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Women of the Holocaust ~ Page 4
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Dead Female Guard
Leipzigs Deputy Mayor and Municipal Treasurer (“Stadtkaemmerer”; since 1940)
Dr. jur. Ernst Kurt Lisso
(* March 7, 1892; † April 18, 1945),
at desk, his wife Renate Stephanie, born Luebbert
(* April 12, 1895; † April 18, 1945), in chair, and their daughter Regina Lisso
(* May 24, 1924; † April 18, 194R)_
After committing suicide by cyanide in the Leipzig New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) to avoid capture by American soldiers of the 69th Infantry and 9th Armored Divisions as they closed in on the city. Regina Lisso wears the armband of the German Red Cross.
Also found dead in the Rathaus was Mayor (“Oberbuergermeister”) Alfred Freyberg and his wife and daughter and former Mayor and Battalion leader of the Volkssturm (erroneously described as a “Volkssturm General”) Kurt Walter Doenicke as well as several Volksturm officers.
The 777th Tank Destroyer Battalion's official history says the Americans overshot the Rathaus because of old maps on April 18, and the assault began the next morning on April 19. American tanks fired on the Rathaus from 7.30 to 9.10 Hours, when a captured German officer carried in a surrender ultimatum.
The Rathaus commander accepted the terms at 9.30. the Americans captured one major general, 175 enlisted men, and thirteen Gestapo police. The American flag was raised over the Rathaus around 1200 Hours. The scene of the Lisso suicides was extensively photographed by Robert Capa, Margaret Bourke-White, and Lee Miller, as well as the United States Army Signal Corps. For reasons that remain unclear, the Freyberg family was not photographed.
For the benefit of the German Army, whose frontline soldiers suffered greatly from gas gangrene, a type of progressive gangrene, doctors at the Ravensbruck concentration camp performed studies to test the effectiveness of sulfanilamide and other drugs in curbing such infections. They inflicted battlefield-like wounds in victims, then infected the wounds with bacteria such as streptococcus, tetanus, and gas gangrene. The doctors aggravated the resulting infection by rubbing ground glass and wood shavings into the wound, and they tied off blood vessels on either side of the injury to simulate what would happen to an actual war wound. Victims suffered intense agony and serious injury, and some of them died as a result.
Nazi doctors sliced open the leg of Ravensbruck survivor Jadwiga Dzido (shown here) and deliberately infected the wound with bacteria, dirt, and glass slivers to simulate a battlefield injury. They then treated the wound with sulfanilamide drugs.
Shot at Dachau: Four Young Women Who Died for Their Country
A memorial plaque was unveiled in 1975 at Dachau concentration camp to four women who had been shot there by the Nazis thirty years earlier. The story of the heroism of Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, and Eliane Plewman is preserved in journalist E.H. Cookridge’s account of the ceremony.
Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, and Eliane Plewman were all multi-lingual officers in the Special Operations Executive of the British Secret Service. They came from a variety of places and backgrounds to volunteer in the British WTS/FANY (Women’s Transport Service/First Aid Nursing Yeomanry). From there, they volunteered for overseas work assisting the French Resistance movement, and in their various ways, made heroic contributions to the fight against Nazi Germany. For example, Noor Inayat Khan was awarded the George Cross, the highest possible civilian honour Britain could bestow.
memorial plaque to them, citing each by name, was dedicated in the Ovens Room of the Dachau Memorial. Capt. B. R. Hanauer, of the Comité International de Dachau, and himself a survivor of the camp, pointed out that the plaque was a memorial to all the other unnamed and unrecognized brave women who shared the fate of these four in the common struggle for freedom from tyranny. He expressed hope that all people, not just those who visit the camp, become fully aware of the importance of true freedom and democracy, of respect for the individual, and the rights of man, as well as the need for Peace.
Adrian H. Reed, Britain’s Consul-General in Munich, also spoke:
Today we are honouring four gallant individuals whose names and fates are known to us ...[In the] calm and cheerful dignity of their last few hours ...we in our turn can draw strength from the example of their fortitude. The memory of their remarkable courage will live on, their sacrifice will serve to remind future generations of the price which others have thought it worth to pay for freedom from tyranny.
The Rev. L. H. Morrison, the principal speaker that day at Dachau, asked: “What is the truth about Man? Is he ultimately only a thing, a collection of atoms, to be elevated or put down as the power-philosophy of the day dictates? The Nazis supported this idea with hideous and relentless logic. Or is Man, as the Jewish-Christian tradition has taught for three thousand years, a child of God; made in God’s image; a being of infinite worth, and due a limitless respect and compassion?”
This was the same question which faced the four young women who were executed in the concentration camp. As they, and their contemporaries, looked out at the world, the horrendous implications of the Nazi tyranny were borne in upon them. These four women not only saw the truth, they FACED the truth. They looked at it squarely; they knew it would be saved only at a great price; they committed themselves to it, at the cost of their lives. Christ said, “The Truth shall make you free”. The courage and the dignity with which these young women died testifies that their dedication to the truth freed them from fear, allowing them to face death with not only an exterior serenity, but what seems to have been a deep interior peace.
E. H. Cookridge, British author, himself a former prisoner in Dachau, published an article in The Daily Telegraph on April 25, 1975, called “Four Roads to Dachau,” about these four young women. Cookridge’s fonds at McMaster include the speeches given at the unveiling of the memorial plaque, and a copy of the publication.
Angels of Mercy
Canada’s Nursing Sisters in World War I and II Although Canada’s women had served as nurses in earlier wars, they acquired formal recognition during World War I. The essential role they played in this war assisted in winning the vote for women. In World War II more than 4,000 women served as nursing sisters in all three branches of Canada’s military service. McMaster’s collections include the memorabilia of two of these “angels of mercy”.
Canada’s nursing sisters played a vital role in the care of wounded soldiers during World War I and II. Called “nursing sisters” because some of the earliest nurses belonged to religious orders, they were accorded the rank of lieutenant during World War I. The nurses were an integral part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps; the majority worked overseas in military hospitals and in casualty clearing stations. Often placed on the front-line, they ministered to injuries for which no one could have trained them, and they were seen as angels of compassion by the soldiers whose lives they saved.
Canada’s military nurses had played an important role in wars before World War I. They were part of the medical team deployed to nurse soldiers during the Northwest Rebellion and they also served in the Boer War. In September 1914, 105 Canadian military nurses sailed to England with the first contingent of Canadians. By 1918, more than 3,000 single Canadian women had left their familiar surroundings and volunteered to serve their country by caring for the wounded and sick overseas. The nurses were nicknamed “Bluebirds” by soldiers, grateful for a glimpse of their blue dresses, white aprons and sheer white veils. They served in a total of thirty military hospitals and casualty clearing stations in France, Belgium, Greece, Malta and Eastern Mediterranean. The work was hard and dangerous; on 19 May 1918 No. 1 Canadian General Hospital in Étaples was bombed.
The dangers of working at the front were not restricted to land operations. One of the innovations of the First World War Medical Services was the introduction of the hospital ship, used to evacuate the sick and wounded back to Canada. These ships were also subject to enemy attack such as occurred on the night of 27 June 1917. The Llandovery Castle, a British merchant vessel serving as a Canadian hospital ship, was torpedoed while returning to Liverpool, England from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Of a Canadian crew and medical staff totalling 258, only twenty-four survived. Among those who perished were the fourteen Canadian Nursing Sisters aboard, among them Mae Belle Sampson, who had trained in Hamilton, Ontario. Escaping lifeboats were pursued and sunk by the German U-boat and the survivors machine-gunned.
Sister English served in France during the First War, as is indicated by her war badge service certificate, issued in Victoria, B.C. in 1919. This certificate would have been issued to Sister English to acknowledge her service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. She also saved two Christmas cards from the No. 1 Canadian Stationary Hospital, 1915-1916, an invitation to a War Service Dinner in Paris, dated August 1918, some postcards, photographs of nursing sisters with whom she worked, and some photographs of soldiers and hospitals.
After Germany’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the declaration of war, Canada’s Nursing Sisters answered the call of duty again. This time, Canada’s nursing service was expanded to all three branches of the military: Army, Navy and Air Force. A total of 4,373 Nursing Sisters served during the Second World War.
Nancy Kennedy-Reid was born in Carnarvon, North Wales, on 2 August 1902. She immigrated to Canada in 1926 and trained as a nurse at the Montreal General Hospital in 1929. She travelled with The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada to England in December 1940. Once there, she worked as an Assistant Matron, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC) at No. 1 Canadian Hospital, Marston Green. The hospital moved to Hailsham, Sussex two years later. In June 1942 she was promoted to Matron. She was posted to No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Andria, Italy in November 1943, later moving to Rome. She returned to England in August 1944 to serve at No. 23 Canadian General Hospital, Leavesden, near Watford. Kennedy-Reid was appointed a member of the Royal Red Cross by George V. Following her return to Canada on 1 January 1946, she became the director of nursing at St. Anne’s Hospital, St. Anne de Bellevue, Québec. She retired in 1967 and served as President of the Canadian Nurses Association the following year.
Canada’s Nursing Sisters worked amidst omnipresent danger and incurred a considerable number of casualties as a result of both disease and enemy attacks. Their primary tasks were to give the wounded comfort and try to ensure their safe return home. They had a profound effect on their profession and on the war effort in both World Wars. The Bluebirds were the first Canadian women to vote; the enfranchisement of women was one of the most dramatic changes brought about by the nurses’ overseas service in World War I. In both wars, these “angels of mercy” risked their own lives to contribute to Canada’s eventual victory.
LILLY FRIEDMAN doesn’t remember the last name of the woman who designed and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle over 60 years ago. But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her fiancé Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown he realized he had his work cut out for him.
For the tall, lanky 21-year-old who had survived hunger, disease and torture this was a different kind of challenge. How was he ever going to find such a dress in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Person’s camp where they felt grateful for the clothes on their backs?
Fate would intervene in the guise of a former German pilot who walked into the food distribution center where Ludwig worked, eager to make a trade for his worthless parachute. In exchange for two pounds of coffee beans and a couple of packs of cigarettes Lilly would have her wedding gown.
For two weeks Miriam the seamstress worked under the curious eyes of her fellow DPs, carefully fashioning the six parachute panels into a simple, long sleeved gown with a rolled collar and a fitted waist that tied in the back with a bow. When the dress was completed she sewed the leftover material into a matching shirt for the groom.
A white wedding gown may have seemed like a frivolous request in the surreal environment of the camps, but for Lilly the dress symbolized the innocent, normal life she and her family had once led before the world descended into madness. Lilly and her siblings were raised in a Torah observant home in the small town of Zarica, Czechoslovakia where her father was a melamed, respected and well liked by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Irsheva.
Four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle on January 27, 1946 to attend Lilly and Ludwig’s wedding. The town synagogue, damaged and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager materials available to them. When a Sefer Torah arrived from England they converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh.
“My sisters and I lost everything – our parents, our two brothers, our homes. The most important thing was to build a new home.” Six months later, Lilly’s sister Ilona wore the dress when she married Max Traeger. After that came Cousin Rosie. How many brides wore Lilly’s dress? “I stopped counting after 17.” With the camps experiencing the highest marriage rate in the world, Lilly’s gown was in great demand.
In 1948 when President Harry Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate, the gown accompanied Lilly across the ocean to America . Unable to part with her dress, it lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet for the next 50 years, “not even good enough for a garage sale. I was happy when it found such a good home.”
Home was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington , D.C. When Lily’s niece, a volunteer, told museum officials about her aunt’s dress, they immediately recognized its historical significance and displayed the gown in a specially designed showcase, guaranteed to preserve it for 500 years.
But Lilly Friedman’s dress had one more journey to make. Bergen Belsen , the museum, opened its doors on October 28, 2007. The German government invited Lilly and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening. They initially declined, but finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit created for the wedding dress made from a parachute.
Lilly’s family, who were all familiar with the stories about the wedding in Celle , were eager to visit the synagogue. They found the building had been completely renovated and modernized. But when they pulled aside the handsome curtain they were astounded to find that the Aron Kodesh, made from a kitchen cabinet, had remained untouched as a testament to the profound faith of the survivors. As Lilly stood on the bimah once again she beckoned to her granddaughter, Jackie, to stand beside her where she was once a kallah. “It was an emotional trip. We cried a lot.”
Two weeks later, the woman who had once stood trembling before the selective eyes of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele returned home and witnessed the marriage of her granddaughter.
The three Lax sisters – Lilly, Ilona and Eva, who together survived Auschwitz, a forced labor camp, a death march and Bergen Belsen – have remained close and today live within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. As mere teenagers, they managed to outwit and outlive a monstrous killing machine, then went on to marry, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were ultimately honored by the country that had earmarked them for extinction.
As young brides, they had stood underneath the chuppah and recited the blessings that their ancestors had been saying for thousands of years. In doing so, they chose to honor the legacy of those who had perished by choosing life.’
Klara Polzl, the mother of Adolf Hitler, was born in Spital, Austria, in 1860. She married Alois Hitler, a senior customs official, in 1885. The couple had five children but only Adolf and a younger sister, Paula, survived to become adults.
Alois Hitler, who was fifty-one when Adolf was born, was extremely keen for his son to do well in life. Alois did have another son by an earlier marriage but he had been a big disappointment to him and eventually ended up in prison for theft. Alois was a strict father and savagely beat his son if he did not do as he was told.
His father was incensed when Hitler told him that instead of joining the civil service he was going to become an artist. The relationship between Hitler and his father deteriorated and the conflict only ended with the death of Alois Hitler in 1903.
His death did not cause the family financial hardships. The Hitler family owned their own home and they also received a lump sum and a generous civil service pension.
Klara, a kind and gentle woman, tended to spoil her son. Like her husband she was keen for her son to do well at school. Her attempts at persuasion achieved no more success than her husband's threats and he continued to obtain poor grades.
At the age of eighteen Adolf Hitler received an inheritance from his father's will. With the money he moved to Vienna where he planned to become an art student. Hitler had a high opinion of his artistic abilities and was shattered when the Vienna Academy of Art rejected his application. He also applied to the Vienna School of Architecture but was not admitted because he did not have a school leaving certificate.
