The Oestreicher family
The Oestreichers are part of widespread German-speaking Jewish families such as Kisch, Laqueur and Löwenthal. It is a family of scientists, doctors and artists who live all over Europe. Lively correspondence and many visits take place to maintain the close family ties. When anti-Semitism grew and family members had to flee from certain areas, correspondence intensified.
Shortly before Felix Oestreicher flees with his wife Gerda and their three daughters from Karlsbad (Czech Republic) to the Netherlands in 1938, he starts his "Drillingsberichte" (“Drilling messages”,1937-1943). With these letters he wanted to keep his relatives informed about the development of his three young daughters: Beate (1934) and the twins Helli and Maria (1936).
For more information on family members, click on the name, for more information on non-family members click here.
Family tree of the Oestreicher family
Go to: Karl Oestreicher| Clara Kisch| Ernst Laqueur| Margarethe Löwenthal| Felix Oestreicher| Gerda Laqueur| Lisbeth Oestreicher| Marie Oestreicher| Peter Laqueur| Hein Laqueur| Renate Laqueur| Liselotte Laqueur| Beate Oestreicher| Helli Oestreicher| Maria Oestreicher
Karl OestreicherKarl Oestreicher (1868-1915), Felix's father, works as a district doctor in the spa town of Karlsbad (today Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic). He marries Clara Kisch and they have four children: Felix (1894), Willush (1898), Lisbeth (1902) and Marie (1915). Son Willush drowned in 1911 during a holiday on the Baltic Sea. Karl died early in 1915, shortly before the birth of his daughter Marie. Son Felix later continued Karl's medical practice at home.
Clara Oestreicher-Kisch (21-11-1871 Mariënbad 12 - 4 -1945 Bergen Belsen) is called 'omi' by her grandchildren and in the 'Drillingsberichte'. She was the oldest in a family of five, four girls and one boy. Her father, E. Heinrich Kisch, was a well-known doctor and professor at the university in Prague. Clara married Karl Oestreicher and had four children: Felix (1894), Willush (1898), Lisbeth (1902) and Maria (1915). Son Willush drowns in 1911 during a holiday on the Baltic Sea. Just before she gives birth to her youngest daughter Maria, her husband Karl dies. She is left with two children and a newborn baby. The eldest of the family, Felix, is then twenty and studying medicine. He had to join the army for a while and then, in 1918, took over his father's medical practice. He then became the breadwinner of the family. When Felix married and had children, 'granny' Clara stayed with the family, even when they moved to the Netherlands. Clara died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp on 12 April 1945, too weak to go with the rest of the family on the transport which had just begun, and which would eventually be liberated in Tröbitz.
Ernst Laqueur (7-8-1880 Obernigk - 19-8-1947 Furkapas) is the father of Gerda, who is married to Felix, the author of the 'Drillingsberichte'. Ernst Laqueur had been living in the Netherlands for some time when Felix and Gerda sought refuge here with their children in 1938. Laqueur is a pharmacologist and physician, is known as the co-discoverer of testosterone, and is regarded as the founder of endocrinology (a field of medicine concerned with hormones and metabolism) in the Netherlands.
Ernst grew up in Silesia in a prosperous Jewish family with two older brothers. After grammar school, he studied medicine in Heidelberg and Breslau. In July 1904 he passed his medical exam and in 1905 he graduated from the university in Breslau. On 1 April 1905 he married Margarethe Löwenthal. They had two sons and three daughters, the eldest being Gerda. Ernst worked at various places in Germany, and in 1912 the family moved to Groningen, where Laqueur became assistant to physiologist Hamburger. During the First World War, the family moved back to Germany, where Ernst conducted research in Berlin into poisoning by war gases. He was transferred to Ghent where he became a Professor in 1917. After the war, Laqueur became assistant to Professor Snapper in Amsterdam, and in 1920 professor himself. In Amsterdam, he got his own laboratory for the production of insulin and insulin preparations. In 1922, together with Salomon van Zwanenberg (director of Zwanenberg Slachterijen) and the mathematician J.F. van Oss, he founded N.V. Organon, a commercial company for the preparation of organ preparations on a scientific basis.
