One year ago: potato latkes
I love dumplings of all types and varieties, and especially this one, which can be eaten savoury or sweet.
Dumplings are a delicious 'poor people's food' appearing in some form in most cultures. The Italians call theirs gnocchi. They make them (most often) with potato flour. These are made with ricotta cheese and semolina flour, and are more nutritious and filling. This recipe produces a wonderful result: a light creamy pillow on which to showcase your favourite sauces.
It’s the recipe of Berta Bart, who just turned 90 and still swims and does yoga – sometimes both in one day – as well as being an involved mother of 4 and grandmother of 9. And what a cake for a swimmer that is, at her 90th birthday in Sydney, below.
Confession: I've known Berta Bart for most of my life. She and my mother did yoga together when I was at school, and my best friend married her son! I have a lovely memory of a visit to Jerusalem by Berta’s late husband Bernie, when he told me about his World War Two experiences. It has been a sheer pleasure to be able to write it all down and to put their two extraordinary stories together side by side here.
Berta was born Berta Müller on 4 April 1926, the daughter of Rosa and Friedrich Müller. Her family lived in Katowice, a medium sized town of around 110,000 people, in Silesia in Poland, near the German and Czech borders.
Silesia was one of the wealthiest parts of the country, and Katowice, a city of bars, cafes and restaurants, was known as the 'Paris of Poland'. "Broken and downtrodden people come to seek happiness and encouragement here," wrote Israel Cohen in the Book of Sosnowiec, explaining why it had a vibrant Jewish population too.
Berta’s family were traditional rather than observant Jews. Her father sold textiles, and she and her older brother Günter lived a comfortable, happy life, ice skating and tobogganing down the hill opposite their house in the winter, attending Jewish camps in the summer.
Berta's father was a heavy smoker and when she was ten, he died of lung disease.
“He was very young – only forty-five years old. It was just before my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, and it was a big tragedy for us. We were well provided for financially as my father had good life insurance, but my mother was left with two young children and life changed dramatically,” says Berta.
Still, Berta remembers summer holidays with relatives, and swimming and learning Hebrew songs at camp.
“A few of my fondest memories take me back to the times when I was about 14 years old. I realise how short those wonderful times were. That was my last holiday before the war broke out.”
"WHEN THE GERMANS INVADED OUR TROUBLES BEGAN"
Katowice was close to the border with Germany and felt the impact of the German invasion as soon as it took place on the first day of September 1939.
Polish language was banned. Street names were changed to German ones. Polish civilians were executed in public; about 700 were beheaded with a purpose-built guillotine.
But things were still worse for the town’s 10,000 Jews.
One of the Nazis first acts on occupying Katowice was to destroy its largest synagogue.
They burnt down the synagogue three days after invading, on the 4th of September, making their agenda plain from the start. Other Jewish communal buildings nearby were used as offices for the Nazi secret police, the Gestapo.
Jewish men from the region were rounded up and transported by train to the Russian border. Although he was only sixteen years old, Berta’s brother Günter was among them.
“As they got out of the trains, the Germans were shooting at them so most of them ran across the border to Russia. The Russians let them in, which was kind, and then sent them all to Siberia. They worked in factories under terrible conditions, but the Russians treated them no worse than their own people. And as most of the Russian men were in the army, the foreigners were quite welcome,” says Berta.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN
Now there were only Jewish women and children left in Katowice. By 1940, they would be gone too.
“We all got a notice to pack a few belongings as we would be deported further into Poland. My mother was devastated, not knowing where my brother was and now this deportation,” Berta remembers.
The women and children, including Berta and her mother, were taken to smaller town 35 km away called Chrzanow.
Jews there still had their homes and shops but they were forced to make room for the new arrivals.
“We lived with a very religious family. Everything was rationed and food was obtained with coupons, but life was still tolerable. Jewish children were not permitted to go to school, so I started as an apprentice in a hairdressing salon owned by a very nice Jewish man, Mr Umlauf. He was very strict and told me off when the boys started whistling for me outside the salon after work.”
There were soon orders forbidding Jews from walking on certain streets; then they were not to have any contact with the Polish population.
“First we had to wear the yellow star and then they moved us all into a ghetto. My boss opened another salon there and I continued to work for him. In the evening, after we’d worked all day, we had to do work for the German army. That was compulsory. My job was sewing buttons on German army uniforms.”