Klara Hitler died of cancer in 1907. Her death affected him far more deeply than the death of his father. He had fond memories of his mother, carried her photograph wherever he went and, it is claimed, had it in his hand when he died in 1945.
Alois Hitler, the illegitimate son of a housemaid, was born in Strones, Austria in 1837. He left home at the age of thirteen to serve as a cobbler's in Vienna. He did not enjoy the work and five years later joined the Imperial Customs Service.
In 1864 he married Anna Glass, the adopted daughter of another customs collector. Anna suffered from poor health and was unable to have children. When she died in 1883, Hitler married Franziska Matzelberger. She gave birth to two children before dying of tuberculosis.
Hitler, who was fifty-one when Adolf was born, was extremely keen for his son to do well in life. Alois did have another son by Franziska Matzelberger but he had been a big disappointment to him and eventually ended up in prison for theft. Alois was a strict father and savagely beat his son if he did not do as he was told.
His father was incensed when Hitler told him that instead of joining the civil service he was going to become an artist. The relationship between Hitler and his father deteriorated and the conflict only ended with the death of Alois Hitler in 1903.
Rosa Luxemburg, the youngest of five children of a lower middle-class Jewish family was born inZamo??, in the Polish area of Russia, on 5th March, 1871. She became interested in politics while still at school. At sixteen, when she graduated at the top of her class from the girls' gymnasium inWarsaw, she was denied the gold medal because of "an oppositional attitude toward the authorities."
In an attempt to escape the authoritarian government of Alexander III, emigrated to Zurich in 1889 where she studied law and political economy. Bertram D. Wolfe has pointed out: "Physically, the girl Rosa did not seem made to be a tragic heroine or a leader of men. A childhood hip ailment had left her body twisted, frail, and slight. She walked with an ungainly limp. But when she spoke, what people saw were large, expressive eyes glowing with compassion, sparkling with laughter, burning with combativeness, flashing with irony and scorn. When she took the floor at congresses or meetings, her slight frame seemed to grow taller and more commanding. Her voice was warm and vibrant (a good singing voice, too), her wit deadly, her arguments wide ranging and addressed, as a rule, more to the intelligence than to the feelings of her auditors."
While in Switzerland she met other socialist revolutionaries from Russia living in exile including, Alexandra Kollontai, George Plekhanov and Pavel Axelrod. In 1890 she met Leo Jogiches and they began "a lifelong personal intimacy (without benefit of religious or civil ceremony)". Luxemburg married Gustav Lubeck in 1898 in order to gain German citizenship. She now settled inBerlin where she joined the Social Democratic Party. A committed revolutionary, Luxemburg campaigned with Karl Kautsky against the revisionist Eduard Bernstein, who argued that the best way to obtain socialism in an industrialized country was through trade union activity and parliamentary politics.
In 1903 Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches formed the Social Democratic Party of Poland. As it was an illegal organization, she went to Paris to edit the party's newspaper, Sprawa Robotnicza (Workers' Cause). While in France she became friends with Jean Jaurèsand Édouard-Marie Vaillant.
Luxemburg disagreed with the theories of Lenin. In 1904 she published Organizational Questions of the Russian Democracy, where she argued: "Lenin’s thesis is that the party Central Committee should have the privilege of naming all the local committees of the party. It should have the right to appoint the effective organs of all local bodies from Geneva to Liege, from Tomsk to Irkutsk. It should also have the right to impose on all of them its own ready-made rules of party conduct... The Central Committee would be the only thinking element in the party. All other groupings would be its executive limbs." Luxemburg diagreed with Lenin's views on centralism and suggested that any successful revolution that used this strategy would develop into a communist dictatorship.
In 1905 August Bebel appointed Luxemburg editor of SPD newspaper, Vorwarts (Forward). During the 1905 Revolution Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches returned to Warsaw where they were soon arrested. Luxemburg's experiences during the failed revolution changed her views on international politics. Until then, Luxemburg believed that a socialist revolution was most likely to take place in an advanced industrialized country such as Germany or France. She now argued it could happen in an underdeveloped country likeRussia.
In 1906 Luxemburg published her thoughts on revolution in The Mass Strike, the Political Party and the Trade Unions. She argued that a general strike had the power to radicalize the workers and bring about a socialist revolution. "The mass strike is the first natural, impulsive form of every great revolutionary struggle of the proletariat and the more highly developed the antagonism is between capital and labour, the more effective and decisive must mass strikes become. The chief form of previous bourgeois revolutions, the fight at the barricades, the open conflict with the armed power of the state, is in the revolution today only the culminating point, only a moment on the process of the proletarian mass struggle."
Luxemburg taught at the Social Democratic Party school in Berlin between 1907 and 1914. According to Bertram D. Wolfe: "Unlike other German pundits, who did little more than repeat Marx's formulae in new works, she developed first an original, mildly heretical interpretation of the labour theory of value (Introduction to National Economy) then ventured to cross swords with Marx himself in a critical appraisal and revision of the arid and weak Second Volume of Das Kapital."
Luxemburg's book on economic imperialism, The Accumulation of Capital, was published in 1913. This was an impressive achievement and Franz Mehring described her as the "most brilliant head that has yet appeared among the scientific heirs of Marx and Engels." This work established herself on the extreme left-wing of the party. She continued to advocate the need for a violent overthrow of capitalism and she gradually became alienated from previous party colleagues, Karl Kautsky and August Bebel.
Those on the left-wing of the Social Democratic Party, like Luxemburg, were opposed to Germany's participation in the First World War. In December, 1914, she joined with Karl Liebknecht, Leo Jogiches, Paul Levi, Ernest Meyer, Franz Mehring and Clara Zetkinto establish an underground political organization called Spartakusbund (Spartacus League). The Spartacus League publicized its views in its illegal newspaper, Spartacus Letters, that was edited by Liebknecht.
In 1915 Luxemburg wrote about the First World War in her highly influential pamphlet, The Crisis in the German Social Democracy. Luxemburg rejected the view of the Social Democratic Party leadership that the war would bring democracy to Russia: "It is true that socialism gives to every people the right of independence and the freedom of independent control of its own destinies. But it is a veritable perversion of socialism to regard present-day capitalist society as the expression of this self-determination of nations. Where is there a nation in which the people have had the right to determine the form and conditions of their national, political and social existence?"
Luxemburg also pointed out that Germany was also fighting democratic states such as Britain andFrance: "Germany certainly has not the right to speak of a war of defence, but France and England have little more justification. They too are protecting, not their national, but their world political existence, their old imperialistic possessions, from the attacks of the German upstart." To Luxemburg, this was an imperialist war, not a war of political liberation.
In the pamphlet Luxemburg quoted Friedrich Engels as saying: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.” She added: "A look around us at this moment shows what the regression of bourgeois society into barbarism means. This world war is a regression into barbarism.... The world war today is demonstrably not only murder on a grand scale; it is also suicide of the working classes of Europe. The soldiers of socialism, the proletarians of England, France, Germany, Russia, and Belgium have for months been killing one another at the behest of capital. They are driving the cold steel of murder into each other’s hearts. Locked in the embrace of death, they tumble into a common grave."
Luxemburg argued that it was important to stop the First World War through mass action. This brought her into conflict with Lenin who had argued that "the slogan of peace is wrong - the slogan must be, turn the imperialist war into civil war." Lenin believed that a civil war in Russia would bring down the old order and enable the Bolsheviks to gain power. Luxemburg and Leo Jogiches took the side of the Mensheviks in their struggle with the Bolsheviks. As a result Lenin favoured the Polish section led by Karl Radek over those of Luxemburg.
On 1st May, 1916, the Spartacus League decided to come out into the open and organized a demonstration against the First World War in Berlin. Several of its leaders, including Luxemburg andKarl Liebknecht were arrested and imprisoned. While in prison Luxemburg wrote The Russian Revolution, where she criticized Lenin for using dictatorial and terrorist methods to overthrow the government in Russia. "Terror has not crushed us. How can you put your trust in terror."
Once again this work showed that she was opposed to the activities of the Bolsheviks. She quotesLeon Trotsky as saying: "As Marxists we have never been idol worshippers of formal democracy.” She replied that: "All that that really means is: We have always distinguished the social kernel from the political form of bourgeois democracy; we have always revealed the hard kernel of social inequality and lack of freedom hidden under the sweet shell of formal equality and freedom – not in order to reject the latter but to spur the working class into not being satisfied with the shell, but rather, by conquering political power, to create a socialist democracy to replace bourgeois democracy – not to eliminate democracy altogether."
Luxemburg went onto argue: "But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land, after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators. Socialist democracy begins simultaneously with the beginnings of the destruction of class rule and of the construction of socialism. It begins at the very moment of the seizure of power by the socialist party. It is the same thing as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination, but in energetic, resolute attacks upon the well-entrenched rights and economic relationships of bourgeois society, without which a socialist transformation cannot be accomplished. But this dictatorship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class – that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct influence, subjected to the control of complete public activity; it must arise out of the growing political training of the mass of the people."
Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, interviewed Luxemburg while she was in prison in Berlin. He later reported: "She asked me if the Soviets were working entirely satisfactorily. I replied, with some surprise, that of course they were. She looked at me for a moment, and I remember an indication of slight doubt on her face, but she said nothing more. Then we talked about something else and soon after that I left. Though at the moment when she asked me that question I was a little taken aback, I soon forgot about it. I was still so dedicated to the Russian Revolution, which I had been defending against the Western Allies' war of intervention, that I had had no time for anything else."
Price later recalled in My Three Revolutions (1969): "She (Rosa Luxemburg) did not like the Russian Communist Party monopolizing all power in the Soviets and expelling anyone who disagreed with it. She feared that Lenin's policy had brought about, not the dictatorship of the working classes over the middle classes, which she approved of but the dictatorship of the Communist Party over the working classes. The dictatorship of a class - yes, she said, but not the dictatorship of a party over a class."
Luxemburg was not released until October, 1918, when Max von Baden granted an amnesty to all political prisoners. In Germany elections were held for a Constituent Assembly to write a new constitution for the new Germany. As a believer in democracy, she assumed that her party would contest these universal, democratic elections. However, other members were being influenced by the fact that Lenin had dispersed by force of arms a democratically elected Constituent Assembly in Russia. Luxemburg rejected this approach and wrote in the party newspaper: "The Spartacus League will never take over governmental power in any other way than through the clear, unambiguous will of the great majority of the proletarian masses in all Germany, never except by virtue of their conscious assent to the views, aims, and fighting methods of the Spartacus League."
On 1st January, 1919, at a convention of the Spartacus League, Luxemburg was outvoted on this issue. As Bertram D. Wolfe has pointed out: "In vain did she (Luxemburg) try to convince them that to oppose both the Councils and the Constituent Assembly with their tiny forces was madness and a breaking of their democratic faith. They voted to try to take power in the streets, that is by armed uprising. Almost alone in her party, Rosa Luxemburg decided with a heavy heart to lend her energy and her name to their effort."
The Spartakist Rising began in Berlin. Friedrich Ebert, the leader of the Social Democrat Party and Germany's new chancellor, called in the German Army and the Freikorps to bring an end to the rebellion. By 13th January, 1919 the rebellion had been crushed and most of its leaders were arrested.This included Rosa Luxemburg who was arrested with Karl Liebknecht and Wilhelm Pieck on 16th January. Luxemburg and Liebknecht were murdered while be taken to the prison.
Goebbels's screen goddess mistress dies unforgiven
By Louise Potterton in Vienna
ALONE and unforgiven in her native land, Lida Baarova, the Czech film idol who lured Hitler's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels into a disastrous affair, has died in Salzburg aged 86.
She was never forgiven by her countrymen for her pre-war relationship with Goebbels. As a leading proponent of Nazi racial theories, Goebbels courted Hitler's anger through his affair with an "inferior" Slav. The Fuhrer eventually ordered him to end it.
Austrian police said Baarova probably died of heart failure. A spokesman added: "She had just vegetated, had resorted to drink and was on medication which strongly influenced her life." Her German publishers said her autobiography, The Soft Bitterness of Life, would be published soon. In an interview three years ago in her Salzburg flat, Baarova said her greatest wish was to return to her home country. But she never went back, and there was no official response to her death in Prague yesterday.
Many older Czechs still remember her with affection and suggest she was more naive than evil. Despite Baarova's fondness for memorabilia, she kept no souvenirs of her time with Goebbels. "I've torn up all my pictures of us. Thanks to him I fell into the depths of hell," she said. Friends said the two had enjoyed a passionate relationship, although the former actress prevaricated until the last: "Yes, Goebbels fell in love with me but I didn't love him.
"I was afraid of him and what he would do because I kept turning down his offers, although he always behaved charmingly and was always very nice to me. I remember he once gave me a gold bracelet for Christmas. Hitler made a huge fuss about it. He called Goebbels in and told him to drop me and return to his wife and children. I couldn't take the pressure and I returned to Prague. Goebbels never tried to contact me again."
Her life in Austria was a far cry from how she lived in pre-war Germany. At 20 she was an instant hit with her first German film Bacarole, in 1935. She later starred in numerous propaganda films. Her stunning looks made her the toast of the Nazi elite. But her affair with Goebbels was the turning point in her rise to fame. When Goebbels moved her into his villa, his wife, Magda, complained to Hitler.
Goebbels returned to his family and Baarova fled to Czechoslovakia. From 1943 she lived in Rome and worked on films with de Sica and Fellini, including La Biscara. But when she was arrested in 1945 by American troops and later tried as a Gestapo spy, it left her reputation in ruins.
Lida Baarova ~ Continued
LIDA BAAROVÁ, who has died aged 90, was a Czech film star greatly admired by Dr Josef Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.
They met at a party in 1934, the year before her first German film Barcarole made her a household name in Germany. In England critics were less impressed. "She did nothing to justify her choice for the leading part", one of them noted, adding loftily that "she possesses the generous build which has lately become popular on the German stage and screen."
Lida Baarová certainly suited Goebbels, who became obsessed with her. "He told me he loved me time and again," she recalled 60 years later, "and I felt his eyes burning into my back every time we were in the same room together." The Fuhrer too, she vouchsafed, was given to staring mutely in her direction; indeed, when he visited her film studio he seemed to her to be mesmerised. Shortly afterwards he invited her to tea.
