Sunday 11 July 2021


Part V: 1942-44


1942 – July 21 – We have been travelling now for 24 hours and we don’t know where we are headed.  We often travel on secondary tracks in order to let transports to the front go ahead.  They have given me a bucket and a cup.  I am allowed to get out of the train at every stop and am supposed to try each time to obtain water for distribution to the “travellers”.  The sliding door [of the car] is [pulled back] to leave only a narrow opening, so that nobody can escape.

            Evening.  An SA man from the troop escorting us speaks to me when the train stops, asking whether I was nurse Anna from Bottrop?  And what was I doing in this train.  I explain the situation to him, and that 26 years ago, I was nurse Anna.  I have a glimpse of his eyes tearing up before he turns away and leaves. 

            At night we stop on an open stretch.  They have placed us in an unlocked section so that I can immediately proceed to look for water.  But there is no house far or near.

            The SA man comes back and says to me: “Nurse Anna, I want to help you.  I know that you saved my life that time in Bottrop”.  I answer him, that he can only help us, my husband and me.  We will not be separated at this time of need.

            He repeats that he can suggest a plan for me.  But the disappearance of two people would endanger his own life, he says, and goes away. 

            Of course I tell Maier about this strange encounter.  He is angry with me that I did not accept [the man’s proposal]: “If we are put into a concentration camp, you can more easily do something for us and for our release from the outside”.

            At the next stop I right away look for the SA man and declare that I am prepared to follow his plan.  He should tell me what I need to do.  The next station is Theresienstadt, our destination, [he says].  Everybody would be leaving the cars, only the dead would be left behind. They would be picked up a little later by a squad and piled up here next to the track.  “First you must hide somewhere and at the right moment lie down among the dead.  The train will be taken to the camp and the bright floodlights will be turned off.  As soon as it is dark, run away!”

            It is known, he explained further, that the Czech population there by the Eger was very hostile to the Germans.  “You will somehow be able to keep alive, [whereas] in the concentration camp you will soon die of hunger.”

            I was able to carry out the plan devised by the SA man.  I lay amongst the dead probably for an hour, but when they shut off the floodlights, I ran off right away.  I watched the guards walking around the high fence with fierce dogs, but they did not notice me at all.

            Finally, I came to a river and washed up.  It was a wonderful, clear summer night.  All the stars were shining.  I was afraid of encountering people.


1942 - July 22nd.  Of course, I had pangs of remorse, thought of Maier and how I could help him.  Then from far away, the bells rang.  I could see the steeple of the church.  I went there, thinking I would thank the Eternal One for my salvation and ask him to guide me further.

            I knelt in the church, communicated in my thoughts with the good Lord himself and asked him only to show me the right way.  There were only a few faithful in the church.  I just observed the preacher, who at the end of the mass came towards me and enquired about me.

            I immediately told him the whole truth, but not that I was a Jew: “I fled from the train and my husband is there in the concentration camp.  I don’t have anything to eat nor anywhere to sleep.”  The old man had a kind face and he thought immediately of how I could be helped.  He told me right away that aiding someone to flee the concentration camp was punishable by death.  So, we had to be very careful.

            In the concentration camp there weren’t only Jews. He could get in without any difficulty to offer the poor people at least some spiritual help.  He [said he] would inquire about my husband and also, if there was a chance, bring him some food.  I could rest every night on the sofa in the sacristy.  Officially, however, he did not want to know anything.

            The church itself was dirty, the floor had not been cleaned for weeks, so I tried to offer my thanks for the preliminary rescue by thoroughly cleaning the church.  The priest looked after my food and my clothing and through him I was also in constant communication with Maier.


1943 – I have now been living underground for half a year.  Last year it looked as if Germany was really going to win the war.  People talked to me now and then, I answered only yes or no.  Nobody dares to ask questions about me.  They often bring me something to eat.  They probably suspect why I am here.

            It is winter and it is very cold.  The preacher told me that Maier has a bad cold.  He is so kind to me, and I put him in grave danger.  I have taken the decision to go soon to the camp with him.  He too thinks that that is possible.  He will get a nurse’s outfit for me.  I will have the Red Cross pin on me, so nobody will think anything of it.  But once in the camp, I will quickly have to get a camp uniform.

