Margot Frank-Cohen-Full life interrupted

I could have picked any name out of millions of victims to write about today. So why did I pick Margot Frank-Cohen? No particular reason other then that she would have been 100 years old today.

A few decades ago it would have been utter nonsense to talk about someone’s 100th birthday. Hardly anyone would reach that age. However nowadays there are more centenarians then there have ever been. So it could have been well possible for Margot to still be alive today, but as you can see on her wedding picture, the people around all have a star on their clothes. We all know the color of that star was yellow. We also know that those stars were given to Jews so that they could be identified as such.

The word on their stars reads “Jood” the Dutch word for Jew. Margot wasn’t Dutch but she was born in Bocholt.

Bocholt is a city in the north-west of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, part of the district Borken. It is situated 4 km (2½ miles) south of the border with the Netherlands.

When she moved to the Netherlands I don’t know. I presume it was in 1939 the same time as her parents moved to Amsterdam.

Or it could be the case that her parents moved here because Margot already lived in the Netherlands. Because in 1939 Margot married Hein Lindeman, she was 18 at the time. The marriage didn’t last too long but the couple did have a daughter together, Sophia Juliana Senta Lindeman, born on February 10, 1940.

When you look at the dates 1939 and February 1940, things were still normal for the Jews living in the Netherlands. It was only in May 1940, after the German occupation, things started to change gradually for the Jews.

As stated earlier the marriage between Margot and Hein didn’t last long they divorced in 1941.

This is the astonishing bit, neither of them gave up on love. Despite the fact that so many of their friends and families were already deported, both Margot and Hein re-married. Hein married Alida (Ali) Druyf in May 1942. Just over 4 months later Alida was murdered in Auschwitz on September 28,1942. Hein was murdered in Sobibor on April 23,1943.

Margot married Siegfried Frank in 1942 in Camp Westerbork. The picture at the start of the blog is from their wedding day.Margot was Murdered in Auschwitz together with her 4 year old daughter on October 6,1944. They were put on transport Transport XXIV/7, no. 194 on September 6, 1944,Westerbork the Netherlands to Terezín Then from Terezin via transport En, no. 47 on October. 10. 1944, Terezín to Auschwitz

The irony is that her husband died on the 2nd anniversary of her ex husband. He was murdered in Buchenwald on April 23 1945, just a few days after it was liberated.

Despite Margot’s young age, she had already lived a fuller life then most people. A full life only to be interrupted by an evil ideology

Sources

https://www.holocaust.cz/en/database-of-victims/victim/149922-margot-frank-cohen/

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/195704/margot-frank-cohen

https://www.geni.com/people/Margot-Frank/6000000164906549161

https://www.joodsmonument.nl/nl/page/195703/sophia-juliana-senta-lindeman

https://www.geni.com/people/Siegfried-Frank/6000000065602842922

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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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Stella Goldschlag- Jewish collaborator.

stella

It is easy for me to be judgmental about Stella Goldschlag, but the fact is I don’t know what I would have done. However Stella did go beyond anything I would have done. Stella was boen in Berlin on July 10,1922 as the only child to a middle class Jewish family.

Although the family did observe all the Jewish holidays, they were German citizens. Her father was a World War I veteran.

But like any other Jewish family they were treated as lesser citizens with the arrival of the Nuremberg laws, and gradually their lives would become more and more perilous. After the 1938 November pogrom the family tried to leave Germany, but could not get the required visas.

In 1941, Stella married a Jewish Jazz musician, Manfred Kübler. They had met whilst  working as Jewish forced-labourers in a war plant in Berlin. In  1942, when the Berlin Jews started to be rounded up and deported to the concentration and death camps, Stella went underground, using forged papers to pass as a non-Jew , her blue eyes and blonde hair gave her an ‘Aryan’ appearance.

However in 1943 Stella, her husband and her parents were found out and arrested. Manfred was deported to Auschwitz.

In order to safe herself and her parents Stella agreed to start working for the Gestapo as Greiferin(catcher) to get the Jews who had gone in hiding, sometimes referred to as U-Boats.

Stella was very successful tracing her former schoolmates and handing their information over to the Gestapo, while posing as an ‘U-Boat’ herself. Some of Stella’s tricks to apprehend Jews in hiding included promising them food and accommodation, meanwhile turning them over to the Nazi authorities.

Although she was promised that her Parents would be safe they were also deported to Auschwitz, but initially were sent to Theresienstadt. They were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau in October 1944. This did not stop Stella to continue working fort the Gestapo

On October 29,1944 she married a fellow Jewish collaborator,Rolf Isaaksohn.