She arrived at the wheel of her BMW, which (as she remembered) Hitler seemed to consider rather too liberated. On this occasion, however, he found his tongue to the extent of telling her that she reminded him of Gerri Raubel who, he encouragingly explained, had committed suicide on his account. Another time, Hitler told her that she should become a citizen of the Reich: "You could do well for yourself," he promised. But Lida Baarová remained immune to these blandishments, telling him that she preferred to remain a Czech. The tea invitations ceased.
Dr Goebbels's fires, however, burned ever fiercer. He lived only three doors along from the house on Lake Wannsee which Lida Baarová shared with Gustav Froehlich, her co-star in Barcarole. Though Lida Baarová always emphasised the innocence of her relations with Goebbels - "why would I be interested in a 36-year-old father of five when I was a 20-year-old beautiful woman with men falling at my feet?" - somehow Froehlich was never convinced.
Hermann Goring placed a wiretap on Lida Baarová's telephone, and enjoyed spreading scandalous stories about her and Goebbels in the highest Nazi circles. Himmler also liked to tell how there were lines of women waiting to swear how Goebbels had coerced them: "I've turned the choicest statements over to the Fuhrer." Goebbels himself felt the necessity to tell his wife Magda about his infatuation. Magda complained to Emmy Goring that her husband was "the devil incarnate". But she did not stop there, inviting Lida Baarová round to accuse her to her face of having an affair with her husband. "Don't worry," Lida Baarová returned, "I'm not interested in him."
Magda Goebbels was no more convinced than Gustav Froehlich had been, and in 1938 complained about her husband to the Fuhrer, who ordered Goebbels never to see Lida Baarová again. Goebbels's lust was strong, but his devotion to the Fuhrer still stronger. He sighed as a lover; he obeyed as a Propaganda Minister.
Meanwhile, the jealous Gustav Froehlich was rumoured to have struck Goebbels in the face, and challenged him to a duel. Hitler, furious at the scandal, banned Lida Baarová's films and expelled her from Berlin. Wisely, she escaped to Prague. As for Goebbels, he restored himself to favour when he organised Kristallnacht in November 1938, an orgy of destruction in which thousands of Jewish shops were looted, and hundreds of synagogues burned.
Lida Baarová was born Ludmila Babkova in Prague on May 12 1910, and made her first film, The Career of Pavel Camrda in 1931. Three years later she was signed up by a German company and cast in Barcarole as the innocent sexual pawn of squalid male intrigue. Of the other Czech and German films in which she appeared in the 1930s, Vavra's Virginia and Krska's A Fiery Summer are the most notable.
Her flight to Prague in 1938 did not long afford security, for in March 1939 the city was invaded by Hitler's troops. Expelled in 1941, she went to Italy, where she made several films before the Gestapo returned her to Prague in 1945. With the return of peace she served 16 months in prison on account of her Nazi past.
Free again, she found herself ostracised as an actress; in 1949, for instance, Anton Walbrook loudly withdrew from a film when required to appear in a scene with her. Soon after that she withdrew to Argentina. But she was soon back and appearing in Italian films, including Fellini's I Vitelloni (1953). In 1958 she moved to Salzburg, where she found stage work. In 1970, Rainer Werner Fassbinder gave her a part in The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
Long assumed dead, she was suddenly rediscovered in the 1990s, and in 1995 made a documentary of her life, Lida Baarová's Bittersweet Memories. Latterly she suffered from Parkinson's disease. If she ever felt guilt about her past, she rigorously suppressed it. "There's no doubt that Goebbels was an interesting character," she observed in 1997, "a charming and intelligent man and a very good storyteller. You could guarantee that he would keep a party going with his little asides and jokes."
But she was not entirely without regrets. Her involvement with the Nazi elite meant that she had turned down offers to go to Hollywood. "I could have been as famous as Marlene Dietrich," she believed. Lida Baarová married first, in 1949 (dissolved 1956) Jan Kopecky, and secondly, in 1970, Kurt Lundwall, a gynaecologist 20 years her senior.Goebbels mistress tells tales from the grave
By Peter Conradi
THEIRS was one of the most dramatic and dangerous love affairs of the Third Reich. A glamorous Czech actress who became Josef Goebbels's mistress and fled Germany after his wife denounced them to Hitler has described her turbulent relationship with the Nazi propaganda chief for the first time.
In her autobiography, The Sweet Bitterness of My Life, to be published posthumously in Germany next month, Lida Baarova writes of life in the Nazi upper echelons, where elegantly dressed ministers mingled with the film world elite.
The actress, who died alone in poverty in November aged 86, reveals that Goebbels's wife, Magda, proposed a ménage à trois to save her marriage but Hitler ordered an end to the two-year affair on the grounds that it could damage the Nazis' image as guardians of traditional family values.
It was Hitler who first fell for Baarova, then 20, during a visit in 1934 to a film set in Berlin. Three days later she was summoned to tea at the chancellery. He said she reminded him of somebody both "beautiful and tragic" in his life. To her horror, she later realised this was Hitler's former lover and half-niece, Angela Raubal, who was found dead in her Munich flat in 1931, aged 23, after shooting herself in the heart with a pistol.
Several more meetings followed, despite the protests of Gustav Fröhlich, a jealous actor with whom Baarova was living. But the Führer did not press himself on her.
She and Goebbels first met in 1936 during the Berlin Olympics in the city's opulent Schwanenwerder suburb, where Goebbels had rented a villa near Fröhlich's. Baarova was attracted immediately.
"His voice seemed to go straight into me," she said. "I felt a light tingling in my back, as if his words were trying to stroke my body."
There were other meetings on Goebbels's yacht Baldur, and he invited her to hear him speak at a Nazi congress. He promised to touch his face with a white handkerchief during the speech as a sign of his devotion.
Panicking, Baarova decided to leave town. But as her train waited at the station, a messenger arrived with roses and the minister's picture. "He was a master of the hunt, whom no-body and nothing could escape," she said.
For months Goebbels pursued her relentlessly, inviting her for trips in his chauffeur-driven limousine or visits to his log cabin on the shores of Lake Lanke outside Berlin.
Although their relationship was platonic for a long time, she tried to hide it from Fröhlich. When Goebbels rang he left messages as Herr Müller and hung up if the actor answered. One winter evening in the cabin, however, before a blazing fire he kissed her for the first time, saying: "I have never in my life been so in-flamed with love for a woman."
They met whenever he could get away from his wife. Baarova recalled his mood swings dramatically. Sometimes he amused her with Hitler impressions, at others he expressed doubts about Nazi ideology.
Rumours of their relationship spread after Goebbels bailed out one of Baarova's films. Then Fröhlich arrived home to find them on the road to the villa. He berated Goebbels and left Baarova soon afterwards.
His impertinence did not go unpunished. Goebbels later took revenge by removing his exemption from military service and sending him to war.
In the autumn of 1938, however, Goebbels had telephoned Baarova, saying he had confessed to his wife, and wanted the two women to meet. Magda Goebbels was distraught when they were introduced, and suggested sharing her husband.
"I am the mother of his children, I am only interested in this house in which we live," she said. "What happens outside does not concern me. But you must promise me one thing: you must not have a child by him."
Goebbels appeared with gifts of jewellery for both women as if to cement the love triangle. But Magda told Hitler and Goebbels was summoned to the Führer. "My wife is a devil," he told Baarova.
Early the next morning he rang again, weeping. Hitler had refused his request for a divorce and forbidden him to see her. "I love you, Liduschka," he said. "I cannot live without you."
The propaganda machine swung into gear. Newspapers published pictures of the Goebbels family, and Goebbels rehabilitated himself with Hitler by orchestrating Kristallnacht, an orgy of violence in November 1938 when Jewish property across Germany was destroyed.
Baarova was called to a police station and told she was barred from appearing in films or plays and even from attending social functions. She was pursued by the Gestapo, who organised hecklers to shout "Whore", when she defiantly attended the premiere of her film, Der Spieler (The Player).
Baarova returned to Prague, disobeying an order from Hitler's adjutant to remain in Germany. She was on a Nazi blacklist, however, and it became more difficult for her to work. In 1942 she moved to Italy and resumed her career.
She saw Goebbels one last time at the 1942 Venice film festival. He ignored her. "He must have recognised me, but he did not make a single movement," she said. "He was always the master of self-control."
In 1945 Baarova was arrested by the Americans and briefly imprisoned for collaboration. Goebbels and his wife stayed with Hitler in his bunker, taking their own lives and those of their six children on May 1 as the Russians swept into Berlin.
After two failed marriages, her career faded as Czechs refused to forgive her. She continued to deny the Goebbels relationship until the 1990s, when Richard Kettermann, a German publisher, encouraged her to write about it. Although she was in her eighties when they met, Kettermann said last week he was struck by the warmth she exuded. When she looked back at her relationship with Goebbels, however, her overwhelming emotion was regret.
Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya & Vera Voloshina.
Zoya Anatolyevna Kosmodemyanskaya & Vera Voloshina.
Zoya Kosmodemjanskaja was another Russian partisan. She was born on the 14th of September 1923 and belonged to the Diversionsabteilung no. 9903 of the Soviet secret police (NKVD), which ran some 400 agents.
On the night of the 27th of November 1941, Zoya, together with two comrades, set fire to a building in the village of Petrischtschewo nearMoscow. German soldiers quickly caught one of them - Wassilij Klubkow. Under interrogation he betrayed Zoya. She was arrested and tortured before being sentenced to hang.
Eighteen year old Zoya was executed near Moscow, on the 29th of November 1941. Round her neck was hung a sign describing the reason for her execution. Just before she was pushed off the stack of boxes they had placed under the simple gallows, she told the soldiers, "You can’t hang all 190 million of us." Her partly clothed body was left to rot in the snow.
During Zoya's interrogation, she used the name of Tanya (a popular Russian first name) as an alias and her real name was only discovered much later. Even in the newspaper article, where her execution was described in full detail, the author calls her Tanya. Zoya adopted this name from a woman called Tanya (last name unknown) who was one of the heroes of Civil War in Russia (1918-1922) and had been hanged by the White Guards. Zoya was posthumously decorated a Hero of the Soviet Union as was her brother, Shura, for his service in the Red Army tank corps. Vera Voloshina served in the same partisan group as Zoya and was described as a pretty 23 year old blonde. She had been wounded in the shoulder during a gun fight with German soldiers and captured. After torture, Vera Voloshina was also publicly hanged, later the same day.
Zoya pictured circa 1937
Zoya being taken to the gallows.
At the gallows
Her body is just left in the snow
Seventeen year old Lepa Radic was also publicly hanged from the branch of a tree, in Bosanska Krupa in Bosnia in January 1943, for shooting at German soldiers. She was made to stand on a large chest, her hands were tied behind her and she was noosed with a thin cord. The chest was pulled away leaving her suspended.
Roza Robota & Ala Gertner
Roza Robota was a Polish Jew who was an underground activist in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. She was a member of the Birkenau Sonderkommando. In 1944, this group planned an uprising in the women’s camp at Auschwitz. The plan was to blow up one of the crematoria which it was hoped would lead to a general uprising in the camp.
Using dynamite that had been smuggled in stick by stick by girls who worked in the ammunition factory, they managed to blow up Krema IV (Crematorium 4) on October the 7th, 1944.
Ala Gertner, was a 32 year old married woman, who also became part of the resistance movement in the camp and recruited Estera Wajcblum and Regina Safirsztajn because they had access to explosives. They passed whatever they could steal to Ala, who transferred it to Roza, who in turn, gave it to other members of the Sonderkommando in preparation for the operation.
Roza and her three comrades, Ala, Regina Saperstein and Estera Wajcblum were arrested, interrogated and condemned for the theft of the explosives. All four went to the gallows on January 6th, 1945. They were led out and made to stand on folding chairs placed under the beam. Once they had been noosed and their death sentences read out to the assembled inmates, the chairs were taken away and they were left suspended. Roza's last word prior to her execution was, "Nekama!" Revenge! She enjoined the other inmates to "Be strong, have courage".
Liselotte “Lilo” Hermann was a 29 year old German student. She passed information she had received from Artur Göritz about Hitler’s secret rearmament program and the production of armaments in the Dornier plant in Friedrichshafen and about the construction of an underground munitions factory near Celle to the Central Committee of the German Communist Party in Switzerland. She was arrested in December 1935 and finally sentenced to death for high treason by the “People’s Court” in Berlin on the 12th of June 1937, becoming the first woman to be condemned for this offence by the Third Reich. She was guillotined together with her accomplices, Stefan Lovasz, Josef Steidle, and Artur Göritz, on the 20th of June 1938.
Mildred was born Mildred Fish in Milwaukee USA on September 16th, 1902. In 1926, she married Arvid Harnack, whom she met while studying literature at Wisconsin University. In 1929, she and her husband moved to Berlin where she was a lecturer at the university.
They became friends with Martha Dodd and were often invited to receptions at the American Embassy where she met many influential Germans. When the war started, Arvid and Mildred supported the resistance movement against the Nazi regime through their friendship with Harro Schulze-Boysen and the spy ring known as "The Red Orchestra".
On September 7th, 1942, she was arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters. At her trial in December 1942, she was sentenced to six years in prison for "helping to prepare high treason and espionage". On December 21st, Hitler rejected the sentence and ordered another trial which took place in January 1943 and resulted in a death sentence.
At 6.57 p.m. on February the 16th, 1943, Mildred Harnack was guillotined, becoming the only American woman to be executed for treason in World War II. (By September 1943, all 51 members of the “Red Orchestra” had died, two by suicide, eight on the gallows and 41 by guillotine, including Harro Schulze-Boysen and his wife Libertas on the evening of the 22nd of December 1942).
Eva was a bookseller and also worked for the Schulze-Boysen-Harnack resistance group. She was arrested on October 10th, 1942 for passing messages to French slave workers in factories. On February 3rd, 1943, she was sentenced to death by the People's Court and was reportedly hanged on August the 5th of that year. (It is more likely that she was guillotined, however, as this was the normal method for women.)
Cato Bontjes Van Beek
Cato was born in 1921 and grew up in Bremen, the daughter of an artist. In 1942, she joined the resistance group and spy ring "Rote Kapelle" but left after only six weeks because of disagreements within the group. When the German authorities investigated the group, her name was discovered and this was enough evidence on which to arrest her, charge her with treason and sentence her to death. She was guillotined in the early evening of August the 5th, 1943.
