The escape and murder of the Gruenbergers
The Gruenberger family

The Gruenberger family lived in Fiume (now Rijeka) after the First World War. Adele Horitzki was born into a Jewish family in Fiume in 1890. Her older sister was Regina Horitzki (*1888). In 1919, Adele married Sigismondo Gruenberger (*1881), who originally came from Czechoslovakia. He was a wholesaler of textiles. After their marriage, they had two children, Egone (*1920) and Erico (*1924).

In 1940, Sigismondo Gruenberger was arrested on the basis of the Italian Racial Law and transferred to the campo di concentramento in Notaresco in Abruzzo.

In the summer of 1943, after the occupation of northern and central Italy by the German Wehrmacht, German troops, the SS and Italian fascists arrested more and more Jews in order to intern and deport them. In October 1943, Adele Horitzki Gruenberger and her sister Regina Horitzki, her sons Erico Gruenberger and Egone Gruenberger, as well as his newlywed wife Edith Szimkovits Gruenberger (*1921), set off on the run. In Milan, they looked for ways to get abroad and prepared their journey to Switzerland.

In mid-December, they arrived in Cannobio on Lake Maggiore, about 8 kilometres from the Swiss border. After an arduous walk, the family reached the Swiss border on 17 December 1943, where they turned themselves in to the authorities and applied for asylum. They spent the night in Brissago, but on the morning of 18 December they were told that they all had to return to Italy, except Edith Gruenberger, who was pregnant. Adele, her sons Egone and Erico and her aunt Regina were taken by rowing boat from Brissago to Dirinella on the opposite side of the lake, the last Swiss town before the border. A Swiss border guard then accompanied them to the unguarded border with Italy. From there, they were told to walk to the next railway station in Pino, on the line to Luino. Shortly before the Gruenbergs arrived there, they were arrested by a German patrol of the Zollgrenzschutz.

The family was transferred to Varese prison, where they remained incarcerated until 27 January 1944. This was followed by three days in the S. Vittore prison in Milan. From here, on 30 January 1944, hundreds of Jewish prisoners, including Adele Horitzki, her two sons and her sister, were transferred by SS lorries to the Stazione Centrale in Milan, to the notorious underground railway track 21. 65 prisoners were crammed into each freight car. The train departed on 30 January 1944, bound for Poland and Auschwitz.

Egone managed to escape the next day by jumping out of the moving train through a window slit in the goods wagon. After a long escape, he arrived in Switzerland at the end of February 1944 and was taken in this time.  Adele Horitzki Gruenberger, her son Erico Gruenberger and her sister Regina Horitzki remained imprisoned on the train and were deported to Auschwitz.  It is not known exactly when they were killed. 

Order your copy of ‘Respinti. Il dramma della famiglia ebrea Gruenberger in fuga (1943-1944)’ and immerse yourself in this dramatic and important story. The publication is written in Italian and is also available on