Ettie, as she was known, was just 22, a good-looking girl about to embark on the excitement and happiness of a new life. After the celebrations ended she set out for Belgium on a journey that was to make her part of the most horrific event the world had known. A little over five years later she, her husband and their three-year-old son, Leon, were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Ettie Steinberg, a young Jewish woman who grew up in Dublin, is the only known Irish citizen (along with her infant son Leon) to have died during the Holocaust. Her legacy is a tragic one, a microcosm of the suffering of Jewish people throughout this turbulent period in history.
She was born Esther Steinberg to Czechoslovakian parents, Aaron Hirsch Steinberg and Bertha Roth, on 11 January 1914. She was certainly an Irish citizen, but whether she was born in Ireland or not is unclear. Some texts (for example Rivlin) indicate that she was born here, while others suggest that she originated from the town of Veretsky in Czechoslovakia and moved to Ireland from London in 1926. Her family lived in 28 Raymond Terrace, off the South Circular Road, with the children attending St. Catherine’s School in Donore.
Although little is known about her life before marriage, it is believed that she worked as a seamstress. On a July day in 1937, Ettie married a Belgian man named Vogtjeck Gluck in Greenville Hall Synagogue off the South Circular Road. He came from a Belgian family of goldsmiths and the couple moved to Antwerp shortly after the wedding. Within a few years, the Low Countries were under threat from the Nazi advance and the couple fled to France, believing they would find safety and security. They travelled around but settled in Paris, where their son Leon was born on the 28 March 1939. Unfortunately, the threat of violence spread throughout France in 1940 and this put them in danger. From 1940 to 1942 the small family was in hiding, moving from place to place, rarely staying still for more than two nights at a time.
Back in Dublin, the Steinbergs worked desperately to save their daughter Ettie by getting her and her family back to Ireland. Pleas were sent to the Vatican and the Red Cross for information, but to no avail. They eventually managed to secure three visas from the British Home Office in Belfast and sent them to Toulouse, where the family was in hiding. However, they arrived one day too late for Ettie, Vogtjeck and little Leon. The Glucks had been caught in a round-up of Jews on the 2 September 1942 and were put on a train to Auschwitz.
On this last journey Ettie through a postcard from the moving train, which was picked up by chance and posted to Ireland, cleverly coded by her to avoid destruction. It is a poignant piece of evidence that reads: “Uncle Lechem, we did not find, but we found Uncle Tisha B’av”. Ettie’s family understood her tragic message very well:‘Lechem’ is the Hebrew word for bread and ‘Tisha B’Av’ is a Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the temple This means: we did not find plenty, but we found destruction, and demonstrates Ettie’s understanding of what awaited her at Auschwitz. Ettie, her husband and her young son arrived by train on 4 September and were exterminated immediately alongside a thousand other Jews. Ettie tried bravely to protect her family and the story is a testament to the human instinct for survival.
In contrast to Jewish response to the Famine in Ireland, Irish response to the Holocaust has been less than honourable. An Irish Famine Loan of £8 million was negotiated in London by Baron Lionel de Rothschild, who waived all commission
On October 9th, 1938, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Isaac Herzog, wrote to the Taoiseach, Mr Eamon de Valera, requesting the admission of six or seven Jewish refugee doctors and dentists.
The request was refused.
Oliver J. Flanagan (22 May 1920 – 26 April 1987) was an Irish Independentand Fine Gael politician, used his maiden speech in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) to urge the government to “rout the Jews out of this country”
“How is it that we do not see any of these [Emergency Powers] Acts directed against the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the I.R.A. is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? […] There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair’s breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money.”
Oliver Flanagan, Dáil Éireann, 9 July 1943.
On the 25th of March 2014 a Memorial to Ireland’s only Holocaust victim unveiled by Tomi Reichentahl, a Holocaust survivor who currently lives in Ireland.