Westerbork Hospital-Creating the illusion of normal life.

When Westerbork was built in 1939 as a refugee center for Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria, it also included a hospital.

The hospital grounds were originally known as Centraal Vluchtelingenkamp Westerbork, a camp for refugees arriving mainly from the neighboring country, Germany. It was those refugees themselves who in 1939 built Barrack No.12 and converted it into a hospital equipped with little more than tweezers and scissors.From May 1940 to July 1942, the camp stayed under Dutch administration. Under the Dutch, conditions were still reasonably good.

When the Nazis took it over in 1942 however things changed. Westerbork became a transit camp, an stop over as such, before the prisoners were deported to the extermination camps. But it was important for the Nazis to keep the illusion going that things were still fairly normal. Therefor the Hospital played an important role.

While the doctors and managers had their heads in the sand, the harsh reality finally hit home in October 1942. A tsunami of new patients, including their doctors and nurses, inundated the camp. Jewish hospitals and nursing homes had been emptied straight into Westerbork’s hospital. This flooded the hospital’s capacity, created shortages, chaos, and one disease outbreak after the other. Both patients and personnel who fell ill found it hard to recover. Chronic fatigue was endemic. Camp disease and relentless diarrhea were common. Tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria, yellow fever, whooping cough, scarlet fever, and lice all reigned supreme. Quarantine measures became necessary, and provided one last reason to delay transport. Escape was now virtually impossible. Suicide attempts increased to around four a week, and though the medical staff again managed to save most, the psychiatric ward in Barrack No. 3 exploded.

The disturbing thing is that people who were too sick to travel to the death camps, first had to be nursed back to a reasonable level of health, in order to be send to the extermination camps.

No one was safe in Westerbork and it didn’t matter what age you were. Whether you were an infant, like the children in the picture above, or a 102 year old woman. You eventually would be send to your death.

The photo aboveshows Mrs. Klara Brush-Engelsman. She was born in Amsterdam on April 30, 1842 and was to be murdered in Theresienstadt(although some sources say Auschwitz)at the age of 102, on October 12, 1944.
The oldest Dutch victim of the Nazi terror

Of course, the question was then also why these elderly people had to be deported for the ‘Arbeitseinsatz’. Statements by Nazis that older women could still change diapers were, of course, inhumane.

sources

https://www.geni.com/people/Klara-Engelsman/6000000088276943915

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/en/page/228136/klara-borstel-engelsman#intro

https://hekint.org/2017/02/22/westerbork-hospital-a-blessing-in-disguise/

Richard Glücks-The evil man in charge of the concentration camps.

On May 10.1945, probably knowing that he was close to be captured, by swallowing a capsule of potassium cyanide at the Mürwik naval base in Flensburg-Mürwik,Richard Glücks ended his own life. Although the lack of official records or photos gave rise to speculation about his ultimate fate.

There are many biographies about this man, but I decided to stick with the facts that matter. No matter how you twist or turn it, Richard Glücks was an evil man.

Glucks was a major contributor to the execution of the “Final Solution”—the
destruction of European Jewry. He established Auschwitz, where millions of
Jews were exterminated; was in charge of the construction of gas chambers;
and helped develop the medical experiments program that was carried out in the concentration camps.
In 1942 Glucks was made responsible for a unit of the Economic Administrative Main Office (Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt), which dealt
with industrial companies regarding the use of concentration camp prisoners as slave laborers in their factories.

Some might say that Glücks was the worst of them and that he actually eased some of the suffering the camps.

Due to the extremely high mortality rate in the camps around 1942, which of course had a negative effect on the deployment of prisoners as slave laborers, Glücks sent the following memo to all camp commanders on December 28,1942:

“The first camp physicians are to do their utmost with all the means available to them, to considerably lower the mortality rate in the various camps [..] The physicians are to supervise the feeding of prisoners more than ever and submit proposals for improvement to the camp commanders according to policy. These are not to be just put on paper but must frequently be checked by the physicians. [..] The Reichsführer-SS has ordered the death rate be lowered considerably.”

But this was not because he felt sorry for the inmates in the camps, but it was solely for economic reasons.

From 1942 onwards he was responsible for slave labour and the death by work.

In July 1942, he participated in a planning meeting with Himmler on the topic of medical experiments on camp inmates. From several visits to the Auschwitz concentration camps, Glücks was well aware of the mass murders and other atrocities committed there.