In 1941, as a Jewish professor, he is dismissed by the German occupying forces and forbidden to enter his laboratory. During the Second World War, he was protected by strangers and was able to continue living in Amsterdam. After the war, he continued his scientific work. In 1947, while on holiday in Switzerland, he dies of a heart attack while helping out at a traffic accident.
- Peter Jan Knegtmans, Geld, ijdelheid en hormonen. Ernst Laqueur hoogleraar en ondernemer. Boom: Amsterdam 2014
- Marius Tausk, Organon De geschiedenis van een bijzondere Nederlandse onderneming. Nijmegen: Dekker & Van de Vegt 1978
Margarethe Laqueur-Löwenthal (12-6-1883 Brieg - 6-6-1959 Amsterdam) is the mother of Gerda and is often called 'Mutti Gretl' in the letters. She is a cousin of Ernst Laqueur and marries him in 1905. The couple live in numerous cities and have five children: Gerda (1906) is born in Heidelberg, Peter (1909) in Königsberg, Hein (1914) in Braunschweig, Renate (1919) in Brieg and the youngest daughter Lilo (1922) in Amsterdam. Like her husband, Margarethe and her daughter Lilo were able to stay in Amsterdam during the occupation. She dies in Amsterdam in 1959.
Felix Oestreicher (19-5-1894 Karlsbad - 9-6-1945 Tröbitz) is the author of the "Drillingsberichte". He is the oldest of four children and like his father becomes a doctor. When his father died in 1915, Felix became the breadwinner of the family after studying medicine and serving in the army. In 1918, Felix established himself as an internist with a practice in his parents' house. During the winter months, his practice is usually not so busy and he carries out research in various university laboratories, such as in Munich, Vienna, Berlin and Amsterdam. He publishes about his research. During his research in Amsterdam, he worked in the laboratory of Professor Ernst Laqueur and in 1929 met his daughter Gerda, whom he married on 9-12-1930 in Amsterdam. They went to live in Felix's parents' house in Karlsbad, where he also practised. In 1934 their first daughter Beate was born and in 1936, eighteen months later, the twins Helli and Maria.
In 1937 he started to write the 'Drillingsberichte', letters informing his family about the development of his daughters. In these uncertain times the family moves from Karlsbad to the Netherlands. Felix tried to arrange emigration outside Europe, but was unsuccessful. In November 1943 the family was arrested and, together with Felix's mother but without his daughter Helli, deported to Westerbork and later to Bergen Belsen. In Westerbork Felix began keeping a diary in which he also wrote poems (the diary and the poems were later published in book form). Just before Bergen Belsen was liberated, the family, together with many other Jews from Bergen Belsen, was put on a transport to the east. The train ran aground in Tröbitz and was liberated by the Russians at the end of April 1945. Felix, Gerda, Maria and Beate lived there in freedom for some time. But weakened by the concentration camp, Gerda dies of typhus on 31 May, and a few days later, on 9 June 1945, Felix also dies of typhus.
- Felix Oestreicher, Ein jüdischer Arzt-Kalender. Durch Westerbork und Bergen-Belsen nach Tröbitz. Konzentrationslager-Tagebuch 1943-1945. Konstanz: Hartung-Gorre Verlag 2005
- Gedichten van Felix Oestreicher, geschreven in de concentratiekampen (in het Duits en vertaald in het Nederlands. Felix Oestreicher, Naderhand/Nachher. Enschede/Doetinchem: AFdH Uitgevers 2013.Er is ook een Engelse uitgave van de bundel, getiteld Afterward/Nachher
Lisbeth Birman-Oestreicher (27-5-1902 Karlsbad - 6-11-1989 Amersfoort) is the second child of Clara and Karl Oestreicher. After finishing high school, Lisbeth attends art schools in Munich and Vienna. In 1926, she was admitted to the Bauhaus in Dessau. During her studies she designs curtain and upholstery fabrics for various German textile factories. She moved to the Netherlands and became a freelance fabric designer for various companies. She set up her own studio in Amsterdam. When her sister Marie graduated from Vienna and came to the Netherlands in 1937, they worked together under the name 'Model and Foto Austria'. Lisbeth designs clothes and Marie makes photo reports of them, which appear in weekly magazines such as Libelle.