But life and friendships continued for Berta, now 15 years old.
“My best friend was my boss's brother. I could always cry on his shoulder. Unfortunately, he did not survive the war."
Every few weeks hundreds were sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz, just 20 kilometres away.
“We were hiding at nights or we just had our suitcases ready to go to where no-one came back. We suspected the worst,” says Berta.
One bright sunny day in 1941, Jews were called via loud speaker to assemble at midday in Chzarnow’s main park.
They weren't given a reason. When Berta arrived, she saw three gallows.
“We had to witness the hanging of three men as a warning of what would happen if we tried to escape. The poor fellows muttered the words of the Jewish prayer, and added the name of their town. ‘Shema Israel, we come from Olkusz’. Their crime was trying to get free.”
Berta says she will never forget it.
“It was a most frightful experience, but there was much worse to follow. Once again we had to assemble outside the market place where we were sorted out like cattle. Processed and selected. Young and able to the right and old and children to the left. I was separated from my mother.”
Berta’s mother Rosa was sent to Auschwitz, “like all the other middle aged people.”
Berta never saw her again.
To this day, she’s not certain why she wasn't taken with her mother.
“Age I suppose as well, but it started gradually. They were not equipped to kill so many people. So gradually, first you lived in this street, then you lived in a ghetto, then you were not allowed to have any contact with Poles or other people. Gradually.”
There was one exception. During that first selection in 1941, one middle aged man did not reach the death camp.
“My boss at the hair salon Mr Umlauf was selected for Auschwitz, but was lucky enough to be sent back. The transport was too big and the SS could not handle it all.”
He had a second chance at life.
After being separated from her mother, Berta was sent to a labour camp. She describes this as her good fortune.
In a choice between slave labour and death, you take slave labour, but it’s a measure of the times that that’s how things looked to a teenager whose mother has been taken to be killed, and who was now herself being sent to an unknown location as a prisoner.
Berta was transported to Freudentahl, a newly established labour camp for women in Czechoslovakia, then under German control. There she worked long shifts in a textile factory, weaving material for German army uniforms.
“It was only a small camp, maybe 50 people. They had prisoners, English prisoners, working there too and that was good for us but the Germans didn't trust us. That’s why no one there survived. When the time came, it was so small that it was easy to liquidate the whole camp.”
Berta was no longer there by then. After a few months at Freudenthal, she developed an ear infection. It caused her terrible pain and she was unable to work. Instead of sending her to a concentration camp, the German authorities sent her back home to Chrzanow.
“I couldn't believe it myself,” says Berta.
“But it was tragic for me. I realised there was nothing there. My mother was gone, our belongings were gone. I was 16 years old, I was a child and I had nowhere to go."
Then Berta remembered her boss, Mr Umlauf. She went to his house and found that he was still in the ghetto.
“He welcomed me. He said come, you can work for me and you can stay here and I will look after you. He was a very nice man. If it was not for him I don’t know what I would have done.”
Berta had accommodation, food and a job in his salon. That lasted for about six months.
And then what happened?
"Then the Final Solution."
By early 1943, the Nazis were ready to empty Czarnow of its Jews.
“The young ones to labour camps and the old to Auschwitz to be exterminated. I was chosen to go to a labour camp, along with my boss's wife, Mrs Umlauf.”
The distances tell their own story. Auschwitz was just 20 km away from Chzarnow. But Berta was being transported almost 300 km in the opposite direction – to Czechoslovakia.
Berta knew she was lucky, but she didn't appreciate how lucky.
“I badly wanted to go back to Freudenthal, the same camp where I was previously but there was no Transport there that day. Instead we were sent to another camp called Bernsdorf. That saved my life. I found out later that the whole camp at Freudentahl was liquidated and all the girls were sent to Auschwitz, except one who jumped out of the moving train and survived to tell the story.”
The Bernsdorf labour camp was in a village called Bertrantice.
It was part of the Gros-Rosen network, labour camps mostly for women. The Nazis used female labourers - some 75,000 in all - and a large proportion of female guards. The women wove thread and fabric for German uniforms and other material needed for the war effort - 'spinnerei' as they called it.
Below: The Gros-Rosen network of camps included Bernsdorf, where Berthe worked.
Berta remembers Bernsdorf as well-run. There were both paid labourers and slaves. German and Belgian women were paid to work there. All Jews worked as slaves.