They were granted a bounty of 200-300 Reichsmark for every Jew in hiding who was arrested with their help. Carrying a gun and papers identifying them as Gestapo agents, they were free to move about the city and did not have to wear the Yellow star .Initially, the Greifer HQ was located in the transit camp at Grosse Hamburgerstrasse but was lare on moved to  the pathology wing of the Jewish hospital.

On one weekend alone, Goldschlag helped the Gestapo catch 62 Jews.

After the war she went into hiding . however she was found and arrested by the Soviets in October 1945. She was sentenced to 10 years in detention.

arrest

After her detention she moved to Weset Berlin, where she was arrested and tried again, She was sentenced to 10 years , but due to the fact she already served time in Soviet detention the sentence was suspended.

Rolf died in 1945, I don’t know under what circumstances.

Stella committed suicide in  1994 by throwing herself out of the window of her apartment in Freiburg.

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Sources

https://www.tracesofwar.com/articles/5158/Goldschlag-Stella.htm

https://www.aviva-berlin.de/aviva/Found.php?id=141669

http://www.holocaustchronicle.org/staticpages/421.html

https://historycollection.co/treason-12-historys-notorious-traitors/10/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Painting for Mengele.

Painting

When you look at some bizarre connections in History, you cannot escape the fact that life sometimes has a ironic way of weaving a tapestry of coincidences.

One of Hitler’s favourite movies was the Walt Disney classic “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” released in 1937.

Disney

One of the main animators of the movie was Art Babbitt. an animator who joined the Disney studio in 1932. He  was born to a Jewish family in Omaha, Nebraska.

But that’s not where this tapestry of coincidences,or even fate, stops.

Dina Gottliebová was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia on January 21, 1923 .She was raised by her Mother, Johanna Schawl, a lone parent . Her mother had left Dina’s father when she was only 4 months old.

When Snow white and the Seven dwarfs was released, Dina must have seen the movie at least 7 times.

In 1939, when the Germans invaded her homeland, Dina was living in Prague, where she had enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1942  Dina’s mother received a summons that the Jews were being moved. Dina  left school and volunteered to be shipped out with her mother to , Theresienstadt, in Czechoslovakia.

Thersien

She was actually sent to Theresienstadt on Jan. 21, 1942, her 19th birthday. Dina and her mother stayed there until Sept. 7, 1943 when they were among 5,000 people transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.

In 1944, while in Auschwitz, Dina was chosen by Mengele to draw portraits of Roma Gypsy prisoners .Mengele wished to capture the Roma’s skin coloration better than he could with camera and film at that time. Dina agreed if her own mother’s life were spared as well,Mengele agreed.

One of the people she painted was called Celine. Dina says of painting her muse back in 1944.

“She was very sad and I said, ‘Are you sick?’”  “Celine  said, ‘My baby just died.’ It was a 2-month-old baby and she couldn’t get anything to feed the baby and didn’t have any milk. And Celine couldn’t eat anything. We had black bread with something in it—too much bran or something that made people sick—and I said, ‘Well, can I help with something?’ She said, ‘You can get some white bread.’”

Dina asked Mengele for some white bread. He delivered and Dina sneaked it to Celine, but unfortunately Celine did not survive the death camp. (I believe the portrait below is of Celine but I could not verify it, But it is definitely one of Dina’s paintings)

celine portarit

Both Dina and her Mother survived the Holocaust.Dina moved to the US after the war.

However this is not where this tapestry of life stops. There was to be one more twist to Dina’s life. On April 27,1949, Dina married Art Babbitt. The man who was the main animator of the movie she had watched so many times.

Their marriage didn’t last though. They got divorced in 1963. Dina died aged 86 on July 29,2009, in Santa Cruz California

Donation

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Sources

Goodtimes.sc

The Jewish News of Northern California

IMDb.

 

 

 

Brundibár- A Holocaust Opera.

Opera

On the 23rd of June , 1944,two delegates from the International Red Cross and one from the Danish Red Cross visited Theresienstadt  accompanied by the commandant SS First Lieutenant Karl Rahm and one of his deputies.

Rahm

During the visit the delegations were treated to an Opera by the Jewish composer Hans Krása. The children’s opera Brundibár was composed by composer Hans Krása and written by the writer Adolf Hoffmeister in 1938. for a government competition, which was  later cancelled because of  political developments.

In mid 1941 a production of the opera  was directed by Rafael Schächter, and several  of his friends,  it served as a fiftieth birthday present for the director of the orphanage at Hagibor. There had only been 2 performances of the production in Prague, both took place in secret for the Jews were banned of partaking in any cultural events.