In 1942, the German occupying forces obliged the Jews to report in camp Westerbork. Lisbeth answered the call. In camp Westerbork she managed to prolong her stay, so that she would not be transported to Germany. She knits jumpers for the camp commander's wife and every time a transport comes, she makes sure she has just not finished making a jumper or a dress. Shortly after the liberation of the camp, on 6 May 1945, she married Otto Birman. Otto had already fled from Vienna in 1938 and worked as a chemical engineer in Amersfoort until he was rounded up and imprisoned in Westerbork. After the liberation he gets his job back. Lisbeth and Otto go to live in Amersfoort, where they take in Beate, Helli and Maria in 1947. Lisbeth resumes her practice as a textile designer. Her work is included in collections of various museums, such as the Bauhaus Archiv in Berlin and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
- Lisbeth Oestreicher Wangler, W. Bauhaus-Weberei am Beispiel der Lisbeth Oestreicher = Bauhaus-weaving of Lisbeth Oestreicher. Keulen: Verlag der Zeitschrift Symbol 1985
Marie Oestreicher (19-3-1915 Karlsbad - 10-1-1975 Amsterdam), later known by her stage name Maria Austria, is the youngest sister of Felix and was born two months after the death of her father Karl. In letters Marie is often called 'Mariechen'. She went to secondary school in Karlsbad and studied photography in Vienna. In 1937 she moved to Amsterdam, where together with her sister Lisbeth, the textile designer, she made reportages under the name 'Model and Foto Austria'. They work for various weeklies. From 1937, Maria Austria became her stage name.
In 1942, she married Hans Bial. In the same year the Nazis decreed that all Jews had to report to camp Westerbork. Hans complied with this order and Marie went into hiding. She became a courier with the resistance and helped to forge personal identification cards. Here she met Henk Jonker, whom she made familiar with the profession of photography. Immediately after the Second World War, together with photographers Aart Klein and Wim Zilver Rupe, they set up the photo agency 'Particam Pictures' in Amsterdam. Maria married Henk in 1950. The photo agency became known for its photographs of the reconstruction, theatre performances, personal portraits and other subjects. Maria devotes herself to photography within the professional group GKf (Geonden Kunsten in de federatie). She wants photography to become an independent discipline within the visual arts. She concentrated (therefore) on photographs of the avant-garde in music, theatre and dance. Henk and Maria divorce in 1962. She continues the company Particam Pictures alone, with the help of her assistants. She died unexpectedly in Amsterdam on 10 January 1975.
After her death, the Maria Austria-Particam Photo Archive Foundation is established, which in 1992 created the Maria Austria Institute (MAI) [http://www.maibeeldbank.nl/]. The MAI is currently housed in the Stadsarchief of Amsterdam. Maria has taken many photographs of Felix, Gerda and their daughters. For 'Model and Photo Austria', Beate, Helli and Maria sometimes modelled, dressed in textiles by Lisbeth Oestreicher. Many photos on this site about "The Oestreicher Family" were therefore taken by Maria Austria and are archived in the MAI.
* Kees Nieuwenhuizen Maria Austria. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij 1976
* Martien Frijns (samensteller) Maria Austria. Fotografe. Enschede/Doetinchem: AFdH 2018 (768 p).