Elizabeth Charlotte Lilo Gloeden was a 31 year old Berlin housewife, who with her mother and husband, helped shelter those who were persecuted by the Nazis, by hiding them for weeks at a time in their flat. Among those they took in was resistance leader, Dr. Carl Goerdeler and the Mayor of Leipzig. Elizabeth, her mother and husband, were all arrested by the Gestapo, and subjected to torture under interrogation. OnNovember 30th, 1944, all three were guillotined at two minute intervals.
Gertrud was 28 years old at the time of her execution and was a nurse and social worker. She had been born in Berlin and served for a time in the Nazi Labour Corps. She was arrested in 1944 for helping Jews to escape Nazi persecution and for "defeatist statements designed to undermine the moral of the people". She was tried before the People's Court in Potsdam and executed on the 12th of January 1945.
Thirty one year old Ilse Stöbe worked for the German Foreign Secretary during World War II and was also involved with "Rote Kapelle”. In the spring of 1942, she warned the Soviets about the planned attack on Russia but was ignored by the Soviet leaders. Her warnings were intercepted by the Gestapo and she was arrested and charged with treason. She was guillotined at 8.27 p.m. on the evening of December 22nd, 1942.
Smiljka Ljoljic Visnjevac
Born: Mostar, Yugoslavia 1905
Smiljka was one of three daughters born to Serbian Orthodox parents in the town of Mostar in the central Yugoslav region of Herzegovina. Smiljka's mother died when Smiljka was 3, and the three girls were raised by their father. A tomboy in her youth, at 17 Smiljka won the Miss Makarska Riviera beauty pageant and left for Germany to become a fashion model.
1933-39: Smiljka had a successful modeling career in Berlin. With her tall, slim figure, high cheekbones, and almond-shaped, grey-blue eyes, she was noted for her resemblance to Greta Garbo. Smiljka was anti-fascist and left Germany after Hitler came to power. When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, Smiljka was living in the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade with her husband, Tihomir Visnjevac, and their young son.
1940-41: Like many in Belgrade, Smiljka was openly anti-fascist. On March 27, 1941, a new anti-fascist government took power in Yugoslavia. In reaction, Germany launched a surprise bombing attack on Belgrade on Palm Sunday, April 6, 1941. Six days later, German troops occupied the city. Together with her husband, Smiljka, who was known to the Germans for her anti-fascist views during her days in Weimar Germany, was rounded up by the Gestapo. For more than two weeks, Smiljka and her husband were beaten and tortured.
Smiljka was shot by a German firing squad in the Banjica concentration camp in early May 1941. She was 35 years old.
T4 MEDICAL QUESTIONNAIRE
At Hadamar Hospital in Germany, more than 10,000 people with disabilities were killed between January and August of 1941. The first killings were by starvation, then by lethal injection. At the outbreak of W.W.II, Hitler ordered widespread "mercy killing" of the sick and disabled. The Nazi euthanasia program, code-named Aktion TA was instituted to eliminate "life unworthy of life".
T4 MEDICAL QUESTIONNAIRE
Name of Institution:.............................in:..................
First and family name of patient:................maiden name:.........
Date of birth:.............City:......................District:.......
Unmarr., marr., wid., div.:.....Relig:.....Racea......Natlty:.........
Address of nearest relative:..........................................
Regular visits and by whom (address):.................................
Guardian or Care-Giver (name, address):...............................
Cost-bearer:...................How long in this inst.:................
In other Institutions; when and how long:.............................
How long sick:...........From where and when transferred:.............
Twin yes/no..............Mentally ill blood relatives:................ Diagnosis:............................................................
Mainly bedridden? yes/no....Very restless yes/no....Confined yes/no....
Incurable phys. illness: yes/no:.......War casualty: yes/no............
For schizophrenia: Recent case......Final stage.....good remission.....
For retardation: Debility:..........Imbecile:.......Idiot:.............
For epilepsy: Psych. changes........Average freq. of attacks...........
For senile disorders: Very confused..................Soils self........
Therapy (Insulin, Cardiazol, Malaria, Salvarsan, etc.): Lasting effects: yes/no....
Referred on the basis of §51, §42b Crim. Code, etc.........By..........
Crime:............Earlier criminal acts:....................
Type of Occupation: (Most exact description of work and productivity, e.g. Fieldwork, does not do much.--Locksmith's shop, good skhled worker.--No vague answers, such as housework, rather precise: cleaning room; etc..
Always indicate also, whether constantly, frequently or only occasionally occupied)..................................................................................................
Release expected soon:............................................................................. Remarks:..................................................................................................
Do not mark in this Space.
Signature of medical director or his representative)
aGerman or related blood (German-blooded), Jew, Jewish Mischling (half-breed) 1st or 2nd degree, Negro (Mischling), Gypsy (Mischling), etc.
Translated in Robert J. Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York, 1986), pp. 68-69.
908 patients were transferred from Schoebrunn, an institution for the mentally retarded and chronically ill, to the euthanasia installation at Eglfign-Haar to be gassed. After being gassed, the bodies were cremated.
A monument to the victims now stands in the courtyard at Schoenbrunn.
In 1941, a Catholic bishop, Clemens von Galen, delivered a sermon in Munster Cathedral attacking the Nazi euthanasia program calling it "plain murder". Hitler suspended Aktion T4, which had accounted for nearly 100,000 deaths by this time. The euthanasia program quietly continued using drugs and starvation instead of gassing.
After the war in 1948, The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights. This declaration was a direct result of the atrocities during W.W.II, but it was also the first formal steps to the Civil Rights movement. Many other disabled advocacy groups began soon afterwards, such as the United Cerebral Palsy Association (founded 1948), the National Association for Retarded Children (1950) and The Muscular Dystrophy Association (1950).
The Story of Dwosia Spektor
Dwosia Dlugacz was born on March 20, 1885. She married Josef Spektor, a Hebrew teacher, and they had two daughters and a grandchild. Dwosia's brother, Benjamin Dlugacz, a pharmacist in Lodz, and his wife, Brindla (nee' Jacubowicz), were both born in Bogdanow (near Belchatow) and had a daughter, Ida, and a son, Adam. Before the Germans entered Lodz in September 1939, Adam escaped to Slonim, still in the Russian sector of Poland. Afterwards, he was never heard and was presumed lost when the Germans took the town.
Ida and her parents were forced to move into the Lodz ghetto. Both of Ida's parents died in the ghetto; her father was shot. After Benjamin's death, Ida was questioned by the Gestapo about hidden stock from his pharmacy. Ida saved her own life by telling the Gestapo what she knew. She managed to gather enough money to have both her parents buried in the Jewish cemetery, despite the desperate situation in the ghetto.
After Dwosia's husband died of disease in the ghetto, she took her own life rather than be a burden to her children. Ida Dlugacz and her cousins, together with one cousin's husband and child, were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Upon arrival, only Ida and one of her cousins were "selected" to live. The cousin's child called to his mother and she managed to cross over to join him, dying with him.
Ida Dlugacz survived the Holocaust and was somehow able to recover her aunt Dwosia's Lodz ghetto work pass, pictured below. The work pass was signed by Hans Biebow, the Nazi administrator of the ghetto, later executed as a war criminal.
It is a horrific story, but only one among millions.
Translation courtesy of Fritz Neubauer and Marilyn Schapiro
Diagonally over the face of the pass, stamped: "GESTORBEN" ("died")
Handwritten:"9. Mai 1944" ("9 May 1944")
"f. d. Statistik" ("for the statistic," followed by initials)
"Tgb 6503" ("Tagebuch" or "diary")
Signature of the Card owner
Signature of the factory manager
Litzmannstadt-Ghetto, the__of 194_GHETTO LABOR DEPARTMENT
Worker No. 59542
First name: Dwosia
Date of birth: March 20, 1885
address: Franzstrasse 12
is employed in factory No. 65
House slipper department II
as Shoe weaver
Day employment started: (no entry)
Typewritten addendum: new address: Rembrandt 13
(He) (She) is allowed to be on the streets during curfew hours.
Ghetto Labor Department
Approved by (illegible) No.70.002 Trade learned: Household
Present work: Shoe weaver
Age on January 1, 1943: 58 years
Working started: January 15, 1943
Unemployed from 194_to 194_
Unemployed from 194_to 194_
Unemployed from 194_to 194_
Workers keep in mind!
Whoever does not have a Worker's Card, will be considered unemployed. If the Worker's Card is lost, inform the Factory Manager immediately, so that he can apply for a Duplicate Card at the Ghetto Labor Department. Such cards have the stamp Duplicate Card and are as valid as the original.To be followed exactly!
Be careful to keep the card in the protective folder so that it remains legible
Any alterations made by the card holder will be punished
Keep with you at all times
This identification card is not transferable
- March 20, 1885
Ala Gertner. (March 12, 1912 – January 5, 1945).
Gertner was born in Bedzin, Poland, one of three children in a prosperous Jewish family. Before the German invasion of Poland, she may have attended the gymnasium in Bedzin.
On October 28, 1940, she was ordered to report to the train station in nearby Sosnowiec, where she was taken to a Nazi labor camp in Geppersdorf (now Rzedziwojowice), a construction site where hundreds of Jewish men were forced laborers on the Reichsautobahn (now the E22 highway), and women worked in the kitchen and laundry. Gertner, who was fluent in German, was assigned to the camp office, where her colleague and friend was Bernhard Holtz, whom she would later marry.
Geppersdorf was part of Organization Schmelt, a network of 177 labor camps under the administration of Albrecht Schmelt, a World War I veteran who joined the Nazis in 1930 and rose quickly to the post of SS Oberfuhrer. Because of his familiarity with the local political and social conditions in the annexed region of western Poland, Schmelt was hand-picked by SS head Heinrich Himmler to the “Special Representative of the Reichsfuhrer SS for the Employment of Foreign Labor in Upper Silesia.” After his official appointment in October 1940, Schmelt set up headquarters in Sosnowiec and created a labor camp system that would become known as Organization Schmelt.
Schmelt built a highly lucrative slave trade. Over 50,000 Jews from western Poland were forced to work for German businesses, primarily in construction, munitions, and textile manufacturing. The businesses paid Schmelt, who shared a fraction of the money with Moses Merin, the Jewish governor of the region. Almost none of it went to the Jewish laborers. Conditions varied, but were much better than in the large concentration camps. For example, mail and packages could be received in some of the Schmelt camps until 1943, when the Schmelt labor camps became part of Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen. (Oskar Schindler’s camp was originally under Organization Schmelt).
Postcard sent from Ala Gertner to her friend Sala.
In 1941, Gertner was allowed to return home. She was employed in various local workshops and offices run by Moses Merin. She and Bernhard Holz were married in the Sosnowiec ghetto of Scrodula on May 22, 1943. They lived in the Bedzin ghetto of Kamionka until sometime after July 16, 1943 (the date of Gertner’s last known letter), and were probably deported to Auschwitz with the remaining Jews of Sosnowiec and Bedzin in early August, 1943.
At Auschwitz, Gertner worked in the warehouses at first, sorting the possessions of Jews who had been gassed. She became friendly with Roza Robota, who was active in the underground resistance. Gertner was then assigned to the office of the munitions factory, where she and Roza became part of a conspiracy to smuggle gunpowder to the Sonderkommando, who were building bombs and planning an escape. Gertner recruited other women to join the conspiracy, and passed the stolen gunpowder to Roza.
On October 7, 1944, the Sonderkommando blew up Crematorium IV, but the revolt was quickly quelled by the armed SS guards. A lengthy investigation led the Nazis back to Gertner and Roza, and then to Estusia Wajcblum and Regina Safirsztajn, who were also implicated in the conspiracy. They were interrogated and tortured for weeks. On January 5, 1945, the four women were publicly hanged in Auschwitz. Some sources give January 6th, as the date. This was the last public hanging at Auschwitz. Two weeks later, the camp was evacuated.
Gertner left no known survivors or family, but her 28 letters to Sala Kirschner (nee Garncarz) are among the 350 wartime letters that are in the permanent Sala Garncarz Kirschner Collection of the Dorot Jewish Division of the New York Public Library. The heroism of the four women was recognized in 1991 with the dedication of a memorial at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ala_Gertner
- March 12, 1912 – January 5, 1945
Posted in Anne Frank on January 10, 2010 by joedresch
January 7, 2010. Edith Frank-Hollander (Born Edith Hollander on 16 January 1900 – 6 January 1945), was the mother of Anne Frank and Margot Frank.
Edith Frank-Hollander was the youngest of four children, having been born into a Dutch/German-Jewish family in Aachen, Germany. Her father, Abraham Hollander (1860-1928), was a successful trader in industrial equipment and was prominent in the Aachen Jewish community, as was her mother, Rosa Stern. (1866-1942).
She met Otto Frank in 1924, and they married on his thirty-sixth birthday, 12 May 1925, at Aachen’s Synagogue. Their first daughter, Margot, was born in Frankfurt on 16 February 1926, followed by Anne, who was born on 12 June 1929.
The rise of anti-Semitism and the introduction of discriminatory laws in Germany forced the family to emigrate to Amsterdam in 1933, where Otto established a branch of his spice and pectin distribution company. Her brothers Walter (1897-1968) and Julius (1894-1967), escaped to the United States in 1938, and Rosa Hollander-Stern left Aachen in 1939 to join the Frank family in Amsterdam.
Margot, Otto, Anne & Edith Frank, 1941
PERSECUTION AND DEATH
In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and began their persecution of the country’s Jews. Edith’s children were removed from their schools, and her husband had to resign his business to his Dutch colleagues Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, who helped the family when they went into hiding at the company premises in 1942.
Anne, Edith and Margot Frank, January 1933.