“This labour camp was a tiny village with a big weaving factory where we worked. We lived in the factory, 40, maybe 50 of us. I was sixteen years old, healthy and strong. During day shift we could always get a bit of extra food and mingle with Belgian contract workers and be informed of the progress of the war.”
The factory operated 24-7. There were 2 twelve hour shifts, and everyone preferred the day shift, because it was half a day in the factory and the rest in the fields, the kitchen, or the garden.
“We could still get mail. As a matter of fact I got a parcel from my aunty in Poland. I cried so much it was so sweet. A little bread, toasted so it wouldn’t go bad, an apron and a dress and the most important part was a comb for lice. I tell you this was for me like a million dollars because I used to lend the comb to people and get food for it,” says Berta.
Looking back on this time Berta is phlegmatic.
“I spent three years there. And it was hard, but it wasn't a death camp. We wore the clothes that we brought with us. Our heads were not shaved. Some girls used to put curlers in their hair to make themselves look good and respectable.”
“There were ordinary Belgian contract workers there and we had the same food as them. It was an exceptionally good camp, exceptionally. When I tell people they don’t believe me,” Berta says, almost as if she does not believe it herself.
“There were big fields around the camp and in summer raspberries grew there, and the German guards had some girls that they liked, their favourites, and on Sunday afternoons they were allowed to go and pick raspberries. Would you believe that? Nobody believes it when I tell them.”
Why were conditions at Bernsdorf so different to other Nazi camps, even within this slave labour network?
The answer is cynical. Berta was working at a ‘show camp’, used by the Nazis as a propaganda tool.
“They had to have camps to show off, to show the world that they treated people well.”
In other words, a place to distract attention from what was really going on at the extermination camps, like Auschwitz.
“About once a year, we had inspectors from Switzerland who came so the Nazis could show them what a good camp it is and how well we are treated and how well the girls look. When we had an inspection we used to lay paper on the floor, like you would lay a carpet, so it was clean and spotless.”
Berta also credits the factory’s Director, a man who ran his enterprise with the aim of producing the best results, without undue cruelty.
That continued even in 1944, just months before the end of the war, when Bernsdorf was transformed into a concentration camp proper.
“That meant we had male SS guards with dogs and everything became stricter. If not for the Factory Director, we would have all ended up in Auschwitz. Evacuation orders had already been given. He pleaded with the authorities to amalgamate all the nearby small camps, so we were able to stay and work there until the war ended.”
In effect, by building a larger barracks, the Factory Director found a way to save the women and teenage girls working for him. Berta estimates that would have been as many 100 or 150 women.
“He liked the girls. They were like his girls. We worked for him, everything was running smoothly, he had no problems. Despite the fact that he was an SS man, he was decent, very decent.”
Berta adds reflectively,
“Deep down he wasn't a Nazi I presume.”
“What a joy it was to watch the German army run for their lives! It was like magic. it was like magic!" Berta says twice.
“The Germans were running away because they were terrified of the Russians. So they were running like mad, really running, trying to get to the other side which the Americans had liberated. And the Russians just marched in a few hours later. We watched it all from the barrack windows!”
The Russian soldiers, many of whom were Jewish, treated the women well.
Until they didn't.
“During the day they played on their balalaikas and sang Russian songs in the nearby park. Then towards night time they wanted to have fun. As the girls were not willing, many of them were raped,” says Berta.
“Suddenly we were free to go. It was an extraordinary feeling,” says Berta.
But freedom was limited.
“We were free, but nobody cared whether we had clothing or shoes to wear or any money. We had hardly anything decent to wear to go home so we roamed around the village until we saw an empty guest-house. We went in, there was nobody. We saw a German uniform on a hangar so we knew that he must have run away.”
Berta and her friends were not expert looters. First of all they were frightened, and then they found that other women who had been there before them had emptied the place out.
The only thing they’d left behind were the curtains. Beautiful curtains.
“So we pulled them down and took them back to the camp and gave them to the dressmaker. We had no money to pay her but she made a dress each for me and my friend and kept the leftover material as payment, and made a dress for herself. So we got 3 dresses from those curtains! She was happy and we were happy. We walked out looking like young girls,” says Berta.
return to poland
Berta was 19 years old. She had one beautiful dress made of curtain material – but no transport. To leave, she and her friends had to hitch-hike. Russian soldiers took them - always together, for safety. When they reached Polish-occupied Germany, they saw many empty villages, whose German inhabitants had fled. Some of their homes were now occupied by Jewish men who'd survived the War. They offered the girls accommodation.