Gerda Oestreicher-Laqueur (9-1-1906 Heidelberg - 31-5-1945 Tröbitz) is Felix's wife and the mother of the children in the 'Drillingsberichte'. She is the oldest of the five children of Ernst Laqueur and Margarethe Löwenthal. She went to secondary school in Brieg. When her parents left for Amsterdam with her brothers and sister, Gerda stayed behind with her grandparents at the age of twelve to finish high school. At sixteen, after her final exams, she comes to the Netherlands. She attends the Handelsschool in Amsterdam and then studies German in Groningen. She became a German teacher. In 1929 she meets Felix Oestreicher through her father's laboratory. They marry in 1930 and go to live in Karlsbad, in Felix's parents' house, where his mother also lives. Gerda writes, with an interruption of a few years, from 1912 until 1939 several diaries, some of which have already been published.
She and Felix had three daughters: Beate (1934) and the twins Helli and Maria (1936). In 1938, the family fled with Felix's mother 'omi' to the Netherlands. They also had to move frequently within the Netherlands. On 1 November 1943 the family was rounded up and, with the exception of the sick Helli, interned in camp Westerbork. After some time, they were sent on to the German concentration camp Bergen Belsen, where they were imprisoned under terrible conditions for almost a year. In April 1945, just before the liberation, the family (without 'omi') was put on transport to the east. The train, known as a 'lost transport', was liberated by the Russians in Tröbitz. Beate, Maria, Felix and Gerda are taken in by a family in Tröbitz where they can live temporarily. Everyone is severely malnourished and weakened. Gerda soon falls ill. On 31 May 1945 she dies of typhus.
- Gerda Oestericher-Laqueur. Gerdas Tagebücher. Deutsch-jüdisch-niederländische Familiengeschichte 1918-1939. Konstanz: Hartung-Gorre Verlag 2010
Peter Laqueur (29-6-1909 Koningsbergen - 15-3-1979 Montpellier) was one of Gerda's younger brothers. After the war he moved to the US and became a psychiatrist. He is the inventor of Multiple Family Therapy / the First Model (MFGT). Before the Second World War he married Lilly Wubbe and moved with his family to Argentina. They have two children.
Hein Laqueur (4-12-1914 Braunschweig - 1991 Malcesine) is one of the younger brothers of Gerda. Hein appears several times in the 'Drillingsberichte', for instance when he comes to visit. His wedding to Judith Révész in 1942 is also mentioned. They had two children. Heinz Laqueur was a manufacturer and merchant.
Renate Laqueur (3-11-1919 Brieg - 4-6-2011 New York) was one of the younger sisters of Gerda and the second youngest of the family. Renate is regularly mentioned in the 'Drillingsberichte', for instance when she is visiting a birthday party of one of Felix and Gerda's children. She trained as an international secretary and occasionally wrote articles for women's magazines.
At the beginning of the war, she met speech therapist Paul Goldschmidt, whom she later married. In February 1943 she and her husband were rounded up and interned in the Vught concentration camp and later in Westerbork. They were released after five months thanks to the connections of Renate's father Ernst Laqueur. In March 1944 they were arrested again and deported to Bergen-Belsen. Here she started writing her camp diary (which was later published). She ended up in the same transport as Felix and his family. The 'lost transport' was liberated in Tröbitz on 23 April 1945. Renate contracts typhus, as do Gerda and Felix, but recovers from this illness.
In 1950 she divorces Paul Goldschmidt and marries speech therapist and psychiatrist Desö A. Weiss in 1954 in New York. At the university there she studies English and Spanish. She obtained her doctorate with research on camp diaries from the Second World War.
- Laqueur, R. Dagboek uit Bergen-Belsen Amsterdam 1965 (ook verschenen in Duits en Engels)
- Goldschmidt, S. Verplicht gelukkig. Uitgeverij Cossee 2011
Liselotte Laqueur (31-1-1922 Amsterdam - 1999) is Gerda's youngest sister and is usually called 'Lilo'. She survived the war with her parents Ernst and Margarethe Laqueur in Amsterdam. She is mentioned a few times in the 'Drillingsberichte', for instance when she is visiting the family of Felix and Gerda. She married Hans Cramer in 1946 and emigrated to the USA. They have three children. Liselotte becomes a nurse.