On July 8, 1942, Glücks had a meeting with Himmler, Professor Carl Clauberg and others about the intended mass sterilization of Jewish women in the concentration camps. Auschwitz was designated as the camp where Clauberg was to start experimenting with various means of sterilization. Numerous prisoners succumbed to the consequences of these experiments; others endured excruciating pains and were maimed for the rest of their lives. Glücks has also ordered to develop gas cambers in certain camps in order to kill sick and weakened prisoners speedily and efficiently.

Glucks was one of the key figures of the concentration camp system. Together with Himmler and Pohl, he decided how many of the deported Jews were to be killed and determined that the hair of the murdered people was to be collected and made into ‘hair-yarn stockings for U-boat crews and hair-felt stockings for the railroad’.

sources

https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/ss-and-the-camp-system

http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/holoprelude/glucks.html

https://www.tracesofwar.com/articles/4870/Gl%C3%BCcks-Richard.htm

Only a death certificate to remember her by

All stories of children who were murdered during the Holocaust are extremely sad, but even in that there are different levels.

The story of Helga Renate Sara Zons is particularly heartbreaking . There are no pictures of her just a death certificate to remember her by, The certificate was even issued 10 years after she was murdered.

What make it really sad is the fact that she would be 79 today, she could still have a few decades left to live. But she never really had a life to begin with, she was born on April 26,1941. Her place of birth was Westerbork transit camp, she was born in captivity.

Sara only had 2 journeys in her short life. The first one was to Theresienstadt on September 4,1944.Her second and her last journey was to Auschwitz where she was murdered upon arrival on October 6,1944, she was only 3 years old.

A life never fulfilled.

Rest in peace little angel.

Sources

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Helga-Renate-Sara-Zons/01/97835

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/217307/helga-renate-sara-zons

Marie Davidson-Wallach murdered April 9,1945.

Marie Davidson-Wallach was one of the 8 Dutch Jews who were murdered on April 9, 1945. Now some people will dispute this . They will say that she probably just died because of disease our malnourishment. The fact is that she was forcibly taken from her house, transported to more then one camp, against her will where she eventually died in one of them, to me that makes it murder.

What makes it even sadder is that so little is know about Marie, but the thing that drew my attention to her is the notification of the Red Cross.

It says: “We have been advised by our Lisbon Delegate that the parcel(s) addresses as under in your behalf has/have been returned owing to the addressee(s) having gone away without leaving a new address .

As the content of the parcel, on its receipt in Lisbon were found, owing to its length of time in transit, to be not fit anymore for consumption, we regret we are unable to make you any allowance in this instance”

I don’t know the date of the document but it is reasonable to assume it was sent, while the Dutch Royal family were still in exile in the UK , because it was issued by the Netherland Red Cross with then crown princess HRH Juliana as president of the organisation.

One might think that the notification is a fair note, but it is not. The address mentioned ,Zuider Amstellaan 57 huis, Amsterdam, was the address of Marie’s parents. The note says ‘having gone away without leaving a new address’ who have wrote that must have known that they were forced out of their house, they did not leave voluntarily.

Marie married Jaap Davidson on March 31,1942 . The marriage ceremony took place at Marie’s parents’ house. There was no party or reception.

On September 4,1944 Marie was deported to Theresiënstadt. I am not sure if she had been in a transit camp like Westerbork prior to that, but it is safe to presume she had. On the transport there were another 653 people , Walter Suskind, a German Jew who helped about 600 Jewish children escape the Holocaust, was one of them.

I don’t know when Marie was deported to Bergen Belsen, but it is there were she found her untimely death on April 9,1945 by an evil regime that had not deemed her worthy to live.

She was born in Amsterdam, on the 8th of February 1920, she was aged 25 when she died.

I don’t know what happened to her husband, but I know her parents survived the war.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/153799/marie-davidson-wallach

https://www.oorlogsbronnen.nl/tijdlijn/Marie-Davidson-Wallach/02/32507

Donation

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Report on eyewitness accounts of Theresienstadt

Theresienstadt, also known as Terezín, was a town in northern Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), it was used from 1941 to 1945 by the Nazis as a walled ghetto and concentration camp, and was also used as a transit camp for western Jews en route to Auschwitz and other extermination camps.

In 1943 the Nazis sent some 500 Danish Jews, who had managed to escape to Sweden. While Europeans elsewhere often quickly lost interest in their deported Jewish fellow citizens, the Danes persisted in demanding that the Germans account for these Danish citizens and allow the Red Cross to visit the ghetto.

