'No One Is Alive Anymore'—Family Reunited With Letter Sent by Holocaust Survivor in 1945

Today the world marks Holocaust Memorial Day, an annual event dedicated to commemorating those who lost their lives under the Nazis during the Holocaust, and those who died in genocides that followed.

January 27 was chosen as it's the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi regime's deadliest camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, 77 years ago.

Now, a letter sent by a Holocaust survivor in 1945 has finally been reunited with her family more than seven decades after it was posted.

Ilse Loewenberg, née Berghausen, later Ilse Grün, was born in Büren, Germany, in 1908 to shop-keeper parents, Simon (1870-1943) and Hannchen Berghausen, née Goldschmidt.

Loewenberg had three sisters, Margarete, Carla and Lieselotte, and went on to marry Gerhard Grün (1906-1945).

The pair later joined the underground resistance group Gemeinschaft für Frieden und Aufbau (Association for Peace and Development), but Loewenberg was arrested in February 1944.

She was herded onto a train bound for Auschwitz, but she managed to escape by jumping from the fast-moving locomotive near Ruda, Poland.

Loewenberg made her way back to the German capital and continued to hide from the Nazis until she was re-captured on October 19, 1944, along with her husband.

She was thrown into a prison in Berlin before being sent to a concentration camp, where she remained until being liberated by Russian troops in April 1945.

But her husband was sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near the capital, where he was shot on March 16, 1945.

 Ilse Loewenberg and the letter she wrote.
Photo of Ilse Loewenberg in Berlin, after being liberated in 1945, and the letter she sent to her sister. Chelsey Brown @citychicdecor/Jill Butler

Nearly all of Loewenberg's family perished at the hands of the Nazis, with her father dying at Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, reportedly from starvation.

Her sisters, Lieselotte and Margarete, were sent to Auschwitz, where they died in 1943, while her mother also perished in a concentration camp.

After being freed, she penned a letter to her one remaining relative, sister Carla, who had emigrated to England before the war. Loewenberg broke the news the rest of their family had died.

Sent on July 18, 1945, just two months before the war officially ended, it read: "Through the kindness of our liberators, I am able to give you a sign of life from me after so many years... Dad, Mom, Grete, Lottchen and Hermann: no one is alive anymore.

"My pain is unspeakably big. My husband, whom I married 3.5 years ago, was also taken from me! ... When there will be a regular mail connection, I will tell you everything in detail."

Excerpts from war-era documents.
Excerpts from war-era documents Chelsey Brown found in a New York flea market. Chelsey Brown @citychicdecor

Loewenberg later emigrated to Forest Hills, New York, to start a new life, and she and Carla were reunited there as she also moved to the U.S.

Loewenberg later remarried, to a man named Ludwig Loewenberg, and died in 2001.

Fast forward a few decades and the tragic letter was found by heirloom detective, Chelsey Brown, in a flea market in the Big Apple, in September.

Brown, an interior designer, has been reuniting families with countless lost treasures, including books, portraits, photographs, photo albums, postcards and diaries.

Holocaust survivor Ilse Loewenberg and her family.
Holocaust survivor Ilse Loewenberg and her family.

Using MyHeritage.com, Brown was able to track down Loewenberg's relative, Jill Butler, the granddaughter of Carla's husband's brother.

Butler, living in New Jersey, was touched to receive the poignant letter, and thanked Brown for seeking her out. She explained she was close to Loewenberg, sharing photos of them together, including from her wedding.

She said: "My whole family is truly in awe of all you have done for us. Almost everyone's first reaction of 'Is this a scam?' quickly transformed into bewilderment at your selfless dedication to reuniting heirlooms with families.

"We all loved our Great-Aunt Ilse and are thrilled beyond words to read her thoughts in her own handwriting after she emerged from the depths of the European inferno."

Photo of Chelsey Brown.
Photo of Chelsey Brown. The New Yorker has been reuniting countless families with lost treasures. Chelsey Brown @citychicdecor

Sender: ILSE Grün-Brandt
Berlin-Wilmersdorf
Eisenzahnstraße 4, 2nd floor
July 18, 1945
My dearest Karla, dear Siegfried,
Through the kindness of our liberators I am able to give you a sign of life from me after so many years. I want to hope that you two dear ones are in good health. I cannot express in words the great longing I have for you both and I am already waiting for your reply today. - Dad, Mom, Grete, Lottchen and Hermann: no one is alive anymore. My pain is unspeakably big. My husband, whom I married 3.5 years ago, was also taken from me! - Do you hear from Martin in New York?
When there will be a regular mail connection, I will tell you everything in detail. Therefore, only heartfelt greetings and kisses from your Ilse.

Brown, who shares her antique treasures on her Instagram page, @citychicdecor, told Newsweek: "It was a process to get these documents as Holocaust mementos and artefacts are sold underground or at auction for extremely high prices.

"A vendor told me he had Holocaust documents at home he traded for 30 years ago and was going to sell them for thousands. I created a stratagem and over the next few weeks, persuaded him to let me see the documents. I ended up persuading him to let me purchase three.

"These documents and artefacts should go back to their rightful families and people should not be profiting off of the victims."

And speaking of the recent reunion of the letter, Brown said: "It was very emotional for both Jill and myself. This return only keeps pushing me to do more of them. My soul's purpose is to reunite these heirlooms with their rightful families."

Ilse Loewenberg at Jill Butlers wedding.
Ilse Loewenberg and her family.