“It was also dangerous. In a gentle way they wanted to rape us. They were Jewish Polish soldiers, as a lot of Jewish men went into the Polish Army after the war.”
Berta says this sexually predatory behaviour is just the way things were.
“That’s how it is during war. Also after the war. They were sex hungry. I remember I went to a friend’s wedding and there were a few Russian soldiers there. And a young boy asked us for sex and we didn't want to oblige him so he started crying.”
For the first time in a while, Berta smiles as she tells a story.
Berta wanted to go back home to Katowice see if anyone from her family had survived. It felt like all the rest of Europe was also on the road. It’s estimated there were more than 20 million refugees crossing the destroyed continent at that time.
“Taking the train was quite an ordeal. It was packed with people. It was free - no-one had any money - and it took ages to get anywhere. It was all very disorganised.”
When they finally reached Katowice, Berta was shocked.
“Nobody there, nobody, no family, no friends, no Jews, no nothing,” Berta still shudders at the memory.
Berta did receive one piece of good news. Her brother Günter, deported to Russia at the start of the War, had survived. She was not entirely alone.
Katowice had a well-established Jewish Welfare society which centralised all the local mail.
“If you wanted information on Survivors you had to go to Katowice,” says Berta.
“And the Jewish Welfare Society was where I met my darling Bernhard. He went to inquire and I went to inquire and we met.”
and that's how i met your grandmother
Berta was wearing her dress made of curtain material when she met Bernie Bart.
He was the same age as she was, and like her, he was also a German speaking Pole. In fact he came from the town of Chorzow, only 7 km away.
Berta’s first impression was that he was kind. She would soon learn that he was also very capable. Bernie had survived being transferred from camp to camp, including Blechhammer a labour camp within the Auschwitz network. Now he discovered that one brother Moritz had survived, but that almost no one else in his family was alive.
“There was almost no one left,” Berta says. “As a matter of fact Bernie’s father and two brothers were on the same transport to Russia as my brother, back at the start of the War. Except we were told they didn't escape to the border. The Nazis took them somewhere else and they had to dig their own graves and they shot them.”
Bernhard was 13 years old when his father and older brothers were taken from their home town. He suddenly found himself the head of his family, responsible for his mother and younger siblings. He spoke German fluently, and offered to do gardening for some German soldiers. When one of them was pleased with Bernie’s work, his mother told Bernie to ask him for a note. The soldier wrote that Bernhard was obedient and worked well.
By 1940, Chorzow was emptied of its Jews. Most, including Bernie's family, were forced to move to nearby towns and from there to concentration camps.
In 1942, all the Jews were called to the main square in Olkusz, including refugees from Chorzow. Bernie didn't understand what was happening, but his mother did. She pushed her son towards the nearest German soldier and said, “Show him your note.”
Below: Jews being deported from the nearby town of Olkusz, 1942
It was a risky strategy, but Bernie did what she said. The soldier looked at the note and kept Bernie beside him, with the people who were remaining to work. Bernie’s mother was sent to the other side. With the people who were being sent to their deaths.
It was the last time he saw her, and her last act was to save his life.
“My mother saved me. And I never saw her again. And do you know, I don’t even have a photo of her,” Bernie said sadly at this point. “We asked one of our neighbours to look after a box of family photos for us but when I came back after the War, they hadn’t kept it. Everything was gone.”
Once he understood that most of his family had been murdered, Bernie planned to leave Europe. But first he had to leave Katowice. It was under Russian control and Germany looked preferable to Soviet Russia as a departure point. Bernie had figured out a way of getting to Germany which involved crossing 2 border posts without ID. He asked Berta to come with him.
She said no.
When he told me this story, he was still incredulous, 65 years later.
But Berta explains it this way:
“I didn't know him! I only knew him for a week and so I thought how can I go with somebody I don’t know and I've got nothing, no belongings, no clothes. He said come with me as you are. I said, No, you can come back for me then I know that you really mean it. Not just come with me."
"And he did come back,” she says with satisfaction.
If love is about what you do and not just what you say, Bernie proved himself in spades. His description of crossing over to Germany without ID and having to cross back only to do it all again was hair-raising.