The two-year period the Frank family spent in hiding with four other people (their neighbors Hermann van Pels, his wife and son, and Miep Gies’ dentist Fritz Pfeffer), was famously chronicled in Anne Franks posthumously published diary, which ended three days before they were anonymously betrayed and arrested on August 4, 1944. After detainment in the Gestapo headquarters on the Euterpestraat and three days in prison on the Amstelveenweg, Edith, and those with whom she was in hiding, were transported to the Westerbork transit camp. From here, they were deported to Auschwitz on September 3, 1944. Edith and her daughters were separated from Otto upon arrival and they never saw him again. On October 30th, another selection separated Edith from Anne and Margot. Edith was selected for the gas-chamber, and her daughters were transported to Bergen-Belsen. She escaped with a friend to another section of the camp, where she remained through the winter, but died from starvation in January 1945, at the age of forty-four. Twenty days before the Red Army liberated the camp, and 10 days before her 45th birthday.
When Otto Frank decided to edit his daughter’s diary for publication, he was aware that his wife had come in for particular criticism because of her often disagreeable relationship with Anne, and cut some of the more heated comments out of respect for his wife and other residents of the Secret Annex. Nevertheless, Anne’s portrait of an unsympathetic and sarcastic mother were duplicated in the dramatizations of the book, which were countered by the memories of those who had known her as a modest, distant woman who tried to treat her adolescent children as her equals.
The discovery in 1999, of previously unknown pages excised by Otto Frank, showed that Anne had discerned that while her mother very much loved her father, her father, though very devoted to Edith, was not in love with her, and this understanding was leading her to develop a new sense of empathy for her mother’s position. By the time Edith and her daughters were in Auschwitz, Bloeme Evers-Emden, an Auschwitz survivor interviewed by Willy Lindwer in The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, observed that: “They were always together – mother and daughters. It is certain that they gave each other a great deal of support. All the things a teenager might think of her mother were no longer of any significance.”
ANNE FRANK CHESTNUT TREE
- 16 January 1900~ 6 January 1945
Gucia Grosfeld Frydmacher
Posted in Uncategorized on January 10, 2010 by joedresch
January 9, 2010. Gucia Grosfeld Frydmacher. Born Radom, Poland ca. 1913
Gucia was born to middle-class Jewish parents in Radom, an industrial city known for its armaments factory, in which Jews were not allowed to work, and for a leather industry, in which many Jews were employed. Radom had a large and active Jewish community, and at home, Gucia’s family spoke both Polish and Yiddish. Gucia completed her schooling in Radom.
1933-39: As a young woman, Gucia was introduced to Benjamin Frydmacher, a young Jewish tanner from Lublin who occasionally came to Radom to visit his relatives. The two married and settled in Lublin, where they moved in with Benjamin’s mother in an apartment at 50 Lubartowska Street. Their daughter, Ruth, was born in early 1938. On September 17, 1939, 16 days after Germany invaded Poland, German troops entered Lublin.
1940-42: In 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in Lublin. Benjamin’s tannery, which was located outside the ghetto, was ordered to produce leather for the Germans. When the Germans began liquidating the ghetto in 1942, those not working in what were considered vital industries were among the first killed or deported to extermination camps. Benjamin’s mother was machine-gunned to death in a hospital with other elderly patients, and Gucia and her daughter, Ruth, were deported.
In the spring of 1942, Gucia and 4-year-old Ruth were killed in an extermination camp in eastern Poland.
Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- 1913~January 9, 2010
Sr. Sara Salkahazi
Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2010 by joedresch
Jaunary 7, 2009. Sara Salkahazi was born in Kassa, Hungary, now Kosice, Slovakia on May 11, 1899. She was the second child of her parents, Leopold and Klotild Salkahaz, who were owners of the Hotel Salkahaz in Kassa. She lost her father at the age of two, and her widowed mother took over leadership on the board of directors of the hotel. She needed the income to raise her three children.
Hotel Schalkhaz in Kassa
Sara’s childhood was best described by her brother Lipot: ‘She was a tomboy with a strong will and a mind of her own. When it came to play, she would always join the boys in their games of tug of war.’ A schoolmate and friend of Sara, described her as a funny, witty girl, who liked to joke a lot but at the same time, she also showed deep social sensitivity, loyalty and perseverance. As a teen-ager, she began to write plays and in the evenings, members of her family would often find her in her bedroom, kneeling in front of her bed, her head buried in her hands, sunk in deep thought and prayer.
Sara in her teenager years.
Sara studied in Kosice and earned an elementary school teacher’s degree – the highest available there for women at that time. As a young woman, Sara taught school only for one year. For political reasons, she left teaching and learned the trade of book-binding. There she came in touch with the conditions of the poor, particularly that of women, and those who were forced into a minority situation. This deepened her sensitivity and consciousness to the issues of social injustice.
Sara started to write. She actively participated in the literary society of the Hungarian minority of Slovakia and became a journalist. She edited the official paper of the National Christian Socialist Party of Czechoslovakia. She was a member of the governing body of that party. Sara wrote short stories; her themes focused on the conditions of the poor, on moral issues regarding injustice, and on challenges to become more human and humane. At the same time, Sara lived the colorful life of a journalist, but she was not satisfied. She was in search for her true vocation.
For a few months, she was engaged to be married, but after a while, she returned the ring. She came to recognize that her deeper desires led her in a different direction. Christ was tugging at her heart, attracting her to dedicate all her love to him and to the service of the needy. Sara resisted. She resisted for several years as the call implied giving up the life-style she came to love. Finally, Christ’s love overcame her other loves. In 1929, she entered the Society of the Sisters of Social Service in Budapest. She took her first vows at Pentecost, 1930. Her motto: “Alleluia” captures her sentiments.
As a vowed member of the community, Sr. Sara started her apostolic service. Her first assignment was at the Catholic Charities Office in Kosice, where she worked in many different areas utilizing her many gifts. She supervised charity works, taught religion, worked as community organizer – especially among Catholic women, gave lectures, and published a periodical entitled “Catholic Women.”
Group picture of sisters after their first profession (Sara is the third from right in the first row)
By the assignment of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Slovakia, she organized all the various Catholic women’s groups into a national Catholic Women’s Association. Besides all these, she found time to write. No wonder, she became completely exhausted. Her near burnout was misunderstood. Her superiors doubted her vocation and refused to admit her to renewal of vows. This caused profound suffering and humiliation. Nevertheless, she continued to live the life of a Sister of Social Service without vows. Christ’s love burning within her, kept her faithful. She faced this trial peacefully, which eventually gave witness to the genuiness of her vocation.
As her love grew, a missionary desire awakened in her heart. The Hungarian Benedictines in Brazil were asking for Sisters to work in their mission. Sr. Sara was ready to go. World War II however, frustrated the plans to serve in Brazil. But in some sense, Sister Sara still became a missionary as a social worker in a very poor area northeast of Hungary.
At Pentecost 1940, Sister Sara committed herself to life to God and to the service of the needy as a Sister of Social Service. At her final vows, she added to her motto words from Isaiah: “Alleluia! Ecce ego, mitte me (Here I am, send me)?”
In 1941, Sister Sara received the assignment to be the national director of the Hungarian Catholic Working Women’s Movement, an organization with a membership of close to 10,000 and with 230 local groups in 15 dioceses nationwide. She was the guiding spirit of this movement and editor of its periodical. With her writings, she instructed and strengthened the members against the growing influence of Nazi ideology. She opened several hostels in Budapest for working single women to secure a safe environment for them. She founded a vacation house for the members of the movement where they could renew their spirits and energy. She established schools for vocational and leadership training for workers.
The Danube river in Budapest – the place of her martyrdom
With Nazism in power since 1938, the political climate became more and more difficult and dangerous. The Sisters of the Society with the leadership of their foundress, Sr. Margaret, grabbed all means possible to rescue the persecuted. They were hiding people in their homes and institutions. Sara herself was hiding close to a hundred people in the hostels she was in charge of.
The Christ-like love which burned in Sr. Sara’s heart, and the recognition of the danger that could befall the community, inspired Sr. Sara for a heroic deed. In 1943, she consciously offered her life for the Society, particularly for the weak and the ill, in case the persecution of the Church, the Society and her Sisters would take place.
On December 27, 1944, the working Women’s hostel led by Sr Sara, at 4 Bokreta-Street in Budapest, was surrounded by the Nazis. They were looking for Jews and took four suspects and a religion teacher, Vilma Bernovits into custody. Sister Sara arrived home during the interrogation of the residents. She could have escaped the arrest, but instead she introduced herself as the one in charge of the house. She was carried off with the ones whom she wanted to shelter. On the evening of the same day, all six of them were stripped naked and shot into the icy Danube. According to an eye-witness, before her execution, Sister Sara knelt down, facing the executioners, and looking up into the sky she signed herself with the cross. God accepted her sacrifice.
HUNGARIAN NUN WHO SAVED JEWS IN WORLD WAR II BEATIFIED
The Beatification proclamation for Sara Salkahazi, issued by Pope Benedict XVI, was read out by Cardinal Peter Erdo, Hungary’s Primate and Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, during a Mass held outside St. Stephen’s Basilica.
“She was willing to assume risks for the persecuted…in days of great fear,” Erdo said. ”Her martyrdom is still topical…and presents the foundations of our humanity.”
Salkahazi was killed by the Arrow Cross – the Hungarian allies of the Nazis – on December 27, 1944, for hiding Jews in a Budapest building used by her religious order, the Sisters of Social Service.
Salkahazi was taken along with several other occupants of the home and shot, their bodies falling into the Danube River and never recovered. Details of her death were revealed only in the 1967 trial of some Arrow Cross henchmen.
The Sisters of Social Service are credited with saving the lives of some 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust, of whom around 1oo were aided by Salkahazi herself.
People beatified by the Roman Catholic Church are given the title of “Blessed” and are considered to be able to intercede on behalf of those who pray in their name. Beatification is sometimes the first step to sainthood.
Salkahazi was born May 11, 1899, into a middle-class family in the city of Kassa, at the time in Hungary and now known as Kosice and part of Slovakia.
She was already in her late 20s, when she discovered her religious vocation. Earlier, she had been engaged to marry, as mentioned before, and worked as a bookbinder, journalist and newspaper editor.
She is the first Hungarian to be beatified, who is not royalty or a member of the aristocracy.
“I know from personal experience…how dangerous and heroic it was in those times to help Jews and save them from death,” Rabbi Jozef Schweitzer said during the Mass attended by Parlimentary Speaker Katalin Szili and former President Ferenc Madl. ”Origination in her faith, she kept the commandment of love until death.”
The beatification was the first in Hungary since 1083, when Hungary’s first King, St. Stephen was beatified along with his son, St. Imre, and St. Gellert, an Italian Bishop who had a key role in converting Hungarians to Christianity.
Changes introduced by Pope Benedict XVI again allowed beatification rites to be held around the world, instead of just in the Vatican, as was the norm for centuries.
Salkahazi’s deeds were recognized in 1972 by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, at the behest of the daugher of one of the Jewish women killed with her.
Some 550,000 Jews and 50,000 Roma died during the Holocaust in Hungary. Historians say one-third of all the victims killed by the Nazis in the Auschwitz concentration camp were Hungarian.
- May 11, 1899~Jaunary 7, 2009
Mala Zimetbaum, the first Jewish woman to escape from Auschwitz, was recaptured, interrogated and sentenced to die in Birkenau. She died before the execution could be carried out, either by taking her own life or shot by an SS guard. The French caption to this original photo reads: "Mala Zimetbaum, Symbol of Solidarity, died heroically in the Auschwitz concentration camp, September 15, 1944."
Institution: Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
by Na'ama Shik
Mala got hold of a razor blade and quietly slit open her veins. … One of the blockführers grabbed her by the hair. Mala slapped him across the face with her bleeding hand. The SS man crushed her hand. Legend has it that she told him: “I shall die a heroine, but you shall die like a dog!” (Raya Kagan, Hell’s Office Women)
Mala Zimetbaum, the first woman and the first Jewish woman to escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau, was born on January 26, 1918 in Brzesko, Poland, the fifth and youngest daughter of Pinhas and Chaya Zimetbaum. In 1928, when she was ten years old, her family emigrated from Poland to Belgium, where they settled in Antwerp. Mala, a brilliant student, had to leave school because of the family’s economic situation—her father became blind—and work in a diamond factory.
Probably on July 22, 1942, Mala was captured during one of the German efforts to hunt down Jews and was sent to Auschwitz on September 15. Her transport arrived in the camp two days later. Of the 1,048 Jews who arrived in the camp, two hundred thirty men and one hundred one women actually entered it after the selection. Mala was given the number 19880.
Thanks to her fluency in several languages (Flemish, French, German, English and Polish), Mala was chosen to serve as runner and translator for the SS, and so became a privileged prisoner with relative freedom of movement.
While in the camp, Mala met Edward (Edek) Galinski, and the two fell in love. Edek, born on October 5, 1923, was brought to Auschwitz as a Polish political prisoner. He arrived in the camp on June 14, 1940, in the first transport of Polish prisoners from the Tarnow prison, and bore the number 531.
Many autobiographies and testimonies refer to Mala’s story as a collective story of sorts. Her figure has become a “local legend,” and her story has transcended the realm of individual experience and has found a place in the chronicles of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
One of Mala’s outstanding characteristics, which women survivors who knew her recount time and again, was that camp life did not corrupt her character. Unlike other privileged prisoners, Mala did all in her power to help other prisoners and saved many of their lives. The autobiographies and accounts that mention her recall that she was generous, risking her life for other prisoners and standing proudly against the Germans. Also, many accounts tell that Mala was part of the camp’s underground. As Giza Weisblum relates:
One of Mala’s responsibilities was to assign the sick released from the hospital to various work details. She always tried to send the women who were still weak from their illnesses to the lightest type of work. Also, she always warned the patients of the coming selections, urging them to leave the hospital as quickly as possible. In this way, she saved the lives of many women.
Tzipora Silberstein recounts:
I would like Mala Zimetbaum’s story to be heard. … Mala’s story is not my story, but it is connected with me and many other people. … The young woman was pretty, indeed very beautiful. She spoke Polish, Yiddish, Flemish, French and German. She was charming. … This young woman did hundreds and thousands of good things for all of us. There were transports from Greece and she would stand near the Germans, writing things down. Many times, I heard that she only pretended to write, thus saving many people’s lives. She would bring medicine to sick people.
