a million dollars (or perhaps more)’. In this essay, she talks about her plans to use this money to buy a house in a place where spring never ends and to set up a school for orphans.

Elisabeth was arrested on her own and detained in the Dossin Barracks from 13 February 1943. In April 1943 she sent several postcards to her daughter and mother. She sent them via her Belgian, and otherwise non-Jewish, friend Lina Govaerts. On 19 April 1943 Elisabeth was deported with transport XX to Auschwitz-Birkenau. After her arrival on 22 March 1943, there was no trace of her. Her daughter Nelly and her mother Karoline escaped deportation and survived the war.

Source: Marleen de Rode, “Een vergeten drama uit WOII: de weggevoerden van mei 1940”, Scientas, 4 mei 2014,

Kaatje Langens