He was arrested once and talked his way out of it. Coming back into Poland for Berta, Bernie was arrested again and thrown in a Polish prison. A friend who was with him rushed to Berta to tell her what happened.
“I took the next train and I went to that prison and they told me he’s not here. And I was so frustrated and so sad, I had nothing to do but to catch the train back. And he was on the same train! But we didn't know because he was in the back, I was in the front. But when I walked out of the train, who do I see? Can you imagine such a coincidence? I'll never forget it. Unbelievable!”
Berta’s face is wreathed in smiles.
Bernie negotiated the same route back across 2 checkpoints for them - still without papers or money - and they made it to Munich.
Their plan was to migrate, but first Berta and Bernie had to find somewhere to stay. Most Jewish refugees lived in displaced person camps while they waited to sort out their futures.
But Bernie – German-speaking Bernie - had other plans.
He read in a newspaper that due to the severe housing shortage, Germans had to share apartments. It was part of the boldness that characterised him that he applied for a shared apartment for them -- teenage Jewish Holocaust survivors, most of whose families had been killed by the Nazis.
“I knew they couldn't say no to us, it was the law,” Bernie explained on the night he told me his life story.
So that's how it happened that in 1946 in Munich, Bernie and Berta moved into an apartment owned by a German family.
“How did they feel? Not happy I can tell you that,” says Berta. “She was an old lady and the daughter was not young. I had nothing much to do with them. She went her way, I went my way. They had a son in prison in Germany. And then towards the end he came home. And the first few days he was falling over me and then maybe a week or so he was very nasty to me and we didn't last there much after that.”
One other thing they had to do in Munich was to get married.
When they arrived aged 19, they were 'under-age' and needed two witnesses aged over 21 to be able to marry. They didn't know anyone in Munich, so they waited until Berthe's brother Günter and her cousin Gerhard who had also survived the War reached Munich from Russia. After that wonderful reunion, they marched proudly to the German registry office and were married, in front of what remained of their families.
The newlyweds, now 21, lived in Munich for another 2 years before receiving their visas for Australia.
Bernhard and Berta sailed from Germany on the SS Cyrenia, arriving in Melbourne in 1949. They were both 23 years old.
For new immigrants willing to work hard, Australia proved a welcoming destination. They found jobs immediately, at a Melbourne knitting mill. Bernie and Berta both had experience, as they had each worked on weaving machines in the Nazi camps.
“Mind you, the pay was very low but we could save. One lot went to the bank and the other lot we lived on,” says Berta.
Like many of the grandmothers in this series, who were teenagers during the War, Berta didn't remember her mother’s recipes.
“But when you have a family you have to cook, it came naturally.”
Later, after he retired, Bernie became the main cook. His daughter Eva remembers that he always filled each pot to the brim. When the family bought him a bigger pot, he filled that to the brim too – a legacy of the time when he’d been starving.
Berta says that, like many Survivors, she can never leave food on a plate.
“I'm exactly the same. When we got out my son Philip always says, 'Mum you don’t have to eat it all.' I explain a million times that I can’t leave food on the plate. I will eat until I am sick. But I will finish it.”
It is definitely worth finishing every last semolina dumpling. The recipe originated with Bernie’s brother Mortiz and soon became Berta's signature dish, a favourite with all her grandchildren.
Ricotta Dumplings with Mushrooms
- 500 g full fat ricotta cheese or farm cheese
- 3 eggs
- 200 g semolina
- 50 g butter
- pinch salt
- optional: 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- boiling water, salted, for cooking the dumplings once they are ready
1. It's best if ingredients are at room temperature. To make your life easier, put the cheese through a potato ricer or a sieve to soften (especially if you are using farm cheese.) Then mix your ingredients with a spoon. Wet your hands, so you can shape the dough into small balls, about 5 cm, roughly the size of ping pong balls.
2. Refrigerate, covered, for a couple of hours. You can also leave them overnight.
3. Boil a pot full of water. It should be large enough to hold them comfortably. Add salt. When the water comes to a rolling boil, drop the dumplings in. They are ready when they rise to the surface after 3- 5 minutes.
In Poland these dumplings were most often a savoury dish, served with butter and salt, or mushrooms fried with garlic. Berta's grand-daughter Nikki likes them plain while her grandson James loves them with mushrooms. They are also great with any pasta sauce you happen to have on hand.
