Irma Pretsfelder was born Irmgard Wertheim in the small town of Bürgeln, Germany on September 4, 1926. Bürgeln is near Marburg, where Irma attended Hebrew school in a synagogue. She was born to Isidor, a cattle farmer, and Berta Wertheim, and had an older brother named Erich. Irma was only 7 years old when the Nazi Regime emerged. In 1938, Irma’s brother left for the United States when he was 16. That same year, from November 9 to 10, their synagogue was set on fire. Irma witnessed a great number of men being arrested and heard people blaming the Jews for setting their own temple on fire. On November 10, Irma’s father was arrested and taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp. However, because her father had earned an Iron Cross in the First World War, he was set free. In August 1939, the Wertheim family left Germany for England. In England, Irma’s parents worked on a farm for very little money while Irma lived with her cousin in a non-Jewish home and attended school. After the outbreak of World War II, Irma’s parents were sent to the Isle of Man internment camp as “enemy aliens.” Irma’s father soon died due to the severe conditions while in Buchenwald.
After his death, Irma’s mother was freed from the internment camp, and she and Irma emigrated to the United States in 1941. In 1945, Irma learned that her brother had been killed in Manila. In 1946, Irma and her mother moved to Baltimore to live with relatives. Irma married Louis Pretsfelder two years later. They had two children. Max passed away in 2014. Irma currently volunteers at the Red Cross Holocaust Tracing Program.
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