On Saturday, June 24, 1944, Mala and Edek fled from Birkenau. Edek donned an SS uniform obtained from Edward Lubusch, an extraordinary SS man who aided prisoners, and Mala, who managed to obtain a blank SS pass, dressed as a prisoner being led to work. On July 6, the two were captured by a border patrol in the Beskid Zywiecki mountains at the Slovakia border, returned to the camp, and placed in separated cells in Bloc 11. Following a lengthy interrogation and severe torture, under which they did not break, and probably after confirmation by Himmler, they were transferred to Birkenau on September 15, 1944, for public executions which were to take place simultaneously: Mala’s in the women’s camp and Edek’s in the men’s camp. As her sentence was read, Mala slit her wrists and slapped SS man Ruitters, who attempted to stop her. She was taken to the camp hospital in order to stop the bleeding. According to some eyewitness accounts, she died on the way to the crematorium. According to others, she was shot to death at the crematorium entrance.
When Edek attempted to kick away the bench he stood upon, the SS men present held him back. After his sentence was read, Edek managed to shout: “Long live Poland!” before the noose tightened around his neck.
There are various versions of Mala’s last words. Even now, despite the differences between the various versions, all the testimonies and autobiographies are united in their description of Mala, a courageous and impressive Jewish woman. She remained unbowed by camp life and will be remembered as one of the heroes who lived and died in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Because there is little information available, only a sketchy biography can be given of this outstanding individual.
The earliest known document is a registration office file which states that Zimetbaum Malka, daughter of the salesman Pinkas Zimetbaum and his wife Chaya, born in Brzesko, Poland, on January 26, 1918, was registered as an inhabitant of the city of Antwerp, Belgium, on March 21, 1928.
Malka Zimetbaum, the youngest of five children, grew up where her ancestors came from, in a Jewish "shtetl" community of southern Poland. After several years of migration back and forth between Germany and Poland, the Zimetbaum family finally settled in Belgium. In school, young Malka excelled in mathematics and languages, having a command of Flemish, French, German, English, and Polish. Her elder sister Yochka remembers her as "the intellectual one" . As an adolescent, Malka joined Hanoar Hatzioni, one of nineteen Jewish youth organizations in Antwerp. A rare pictures the girl - who now preferred the name Mala to Malka - in the group's uniform during an excursion. Pinkas Zimetbaum's low income required that everyone in the family contribute. In order to support her father, who had become blind, Mala interrupted her education and took a job as a seamstress for Maison Lilian, a major Antwerp fashion house. Later, she found employment as a linguist-secretary in one of the many small companies in the Antwerp diamond business.
After the German occupation of Belgium, Jews were forced to register, to observe a curfew and to wear a yellow star. They were faced with bans, expropriations, hard labor, and eventually, deportation and death. In the face of this, many fled from the country or chose to live underground. Mala Zimetbaum was arrested on July 22, 1942, getting off the train at the Antwerp Central Station on her way back from Brussels. She had gone there attempting to find a hiding place for her parents and herself. One of about 100 women, she was held captive at Fort Breendonk. Five days later, Mala and ten other office workers were transferred to Mechelen town, where German authorities had turned the Dossin Barracks into a collection, holding and deportation point for Jews. Mala and the other women were assigned work in the registry. "I could observe how much Mala cared and stood up for her fellow prisoners," one of them remembers . According to the records, 25,475 persons (one in five of them under 16 years of age) were deported from Mechelen between August 1942 and August 1944. On September 15, 1942, the tenth deportation train left Dossin Barracks. It carried 1048 deportees "assigned for hard labor." Mala Zimetbaum was one of them
The destination was Auschwitz. The gigantic camp complex in Oswiecim, Poland, served as a concentration camp, a forced labor camp, and an extermination camp. It was staffed by the SS, the German Security Detachment, for RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt), the Reich Security Main Office. After a journey of two days and a selection at the ramp of the Oswiecim freight depot, only 331 of the deportees from Belgium were assigned to the camp. The other 717 were gassed immediately. Mala Zimetbaum was one of 101 females considered fit for labor. She was placed in the women's camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau and assigned the number 19880, later tattooed on her forearm . Like the others, Mala was warehoused in a wooden barrack, originally designed as a horse stable. Each of these "blocks" housed some 500 women who had to sleep six across in three tiered hutches. Mala, like any woman prisoner, was forced to wear gray-striped prisoners' dress, a headscarf and wooden clogs and submit to her head and body being shaved.
The women's camp had recently been expanded and the camp supervisor (LagerfŸhrerin) Maria Mandel was looking for girls to employ in the camp administration. Because of her knowledge of diverse languages, Mala was picked as a LŠuferin, that is, a messenger and interpreter. According to a fellow prisoner: "These girls had to stand next to the guardhouse, waiting for orders. Whenever camp supervisor Mandel or overseer Margot Drechsler needed them, they yelled 'LŠuferin,' and the girl had to do as ordered on the double" . As a prisoner in contact with SS personnel, Mala was in a privileged position: Unlike ordinary prisoners, she shared two bunks in a corner of her block with three fellow messengers. Being privileged, she was passably dressed and was occasionally allowed to wash. She was assigned work within the camp boundaries and had access to various sub-camps of Auschwitz. Above all, her duties gave Mala Zimetbaum a thorough knowledge of the extermination factory that was Birkenau.Recollections of Resistance
Because of her personality and courageous behavior, Mala soon won the admiration and respect of many fellow prisoners. Virtually all the pertinent accounts praise her solidarity. Even the SS trusted her. Mala did not take advantage of this personally but rather used her position to help other prisoners. "In my opinion," survivor Anna Palarczyk, a close friend of Mala, explained to the author, "resistance in Birkenau was to help each other survive. And Mala was eager to help; that was deeply rooted in her ethics". A privileged prisoner, Mala could have easily just gone about her work focused on personal survival. No one would have faulted her. In a concentration camp, this was normal, in fact required. Even so, she chose to help prisoners less fortunate than herself and in this way resisted the terrible inevitability of Auschwitz, dehumanization.
Mala fed starving prisoners "Now and then Mala brought me some bread, a little honey, a carrot. Without that, I would have died." She used to encourage desperate persons: "Having recovered from typhoid fever, I had no shoes, I was really skinny. It was Mala who scolded me: 'Take care of yourself! Get decent clothing! You've got to wash somehow!'" She used to spread information "She supplied us with newspaper clippings which we read before passing them on." Irrespective of the danger of being caught, Mala used to carry messages or medicine "'News for you from Birkenau,' one of my comrades told me. I hurried to the lavatory, the usual place for secret meetings. Mala was waiting there. 'Greetings from your friend,' she said. 'She is ill; she needs medicine, Digitalis or Cardiazol.' - 'I don't have any,' I said desperately; 'I shall try and get some but no one dares to smuggle anything into Birkenau...' - 'I will,' Mala interrupted me with a handwave, and she did."
Mala even managed to send cryptic warnings to her family back in Belgium. As the German authorities wanted to counteract rumors about the extermination of the deportees (and at the same time track down any Jews living underground), Jewish prisoners were given the opportunity to write to their relatives. On a postcard dated August 25, 1943, Mala wrote to her elder sister : "Don't worry, I am in good health, working as an interpreter... All the others are together with Etush." To which one must add that Etush, Mala's sister-in-law, had died before the war. Another postcard from Mala, dated October 25, 1943, read. "My dear sister, why don't you write me? You know that every couple of lines from you will renew my courage to face life... Where are our dear parents; why don't they correspond? What about the dear children? Thinking of it will drive me mad..." Mala's misgivings were justified: Her parents and her three nephews, aged 3, 5, and 6, had been killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz long before; five of an estimated one-and-a-half-million human beings murdered there.
Above all, Mala saved lives. One of her functions was to assign the prisoners released from the camp hospital to various work details. Survivors emphasize that on those occasions Mala was of tremendous help to many. "It did not matter whether they were Jews or Poles or whatever. Whenever possible, she sent the weaker ones to a place where the guards were not that strict or work was not that heavy, so that these people had at least a small chance to survive," Anna Palarczyk recalls, adding: "I have a very clear memory of it - Mala going ahead, followed by those women without shoes, without pants, without a dress, just wrapped in a blanket... Mala's appearance in the camp was elegant; that was such a contrast." Another survivor remembers that Mala saved her life twice . "The first time by getting me out of a terrible labor command where we had to work in the marshes, carrying cobblestones for road construction. The second time by replacing 13A on a filing card with 25B which took me out of the hospital block." Obviously, Mala frequently used to warn others against coming selections, urging patients to leave the camp hospital as soon as possible. "My sister-in-law and I caught typhus, so we decided to report sick. Somebody told Mala we were about to be transferred into the camp hospital, and in front of the SS guards she shouted at us: 'You lazy bitches; you are absolutely fit. Go to work! Forward!' When we came back from work in the evening, we learned why Mala had done everything to keep us from entering the ward. That day, all the people in the camp hospital had been gassed." In fact, SS statistics of December 12, 1943 show a decrease in the overall number of female prisoner patients from 9,324 to 7,418; within one day, almost two thousand women had been murdered.
How did Mala Zimetbaum manage to offer resistance in such a variety of ways? Though there is little indication that she joined the organized resistance movement that existed in the women's camp, there is testimony that she cooperated with it closely. Margita Svalbova, then a member of that movement, recalls that "in order to save human lives, to caution against dangers such as selections or roll-calls, and to thwart particular directions of the SS, we had confidantes in almost every block. That is why Mala could act in such a highly courageous way - which means that she must have ranked high with the resistance."
To be sure, there were many other Jewish resisters in Auschwitz. For example, Roza Robota, who together with several other women managed to smuggle explosives to the men of the Sonderkommando (special work detail) in Birkenau. They were the prisoners forced to work in the crematoria. Some of them used these explosives to set fire to Krematorium IV during their now famous revolt in October, 1944. And there is the story of the unknown Jewish woman who on arrival in Birkenau grabbed SS officer Schillinger's pistol and fired, mortally wounding him and a second SS as well. Such singular acts of rebellion in spite of the SS terror caused much sensation among the concentration camp inmates. Naturally, survivors' memories of such occurrences are often confused with camp rumor and myth. This is why, occasionally, the above mentioned women are confused with Mala Zimetbaum.
Mala's way of offering resistance was more subtle, but nevertheless effective; the more so since her activities spread over almost two years. Giza Weisblum, a relative of Mala who met her again in Auschwitz, summarizes "Mala was known as a person ready to help. She used to act in the way she regarded as appropriate, and, regardless of nationality or political affiliation, helped everyone as best as she could."Escape
In late 1943 or early 1944, Mala Zimetbaum made the acquaintance of Edward Galinski, a Polish fellow prisoner. Edek, as everyone called him, was then only 20 years old. Nevertheless, he was one of the "oldest" prisoners, with the low number 531. He had been brought to Auschwitz from the prison at Tarnow, along with 727 other men, on June 14, 1940, on the very first transport. His job as a mechanic brought him into contact with a few civilians from outside who worked on the construction of the camp, and also took him into various sub-camps of Auschwitz, including the women's camp at Birkenau where he came to meet Mala.
In time, Mala and Edek fell in love. Since any personal relationships among concentration camp prisoners were strictly forbidden, it was difficult for love affairs to develop. Mala's and Edek's relationship was one of the few that did. It was kept secret; with fellow prisoners loyally attempting to guard the relationship from the authorities. On the other hand, it was stripped of secrecy since Mala and Edek were hardly ever alone. According to eyewitness accounts, all the lovers could enjoy was an occasional private moment in a side room of a barrack containing x-ray equipment used by SS physicians for inhuman "medical" experiments.
One day, Mala presented Edek with a portrait of herself which she had asked a comrade, the artist Zofja Stepien, to make. Indeed, the crayon drawing bears some resemblance to earlier photographs of her.
Some time in spring 1944, Mala learned about Edward Galinski's plans to escape together with a Polish friend. Edek would try to obtain an SS officer's uniform and lead his mate out of the camp, presumably for outside work. Mala suggested that the two should take her along. Edek willingly agreed but his friend raised objections: the company of a third person, a woman, a Jew, a foreigner as well, would make the escape too risky. In the end, the disagreement was settled when Edek decided to attempt the escape with Mala alone
Several fellow prisoners report that Mala changed during the summer of 1944, conceivably because of the immense increase in mass exterminations in the camp. Faced with trainloads and trainloads of Jewish deportees gassed, and with the crematoria working at maximum capacity, Mala Zimetbaum was said to have become desperate, pensive, and quiet . Mala spoke of her escape plans only to her closest friends, the three messengers with whom she shared bunks, and Giza Weisblum, a relative from Belgium. They helped her in getting a map of southern Poland, an inconspicuous dress which she could wear under a male worker's overalls, and a pass. According to some accounts, Mala Zimetbaum carried documents revealing the extent of the exterminations; however, there is no evidence of that.
The escape was scheduled for Saturday, June 24, 1944. On weekends, the guard was lighter than usual. By noon, Mala and Herta Roth, one of the messengers, approached the guardhouse, and while the messenger got the SS ward involved in conversation, Mala went to the washroom to change. The clothes had previously been hidden there, together with a porcelain washbasin, which Mala was to carry on her shoulders to conceal her face. Herta Roth remembers : "When she appeared, I helped her lift the washbasin, making sure her hair did not show. So she set off. I followed her with my eyes, and when she started tripping in ladylike fashion, I sang along in Slovakian so that she could hear it, 'longer strides, longer strides,' and she obeyed." Giza Weisblum also describes the scene "From a distance, I could see Mala leaving the guardhouse, bent under the weight of the washbowl on her head, her face almost completely hidden by it. Outside, Edek was waiting. He had concealed himself in a potato bunker not far from the guardhouse. Edek let Mala go first and followed a few paces behind her. This was the procedure for an SS man leading a prisoner." The couple would have to pass another sentry line before Mala could discard the washbasin and take off her overalls, so that they would give the appearance of an SS officer off duty with his girl friend.
