[Portrait of the Knoll family]
Resource TypeStill Images
Date of Creation1924
Administrative/Biographical HistoryBert Knoll (birth name Berthold Knoll, b. February 8, 1923, in Vienna, Austria) was an Austrian Jew from a family of Polish origin. He was born to Josef Knoll (b. May 11, 1897 in Stanisławów, Poland, now Ivano-Frankivs’k, Ukraine, d. November 19, 1938 in Vienna, Austria) and Regina (or Regine) Knoll (née Schmetterling, b. May 15, 1898 in Zaleszczyki, Poland, now Zalishchyky, Ukraine).
The Knoll family moved from Poland to Austria in 1916. In Vienna, David Knoll, Bert’s grandfather, opened two family businesses. Josef Knoll, Bert’s father, became a partner in the businesses, and operated them until the German Anschluss of Austria in March 1938.
Josef and Regina married in 1922 in Vienna. Bert was expelled from high school just before he was set to graduate; the expulsion was a consequence of Anschluss and German racial laws. Thereafter he started to work in the family businesses, in the jute bags sale business as a delivery boy and in an electric motors factory.
Bert’s father, Josef, was arrested and beaten during Kristallnacht. He died a few days later in hospital as a consequence of the beating. On the death certificate the cause of death was attributed to pneumonia.
After Josef’s death, in December 1938 Bert tried to escape to Switzerland, but was captured by police in the Swiss border town of Basel and forced back into Austria. Bert tried again to leave Austria for the Netherlands, but he retreated to Vienna when he learned that the Dutch border was even more heavily guarded than the Swiss border, and that Dutch police handed refugees directly to the Gestapo. Regina moved to Cambridge, England, in April 1939, after she obtained a job as cook and housekeeper with the help of a relative living in England. Bert followed her, in June 1939, after she arranged a permit for him with the help of the Cambridge Refugee Committee.
Bert was on the last Kindertransport train out of Vienna bound for England. He reached England and joined Regina in July 1939 and started to work as a cook trainee at Magdalene College, at the University of Cambridge.
In May 1940 the English government interned him as enemy alien in a military camp. Enemy aliens, as well as German war prisoners, were transferred to Liverpool, then to the Isle of Man in Scotland and later transported to Canada on the converted Polish army troop carrier Sobieski. Bert Knoll landed in Quebec City and after few days moved to the camp at Trois-Rivières and then to the Ripples internment camp, near Fredericton, NB. Bert worked in both camps in the kitchen, and for a while as a lumberjack, until an injury forced him back to work as a cook. In the fall of 1941 he was moved to the Sherbrooke internment camp, where he worked as shoemaker and then again in the kitchen and later as a table saw operator, producing ammunition for the Canadian Army. In late 1942 he was transferred to the camp at Ile-aux-Noix, where he fell ill with a collapsed lung. He was moved to Ste. Anne de Bellevue military hospital and stayed there until January 1944 when he was transferred to the Mount Sinai sanatorium in the town of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, 100 kilometres northwest of Montréal.
Molly Knoll (birth name Malka Klein, b. 1926, in Palestine) was born to Anne (b. 1904 in Jerusalem, d. May 8, 1993 in Montréal, Canada) and Joseph Klein (b. 1900, Hungary, d. 1957 in Montréal, Canada). Joseph Klein immigrated from Hungary to Haifa (then in Palestine), where he married Anne. In 1930 they moved from Palestine to Canada, following Joseph’s sisters and their families, who moved to Canada a few years earlier. They lived shortly in Belleville, ON, and moved to Montréal in 1932.
Molly worked in the needle business until she contracted tuberculosis in the late 1940s and was hospitalized at the sanitorium in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, where she met Bert. They married on June 25, 1950, in Montréal.
After the marriage, Molly earned a master’s degree in early childhood education from Sir George Williams University (a precursor of Concordia University) in Montréal and taught in the Early Childhood Education department at Vanier College in Montréal, eventually becoming head of the department until her retirement in 1995. Bert worked in several offices in Montréal. In 1954 he was hired at the Canadian branch of a German diesel engine manufacturer where he worked until his retirement in the early 1980s.
In the late 1990s, Bert and Molly moved to Ottawa to live closer to family. Bert spoke at schools, clubs and cultural organizations about his life experience in Vienna, his escape to England on a Kindertransport train and his life as an enemy alien in Canada. He was a committed philanthropist who donated to many charitable organizations. Bert Knoll died March 6, 2015, in Ottawa. Molly Knoll died June 27, 2007, in Ottawa. They are buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery (Young Israel of Chomedey section) in Montée St-François, QC. Bert and Molly had two children, Joel and Jeff.
Extent & Medium1 photograph : black and white ; 11.3 x 17 cm
Scope & ContentItem is a portrait of the Knoll family taken in Vienna on May 1, 1924. Bert Knoll, who was fourteen months old, sits on his mother Regina’s lap. His father Josef is standing behind them. The photograph also depicts unnamed relatives.
Date and handwritten note in German on back.