To dispel rumours about the extermination camps, the Nazis permitted the visit, but they arranged an elaborate hoax. They deported many camp residents to Auschwitz to minimize the appearance of overcrowding and erected fake stores and cafés to give the appearance of a life of comfort and ease. The Red Cross visited the Danish Jews—no more than two or three in a room—in freshly painted quarters. A children’s opera, Brundibar, was performed for the guests. The hoax succeeded so well that the Nazis made a propaganda film at Theresienstadt showing how well the Jews were living under the benevolent protection of the Third Reich. When the filming was finished, the Nazis deported most of the cast, including nearly all of the children, to Auschwitz.

On September 18,1945 Lt. Colonel J.H.M. Benbow from the Indian army had compiled a report on eyewitness accounts of Theresienstadt.

Below is the transcript of the report.


Senior Search Officer
HQ 1 Corps District
14, Sudstrasse,
Iserlohn
B.A.O.R.

To: – Search Bureau

Bunde, BAOR. 18 Sept 1945

——————–

Subject: – Theresienstadt

Reference your PWDP/55711 dated 9th Sept 1945 and conversation of 15-9-45 between Col. ALLAN and Col. BENBOW.

  1. Samuel Wolff’s home was visited a second time in accordance with your request but he was not available and in view of the fact that he is an old man and not very well, it was deemed more desirable to obtain the information you required from other personnel in the vicinity of Iserlohn whom Lt. Apte knew of as having returned from Theresienstadt. A certain amount of information has been procured and it is hoped that this will give you some idea as to the conditions etc prevailing in that Camp.
  2. The following account is based on facts given by one local Jewish family but most of the points mentioned have been verified by a number of internees within 1 Corps District who were themselves at one time in Theresienstadt. The family concerned returned from Theresienstadt about two months after their liberation by the Allies.

DEPORTATION to Theresienstadt was restricted to Jews from Western and Central Europe and of those, only old people (i.e. over 60) families of disabled ex-serviceman of World War 1 with children under the age of 14, married couples of whom one member was non-Jewish and which, according to Nazi ideology, were privileged marriages. For these people, a warning of the impending deportation to Theresienstadt was given two weeks in advance, but the normal procedure appears to have been short notice of about 24 hours. 25kqm of baggage per head plus bedding consisting of only one blanket and cushion and foodstuffs for the journey was allowed.

Transport assembled at Dortmund railway station but deportees were detained for two days in a former cattle shed, from which it appeared, that cattle had only been moved just before the personnel arrived. During the short period between the removal of the cattle and the entry of the deportees into the shed, Nazis searched people for possessions. When entraining, the 25 kqm of baggage had to be stowed away separately and was not seen again. Deportees were accommodated in old passinger [sic] carriages which were overcrowded – about 1500 persons were involved in that move, in which the family concerned, took part. The deportees arrived at Theresienstadt after approximately about 36 hours journey and were then detrained after some day. At the end of July 1942, there were 15-20000 internees at Theresienstadt but later batches arrived weekly and the number increased to about 60000. The peacetime population of Theresienstadt was about 8000, but these had all been evacuated before the arrival of the deportees.

2

These 60000 persons were placed in the few small houses which were originally there and also into the five existing military billets which were not being used for administrative and industrial work. 25-30 people were accommodated in a normal-sized room, each person being allowed 2’2” x 6’ floor space. No beds were provided until 1944, (when wooden beds were introduced) and blankets were rolled up daily and placed against the wall together with the scanty personal belongings.

Sanitary conditions were practically non-existent, 400-600 people being obliged to use one water-pump in the courtyard for washing, laundry and cleaning of food utensils. Latrines were open trenches and the probable cause of much illness and disease.

Meals were prepared in a number of communal cookhouses, each one feeding upto 10000 persons. The daily ration consisted of 170 grams of bread, black coffee- (substitute) for breakfast, water-soup and half-pound of boiled unskinned potatoes or occasionally a kind of millet-pep for lunch, black coffee for supper. No mess halls were provided and deportees were obliged to eat their meals in their living quarters which made the task of keeping these quarters free of vermin so difficult, and infact [sic], almost impossible.

The death rate was approximately 100-150 per day owing to malnutrition and the consequent lowered resistance against prevalent disease. Corpses were removed from the Camp and buried in either the local cemetary or in mass graves. Later on, a crematorium was constructed and the ashes were stored away in urns or cardboard-boxes.

At the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, word came that the Swiss Red Cross Commission was expected to arrive and orders were given for all traces of these casualties to be removed. These orders were carried out and within a few days, 40000 urns or cardboard boxes had been loaded onto trucks and dumped into one of the nearby rivers.

At the same time, a special spectacle was arranged to deceive this Commission. This consisted of the construction of a children’s playground in the centre of the town, children were provided with new clothing and toys, which they had never seen before. They were then invited to a kind of garden party, with cakes etc provided. A special dance-party was arranged for adults and evening dresses and gowns etc were issued.

