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 

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