The disappearance of Mala and Edek was discovered during roll call in the evening. Mala's messenger friends were interrogated about her whereabouts. As they gave nothing away, they were stripped of their functions and assigned to the Strafkompanie (Penal Company). The next morning, the SS commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Josef Kramer, sent telegrams to police posts and checkpoints in the area
"re: Malka Zimetbaum, Jewess in protective custody, born 26/1/18 in Brzesko, committed by RSHA on 17/9/1942. - Particulars: 1.65m tall, brown hair, speaks French, Flemish, English, German and Polish, gray eyes, distinguishing marks: No 19880 tattooed on left forearm. - on 24/6/1944 Zimetbaum has escaped from ConCamp Auschwitz."The Final Stage
The last contemporary document pertaining to Mala Zimetbaum is another telegram, dated July 26, 1944, which reads:
"re: Galinski Edward, Pole in protective custody, born 5/10/23 in Wieckowice; Zimetbaum Malka, Jewess in protective custody, born 26/1/18 in Brzesko - ref: telegram of 25/6/44 - according to telegram of 7/7/44 from police station Bielitz, above mentioned were recaptured and returned to this camp."
Stories about when, where, and how Mala and Edek were recaptured vary greatly. Some accounts maintain that the couple was caught on a train, or a bar, a restaurant or hotel in Katowice or Krakow. Others claim they attracted the attention of German officials by trying to settle a restaurant or a physician's bill with gold. The version that is probably more accurate was given by female prisoners working at the Auschwitz registry, as they had access to the records . Accordingly, the two were captured by a German frontier patrol in the Beskidy mountains on July 6, 1944, while attempting to enter Slovakia. Mala Zimetbaum and Edek Galinski were taken to the police station in Bielitz (in Polish, Bielsko). The next day, they were identified as fugitives and returned to Auschwitz.
Mala and Edek were imprisoned in separate cells in the basement of Block 11, a brick building on the premises of Auschwitz main camp which served as a high security jail and which was aptly referred to as "The Block of Death." They were repeatedly interrogated by SS officers of the camp Gestapo's political department. Lilly Majerczyk, one of the prisoners working in the political department, relates "The interrogations were held in our office. Mala did not give anybody away. We talked with her in the corridor, even though that was strictly prohibited." The examinations soon turned into torture but Mala and Edek would not reveal anything. Rather, they both stated they had escaped separately in SS uniforms, thus making their interrogators search for accomplices among the SS. The penalty was death, according to recent orders from the RSHA. The sentence had to be confirmed by SS headquarters in Berlin, so the couple were held in their cells for several weeks. Giza Weisblum recalls having received a scribbled message from Mala "I know what is awaiting me. I am prepared for the worst. Be brave and remember everything."
Visitors to the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim will find graffiti scratched into the walls of a windowless cell in the basement of former Block 11. One can read the words "Mala Zimetbaum 19880 + Galinski Edward 531 + 6.VII.44."
As for the execution of the sentence, it is difficult to separate fact from legend as the accounts vary . Even the date is uncertain. Estimates range from mid-July to September 22; the most likely alternatives being August 22 or September 15, 1944. A statement of the resistance movement says that on the latter day, Edward Galinski and five others were hanged in public in the men's section of Auschwitz-Birkenau . He was not yet 21 years old.
After evening roll-call, the female prisoners were ordered to form a circle near Block 4 in the women's camp B1b. The LagerfŸhrerin (camp supervisor) Maria Mandel, overseer Margot Drechsler, and several SS guards were also present when Mala Zimetbaum was brought forward by SS UnterscharfŸhrer (corporal) Ruiters, then head of work details. Thousands of women were to witness Mala's death. Survivors' recollections about whether or not a gallows had been erected vary.
The following events can only be reconstructed on the basis of eyewitness accounts. While the camp supervisor read something from a sheet of paper, prisoner-physician Margita Svalbova noticed "some motion next to Mala. Mala was carrying something in her hand. It was a razor blade. Suddenly she cut her wrist with that razor blade, her face motionless, determined. Slowly, blood began to flow down her palm" . Like the other bystanders, Giza Weisblum was "petrified with horror. Ruiters probably noticed the expression on our faces and suspected that something was happening. He looked at Mala - then grabbed her arm" According to Mala's camp friend Herta Roth, "Ruiters wanted to get hold of the blade but she pushed him away" . Margita Svalbova recalls: "All of a sudden, in view of thousands of prisoners, Mala hit him right in the face with her unhurt hand" . Undoubtedly, such an exceptional act of individual revolt, despair, and pride made a lasting impression on many of those present.
Pronouncement of the sentence was interrupted; the execution could not proceed as planned. SS guards rushed at the victim. They broke Mala's hand trying to wrest the blade from her; they bound her and beat her. Confusion arose. The guards ordered the prisoners to return to their barracks. Ruiters pushed Mala towards the camp hospital. Prisoner nurses attempted to bandage Mala's wounds but the camp supervisor forbade it. "She stared at the bleeding woman with utmost hatred, yelling 'This beast must be burned alive!'", Margita Svalbova says , repeatedly affirming that she "was present in person when that happened". Maria Mandel ordered a handcart to be brought on which they put Mala. Accompanied by Ruiters, some fellow prisoners dragged the cart with the dying woman toward the crematoria
It is not certain whether Mala Zimetbaum died on her last journey, whether she was in fact burned to death or whether Ruiters, in enforcement of the sentence, shot her at the crematorium. In a declaration of death issued much later, after the end of World War II, Belgian authorities laconically state that "Zimetbaum Malka ... is presumably deceased at an unknown place between August 18, 1944, and June 1, 1945."Mala's last words
These events produced many legends about Mala's life, her personality, actions, and motives. The tendency to present Mala as a heroine becomes most obvious when considering various accounts of her last words
Some survivors report that Mala's last words were addressed to the SS. According to Raya Kagan , camp rumor had Mala saying "I fall a heroine and you will die as a dog." Krystyna Zywulska and Lena Berg agree on the following : "I know I'm dying but it doesn't matter. What matters is that you are dying, too, and your gangster Reich with you. Your hours are numbered, and pretty soon you'll be paying for your crimes!" This, too, is improbable because a similar speech has also been attributed to an anonymous Polish woman facing the gas chambers, who may have been confused with Mala Zimetbaum.
According to other survivors, Mala Zimetbaum's last words were a stirring appeal addressed to her fellow prisoners. Giza Weisblum and Louise Alcan both quote Mala saying: "Don't be afraid, girls! Their end is near, I am certain of this. I know. I was free!" Olga Lengyel's version is : "Courage, friends! They shall pay. Liberation is in sight." And in her autobiography, Fania Fenelon gives the following speech : "Revolt! Rise up! There are thousands of you. Attack them - they're cowards, and even if you're killed, anything's better than this. At least you'll die free. Revolt!" Though widely quoted, that source is rather unreliable as it draws a stereotypical, somewhat romanticized picture of Mala.
All these reputed last words are to be taken with some caution. In the first place, they imply a desire to emphasize Mala's heroism. Heroes often give impressive speeches. Interestingly, none of the accounts is precise about the language in which Mala's last words were delivered. Most probably, the dying woman would not have had enough strength to address a large audience. So it is most likely that only fragments of words were understood by some. Mala Zimetbaum's relative Giza Weisblum credibly reports that in a weak voice, Mala told a few fellow prisoners at the camp hospital: "Do not cry; the day of reckoning is near. Remember everything they did to us."
We shall never know for sure exactly what Mala's last words were, or her intent. Does it really matter?
It is not words or the dramatic circumstances of her death that make Mala Zimetbaum one of the great Jewish women of valor. Mala has become a symbol of solidarity, bravery, and compassion because of her behavior in the most extreme conditions imaginable. Her legacy is in deeds, in her unremitting attempts to save lives, to support the weak, to encourage the oppressed and uphold humanity, in her quiet and determined resistance against the ubiquitous terror of the Holocaust.
The Austrian historian and Auschwitz survivor Hermann Langbein wrote : "In a concentration camp, to resist essentially means to preserve life." This is precisely what Mala Zimetbaum did.
Despite its tragic end, Mala's story is a story of freedom and humanity, a story of life, and life sustained. "Remember everything" - Mala Zimetbaum shall not be forgotten. Remember.
by Lorenz Sichelschmidt
Mala Zimetbaum in Hanoar Hatzioni uniform. Courtesy M.Y. Schipper
On this date in 1946, officials of Soviet-occupied Poland publicly hanged eleven convicted war criminals of the Stutthof concentration camp.
Set up immediately upon Germany’s September 1, 1939 invasion of Poland and not liberated until after official German capitulation in 1945, Stutthoff handled over 100,000 prisoners during its long service.
This day’s condemned — camp commandant Johann Pauls, five male kapos, and five female guards — were the product of the first of four Stutthof trials held in 1946-1947. At a hill in Gdansk known as Biskupia Gorka (Bishop Hill), upon a specially-erected row of four T-shaped double gallows centered around a pi-shaped triple gallows, and before a crowd of thousands, the doomed eleven were noosed on the back of military trucks which then drove away to leave them strangling to death with a “short drop” hanging.
(c.1922 – July 4, 1946)
was a Nazi concentration camp guard.
She is believed to have spent her childhood in Hamburg, Germany. In 1944, she became anAufseherin in the Stutthof SK-III women's camp, where she brutalized prisoners, some to death. She also selected women and children for the gas chambers. She was so severe the women prisoners nicknamed her the Beautiful Specter.
Barkmann fled Stutthof as the Soviets approached. She was arrested in May 1945 while trying to leave a train station in Gda?sk, incarcerated and became a defendant in the Stutthof Trial. She is said to have flirted with her prison guards and was apparently seen arranging her hair while hearing testimony. She was found guilty, after which she declared, "Life is indeed a pleasure, and pleasures are usually short."
- .1922 – July 4, 1946
Executions~Caught Behind German Lines
Following Stonehouse's capture, she went into hiding until early 1943 when she was put in touch with SOE agents George Reginald Starr and Philippe de Vomécourt. She began working with them in the town of Agen in the Lot-et-Garonne départementin the south of France. However, it was decided to send her to London and accompanied by another agent, she walked across the Pyrenees mountains making their way to Gibraltar and eventually London. There, SOE trained her as a wireless operator in preparation for a return to France.
On 2 March 1944, with fellow SOE agent, Robert Benoist, she was dropped back into central France. Working in the Nantes area, they re-established contact with SOE agent and Benoist's fellow race car driver, Jean-Pierre Wimille. However, in June, both she and Benoist were arrested and Bloch was interrogated and tortured before being shipped to Germany. She was held in prisons at Torgau in Saxony and at Königsberg in Brandenburg, where she suffered great hardship from exposure, cold, and malnutrition.
Eventually shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp, sometime between 25 January 1945 and 5 February 1945, 29-year-old Denise Madeleine Bloch was executed by the Germans and her body disposed of in the crematorium. Both Lilian Rolfe and Violette Szabo, two other female members of the SOE held at Ravensbrück, were executed at or about the same time. In May, just days before the German surrender, SOE agent Cecily Lefort was also executed at Ravensbrück. It is alleged that SS-Sturmbannführer Horst Kopkow was involved in the arrest/killing of these SOE agents.
Denise Bloch's family gravesite at the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris memorializes her life and execution.
Lilian Vera Rolfe
was an Allied secret agent in World War II.
She and her twin sister Helen Fedora Rolfe were the daughters of George Rolfe, a British chartered accountant working in Paris. Although she grew up in Paris, as a young girl, she frequently visited her grandparents, who lived on Paulet Road in London. When she was sixteen, her family moved to Brazil, where she finished her schooling.
At the onset of World War II, Rolfe worked at the British Embassy in Rio de Janeirobefore going to London, England in 1943 to join the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Because of her fluency in the French language, she was recruited into the Special Operations Executive (SOE), where she was trained as a wireless operator.
On 5 April 1944, she was dropped near the city of Orléans in occupied France, where she was deployed to work with the "Historian" network run by George Wilkinson. Her job was to transmit Maquis and other important radio messages to London. Beyond her wireless duties, that included reporting on Nazi troop movements and organizing arms and supply drops, she actively participated in missions with members of theFrench Resistance against the German occupiers and was involved in a gun battle in the small town of Olivet just south of Orléans.
Following the D-Day landings, an increasingly aggressive manhunt by the Gestapo led to the arrest of her superior officer. Nonetheless, Rolfe continued to work until her arrest at a transmitting house in Nargis on 31 July 1944. Transported to Fresnes prison in Paris, she was interrogated repeatedly and brutally tortured until August 1944, when she was shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp. According to an admission made by a German officer after the war’s end, she was so ill that she could not walk. On 5 February 1945, 30-year-old Lilian Rolfe was executed by the Germans and her body disposed of in the crematorium.
(26 June 1921 – c. 5 February 1945)
She was born Violette Reine Elizabeth Bushell in Paris, France on 26 June 1921, the second child of a French mother and an English taxi-driver father, who had met during World War I. The family moved to London and she attended school in Brixtonuntil the age of 14. At the start of the Second World War, she was working in the Bon Marché department store in Brixton on the perfume counter.
Violette met Etienne Szabo, a French officer of Hungarian descent, at the Bastille Day parade in London in 1940. They married on 21 August 1940 after a whirlwind 42-day romance. Violette was 19, Etienne was 31. Shortly after the birth of their only child, Tania, Etienne died from chest wounds at the Battle of El Alamein in October 1942. He had never seen his daughter. It was Etienne's death that made Violette, having already joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in 1941, decide to offer her services to the British Special Operations Executive (SOE).
After an assessment for fluency in the French language and a series of interviews, she was inducted into Special Operations Executive. She received intensive training in night and daylight navigation, escape and evasion, both Allied and German weapons, unarmed combat, demolitions, explosives, communications and cryptography. A minor accident during parachute training delayed her deployment into the field until 5 April 1944, when she was parachuted into German-occupied France, near Cherbourg.
Code-named "Louise", she reorganised a French Resistance network that had been smashed by the Germans. She led the new group in sabotaging road and railway bridges. Her wireless reports to SOE headquarters on the local factories producing war materials for the Germans were extremely important in establishing Allied bombing targets. She returned to England by Lysander on 30 April 1944, after an intense but successful first mission.Second mission
She flew to the outskirts of Limoges, France on 7 June 1944 (immediately following D-Day) from RAF Tempsford. Immediately on arrival, she coordinated the activities of the local Maquis (led by Jacques Dufour) in sabotaging communication lines during German attempts to stem theNormandy landings.
She was a passenger in a car that raised the suspicions of German troops at an unexpected roadblock that had been set up to findSturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe of the Das Reich Division, who had been captured by the local resistance.