A few days after the Commission had departed, these same people were sent to Poland to be killed off at one of the ill-famed extermination camps.

Everybody had to work. Elderly people were engaged on administrative work or on the interior economy of the camp. The stronger and younger men were put-to work on the roads and on railway construction. Women were employed in special workshops which were set up in cold and drafty wooden huts. One of these workshops was used for the splitting up of micre into thin layers required for electrical appliances, another was utilised for the making of leather articles such as wallets, belts etc for German troops.

General conditions of work were extremely bad and even worse during the winter months.

One large wooden shed, erected on poles and standing well above the ground was erected. Three hundred people worked in this building in which there were six very small stoves. On several occasions, permission to light these stoves was withdrawn for periods ranging upto a fortnight, either as a punishment of a method of saving fuel.

3

Hours of work were very long – 14-16 hours daily and a 7-day week being normal.

At the end of 1944, it was announced that 1200 people would go to Switzerland under arrangements being made by the Swiss Red Cross Commission. Internees were permitted to apply to go to Switzerland provided they had no relatives who had previously been deported to Poland. Four days after this announcement, the personnel concerned were despatched to Switzerland and on arrival there, a few of the younger ones wrote letters, some of which did reach Theresienstadt, but no news from the older members ever came through.

In April 1945, another announcement was made that a further 600 people could proceed to Switzerland, but participation on this journey was restricted only to those whose relatives in Switzerland had asked for them to be sent and for those who had occupied a leading position inside the Ghetto Community.

Before these people could be despatched however, another Swiss Red Cross Commission suddenly arrived. This Commission was ignorant of the impending move to Switzerland which was allegedly supposed to have been arranged by the S.R.C.C. An investigation was carried out and the Camp Commandant is reported to have admitted that this move was a ‘fake’ and was really intended to supply the first batch of deportees to the newly-constructed extermination camp just-outside Theresienstadt, which had been provided with the notorious gas-chambers. But, due to the timely arrival of the S.R.C.C., these people were never despatched.

On the other hand, since September 1942, transports of personnel were despatched at intervals of 3-4 months to the so-called Death-Camps in Poland and no more was ever heard of the people involved.

In September 1944, the speed of these transports was stepped-up considerably and within five weeks, 11 transports were despatched, carrying a total of 18000 individuals to almost certain death.

When Theresienstadt was eventually liberated by the Russians, they found there, approximately 20-25000 Jews who were in an exceedingly poor state of health.

  1. It is not possible to ascertain the total number of the persons who either died or were killed in Theresienstadt owing to the SS. Guards burning the whole Registry when they desparted [sic] in a hurry just before the arrival of the Russians.
  2. It is regretted that no other information is available regarding the number of graves in the vicinity of the camp, but it is suspected that these may have been obliterated prior to liberation, in order to destroy all trace of evidence and prevent the allies from determining the extent to which this form of Nazi brutality reached in this Camp. However, the fact that 40000 urns etc of ashes were disposed of and approximately 20000 victims were sent to Poland, will give some idea as to the state of affairs that existed.
  3. I feel that this account illustrates fairly clearly the conditions etc under which these deportees were imposed, but if there are any more details required, please let me know and I will see what further information can be obtained, though a very detailed interrogation has already been carried out and I doubt whether much more knowledge of life in Theresienstadt will be forthcoming.

(J.H.M. Benbow) Lt. Colonel.

Indian Army

Senior Search Officer, HQ 1 Corps Dist.

I could not find too much on Lt. Colonel J.H.M. Benbow, but I do know that on August 26,1946 he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

sources

https://www.britannica.com/place/Theresienstadt

https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/holocaust/theresienstadt/

The shoe of a boy-The story of murder.

I always found it hard to understand why the Nazis kept the shoes of those they murdered. Of all clothing items, shoes are the most personal. Even today you don’t go to a shoe shop and just pick a pair of the shelves. You sit down and you fit them first to see if they fit and if they are comfortable.

It baffles me therefore that the shoes were kept, they had no real value, they could not really be sold to others. Then why keep them? Of course the whole Nazi ideology made no sense.

In July 2020 staff in Auschwitz could match a shoe to the name of a 6 year old victim, Amos Steinberg,

Experts at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial found a pair of children’s shoes with a handwritten inscription detailing the child’s name, their mode of transport to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and their registration number.

But Amos was not just the owner of a pair of shoes. He was a human being, a young child with a future cut short.

