Oscar and his Platoon in a Cafe. WWI, 1915. Hamburg, Germany.

I love this photo for its candidness. Unbelievably clear and real. On the back is a postcard written from Oscar. The translation comes from my grandfather:

My dear Parents, my best thanks for today’s postcard. After I worked very hard all day drawing, I recuperated for a short while in the Cafe. When will you, dear father, come visit here. From Manfred (Oscar’s Brother) I received a card the other day. Best wishes from your devoted son, Oscar. 

I really wonder what oscar was “drawing”. Maps? Army plans? Clearly he felt safe enough to invite his father up to Hamburg.


Oscar, Henriette, and Friends. Germany

Because my thesis was so document heavy, it was easy to forgot the people I was writing about had a personality. It was very difficult to determine the type of person Oscar was through three letters he wrote while in a concentration camp. Seeing him through this new lens has really changed my perception of Oscar. I used to think of him as this stern, near emotionless figure, but looking at these photographs I am so wrong. He is smiling in nearly every photo, and that just brings a smile to my face.

Oscar is seated, interlocking arms with two friends.

Four Generations in one photo. Germany, 1921.

I love this photo because it spans so many generations. Seated is Henriette’s grandmother with Hans Jürgen. I am in the process for filing for German citizenship. There is a constitutional law that allows the children and grandchildren of German Holocaust survivors become re-naturalized. When I look at this photo, it reminds me just how “German” my family is. The von Halle name goes back to the 17th century, and Henriette’s family also has a generations-long connection to Germany.

Loan Documentation. Amsterdam, 1942

The following is the documentation of a loan given to Oscar from his brother inlaw Annon Wittenboon. The document states the loan was for “emigration and means of sustenance”. By 1942, Oscar was forbidden from working as an architect, and money was extremely tight. Annon, who married Oscar’s sister Alice, was a Dutchman (and Christian? I think).

Saying Goodbye to Manfred von Halle. Amsterdam 1937

A lot of these photos are solving mysteries I thought I would never find an answer to. I never knew exactly what happened to Manfred, Oscar’s brother. On the back of this photo, it explains that this is the family waiving goodbye to Manfred von Halle as he leaves to Columbia. Remarkable. My grandfather is above the elderly man’s (with the cane) left shoulder. Hans stands behind him with their cousin, Leisel.

I am still actively searching for distant family members. A few years back, David Halle found my grandfather after researching the von Halle family. David is an amateur genealogist and was one of the first relatives to reach out to our family (before the ease of a google search). David, whose family came to America before the civil war, dropped the von. David’s family is related to the founders of Halle Brothers, a popular department store in the midwest.

After I published my thesis, I was contacted by other von Halles from around the world. I have been able to place most of them on my family tree. They come from as far away as Switzerland, Australia, and South America (mostly displaced by one of the two World Wars). I am still searching for Manfred’s family in South America.

Gerd and Carry. Early 1940s?

While I can’t be certain, I am assuming the lady in the photo with Gerd was his wartime girlfriend, Carry. My grandfather never found out what happened to Carry, only that she was deported to Germany/Austria around 1942. My grandfather even offered to marry Carry in hopes it would prevent her from being deported.