Gertrude "Trudy" Boyar was born Gertrude Reichman in Freiburg, Germany, November 15, 1920, to Marie and Ignatz Reichman. The third of four daughters: Erna, Gella, and Hannah. The family were merchants in Freiburg, and owned their own business, living above their shop with their grandfather who died in the late 1920's. All of the sisters had a formal education in the German school system until the 1930's when the Nazis seized control and barred Jews from school.
In the late 1930’s, Erna left Freiburg. She had met her boyfriend Leo whom she eventually married. Leo was born in Poland and in 1938 all Jews who had Polish passports were forced to leave Germany and return to Poland. Erna and Leo escaped to Belgium so they could be together.
In 1937, on her 18th birthday, Gella received her certification papers to emigrate to Palestine. Trudy also applied and received her papers as well. However, she gave them to another girl who was actively being hunted by the Nazis. When Trudy turned 18, her parents again attempted to get her out of Germany, in any way possible. Her father had experienced the full brutality of Nazi treatment of Jews. On Kristallnacht, November 8-9, 1938 he was beaten up by the Nazi thugs, his shop was ransacked and ruined, and he was arrested and imprisoned in Dachau for six weeks. No one knew his whereabouts until he returned home a very sick and beaten man, at risk of being rearrested unless he left Germany. This was the point when most Jews realized that they must Germany at all costs. The problem was finding a country that would let them in.
Trudy, fortunately, was able to find a position as a domestic in England. She said goodbye to her parents and Hannah who was too young to leave. On her way to England she stopped in Belgium to see her sister Erna and Leo who were in hiding from the Nazis. After spending three days in Belgium, Trudy boarded a boat bound for England. It was September 1, 1939. As the boat was crossing the English Channel, World War II was declared. However, because it was an English vessel, the boat was allowed to continue to England. Trudy, now 19 years old, worked for six months as a domestic and for over five years as a factory worker in Liverpool. She lived with Esther Duke (See also Esther Duke) who became her lifelong friend. Together they endured the wrath of the war with bombings, rationing, poverty, loneliness and uncertainty.
Trudy was able to keep in touch with her parents by mail. Unable to leave Germany, they depended on her salary for sustenance. Finally, by 1940, they too were able to escape with Hannah to, what they thought, was the safety of Belgium. Unfortunately Belgium was invaded by the Nazis at the end of May, 1940. The family was captured and killed in a concentration camp.
When the war ended, Trudy and Esther signed up to work as translators for the US Army’s Civil Defense Division. They became part of a group of twenty returning to Germany to help read and decipher letters being sent out of the country, as the US was trying to find and arrest Nazis in hiding. Michael Boyar was the US Army soldier assigned to escort them back to Germany. Trudy and Michael fell in love. After Michael returned to the United States, he proposed to Trudy via the mail. He met her at the New York Harbor. They were married on July 1947 in Rochester, New York.
Mike served as Executive Director of the Jewish Family Service of Rochester for over 30 years, helping Jewish couples from around the world relocate to the Rochester area. He passed away in 1983 at the age of 64 from cancer. After Mike’s passing, Trudy has continued to tell her story. She is tough, resilient, strong and wise. She is also my hero and has taught me many life lessons.
Biography written by: Stuart Boyar, Son