By winter 1942 composer Krása and  the set designer František Zelenka had been transported to Theresienstadt.

By summer 1943, almost all of the children from  the original chorus and the orphanage staff had also been transported to Theresienstadt.

cast

This gave composer Krása the opportunity to reconstruct the full score of the opera, based on memory and the partial piano score that he had kept, the opera was adapted ait to suit the musical instruments which were available in the camp:guitar, clarinet, , flute, accordion, piano, percussion instruments, 4 violins, a double bass and a cello . A set was once again designed by František Zelenka, who had  formerly been  a stage manager at the Czech National Theatre.

In spring  time of 1944 the Theresienstadt ghetto was getting ready  for a visit from the  International Red Cross committee, whose aim it was to assess its function as a ‘model’ ghetto that was ‘given’ to the Jews, by Hitler. Brundibár was chosen as the opera that would be put on show  for the committee. It waswas moved to a large sports hall outside the ghetto, and Zelenka, was given the materials make improvements to  the set and costumes. This beautification of Brundibár had to happen overnight. The end scenes of Brundibár were then filmed on June 23  1944 for the propaganda  film Theresienstadt (better known under the title The Führer Has Given the Jews a Town).

film crew

The plot of the opera is about two children,Aninka and Pepíček, whose mother is very ill and needs milk to get better, but there is no money.An idea  of making money occurs to them when they see the organ-grinder Brundibár earning a living in the market. But Brundibár is an evil man , and shouts down the children. During the night,  animals from one of the posters  come to the aid of  the despairing children, and the following  day they help the children to sing louder than Brundibár. The children get  the money they need , but the evil Brundibár steals their earnings . In the end the children find him and are given back what belongs to them.

All of the cast who were involved in the Theresienstadt production were put on transport  sent to Auschwitz as soon as filming was finished. Most were gassed immediately when they arrived, including the children and also the composer Krása.

Krasa

What makes all of this worse is that the whole charade was believed by the Red Cross.

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Robert Desnos- the death of a poet

Robert_Desnos

Robert Desnos was born in Paris on 4 July 1900,the son of a successful café owner,He was a French surrealist poet who played a key role in the Surrealist movement.

When World War II broke out in 1939, he  was drafted as a sergeant. His wartime journalism appeared in magazines such as Europe, Commune, and Ce-Soir. In 1940, he started writing for the newspaper Aujourd’hui.

today

By the early 1940s, he was working for the French Resistance, provided information collected during his job at the paper Aujourd’hui and made false identity papers. As well as  publishing, articles critical of the Occupation, under pseudonyms.

The Nazis eventually discovered his role in the Resistance and was arrested by the Gestapo on 22 February 1944.

Desnos was first  sent to Auschwitz, but was later  transferred to Theresienstadt concentration camp via Buchenwald concentration camp.He died on June 8 1945 in “Malá pevnost”, which was an inner part of Terezín used only for political prisoners, from typhoid, a month after the camp had been liberated by the allies.

Robert_Desnos_au_camp_de_Terezin,_1945

Ending the blog with a translated version of  one of his poems

Epitaph

lived in those times. For a thousand years
I have been dead. Not fallen, but hunted;
When all human decency was imprisoned,
I was free amongst the masked slaves.

I lived in those times, yet I was free.
I watched the river, the earth, the sky,
Turning around me, keeping their balance,
The seasons provided their birds and their honey.

You who live, what have you made of your luck?
Do you regret the time when I struggled?
Have you cultivated for the common harvest?
Have you enriched the town I lived in?

Living men, think nothing of me. I am dead.
Nothing survives of my spirit or my body.

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The white Buses- A positive Holocaust story

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A while ago I read a comment of someone saying that she could no longer read stories about the Holocaust, not because she didn’t want to but because she couldn’t because the stories were so sad, they were heartbreaking. I can fully appreciate that, because it is heartbreaking and unless you are a complete psychopath and soulless the stories will have a deep,profound effect. However it is important these stories need to be told

Coming from the angle of someone who does a lot of research on the Holocaust,every story is hard but sometimes in a different way. Positive stories are very hard to find but there are some, as this blog will illustrate. But positive in the context of the Holocaust.

The “White Buses”  was an operation undertaken by the Swedish Red Cross and the Danish government in the spring of 1945 to rescue concentration camp inmates in areas under Nazi control and transport them to Sweden, a neutral country. Although the operation was initially targeted at saving citizens of Scandinavian countries, it rapidly expanded to include citizens of other countries.

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After a series of negotioations, the Danish Jews were released from Theresienstadt in the spring of 1945 and brought to Sweden by the so-called White Buses. A dangerous journey that took the caravan of White Busses through war-torn Europe.

