Actress Jane Seymour Learns of Great-Aunt Who Committed Suicide After Discovering Nazis Murdered Her Family
A great-aunt of famed British actress Jane Seymour killed herself after surviving the Holocaust when she discovered that the Nazis murdered her husband and two children, a BBC documentary aired Wednesday revealed.
The death of Seymour’s aunt, Jadwiga, came just over a year after Germany’s defeat. She was related to Seymour’s father, who came from a family of Polish Jews, the U.K. Daily Mail reported.
The discovery was revealed on the series Who Do You Think You Are? in which celebrities trace their ancestry.
According to the report, Jadwiga was living in Warsaw with her husband Herman Temerson and their two children Jerzy and Hanna when World War II broke out. In September 1942, as Nazis sent the city’s Jews to the Treblinka death camp, she and her family managed to escape, but they were separated from one another.
Jadwiga spent the rest of the war in hiding. When she emerged after the war, she discovered that her husband had been shot dead by a German soldier during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1944, with Jerzy killed soon after. Hanna, then 21, had been “seen” in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at the end of the war but Jadwiga’s efforts to locate her were to no avail, the Daily Mail reported.
“Her messages [about Hanna] got a reply saying, ‘No trace in Belsen camp’,” said Seymour, 64, who is of Dutch descent on her mother’s side. “I didn’t know who [Hanna] was and I didn’t know her history [until now] but this must have been the cousin my father went to find after the war.”
Another of Seymour’s great-aunts, Micaela, also survived the Holocaust and escaped with her family to Switzerland, where they stayed until the end of the war. Jadwiga applied for a Swiss visa in 1946 and reunited with her sister, the Daily Mail noted. In October of that same year, a month before her six-month visa expired, Jadwiga disappeared.
Her body was found a few weeks later in the local woods by a group of schoolchildren playing in the area. The cause of death was thought to be suicide and she was buried in a Jewish cemetery outside of Geneva.
Jadwiga and Micaela were the sisters of Seymour’s grandfather Lewin Frankenburg. The actress, born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg, said that although she knew both of her Polish great-aunts survived the Holocaust, she always had an interest in learning more about their lives. She was shocked to hear about Jadwiga’s fate after overcoming so many obstacles.
“To have survived so much, to have survived the loss of your husband, to have had the strength to bear not knowing where your children are,” she said. “She had the strength to go on this unbelievable journey and then when she was safe and finally with her sister, she just gave up. You can only hope that she did find peace in the end.”