            We have followed the plan exactly.  We took the camp uniform from a dead person.  Maier is happy that I am again close to him.  Unfortunately, he is very weak. Rumour has it that the Germans have had lots of losses on all fronts and have to retreat everywhere.  Will we live to see our liberation?

            My dear husband died in his sleep on October 21s .  He did not suffer, it was a collapse of all his vitals.   Alone I cannot and I will not continue living in this hell. “

Translated from the German by Susi Lessing. The original text is at 

Tuesday 6 July 2021




Part IV: 1926-42

1930 – They have given me three weeks’ holidays.  People who can afford it travel to Switzerland, [whereas] I am going to visit my siblings in the Ruhr region.

            I met Vice-principal Maier Andorn.  He is a widower, has three sons.  He made me a marriage proposal.  Now that I have thought it over carefully, I think I will accept.  He is 58 years old, but very sprightly, intelligent and jovial. He is vice-principal in the Jewish school in Dortmund.  I hope however, that we will move to Essen soon after our wedding.


1933- I get along well with my husband.  I also have a good, warm relationship with his sons.  Everything would be wonderful if Hitler had not come to power.


1937 – Hitler talks of peace every day.  People who hate should never be put into a leading position. They cannot think of brotherly love, the sole principle of peace.


1938 – My husband has been [obliged to] retire.  We have moved to Essen and have a very nice house/flat?, almost too big for the two of us, at Moorenstraße 19.  All our friends are emigrating.  Our oldest son has a position as rabbi in Holland.  Berthold and Ludwig have gone to Israel.  The children of my sister Mimi will also leave very soon for Paraguay and the USA .


1938 – November.  Why do we have to suffer this?  They set fire to all the synagogues.  All well-known Jews were imprisoned, supposedly to protect them from the fury of the people.  We have to wear the star of David on our clothing and are not allowed to take public transit or sit on park benches.

            Mimi came to us agitated on the night of November 10th. They had knocked over all the shelves in the shop and had destroyed or just taken all the goods.  Alfred fled in his night-shirt to the Philippusstift [a Catholic clinic].  The nuns put him into a section for contagious diseases.  Apparently, there are still kind people, who are not infected or inflamed with blazing hatred.

            Alfred and Mimi are going to move in with us.  They are too well known in Borbeck and are fearful.  My nephew Walter was arrested by the Gestapo.  But, since he has all the papers to enter a technical school, they released him after a short time, with the proviso that he must leave Germany within 72 hours.


1939 – August – My presentiments have not deceived me.  We are at war again; people regard us Jews as allies of the enemies.  How will this end?  We are making a serious effort to emigrate, but the world is closed to us.  We are studying English diligently.


1940 – We are going through a terrible time!  Both men are sombre and depressed, but Mimi and I laugh often and sincerely and I am happy that we have not forgotten how to laugh in these terrible times.


1941 – We had an air raid alarm.  Everyone ran to the bunker which had been prepared, but we were not allowed to do so.  Food supplies are a slight problem, but there are many good people here who slip us, who wear the star of David, a bit extra!


1941 – July – Alfred and Mimi received their immigration papers for the USA.  I will go with them to Berlin.  Surely I can help them with errands.  All our friends congratulate us. Will we too get out of this Nazi mousetrap?  Alfred and Mimi arrived safely in the United States.  Walter picked them up in an American soldier’s uniform.


1942 – April – We have been moved here to Holbeckshof and have to live as a group of 15 people in a barrack built to house five war prisoners who were supposed to work here.  Dina Peters and Milli Hüüsken came and brought us all kinds of good food and a bottle of wine.   We used it to organize a real Friday night in our barrack.  This good deed put both women at risk. Thank you so much!

            A week ago my sister Paula Levisohn and her husband, who was the prayer leader in our community, and their daughter were deported to Izbica.  We are here already three weeks, and they say we will be deported soon. 

            We were “shipped” on July 20th.  In the camp and also at present, I wear my red cross pin -- not to obtain some kind of advantage, but because I notice that my instructions to sick people are followed more readily in this way.  In Bottrop, wearing this pin, I saved the lives of a number of people.  I have stood by so many people in need.  If there is a reward [for doing good], I should come in for it.

Translated from the German by Susi Lessing. The original text is at