Amos Steinberg was born in Prague on June 26, 1938. On August 10, 1942, Amos, his father Ludwig aka Ludvik , and his mother Ida were first imprisoned in Theresienstadt, and then deported from Czechoslovakia to Auschwitz. Amos was deported to Auschwitz along with his mother in the same transport on 4 October 1944, where they were most likely murdered in the Gas chambers when they arrived.

Researchers believe that Ida Steinberg put the note inside her six-year-old’s shoe to show to whom it belonged.

Those shoes should never have been taken off little Amos. He should have lived a full live, Kicking a ball with those same shoes, maybe even breaking a neighbour’s window because he accidentally kicked the ball through it.

Amos was one of the 1.5 million children murdered. 1.5 million, potential artists, athletes, , fathers, mothers, footballers, painters, electricians ,plumbers. The Nazis did not only murder these kids but also their future and the potential history we could have had.

Amos’s Father, Ludwig, was put on another transport, From Auschwitz to Dachau on October 10,1944. He survived the war. He was liberated from the Kaufering sub-camp. He emigrated to Israel in May 1949. He became a teacher and principal of several schools in Israel. He was highly valued and liked by his pupils and teachers who worked with him. He still loved music and worked as a cantor in several synagogues. He also conducted choirs. He passed away in 1985.

sources

https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/identity-of-child-murdered-in-auschwitz-found-scrawled-inside-old-shoe-14295

http://auschwitz.org/en/museum/news/little-shoe-and-suitcase-the-story-of-amos-steinberg-continues-,1446.html

https://www.timesofisrael.com/note-in-murdered-boys-shoe-lets-auschwitz-museum-match-with-fathers-briefcase/

https://www.foxnews.com/science/auschwitz-discovery-childrens-shoes

Otto Weidt’s workshop for the blind.

Sometime you come across stories and you are amazed that they are not widely known. We all have heard about Oskar Schindler because of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” , but the story of Otto Weidt is probably just as amazing.

It is a story which is close to me due to the fact that I am half blind, and more then likely at some stage in the future I will become completely blind, I hope it will a long time into the future. At one stage I was actually blind for about 6 months, so I have an idea on how it is not being able to see.

Otto Weidt’s decreasing eyesight forced him to give up his job in wallpapering. He adapted and learned the business of brush making and broom binding.

Otto Weidt and Else Nast met in Berlin in 1931 and married five years later, on September 22, 1936. This was Otto Weidt’s third marriage; he had two sons from his first marriage.

In 1936 Otto Weidt opened a Workshop for the Blind in Kreuzberg in Berlin; Else Weidt worked there with him. Otto Weidt took great risks in trying to help his Jewish workers persecuted by the Nazis; his wife gave him constant support. After Otto Weidt died on December 22, 1947, Else Weidt took over the management of the Workshop for the Blind. She died aged 72 on June 8, 1974.

In 1936 he established a company with the name “Otto Weidt’s Workshop for the Blind” in the basement of Großbeerenstraße 92 in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg. From 1940 on the workshop was based at Rosenthaler Straße 39 in the Mitte district, occupying the entire first floor of the side wing of the building. As one of his customers was the Wehrmacht, Weidt managed to have his business classified as vital to the war effort.

Up to 30 blind and deaf Jews were employed at his shop between the years of 1941 and 1943.When the Gestapo began to arrest and deport his Jewish employees, he fought to secure their safety by falsifying documents, bribing officers and hiding them in the back of his shop. But in February and March 1943 many were arrested and deported to concentration camps during the police raids known as “Operation Factory”.

Aside from the blind, Weidt also employed healthy Jewish workers in his office. This was strictly forbidden, as all Jewish workers had to be mediated through the labor employment office, which would ordinarily post them to forced-labor assignments. However, Weidt, managed to hire them by bribery.

The Jewish Inge Deutschkron was among the eight healthy Jews employed at the workshop. Inge and her mother were living in hiding to live , Weidt arranged an Aryan work permit for Deutschkron which he had acquired from a prostitute, who had no use for it.

Unfortunately, the permit had to be discarded three months later when the police arrested the prostitute.

One of Weidt’s most spectacular exploits involved the rescue of a Jewish girl who had been deported to the camps in Poland. In February 1943 Otto Weidt hid the Licht family in a storage room in the workshop for the blind at Neanderstraße 12 in Berlin-Mitte. The Gestapo arrested the family in October 1943 and deported them to the Theresienstadt ghetto on November 15, 1943.

