Renate, the older daughter of Georg and Lilli (Engers), lived with her family in Hamburg, Germany. Before the Nazi takeover, the Jews of Hamburg were prosperous and were well-integrated into the city's social and cultural life. They were prominent in most professions. Renate's father worked as a teacher and cantor for Hamburg's large Reform Jewish community.
The very year that Renate was born, the Nazis came to power in Germany and began passing a series of anti-Jewish measures. Jews were barred from most professions, public schools, and many public places, and Jewish businesses were confiscated. Jews were stripped of their German citizenship and were segregated from the population as a whole. Many Jews began to flee the country, but others, like Renate's parents, believed that the restrictions were only temporary and would soon end.
After the wide-scale destruction, violence, and acts of terror that occurred on the night of November 9-10, 1938, Renate's parents tried desperately to get their children out of Germany. They wrote to refugee assistance organizations in England, begging them to find a place for their daughters. Because their parents could not pay for their children's care in England, the two young girls remained trapped in Germany.
In December 1941, when Renate was eight years old, the entire family, along with 16,000 other German Jews, was deported to Riga, Latvia. The 30,000 local Jews, who had already been living in the sealed-off ghetto, had been murdered by the Germans to make room for them. There was inadequate food, water, and sanitary facilities. Thousands died from starvation, disease, and exposure.
By December 1943, the ghetto was emptied of its population. Most of the inhabitants were murdered by the Germans or sent to labor camps where they were worked to death.
Renate and her family disappeared without a trace.