When he was only three years old, Stephen Ollendorff was whisked from his
home in Berlin, Germany, in order to escape the horrors of Hitler's reign. The
day after Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass,” his parents
secured temporary visas from the British consulate and flew to England with
their young son. Less than a month later, they were on a ship to the United
States. The young boy and his mother, Anne, lived with a Quaker family in Ohio
until his father, Ulrich, could afford to bring them to New York.
Meanwhile, the rest of his family remained in Germany, where they suffered
the horrors of the Holocaust. His grandfather died of a heart attack, his uncle
was captured and killed for showing resistance, and his grandmother, Valli, and
great-aunt both died in Thereseienstadt concentration camp, making Ulrich, Anne,
and Stephen the only surviving family members.
Fate Did Not Let Me Go: A Mother's Farewell Letter is a
loving message from Valli Ollendorff to her son Ulrich, written on August 24,
1942. A few days after penning the letter, she was sent to the camp, where she
died less than two months later. The letter was discovered in South America and
sent to Ulrich in 1985. It was kept a secret until his death in 1998, when the
family decided that its universal message of love and hope should be shared with
Valli's grandson presents this letter as part of a personal ongoing quest
to combat anti-Semitism. President of the Center for Interreligious
Understanding in New Jersey, Mr. Ollendorff received his BA from Columbia
College, then earned his JD from Columbia Law School in New York. He currently
works for a law firm and sponsors an annual lectureship series at the Columbia
University Eye Institute in honor of his father, an ophthalmologist. He plays
with and actively supports the Ollendorff Ahdeek Tennis Club, which was renamed
in honor of his family.
Mr. Ollendorff has two sons and a granddaughter and resides in Tenafly, New
Jersey, with his wife.