This article was first posted to our Facebook page a year ago:
We are often asked whether we truly think we can find a photograph of every member of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force that served overseas during WWI. It is a MASSIVE task, and yes, deep down we know it is probably impossible. Below is a very sad story that illustrates what a tough job it is.
We will often look for a name from the long list of men and woman that served, and see if we can find a descendant, and then hopefully a photograph. Recently as I went through the list I spotted a unique name, Seligmann. There was only one by that name, 12/244 Sidney Seligmann, a Main Body main that served with the Auckland Infantry Regiment.
Sidney had arrived in New Zealand just prior to the Great War. He was a Jeweller from Paris. So when his home country was invaded, he was one of the first to enlist. He had previously served in the French Army, and we can only guess he hoped that he would be heading home. Of course history tells us that they ended up in Egypt, in preparation for the Gallipoli campaign. Sidney was discharged medically unfit to the French Consul in Cairo, and here his career in the New Zealand Army comes to an end. Perhaps he made his way back to France, and joined the Army there?
So I began my search for the descendants of Sidney. It didn't take long to find him. He is listed on The Shoah Memorial in Paris, France. The Shoah Memorial commemorates the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust during WW2. Could this really be our 12/244 Sidney Seligmann? A search of the Shoah records, and with the same birthdate and next of kin as his NZEF file at Archives NZ, and it most definitely was.
The record reads:
"Mr. Seligmann Sydney born in 1887 in Asnieres (France). Deported to Auschwitz in convoy No. 60 from Drancy on 10.07.1943."
It sent a shiver down my spine. Surely the only ex 1st NZEF vet murdered by the Nazis at a concentration camp. But perhaps I could find his descendants. It would appear Sidney never married, nor had any children. He did have a sister though, Ellen. Chillingly, I found her on the Memorial too, also sent to Auschwitz, and also murdered.
What of Sidney & Ellen's parents? Well they had emigrated to America in 1933, and had settled in New York. Sadly their mother Elizabeth died in 1940. Their father, Achille, when applying for his American Citizenship in October 1940, stated his children were living in France, but he had not known what had become of them. The witnesses to his citizenship petition were a Jeanne and George Seligmann of New York. Perhaps another lead? It turned out that these were Achille's siblings. The three lived together until their deaths, Jeanne and George never marrying, and Achilles remaining a widower.
So, what are the chances of finding a photograph of Sidney? We admit it's tough, but that is why we are always looking for group photographs where individuals are named. Perhaps he will show up in one of these.
At least though now his story has been discovered, one more can be remembered