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The Verderbers of Cologne

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The family of Leo Verderber (13/5/1894–1935)

In the German city Cologne (Köln, German transcription without vowel-mutation is Koeln) there lived a family Verderber up to 1938, belonging to the Jewish family branch.

The progenitor of this family was Leo Verderber; his Jewish given name was Jehuda Arie. He was born at 13/5/1894 in Wischnitz. This means presumably the Wiśnicz of today in Poland, situated about 80 kilometres in the north of Krakow (Kraków). Leo’s origin lies in the dark, but in the region of Krakow and Tarnow there are indications to other Jewish families with the name Verderber.

But if his birth place is that Wischnitz (Wiśnice) in the district Tost-Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia, then there cannot be found a family named Verderber in the genealogical register of families for 1770–1800 (Source: Genealogical Society of Utah, microfilm number 1573223, see

Leo Verderber became engaged to Genia Rosenzweig who was also called Gella, Getta, or Gette. Genia was born at 20/2/1890 in the Galician town Tarnow (Tarnów), situated about 80 kilometres in the East of Krakow (Kraków), today belonging to Poland. Wischnitz as well as Tarnow belonged to Austria-Hungary. When the First World War broke out in 1914 Leo fought in the Austrian army and achieved the rank as Feldwebel (sergeant). Meanwhile Genia’s family left Eastern Europe and settled in Cologne.

After the end of the war in 1918 both married and remained in Cologne. The major part of Galicia became Polish, and so both get Polish citizens with Polish passports. The couple Verderber got four children:

In 1935 Leo Verderber died at an age of 42 years by an accident when the driver of his taxi fell asleep at the wheel. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Cologne.

In October 1938 Genia Verderber was expelled to Poland together with her youngest sons Theo and Adolf. They were brought by train with hundreds of other persons  to the Polish border town Bentschen (Zbaszyń) upon Obra, about 70 kilometres in the West of Posen (Poznań). That should be the expulsion action as of 28/10/1938 which affected all Jews of Polish nationality living in Germany.

The living conditions in Bentschen were disastrous. In England meanwhile a refugee committee was established which tried to save Jewish children from the German sphere of influence. To at least save one of them, Genia permitted her ten years old son Theo to go to England with the first Kindertransport (children transport). She hoped to follow later with her youngest son.

Theo travelled aboard the Polish vessel “Warshawa” from Gdinya near Danzig (Gdańsk) passing Kiel through the North-Baltic-Sea-Channel to London, where he arrived at the harbour on 14/2/1939. A second Kindertransport arrived shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. When the war started in September 1939, Theo lost postal contact with his mother who then lived with one of her sisters.

The oldest brother, Israel Moses, escaped to Palestine with the Zionistic Youth in August 1939 (presumably already on 31/7/1939). He was 16 years old.

His older sister Netta was preparing her emigration to Palestine at the Zionistic training camp Rüdnitz (German transcription without vowel-mutation is Ruednitz) near Bernau (in the Northeast of Berlin) when the whole group disappeared without trace, presumably in 1938. Netta arrived in Poland and could send 25 word letters to her brother Theo in England through the Swiss Red Cross during the war. Thus he knew that his mother joined her sisters in Tarnow. These letters stopped in 1943.

Following the the list of murdered persons at the memorial of Yad Vashem in Israel, Genia Verderber as well as her youngest son Adolf died in 1942 at Limanow (Limanowa) in Poland, about 50 kilometres in the Southeast of Krakow (Kraków). The family, however, assumes 1943 as the year of the death. The fate of the daughter Netta is unknown; she probably died in 1943.

Meanwhile in 1941 Theo had a very lonesome barmitzvah at the synagogue of Nottingham. In 1948 he reached Palestine on an immigrant ship filled to capacity. There he met his brother Israel Moses.

The name “Verderber” was hardly to pronounce for English people. So, Theo, his wife, and his brother Israel Moses decided to change their name to “Vered” which means “rose” in Hebrew.

Both brothers remained in Israel, married and got children. On 10.1.2007 Israel Moses Vered died after long illness at an age of 83 years.

In Cologne there is a memorial at the Löwenbrunnen (lion’s fountain) since 1997, at that place where formerly were a synagogue and two Jewish schools: the Jawne (Yavneh), a reform high school, and the Morija (Moriah), a training school. Theo as well as Adolf Verderber visited the Morija school until they were deported. The memorial remembers to the 1.100 Jewish children of Cologne who were deported and murdered. Adolf Verderber is inscribed there. There is obviously no memorial for his mother and his sister in Cologne.

Alwine Pflanzer, nee Verderber (17/3/1888–?)

In Cologne, there also lived Alwine Pflanzer, nee Verderber, born on 17/3/1888, until she was deported to Auschwitz (Oświecim, Poland). There she was probably killed. She was declared to be dead. There is no more information about her; she was obviously member of the Jewish family branch and possibly a relative of Leo Verderber.


The database of the victims at the NS Documentation Centre (El-De-House), Cologne contains Genia Verderber (with given name “Gella” and 1889 as the wrong year of birth), Adolf Verderber, and Alwine Pflanzer, nee Verderber – but without details besides them to be declared death.

The arrival of Adolf Verderber at Bentschen is indicated by

Adolf Verderber, born on 22/2/1930, father Leo Verderber, mother Gette Verderber, last residence Cologne, deported as pretended polish child to the polish border point Bentschen (Zbaszyń, 52°33’ / 20°51’) and arrived there without parents. Later fate unknown.

Indeed it is wrong that he arrived without parents. His mother and his older brother accompanied him. His brother Theo is also mentioned in this list, but with the given name “Theodor”.

About Netta Verderber’s stay at the Zionistic training camp at Rüdnitz near Bernau there is given advice at, but under the given name “Betti”.

The list of deaths at Yad Vashem finally proves that Genia Verderber (registered under the given name “Gella”) and Adolf Verderber (under the given name “Abram”) from “Keln” (which has to be replaced by “Köln” or “Koeln”) died at Limanow in 1942.

Theo Verderber (under the name Mordechai Vered of today) describes his lonesome barmitzvah in the Kindertransport Newsletter of November 2004.

But most of the information was given by the brothers Israel Moses and Theo (Mordechai) Verderber (Vered). There is to thank them here with great pleasure.

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