Klara Borstel-Engelsman—Murdered aged 102

I once wrote a piece about Klara Borstel-Engelsman. Today is the 78th anniversary of her murder, and I felt compelled to do another one, just to show how utterly cruel, insane and absurd the Nazi regime was. Klara was murdered at age 102. She was the oldest Dutch person to be murdered by the Nazis.

Klara Engelsman was born on April 30, 1842 in Amsterdam as daughter of Salomon (also known as Samuel) Abraham Engelsman and Saartje Hartog Cosman. Klara Engelsman married Daniel Brush on 24 May 1865. As far as is known, the couple had no children. Daniel Brush died at the age of 76 on 9 July 1918 in Amsterdam.

At the time of her 100th birthday, Mrs. Klara Brush-Engelsman lived at the home of the Morpurgo family at 18-II Jonas Daniël Meijerplein. Later she stayed in the Jewish care home. In March 1944 she arrived in camp Westerbork, where she was nursed in the camp hospital. There she still experienced her 102th birthday. She was taken on a stretcher to the train on September 4, 1944, which went to Theresienstadt, where she was murdered on October 12, 1944.

Taking away the emotions, what was the actual point of putting a 102 year old on a train to be murdered. I know many will say she wasn’t murdered, that she just died, but if you put someone that age on a cattle train, of course it is murder.

It makes no sense on a human sense, economical sense, military sense none whatsoever, it would have benefited no one, yet she was put on that train.

Rest in peace dear Klara.

sources

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

The destruction of innocence and beauty.

The girl in the play pen is Renee Sara Gottschalk, born in the Central Refugee Camp Westerbork on 21 June 1941. The two girls in the dark dresses are the daughters of chief physician F. Spanier. The lady on the right is Rosa Strauss; Renee Sara’s mother. Her father is
Erich Gottschalk. Renee and her mother Rosa were killed in Auschwitz on 6 October 1944. Father Erich survived the war.

Rosa Strauss was born on February 24, 1911 in Bochum. Her parents were Emil Strauss and Johanna Strauss-Mendels. Her father was a cattle dealer and butcher. On February 5, 1937, Rosa married Erich Gottschalk, 5 years her senior in Bochum.

Shortly after the wedding, Rosa’s family fled to England via the Netherlands. From there they fled to South Africa. Rosa and Erich did not want to be chased out of Germany.

Erich was trained as a textile merchant, but under pressure from the Nazi measures, he was forced to work in his parents’ company, a wholesaler of advertising materials. The place was completely destroyed during the Kristallnacht. The next day he was arrested and taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Rosa was left alone. Because Rosa could prove that they had plans to emigrate, Erich was released on December 11, 1938.

Rosa and her husband fled to the Netherlands, where they ended up in a relief camp in Hoek van Holland. They planned to flee further, but were overtaken by the German invasion in May 1940. Rosa and Erich were taken to the Westerbork refugee camp. Their daughter Renée was born there on June 21, 1941. Because they were already in the camp during the refugee period, they were not put on transport for the time being.

They were ‘Alte Lagerinsassen’ but on September 4, 1944, Rosa, Erich and Renée Gottschalk were sent to Theresienstadt on transport. They only stayed there for a month. A month later, the family was sent to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt. Rosa and Renée were murdered here immediately after arrival, on October 6, 1944. Erich was chosen to work.

He survived the outside command Tschechowitz. Just before the liberation, he was sent on the death march ahead of the advancing Russian army. Erich Gottschalk was weak and collapsed, but was helped by Polish peasants. On 6 June 1945 he returned to Amsterdam as the only survivor of his family. His beautiful wife was murdered age 33. His beautiful and innocent daughter was murdered age 3.

sources

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/591473/rosa-gottschalk-strauss

The Prayer book that survived Theresienstadt

I am probably the most a-technical person on the planet. Fixing things is just something I am not equipped to do, that’s why I admire people that can repair things. I love a show on the BBC called the Repair Shop. It is a British television show that aired on BBC Two for series 1 to 3 and on BBC One for series 4 onwards, in which family heirlooms are restored for their owners by numerous experts with a broad range of specialisms.