There Weidt could support them with food parcels. All of 150 parcels arrived. After 6 months Alice and her parents were deported to KZ Birkenau. Alice managed to send a postcard to Weidt who promptly traveled to Auschwitz in attempt to help her.

Weidt found out that as Auschwitz was emptied, Alice was moved to the labor camp/ammunition plant Christianstadt. He hid clothes and money for her, in a nearby pension to aid her return. Through one of the civilian workers he contacted Alice and made her runaway and return to Berlin possible.

Alice eventually managed to return to Berlin in January 1945, and lived in hiding with the Weidt’s until the end of the war.

Alice’s parents both were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau

In the period from March 1943 until the end of the war there were only a few employees left in Weidt’s workshop. Apart from three non-Jewish workers, there were Jews married to non-Jews or people who had one Jewish parent, as well as several people in hiding like Inge Deutschkron, Alice Licht, Erich Frey, and Chaim and Max Horn.

Of the 33 only 7 survived.

After the war Otto Weidt supported the establishment of the Jewish Home for Children and the Aged at Moltkestraße 8-11 in the Berlin district of Niederschönhausen. After Liberation it was the first secure place for children and elderly people who escaped Nazi persecution.

All of this make Otto Weidt a hero, in my opinion. Just think of it, not only did he help Jews, he helped blind and deaf Jews. They were seen as lesser human beings in 2 categories as per the Nuremberg Laws. Otto died of heart failure in 1947, at 64 years of age.

On September 7, 1971, Yad Vashem recognized Otto Weidt as Righteous Among the Nations.

sources

https://www.museum-blindenwerkstatt.de/en/first-of-all/

https://www.yadvashem.org/righteous/stories/weidt.html

Donation

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Holocaust Testimonies

There are millions of Holocaust stories I could write, but none will be as powerful as the testimonies of those who survived the darkest era.

Following are some of those testimonies.

Written by Zdeněk and Jiří Steiner, born 20. 5. 1929 in Prague, residents of Prague, former prisoners in the concentration camps of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, residing in Prague XI., Vratislavova 13, Czech nationality.

“We left Prague bound for Theresienstadt on 22. 12. 1942 together with our parents and a great number of relatives. We spent 8½ months Theresienstadt, where things had been so-so for us. We left Theresienstadt on September 6th, 1943, and, after a miserable two-day journey, we finally arrived at the Neu-Berun train station. From there, they took us to the concentration camp in Birkenau. We were told that it was only a quarantine. After the usual procedures, such as a bath and a getting a tattoo (we were given the numbers 147742 and 147743), we were clothed in old rags (children in adult clothing) and housed in camp B II b, where we spent 6 whole months. We experienced so much in this place. Through the efforts of Fredy Hirsch, a children’s home was established. We children were better off than the adults because we didn’t have to work, our food was a little bit better, and, later, our clothes were better as well. Such was our life in the Birkenau children’s camp under extremely harsh conditions. A doctor arrived in December (each camp had a building for the sick and a single German doctor, who generally didn’t know how to do much else besides sending as many people as possible to their graves, served several of these buildings). With a wave of his fingers, Dr. Mengele decided who lived and who died, just like Nero did in ancient times. This renowned doctor was very interested in us twins, which was actually what saved us despite the fact that we came down with so many illnesses. Once, Dr. Mengele took a closer look at us, but then he contracted spotted typhus. In addition to him, we were tortured by the SS man Buntrock, who had a preference for beating children.

Another SS man, probably a Russian spy, who helped one of our people escape, was shot by other SS officers after he returned.

In the meantime, the fateful month of March began. This month took away our parents and all of our closest friends — the only thing that we still had in our lives. At the start of the month, it was rumored that the entire transport that had arrived in September 1943 would be taken to the labor camp in Heidebreck. And that’s exactly what happened. On March 5th, postcards on which we were supposed to write to our relatives that we were healthy and doing fine were handed out. These cards were sent dated March 25th-27th. We weren’t allowed to write about our departure. On the morning of March 6th, as usual: Blockälteste antreten — an order for the entire transport to go to the lower section of the camp immediately. From there they took us to camp B II a. There were so many rumors going about, for example that it wasn’t a labor transport, but a chimney. We didn’t believe it because we thought it was impossible. We waited all day, and in the evening we were told that the transport couldn’t depart because 100 persons were to be reclaimed. This news greatly disturbed us. A terrible sleepless night wreaked havoc with our nerves. The people, who were now extremely distraught, didn’t pay attention to anything; everyone just wished for this uncertainty to end. Midday, on March 7th, a call: Ordnung am Block, Raportführer Buntrok geht. And he really came, read the names of several doctors, and then we heard our names. We became very frightened, because father’s name wasn’t read, and mother wasn’t present on the block. Buntrok assured father that we would see one another in the evening, and we were taken to the Krankenbau of camp B II b. There, we found out what it was really all about. There were 32 of us in total, twins and doctors combined. Mengele reclaimed us twins because he was interested in us, as we’ve already mentioned. He came to see us the next day. When we told him that our parents had left on the transport, he said: Schade. In the meantime, we found out that the cars had driven off during the night ¨