In Hungary, these same dumplings are also served sweet, with fried breadcrumbs and cinnamon. See recipe on our website.
This is based on a New York Times recipe using the magic combination of butter, garlic, thyme - and soy sauce.
- 30-60 g dried porcini mushrooms
- 250 - 300 g fresh mushrooms - a mix is nice
- 3 tablespoons cold butter
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
1. To start, put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, and cover with about 1/2 cup boiling water. Allow to steep for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the mushroom liquid, and chop roughly. Slice the fresh mushrooms - caps and stems.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a hot pan. When it's melted, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. You want it to sizzle, do not let it brown!
3. Add all the mushrooms to the pan, fresh and dried, along with the thyme, and fry for 3 to 4 minutes, on a high heat, till they are browned. Add the mushroom stock. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the pan. Allow the stock to reduce by half, then turn the heat down to medium-low and add the last tablespoon of butter, followed by the soy sauce and cream.
4. When mixture thickens a little, remove from heat. Taste, adding more soy. Black pepper's also good. Spoon over dumplings and serve at once
JERUSALEM TEST KITCHEN
If you've never done it, it's incredibly satisfying to put your little dough parcels into boiling water and watch them bob up to the top of your pot. I should know now, since it took me 3 goes to get this right! Ricotta is not an Israeli speciality. It's available, but it's not great and that affected the first lot, which came out a bit too soft and gloopy to handle.
COOKING TIP: If your ricotta is very wet, let it sit in a sieve above a bowl for an hour or so to drain.
The second time I used something more like farm cheese. I mixed it in a food processor. I think that was a mistake; the dumplings came out too hard.
But the third time, like with Goldilocks, they were just right.
Farm cheese, wooden spoon, grated Parmesan and they worked a treat! The mushrooms were delectable each time. The combination of butter and soy, a la the Japanese kitchen, really is a winner. And the combination of those mushrooms and the dumplings - to die for.
VERDICT: Easy (once you do it right!) And delicious - make this!
MELBOURNE TEST KITCHEN - GF
In Melbourne, Amanda Hampel made these perfectly, first go. Of course. AND she made them gluten free!
Amanda used gluten free flour - she often mixes her own - plus xantham gum. She doesn't believe the gf component made much difference to the texture or consistency of the dumpling.
"Not that I have anything to compare them to but they were so soft, delicate and creamy," Amanda purrs.
She made the mushroom sauce using butter, garlic infused olive oil, thyme and parsley, adding a little chopped spinach at the very end. Once the dumplings had risen to the top of the pot, she covered them with the sauce - and served!
Amanda loved this recipe.
"Wow. This dish tops them all! Unbelievable. Delicious. Easy. Amazing!!!"
VERDICT: Absolutely scrumptious!
After 18 months in Australia, Berta was pregnant with her first child. Her husband announced he wasn't going to work for anyone else any longer. He was going to start his own business.
“And my uncle and everybody said ‘How can you do that? Your wife is pregnant how can you leave a job?’" Berta remembers. "But Bernie said, 'I don’t want to work any more. I want to be a businessman.' "
Bernie decided he would open a fruit shop. He found an empty shop, put down a deposit, then made his own shelves and bought an old truck, second-hand.
"He went to all the people we knew and said, 'I'm opening up a fruit shop, I'll get you the best fruit, and I'll make it cheaper for you. And I'll deliver!' People said alright and that’s how it started,” Berta recalls.
Bernie didn't stay in the fruit business long. He saw that many of his customers were buying Hessian bags. He decided he would buy bags, clean them and sell them.
“He bought a machine to clean Hessian bags. He gave up the fruit shop and did the bags. And then he and his partner began buying batteries, old batteries. That was a good business too,” says Berta.
And that's how Bernie Bart, who'd come to Australia with nothing, built a successful business and property empire.
Looking back on her life, Berta says that the man she met in the queue at the Jewish Welfare Society in Katowice, when she thought she was alone in the world, turned out to be a wonderful husband.
“Bernie was a good provider, and a great father and grandfather.”
Not long ago, she decided to put pen to paper and write her story for her family. It ended with these words:
"I began to think about what I would do for my children that would be special to them when I am gone. So I wrote the story of my life. Now the history of our family will unfold before their eyes. I thought that would be the best gift I could give them as they have everything. I cannot describe the emotion I feel. My children and grandchildren will always be the greatest gift of all. I love you dearly."