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16 October 2014

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Coming Home

By Ernest Sandberg
October 2007, Maesteg
A digital story from Capture Wales

"There is a gravestone in Maesteg cemetery commemorating two persons who never came within many hundred miles of Maesteg.

When my wife died ten years ago I thought that the new gravestone should also serve as a memorial for my parents who died in the Nazi camps during the war, first my father in Therienstadt in June 1944 and then my mother in Auschwitz, where she was sent.

With many thousands of others, they are both entered in the Therienstadt memorial book published in 2000. The book also contains other relatives including my eighty-five year old grandmother who was sent on a stretcher from an old people's home, but did not survive the journey.

My brother and I were able to escape to Britain a few months before the outbreak of war. We were 15 and 17. I started working on a farm, something which, as a townie, I never thought I would do, but I continued to work in horticulture.

I married in 1942. We brought up a large family and after some wanderings in England returned to Wales in 1965 so, much of my working life was spent in charge of Maesteg parks, playing fields and cemetery.

Nearly all of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren live in Maesteg or elsewhere in Wales, many of them Welsh-speaking. Having lived worked and studied here in Wales for the greater part of a long life, I regard Maesteg as our family's home town, and it seems appropriate that my parents are now part of it.

There is room for one more inscription on that, mine."

Please tell us a little about yourself.
Born in 1921 in Breslaw (then Eastern Germany). Asylum in Britain in March 1939. Married in 1942, large family. Worked in farming, market gardening, parks and playing fields etc in North Wales and England and returning to Wales in 1965 as Parks and Cemetry Superintendent in Maesteg. Retired in 1983. I have an Open University honours degree in 1981 and an M.Phil (Research Degree) in 1995. My hobbies are history, gardening and classical music.

What's your story about?
Commemorating my parents who died in Nazi Concentration Camps on a family gravestone in Maesteg Cemetry. Re-affirming that our family's home is here.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
To highlight past events that are not to be forgotten.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Insights into the production of screen material and being able to create a finished product.

Your comments

"I have really enjoyed your story. I teach your grandson, Ernest's stepdaughter, Katie and we have spoken at length about you. I am so impressed and privileged to have been able to learn about you and your family. I would love to meet you one day!" Anita, Llanelli.

"I'm a television producer who's worked in current affairs for over 15 years. The best narratives are human interest stories that are pure and honest. You've achieved that beyond what some of the pros do. And, as a Jew, I am reassured that you were compelled to keep the memory alive of those we lost. In doing so, they did not die in vain. Never again. Thank you very much for your story. It is terribly beautiful." Liane from Canada.

"I really enjoyed your story. It is great that even through the tragedy of the war you were able to find a place you could call "home". I find it touching that even though your parents never stepped foot in Wales, you are proud for both you and your family to call it your home." Mike from Canada.

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