Beate Oestreicher (8-10-1934 Karlsbad-29-9-1997) is the oldest of Gerda and Felix's three daughters. She survived Westerbork and Bergen Belsen and after the war went to school for the first time in Bergen, in the province of Noord-Holland. Because her parents taught her at home, she was able to catch up quickly. She went straight on to grammar school and then studied chemistry in Utrecht. She has a passion for science and is a social activist. She did research at important institutes in the Netherlands and abroad and obtained her doctorate in biochemistry in Amsterdam. Among other things, she does research on the B-50 protein, a field in which her famous grandfather Ernst Laqueur was also active, and on which she wrote a major article just before her death. In addition to her scientific work, she is a peace activist. Beate is a member of several peace movements and protests against the installation of cruise missiles, among other things. When she realises in 1997 that she does not have long to live because the bladder cancer she has been diagnosed with is getting worse, she sets up a foundation. The foundation 'Beate Oestreicher Friedenswerke' (BOF) gives financial support to activists and groups that are active in war and peace.
Maria Goudsblom-Oestreicher (27-2-1936 Karlsbad - 29-3-2009 Amsterdam) is the youngest of Felix and Gerda's twins. She survived the horrors of Westerbork and Bergen Belsen and was taken in by relatives after the war. After grammar school Marie moved to Amsterdam to study social psychology. In 1958 she marries Joop Goudsblom and in 1964 they have their first child Clara. For Joop's scientific research they temporarily move to the USA, but they return to the Netherlands where Joop becomes professor of sociology in Amsterdam. Besides raising her children, Maria devotes herself to scientific and other tasks. She comments on and edits texts and lectures by her husband Joop Goudsblom and is active for Amnesty International.
Maria is fascinated by and researches the family history of the Oestreichers during World War II. She edits Felix's and Gerda's diaries and prepares them for publication. When she discovers the Drillingsberichte in the 1990s, she puts together a limited-edition publication for family members.
Helli (later Helly) Oestreicher (27-2-1936 Karlsbad) is the oldest half of Gerda and Felix's twins. When the family is deported to the concentration camp by the Nazis in 1943, 7-year-old Helli is left behind alone, because her father has reported that she has contagious diphtheria. It was actually asthma, but she was nevertheless admitted to the Jewish Invalids. About two months later, the resistance brought her to the childless Braakhekke couple in Gorssel, where she survived the war under the name Elly Strijker. She saw her parents for the last time in 1943; Felix and Gerda did not survive the Nazi terror. In 1945 she was reunited with her sister Beate and her twin sister Maria.
Helly went to grammar school and in 1954 was admitted to the Kunstnijverheidsschool in Amsterdam, where she graduated with distinction from the ceramics department in 1958. In 1959 she married the architect Reynoud Groeneveld and moved to Delft, where she set up her own studio. From 1962 she shows her own work at exhibitions. In 1964 their son Rogier was born and in 1966 their daughter Larissa. Reynoud graduated in Delft as a structural engineer. In 1965 he joins the architects Powell and Moya in London, and the family moves with him. Helly presents works at various exhibitions. In 1966 they moved back to Amsterdam, where Reynoud started working with two friends -architects: Abel Cahen and Jean Patrice Girod. They live close to (aunt) Maria Austria and the sisters Beate and Maria. The families and their young children often visit each other. In 1977, Helly became a teacher at the Academy of Arts Artibus in Utrecht and, in 1979, a teacher at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. Helly's work is included in the collections of various museums.
- Marjan Boot, Thimo te Duits, Beppe Kessler e.a. Helly Oestreicher. Haarlem: 99 Uitgevers/Publishers 2011
- Catalogus bij een tentoonstelling DENKBEELDEN van Helly: Sonja Herst en Helly Oestreicher. Helly Oestreicher. Breda: de Beyerd 1989