All in all , an operational staff of about 300 persons removed 15,345 prisoners from mortal peril in concentration camps; of these 7,795 were Scandinavian and 7,550 were non-Scandinavian (Polish, French, etc.).In particular, 423 Danish Jews were saved from the Theresienstadt concentration camp inside German-occupied territory of Czechoslovakia, contributing significantly to the fact that casualties among Danish Jews during the Holocaust were among the lowest of the occupied European countries.

 

The term “white buses” originates from the buses having been painted white with red crosses, to avoid confusion with military vehicles.

In December 1944, the Danish Foreign Ministry received permission to bring sick police officers home from the concentration camp in Buchenwald, Germany.

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This marked the beginning of a humanitarian operation best known as the Bernadotte Operation or The White Buses. In February 1945, the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte negotiated with Heinrich Himmler for the release of Scandinavian prisoners from the concentration camps, while the Danish Aid Corps arranged for cars and buses to transport the prisoners. The Swedish and Danish initiative was coordinated, and in March 1945, the operation began. The process of bringing the Scandinavian prisoners back home was carried out until the end of April.

The Baltic German Felix Kersten was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s personal masseur.

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He lived in Stockholm and acted as an intermediary between the Swedish foreign department and Himmler. Walter Schellenberg, a trusted subordinate of Himmler, had long held the view that Germany would lose the war and encouraged Himmler to explore the possibility of a separate peace treaty with the Western powers; in this Sweden could be a useful intermediary.

With Kersten’s assistance the Swedish foreign department was able to free 50 Norwegian students, 50 Danish policemen and 3 Swedes in December 1944. An absolute condition for the release of the prisoners was that it should be hidden from the press; if Hitler got to know about it further repatriations would be impossible.

On 13 April 1945, the Danish Jewish prisoners in Theresienstadt received the message that they were going home.

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This applied to everyone who had been deported from Denmark, regardless of whether they were Danish citizens. The Danish prisoners were first gathered in the Jäger Barracks, where they had to wait for the buses to arrive in Theresienstadt. A former prisoner described the waiting time:

“Then, all the Danes were gathered in the Jäger Barracks, where we should spend the last days. There was a high fence around the barracks to keep the other prisoners out, while we Danes could go freely in and out. People gathered together outside, partly to ask for the bits of food remaining after we left, and partly to give us the addresses of their families, so we could write and tell them that they were in Theresienstadt.”

After waiting for a day and a half, the prisoners were finally allowed to board the buses that were to drive them to Sweden – Denmark was still occupied. 423 people were released from the camp that day. Not all of them were originally deported from Denmark: A few children were born in the camp; a Danish boy had been deported from Berlin; and a few Czech women had married Danish men in the camp and were therefore allowed to accompany them. 041_diis_3432_10_danske_joeder_befriet_fra_theresienstadt_c_yad_vashem

The expedition had German liaison officers; the most prominent of them being Himmler’s communications officer, SS-Obersturmbannführer Karl Rennau, while Franz Göring was a liaison officer with the Gestapo. The expedition had around 40 German communication, SS and Gestapo officers. The Germans demanded that every second vehicle should have a German officer on board. The “White Buses” expedition was totally dependent on cooperation with the Germans as the country under Nazi rule was a police state. Only with liaison personnel from the Gestapo and SS could the expedition move without restrictions.

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Neuengamme concentration camp was overcrowded, and to have space for the Scandinavian prisoners, the SS insisted that prisoners of other nationalities be moved to other camps. The SS commander had no transport of his own and required that the white buses accept the transports, so the newly arrived Scandinavians could solely occupy the Schonungsblock, a barrack building for prisoners not fit to work. Around 2,000 French, Belgian, Dutch, Russian and Polish Jews were transported to other camps. Most of the transports of prisoners for the SS took place between 27 and 29 March, from Neuengamme to subcamps in Hannover and Salzgitter and to Bergen-Belsen. During the evacuations some 50 to 100 prisoners died, and many more died in the worse conditions in the new camps to which they were transported, having been moved to avoid the advancing Allied armies.

The Swedish sub-lieutenant Åke Svenson wrote:

“We could now see how the Germans treated their prisoners in general, French, Belgians, Dutch, Poles, and Russians. It was terrible. This time the Germans had to allow us into the camp as most of the passengers could not walk the minor distance from the barracks to the road. From these barracks a group of creatures were forced, that hardly anymore seemed to be human beings.”

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On the way to Sweden the buses drove through bombed-out Germany, and sometimes they came very close to the actual bombing attacks. On 17 April, the buses reached the Danish border, where the former prisoners were received with food, cakes and flags.

