Steffi Bamberger-Segerman

Survivor who lived her Zionist dream as a pioneer on Kibbutz Kfar Blum


v In her memoir, A Train Journey To Life, published through Yad Vashem, Steffi Bambeger-Segerman wrote, “I chose to live in the kibbutz because I believed then, and I still believe now, that we are part of a larger thing, a significant concept.”

My great-aunt Steffi Bamberger-Segerman who has died aged 92, left Leipzig on the Kindertransport at the age of 11 before the outbreak of the Second World War and created a life in Israel, living out her Zionist dream on Kibbutz Kfar Blum, surrounded by her family.

To me, she was my beloved Auntie Steffi, who fed me home-made chocolate cake on annual holidays to Israel with my family. As I grew up and became old enough to hear them, the stories about Steffi’s escape from Germany and the new life she had forged would leave a lasting impression on my own Jewish identity and love of Israel.

Steffi was born in Leipzig in 1928 to Ludwig Bamberger and Olga Kastenbaum. She had an older brother, Heinz, later known as Henry (he emigrated to the USA, settled in LA and became a successful agent to film stars like Gene Kelly). Before the war, Ludwig and his brother Gustav owned a thriving men’s clothing store, Bamberger & Hertz, a five story building in the heart of Leipzig. It would later be destroyed on Kristallnacht.

The highly cultured Bamberger family lived in a large villa in the affluent suburbs of Leipzig. The house was filled with the sounds of Mozart and Beethoven and Steffi’s parents would go to the theatre and concerts regularly. Henry, eight years Steffi’s senior, was sent to Switzerland at 15 to be educated while Steffi went to what she described as a “general” German school. During school holidays they would take family cruises and or visit Henry in Zurich.

In June, 1939 Steffi boarded a train in Utrecht in the Netherlands and then a ship to England. She carried with her a small suitcase with pyjamas, some family photos and a few stuffed toys. She believed her parents would join her in three months’ time. Steffi wrote in her book, “I didn’t cry. I didn’t think I had to cry.” She would never see them again. Steffi’s parents were killed in Theresienstadt, her father in 1942 and her mother in 1944. Only her father’s brother, Fritz, who fled Germany for LA just before the borders closed for Jews, survived from her extended family. Steffi remained close to her brother Henry until he died in 2012 at the age of 92.

My great grandparents Sam and Rose Samuels, a cultured family in Liverpool, took Steffi in to live with them and my grandmother, Vicky and her brother, Ian. Steffi and Vicky bonded immediately and loved riding horses and watching films together. Steffi and Vicky joined Habonim, where they were exposed for the first time to Jewish history and Zionism.

After the war Henry tirelessly pursued the legal documents that proved their family’s rightful ownership of their assets. In 1992 he finally succeeded, sold the business and shared the money equally between the family.

Steffi later met Julian Sagerman, (known as ‘Sticky’ for his height and wiry frame) through the movement and they married in Liverpool in September, 1947.

In June, 1949 Steffi’s new life as a chalutzic pioneer began. She and Julian arrived at the Port of Haifa where they travelled directly to Kfar Blum at the foot of Mount Hermon by the banks of the Jordan River. Their fellow immigrants were from England, Russia, America and South Africa.Their new home was a large tent with just a bed inside and a few belongings brought from England.

Steffi wrote: “I had no roof over my head – but the wealth I felt was not materialistic, my heart was swelling. I felt part of something larger than life; I didn’t know back then that I was writing my people’s history.” Their daughter Zehava-Olga, named after Steffi’s mother, was born in 1951 and four years later their son Shmarya arrived, both born on the kibbutz. Alongside her hard work and devotion, Steffi gave much of her part of the family wealth she had inherited to the fledgling Kfar Blum, helping it to become a thriving kibbutz.

Steffi became kitchen manager there and later volunteered at the guest house shop. The guest house became a thriving four star hotel, drawing visitors from all over the world. As the resident cook, Steffi delighted in befriending guests and taking them back to her garden for a cup of tea nana, (Maghrebi mint tea) surrounded by the fragrant scents of lemon verbena and chirping crickets. A natural storyteller, she made lifelong friends, spreading the good word about the kibbutz.

Steffi’s enduring memories of moments in the kitchen with her Mutti proved a legacy that would live on, as Mutti’s famous chocolate eclairs later appeared in one of the kibbutz cook books.

As devoted as she was to her kibbutz life, Steffi loved to travel, taking her family to visit Henry in America and on pilgrimages back to Leipzig in 1996 and 2004 to her childhood home. She lived a full and happy life but her commitment to telling and re-telling her family’s story never wavered. The last time I saw her, I sat in her cosy kitchen with my husband and some friends, eating cake and drinking tea and I listened awed, as if hearing for the first time, about the journey that had brought her to the kibbutz. As usual, her old-fashioned radiogram hummed in the background.

As Steffi wrote in the closing pages of her book, “I continue to work as a cook at the Kfar Blum hotel, and when I return home from work, the first thing I do is turn on the radio. The music stays on in the background until I go to bed. This way, I feel the music of my parents’ house is still going on.” Steffi is survived by her son Shmarya, her sister Vicky, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Her husband Julian and daughter Zehava predeceased her in 1983 and 2012 respectively.


Steffi Bamberger-Segerman: born April 10, 1928. Died June 25 2020

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