Last night they had Gary Fisher as a guest who brought in the prayer book he inherited from his grandparents Emanuel and Gisela Fisher.

They had been unable to leave Austria after it was annexed by Germany in 1938 and were eventually sent to Theresienstadt concentration camp. They had been able to put their son, Gary’s father Harry, on the Kindertransport to England. Though many of Gary’s family didn’t survive the camps, at the end of the war Emanuel and Gisela were liberated along with the book. Signed by many of the camp’s other residents, it’s an important record of the era and a treasured family possession.

The book was in some disrepair when it was first brought to Jay Blades and his team at The Repair Shop, with the pages falling apart and faded and torn in some places. Repair Shop’s book binder Chris Shaw was tasked with fixing the item, brought in by Gary Fisher.

“My grandparents, they were in a concentration camp and they never knew when their time was going to be up, but they had their religion, they had their faith and that must have been a real comfort to them to never give up,” said Gary.

In 1942, Emanuel and Gisela Fisher and other family members were taken to Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia . Gary Fisher explained that Theresienstadt was a “show” camp, often shown to foreigners as proof of fair treatment of Jewish people. Because of this, his grandparents were allowed to keep the prayer book with them rather than have it confiscated, as would have happened in other concentration camps.

“But it was only a mile and a half up the road where people were murdered in a gas chamber, like there were in many other Nazi death camps”. Mr. Fischer was clearly very emotional and his eyes filled as he described how his great-grandparents, his grandfather’s sister and a 10-year-old nephew were all murdered in the gas chamber. “My grandparents were very lucky,” he added.

Mr. Fisher wanted to get the book fixed so it could be shared in a proper place for others to see it too. While at the camp, Mr. Fischer’s grandfather wrote a poem and drew a picture of the Jewish star hidden behind a drawing of the camp. He read the poem to the experts at The Repair Shop, stopping halfway as emotion got to him.

Below is an extract of the poem read by Mr Fischer that his grandfather wrote in his treasured prayer book, translated into English:

” Do you know we were also there,

We stood together through summer and winter,

Bind our arms and legs together and ease the pain of sleepless hours,

And soon a new day will come when we will part from one another,

But you will be prepared for when we see each other again,

And on that day we will all be free from tyranny.”

Bookbinder Shaw got to work fixing the book. He was clearly nervous because it was such an important book, Shaw said it was the most important book he ever repaired. When the final reveal was made, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Mr Fischer said, ahead of the unveiling: “I feel like my grandparents are here with me.” Once the beautiful, renewed cover was revealed, Mr. Fischer broke down in tears. “Welcome back,” he said, adding, “It’s amazing – it’s just a complete work of art.”

Uniquely, the prayer book was signed by the other survivors who were liberated at the same time, with over fifty signatures immortalised in the book’s pages,including a German phrase from one prisoner: ” So it’s finally over.”

It is stories like this that indicate that the Holocaust is still near to so many people, and will be for years to come. It is still living history for many.

sources.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0017g52/the-repair-shop-series-10-episode-2

https://www.hellomagazine.com/film/20220519140673/the-repair-shop-viewers-sobbing-emotional-guest-fix/

https://www.geni.com/people/Emanuel-Fischer/6000000080814212826

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/uk-news/bbc-repair-shop-viewers-applaud-23999510

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/

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

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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They did not like my smile

Peter Ginz

They did not like my smile, at least I don’t think they did, for why else do they hate me so much?

They did not like my smile, but I can’t help it, I’m a child and I am supposed to be happy and cheerful.

They didn’t like my kind, but I don’t understand I am not different then them.

They didn’t like me being kind. I am a teenager, it was what I do. My parents thought me to be kind and respect others.

They did not like my smile. Why am I so offensive to them?

They did not like my smile. Why?

They didn’t like me to be alive.

They killed me, I am Peter Ginz  I was born in 1928 in Prague , Czechoslovakia and was murdered  in Terezin in 1943.