Charlotte Berger Keiderling
Mother and grandmother Charlotte Berger Keiderling passed away peacefully at the age of 89 on August 26 at the Platte Clove Community, Elka Park, New York. Born in Vienna, Austria on July 6, 1931, she was the only child of Jewish parents, Josef and Valerie Berger. When she was six, Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism burst into the open. After her father’s business was appropriated by the authorities, her parents made the heart-wrenching decision to send her on the Kindertransport to England where families had offered their homes to Jewish children fleeing the persecution. She was seven years old.
Charlotte never saw her parents again. While living in England at a Bruderhof community, at first she first received frequent mail from her parents, but then, inexplicably, it stopped. Not long afterwards she learned that her mother had disappeared in the Litzmanstatt ghetto in Poland in October of 1941. Only in 2018 did she learn the awful truth that her mother was killed in the gas chambers at Chelmo, in April 1942.
Her father remarkably survived the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, and in 1949 immigrated to the United States and went to live in Niagara Falls, New York. By that time, Charlotte had emigrated to Paraguay, South America, where the Bruderhof had sought refuge from the horrors of World War II. Tragically, her father died before Charlotte was able to travel to the United States.
At 19, Charlotte met Roland Keiderling in Paraguay, and fell in love. They were married two years later in 1952. Over the next 20 years as circumstances led them to Germany, England, and finally the United States, they raised thirteen children, twelve of them girls. She is preceded in death by her husband of 48 years, Roland, who died in 2000, and two of her daughters; Sonja, in 1998, and Anthea in 2016. She is survived by eleven of her children.
In late 2018 Charlotte returned to Vienna for the first time since childhood. Her daughter writes: The only song her beloved father taught her, “Nun ade, du mein lieb Heimatland,” (Farewell, my beloved homeland) was at last reversed. She finally returned home. My mother walked the streets of her beloved Vienna, drank the cream-topped coffee and stood outside her parents’ bakery and her family home. She could connect to her Heimatland. And while it might seem foolish for an 87-year-old, my mother finally fulfilled her father’s promise of a Ferris wheel ride. At that moment of carefree, childhood wonder as my mother was carried high above the city that loved and betrayed her, there was a moment of closure, of things coming full circle, of completion and peace.
Charlotte will be laid to rest at the Woodcrest Bruderhof at a private funeral service.