“In the direction of the crematorium. The camp was empty; flames shot up from the crematorium. We will never forget this scene. But we didn’t believe that our parents were dead. However, we soon found out the truth from a doctor who was a member of the Sonderkommando, who was forced to do this work. Mengele arrived the following day, and took us by car to the Roma camp, which was where his station was. There, he precisely measured and weighed us, measured the length and width of our fingers and nails, the length and width of our noses, and anything else that could be measured and weighed. He also took down the color of our hair and skin. He carefully inspected us. He took fingerprints of our hands and feet. He worked alone; he never entrusted anyone else with the tasks he was performing. Then they brought us to the Krankenbau and life went on. We received 2 liters of soup per day, otherwise the food was the same as before. We were also photographed and x-rayed. Jewish doctors, who guaranteed the correctness of the examinations with their lives, had to examine our nerves, eyes, teeth, and ears.
The first labor transport from camp B II b left on 1. 7. In the meantime, another transport from Theresienstadt with 7½ thousand people arrived in May. This brought the number of people in the camp to 12,500, 3,000 of whom left to work. The rest were incinerated within 2 nights. We were taken to B II f. In this new camp, they drew our blood, which made our weakened bodies feel even worse. There is one horrible experience that we will never forget: one of our torturers, the camp doctor Thilo, was making a selection, i.e. choosing the people who would be sent to the crematorium, and he took our names down. What we felt when he did this cannot be described. Fortunately, Mengele heard this and saved us because he still needed us.

The front was approaching and the mood in the camp lifted. During this time, I became a Pipel in the Krankenbau, i.e. a runner, and so I was slightly better off. But then came winter and a new year, which was happier because we could hear the thunder of cannons. A rumor went around that the camp was going to be liquidated, but nothing happened. Finally, on January 16th, they led the first transport on foot out of Birkenau. The following days were extremely vexing, because one transport after another departed. Everyone left voluntarily and we children were the last to leave, partly because we didn’t want to go. People had to walk 60 km in the cold and frost, poorly clothed and hungry. We expected to be told that trains would come pick us up. We finally got what we wanted on January 20th, the day the last SSman left the camp. This was a wonderful time for us. We went wherever we wanted, ate whatever we wanted, did whatever we felt like doing. We roamed around the SS camp. In short, we were having a great time. We went without supervision for 5 days. Then, a group of SDmen arrived. They wanted to do us in, but didn’t get the chance. They, too, fled, and so we stayed until January 27th, when the victorious Red Army took over.

On March 27th, the Czech Svoboda’s Army took charge of us and brought us to Prague. Out of our family of 18, only 3 of us survived.”

Letter from Gerta Sachsová addressed to family friends. Gerta was deported with her husband from Prague to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in July 1943, from where she was sent to Auschwitz in autumn 1944. Her parents and husband were murdered . Gerta describes their fate and her difficult postwar adaptation..

“My Dears,

We are overjoyed that we are finally in written touch with you and that we can write to you in our mother tongue. We have so much to tell you that there isn’t enough paper in the world that could contain it all. Unfortunately, it’s mostly all bad news. So little of it is good. As you have perhaps already learned from Maruška, out of our whole family only Hanka and I returned, but we are happy that at least the two of us were reunited. I must tell you all about our departure from Prague. As you know, Kurt and I were transported to Theresienstadt in July 1943 to be with our parents and Hanka. We were together there for 1 ¼ years. We were doing rather well, all told. Kurt and my parents worked in the office, Hanka in the bakery, and I mostly did nothing because I was sick. Then, in the fall of 1944, we were gradually transported — father left separately, mother with Hanka, and I with Kurt. All of the transports went to Auschwitz. You cannot imagine what we suffered through. I don’t want to describe our experiences and so it’s perhaps a little cruel of me to write and tell you so directly that our dear mother died there. Father, who successfully made it past the selection process, was shot on the Czech border on May 3rd, 1945, just 5 days before the end of the war, during the evacuation of the labor camp where he was sent. Kurt was separated from me in Theresienstadt near the train and it was only when I returned to Prague that I learned that he was held for about 3 weeks in the Small Fortress and was supposedly shot there. We are positive regarding father since he was with Hanka’s young man, who returned. Jirka also returned and we’re living together with him now. I ran into Hanka by happy chance in Prague. She had come back one month earlier than I and she no longer believed that I would return. I’m sure you can imagine what our life is like now. Our financial situation is miserable; we don’t have enough clothes to wear.