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The buses continued to Odense, where the passengers rested for the night. The next morning, the buses drove to Copenhagen, and the group was sailed to Sweden. In Sweden, they were housed in two quarantine camps: Tylösand and Strangnæs. After Denmark’s liberation on 5 May 1945, the former prisoners could finally return to Denmark. Some could immediately move into their homes, which had been cared for by friends, acquaintances or the Social Service in the Municipality of Copenhagen. For others, the homecoming was difficult, since they had lost both their apartments and their belongings while they were in Theresienstadt. They were also emotionally scarred, and many suffered from physical injuries from their stay in Theresienstadt.

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Donation

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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Sources

Folkedrab.dk

Wikipedia

 

Viktor Ullmann-Musical Hero who didn’t give up.

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I was struggling to find an appropriate title for this blog because so much can be said about this man.

I am passionate about music although I am not necessarily that keen on classical music, I do listen to the works of great composers like Mozart,Beethoven.Satie,Ravel and Strauss.However all these great composers pale in comparison to Viktor Ullman.

Born into a Catholic family of Jewish origin, Viktor Ullmann studied in Vienna, where he was introduced into the circle of Schoenberg’s pupils, his literary interests embracing Karl Kraus, Wedekind, Heinrich Mann and others. In 1919 he moved to Prague, where he served as chorus répétiteur and conductor under Zemlinsky.

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He began to establish himself as a composer in the 1920s, working from 1929 to 1931 as director of music at the Zurich Schauspielhaus before moving to Stuttgart. In 1933 he returned to Prague, working as a freelance musician.

On 8 September 1942 he was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

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Up to his deportation his list of works had reached 41 opus numbers and contained an additional three piano sonatas, song cycles on texts by various poets, operas, and the piano concerto Op. 25, which he finished in December 1939, nine months after the entry of German troops into Prague. Most of these works are missing. The manuscripts presumably disappeared during the occupation. Thirteen printed items, which Ullmann published privately and entrusted to a friend for safekeeping, have survived.

The particular nature of the camp at Theresienstadt enabled Ullmann to remain active musically: he was a piano accompanist, organized concerts (“Collegium musicum”, “Studio for New Music”), wrote critiques of musical events, and composed, as part of a cultural circle including Karel Ančerl, Rafael Schachter, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása, and other prominent musicians imprisoned there. He wrote: “By no means did we sit weeping on the banks of the waters of Babylon. Our endeavor with respect to arts was commensurate with our will to live.”

While in Theresienstadt  he composed Der Kaiser von Atlantis oder Die Tod-Verweigerung (The Emperor of Atlantis or The Disobedience of Death) is a one-act opera  with a libretto by Peter Kien.

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On 16 October 1944 he was deported to the camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where on 18 October 1944 he was killed in the gas chambers.

About 1943, Ullmann and Kien were inmates at the Nazi concentration camp of Theresienstadt (Terezín) when they collaborated on the opera. It was rehearsed at Theresienstadt in March 1944, but the Nazi authorities interpreted the work’s depiction of the character of the Kaiser as a satire on Adolf Hitler and did not allow it to be performed.

 

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Ullmann entrusted his manuscripts to a fellow-prisoner, Dr. Emil Utitz, a former Professor of Philosophy at the German University in Prague, who served as the camp’s librarian. Utitz survived the camp and passed the manuscripts on to another survivor, Dr. Hans Gunther Adler, a friend of Ullmann’s, some of whose poems Ullmann had set to music. The score was a working version with edits, substitutions, and alternatives made in the course of rehearsals. Dr. Adler deposited the original manuscripts and two copies of the libretto in his possession at the Goetheanum in Dornach, the center for the anthroposophical movement with which Ullmann was associated.

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The manuscripts subsequently passed to the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basle.

The world premiere was presented by the Dutch National Opera (DNO) on 16 December 1975 at the Theater Bellevue in Amsterdam. In 1976 DNO presented two performances in Brussels and a further four in Spoleto.It was recreated in April 1977 by the San Francisco Spring Opera Theater for its American premiere, and the same group also presented the New York premiere at the Lepercq Space at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on 19 May 1977. DNO revived their production in Amsterdam in June 1978 and later that year presented five performances in Israel. In 1979 DNO presented two performances at the Nottingham Playhouse, England. All of these performances were conducted by Kerry Woodward.

Despite an uncertain future with a high probability of being killed, Viktor Ullman just kept going. To me the ultimate heroes are those who don’t give up not even when they are facing torture and death. Viktor is therefor a Hero in my books.