I’ll likely find an office job. Hanka is graduating in September and then she’ll probably make her living as an illustrator. In short, this is all that we wanted to tell you about what we went through. We don’t know what the future holds. We are in touch with Maruška. Her little Jana is so adorable. We have visited them several times. Please write us soon and let us know if you are coming. We would love to see you, we have so much to tell. You can’t imagine how we are faring. But at least we are happy that you will come and see us.

sources

https://candlesholocaustmuseum.org/learn/mengele-twin-stories.html?page=3

https://early-testimony.ehri-project.eu/

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Bei Mir Bistu Shein- The Ghetto swingers.

 

Ghetto

Music soothes the savage beast, that is what Eric Vogel  must have thought when he send a petition to the Commander of the Theresienstadt camp on January 8, 1943  , to start a Jazz band, named the Ghetto Swingers. The band would include the following members he noted.

Dr. Brammer (piano), Dr. Kurt Bauer (percussion), Fr. Goldschmidt (guitar), Fasal (bass), Ing. Vogel (trumpet), Langer (tenor sax and clarinet), and Fr. Mautner (trombone)

pettition

As crazy as it may seem the request was granted and the band was formed.The Jewish prisoners organized in the ghetto a lively cultural scene including jazz music.

The Jazz classic “„I Got Rhythm“ by George Gershwin became the theme tune of the band. One of the prisoners favourite song was the 1932 song Bei Mir Bistu Shein composed  by  Sholom Secunda. The song is better known as Bei mir bist du schön , The Andrew Sisters had a hit with the song in 1936.

The Ghetto Singers also included guitarist Coco Schumann  Kurt Gerron and clarinetist Bedřich “Fritz” Weiss, who had joined later.

After being pressurized following the deportation of Danish Jews to Theresienstadt, the Germans permitted representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross to visit in June 1944

After the Red Cross inspection, Commandant Rahm instructed Gerron to make a propaganda film.  Filming took place over eleven days between 16 August and 11 September 194.The Ghetto Swingers participated in this Nazi propaganda film “Theresienstadt: A Documentary Film from the Jewish Settlement Area” which is also known as albeit with the  erroneous name “The Fuehrer gave the Jews a city.”

After the camp closed, the members of the jazz band were sent to Auschwitz.

In Auschwitz Coco Schumann had to play for the SS hangmen, “for hours and hours every day, especially when they tattooed the new arrivals, because they considered it such boring work. Four members survived among those 4 were Vogel, Schumann and Roman

Ending this blog with the aforementioned ‘Bei Mir Bistu Shein’ played by the Ghetto Swingers.

 

 

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Sources

You Tube

Geni

Huffpost

 

Heinz Sommerfeld-Transport Ek no. 1458 (28. 09. 1944, Terezín -> Auschwitz)

Heinz

Around this time of year many 17 year old kids are getting ready for school exams. And although they may think it is unfair that they have to sit for hours and hours, to do their exams(I know I thought it was unfair). They don’t actually realize how lucky they are.

Education, even though it is a basic human right.it is not a certainty and it should be seen as a privilege when it is given to you.

I am sure Heinz Sommerfeld would have loved to have done his exams when he was 17, but he never got the chance. His biggest worry was staying alive, and because of an evil regime he did not succeed in that either.

He was born in Berlin on March 26th, 1927. On January 5th, 1939, aged 11, he  came to the Netherlands as a refugee without his parents on a  Kindertransport. (children’s transport)

Kinder

When he arrived in the Netherlands he was first in an orphanage in Amsterdam, but in November 1939 he was put in foster care with the Lipschits family in Maastricht . However a few months after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands he was moved again to an orphanage, this time in Utrecht.

In February 1942 he was deported to Westerbork. On January 20th, 1944 he was put on the train to Theresienstadt, from where he was deported to Auschwitz on September 28th, 1944 on transport 1458. A total of 2499 persons were registered on that transport. Heinz was one of them.

The train arrived in Auschwitz on September 29th,1944. What happened to the other 2498 I don’t know, but Heinz was murdered in the gas chambers upon arrival.

He was murdered not because he was bad but because he was perceived to be different, He was Jewish that was enough for the Nazis to kill him.

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I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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