A brief gun battle ensued. Her Maquis minders escaped unscathed in the confusion. However, Szabo was captured when she ran out of ammunition, around midday on 10 June 1944, near Salon-la-Tour. Her captors were most likely from the 1st Battalion of the Deutschland Regiment. In R. J. Minney's biography, she is described as putting up fierce resistance with her Sten gun. German documents of the incident record no German injuries or casualties.
She was transferred to the custody of the SD in Limoges, where she was interrogated for four days. From there, she was moved to Fresnes Prison in Paris, and brought to Gestapo headquarters at 84 Avenue Foch for interrogation and torture. In August 1944 she was moved toRavensbrück concentration camp, where over 92,000 women died. There, she endured hard labour and malnutrition. She managed to help save the life of Belgian resistance courier Hortense Clews.
Violette Szabo was executed on or about 5 February 1945 and her body disposed of in the crematorium. She was 23 years old.
Cecily Lefort (30 April 1900 – February 1945)
When World War II broke out, she and her husband fled occupied France for England, where they arranged for their home in Brittany to be available to the underground resistance for use as part of an escape line for downed British airmen and others needing to get out of occupied France.
In 1941, Lefort joined the British Women's Auxiliary Air Force. The following year, being fluent in the French language, she volunteered to serve with the F Section (France) of the Special Operations Executive based in London. On the night of 16 June 1943, with fellow SOE agentsDiana Rowden and Noor Inayat Khan, she was flown to Le Mans, where they were met by Henri Dericourt She was sent to southeastern France, where she was a courier for the "Jockey" network run by Francis Cammaerts
On 15 September 1943, while meeting a contact in Montélimar in Drôme, Lefort was arrested by the Gestapo. After being subjected to a ruthless interrogation and torture, she was sent north to the Fresnes prison in Paris. Then, a few months later in early 1944, she was shipped to Ravensbrück concentration camp about 50 miles from Berlin. Ravensbrück had a gas chamber and crematorium; and, at the end of 1944, when the German defeat was imminent, the place became a frantic killing center.
Held with 30,000 women and children, Lefort had to wear on her prison uniform the red triangle patch identifying her as a resistance worker. The prisoners were made to toil for hours doing such things as paving the streets by pulling a huge iron roller. Suffering from extreme malnutrition and exhaustion, Lefort was deemed by the Germans to no longer be of any value and she was gassed in February 1945.
(1 May 1915 – 15 June 1952)
was a Polish Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent who became a legend in her own time for her daring exploits in intelligence and sabotage missions to Nazi-occupied Poland and France.
She was a British agent just months before the SOE was founded in July 1940 and had been the longest serving of all British women agents during World War II. Skarbek was extremely resourceful and quite persuasive. Because of her influence the SOE began to recruit increasing numbers of women agents into the organization.
In 1941 she chose her began using the nom de guerreChristine Granville, which she ultimately legally adopted after the war. Skarbek was a friend of Ian Fleming, and is said to have been the inspiration for the charachters of Bond girls Tatiana Romanova and Vesper Lynd.
Krystyna Skarbek was born on an estate at Mlodzieszyn, 56 km (35 miles) west of Warsaw, to Count Jerzy Skarbek, a Roman Catholic and Stefania née Goldfeder, the daughter of a wealthy assimilated Jewish banker. It was a marriage of convenience which allowed Jerzy Skarbek the benefit of using Stefania`s dowry to pay his debts and continue his lavish life-style.
The Skarbeks were well connected with notable relations such as the composer Fryderyk Chopin, Chopin's godfather and prison reformer Fryderyk Skarbek, and American Union General W?odzimierz Krzy?anowski.
The couple's first child, Andrzej took after the mother's side of the family while, Krystyna, second born, took after her father. She shared his love for riding horses, which she sat astride, rather than side-saddle. During family visits to Zakopane in the mountains of southern Poland, she developed into an expert skier. From the very beginning, there was a complete rapport between father and daughter and her penchant for being a tomboy developed quite naturally.
Krystyna first met Andrzej Kowerski her childhood playmate, a her family stables, when his father met with her father the Count to discuss agricultural business. The 1920s financial crisis had left the family in dire financial straits in which they had to give up their country estate and move to Warsaw. In 1930, when Krystyna was just 22, her father died. The financial empire of the Goldfeder family had almost all but collapsed leaving barely sufficient money to support the widowed Countess Stefania.
Krystyna found work at a Fiat dealership but soon had to quit due to illness incurred as a result of the auto fumes. Initially, a doctor's diagnosis concluded that the shadows on her chest e-rays were that of tuberculosis, since her father had died of the disease. She received compensation from her employer's insurance company and followed the advice of her physician to spend as much time in the outdoors as possible. She spent a great deal of time hiking and skiing the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland.
During this time, Krystyna married a young businessman, Karol Getlich but the marriage ended amicably. They were incompatible. Subsequently, she was involved in a love affair, but it was nipped in the bud, as Karol's mother refused to allow him to marry a penniless divorcee.
One day while skiing at Zakopane, Krystyna lost control on the slopes and was saved in the nick of time by a giant of a man who stepped into her path and saved her. His name was Jerzy Gi?ycki - a brilliant, moody, irascible eccentric young man, who came from a wealthy family in Ukraine. At the age of fourteen, he had quarreled with his father, run away from home, and worked in the United States as a cowboy and gold prospector. Eventually he became an author and traveled the world in search of material for his books and articles. He had visited Africa and knew it well. It was his hope to one day return.
On 2 November 1938, Krystyna and Jerzy Gi?ycki married at the Evangelical Reformed Church in Warsaw. Shortly thereafter Jerzy accepted a diplomatic posting to Ethiopia, where he served as Poland’s consul general until September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. Skarbek would later refer to Gi?ycki as having been "my Svengali for so many years that he would never believe that I could ever leave him for good."
With the outbreak of World War II, the couple sailed for London, England, where Skarbek offered her services to the British Empire. At first the British authorities had little interest in considering her, but were eventually convinced by Skarbek's acquaintances, including that of journalist Frederick Augustus Voigt, who had previously introduced her to the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). In 1940 Voigt was working as advsor for the British in the Department of Propaganda in Enemy Countries. After World War II, George Orwell described Voigt as a "neo-tory" who expounded on the need to maintain British imperial power as a necessary bulwark against communism and for the maintenance of international peace and political stability.
Skarbek travelled to Hungary and in December 1939 persuaded Polish Olympic skier Jan Marusarz, brother of Stanislaw Marusarz, to escort her across the snow-covered Tatra Mountains into Poland. Having arrived in Warsaw, she pleaded with her mother to leave Nazi-occupied Poland. Tragically, Stefania Skarbek refused to comply and died at the hands of the occupying Germans. In what was a cruel twist of fate, she perished in Warsaw's infamous Pawiak prison The prison had been designed in the mid-19th century by Krystyna Skarbek's great-great-uncle Fryderyk Florian Skarbek, a prison reformer and Frédéric Chopin's godfather, who had been tutored in French language by Chopin's father.
Pawiak Prison An incident in February 1940, illustrates the danger she faced while working as an undercover spy on home turf. At a Warsaw café, she was greeted by a female acquaintance who exclaimed: "Krystyna! Krystyna Skarbek! What are you doing here? We heard that you'd gone abroad!" Skarbek, with cool composure, denied that her name was Krystyna Skarbek, though the woman persisted that the resemblance was such that she could havesworn it was Krystyna Skarbek! After the woman had left, Skarbek remained some time at the cafe before leaving, so as not to arouse suspicion.
Krystyna Skarbek helped to organize a team of Polish couriers that transported intelligence reports from Warsaw to Budapest. Among them, was her cousin Ludwik Popiel who managed to smuggle out the unique Polish anti-tank rifle, model 35, with the stock and barrel sawed off for easier transport but it never saw wartime service with the Allies. Its designs and specifications had to be destroyed upon the outbreak of war and there was no time for reverse engineering. Captured stocks of the rifle were, however, used by the Germans and the Italians. For a period of time Skarbek, had the weapon concealed in her Budapest apartment.
In Hungary, Skarbek met long-lost childhood friend, Andrzej Kowerski, a Polish Army officer, who would later use the Britishnom de guerre "Andrew Kennedy". Skarbek met him again briefly before the war at Zakopane. Kowerski had lost part of his leg in a pre-war hunting accident, and was now exfiltrating Polish and other Allied military personnel and gathering intelligence.
Skarbek demonstrated her penchant for quick-thinking strategy. When she and Kowerski were arrested by the Gestapo in January 1941 she feigned symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis by biting her tongue until it bled. She won their release. Skarbek was related to the Hungarian Regent, Admiral Mikos Horthy, though a distant one at that. A cousin from the Lwów side of the family had married a relative of Horthy. The pair made good their escape from Hungary via the Balkans and Turkey.
As soon as they arrived at SOE offices in Cairo, Egypt, they were stunned to discover that they were under suspicion.because of Skarbek's contacts with a Polish intelligence organization called the "Musketeers". The organization was formed in October 1939 by Stefan Witkowski, an engineer-inventor who would be assassinated in October 1941, whose identities have never been determined. Another source of suspicion was the ease with which she had obtained transit visas through French-mandated Syria and Lebanon from the pro-Vichy French consul in Istanbul, a concession offered only to German spies.
Suspicions also surrounded Kowerski and were addressed in London by General Colin Gubbins, head of the SOE (from September 1943). In a letter dated 17 June 1941 to Polish Commander-in-Chief and Premier W?adys?aw Sikorski, he wrote the following:
Last year […] a Polish citizen named Kowerski was working with our officials in Budapest on Polish affairs. He is now in Palestine […]. I understand from Major [Peter] Wilkinson [of SOE] that General [Stanis?aw] Kopa?ski [Kowerski's former commander in Poland] is doubtful about Kowerski's loyalty to the Polish cause [because] Kowerski has not reported to General Kopa?ski for duty with the [Polish Independent Carpathian] Brigade. Major Wilkinson informs me that Kowerski had had instructions from our officials not to report to General Kopa?ski, as he was engaged […] on work of a secret nature which necessitated his remaining apart. It seems therefore that Kowerski's loyalty has only been called into question because of these instructions.
Eventually,Kowerski was able to clarify any misunderstandings with General Kopa?ski following which he resumed intelligence work. Similarly, when Skarbek visited Polish military headquarters in her British Royal Air Force uniform, she was treated by the Polish military chiefs with the highest of respect.
Intelligence obtained by Skarbek through her connections with the Musketeers, had accurately predicted the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941). Consequently, when Skarbek and Kowerski's services were dispensed with, Jerzy Gizycki took umbrage and abruptly resigned from his own career as British intelligence agent. (It was discovered only later that a number of Allied sources, including Ultra, also had similar advance information about Operation Barbarossa.)
Skarbek informed Jerzy, her husband that the man she loved was Kowerski. Gi?ycki left for London, eventually emigrating to Canada. Their divorce became official at the Polish consulate in Berlin on 1 August 1946.
Krystyna Skarbek was sidelined from mainstream action. The assistant to the head of F section, Vera Atkins, described Skarbek as a very brave woman, though very much a loner and a law unto herself.
By 1944 events had occurred that would lead to some of Skarbek's most famous of exploits. Due to her fluency in French, her services her offered to SOE teams in France, where she worked under the nom de guerre, "Madame Pauline". The offer was timely one - the SOE was encountering a shortage of trained operatives to meet the increased demands being placed on it in the run-up to the invasion of France. Though new operatives were already in training, the process took time to complete. The could not be posted throughout occupied Europe until they acquired the necessary physical and intellectual skills, otherwise their fate as well as that of other SOE colleagues and that of the French Resistance would be greatly compromised.
Cecily Lefort Skarbek's track record in courier work was exceptional during her missions in occupied Europe and required only a little "refresher" work and some guidance about working in France. There was one particular incident which required immediate attention: the replacement of SOE agent Cecily Lefort, a courier who was lost on a busy circuit whose mission it was to be the first to meet the proposed Allied landings. Skarbek was chosen to replace Lefort, who had been captured, tortured, and imprisoned by the Gestapo.
The SOE had set up several branches in France. Though most of the women in France reported to F Section in London, Skarbek's mission was launched from Algiers, the base of the AMF Section. This fact, combined with Skarbek's absence from the usual SOE training program, has been the source of mystery to many historians and researchers. The AMF Section was only set up in the wake of the Allied landings in North Africa, 'Operation Torch', comprising of staff from London's F Section and the MO4 from Cairo.
The functions of the AMF Section were three-fold: it was simpler and safer to run the resupply operations from Allied North Africa acroos German-occupied France, than from London; since the South of France would be liberated by separate Allied landings there ("Operation Dragoon"), SOE units in the area needed to be transferred to have links with those headquarters, not with forces for Normandy; the AMF Section tapped into the skills of the French in North Africa, who did not generally support Charles de Gaulle and who had been linked with opposition in the former "Unoccupied Zone".
After the two invasions, the distinctions became irrelevant; and almost all the SOE Sections in France would be united with the Maquis into the Forces Francaises de l'Interieur (FFI). (There was one exception: the EU/P Section, which was formed by Poles in France and remained part of the trans-European Polish Resistance movement, under Polish command.)
On July 6, 1944, Skarbek, as "Pauline Armand", parachuted into southeastern France and became part of the "Jockey" network directed by a Belgian-British lapsed pacifist, Francis Cammaerts. She assisted Cammaerts by linking Italian partisans and French Maquis for joint operations against the Germans in the Alps and by inducing non-Germans, in particular Poles who had been conscripted in the German occupation forces to defect to the Allies.
On August 13, 1944, just two days before Operation Dragoon landings, Francis Cammaerts, another SOE operative,Xan Fielding who had been operating in Crete, as well as a French officer, Christian Sorensen, were arrested at a roadblock by the Gestapo. When Skarbek learned that they were to be executed, she managed to meet with Capt. Albert Schenck, an Alsatian, who was the liaison officer between the local French prefecture and the Gestapo. She introduced herself as a niece of British General Bernard Montgomery and threatened Schenck should any harm come to the prisoners. She reinforced her threat by offering two million francs for the men's release. Schenck in turn introduced her to a Gestapo officer, a Belgian named Max Waem.
For three hours Christine argued and bargained with him and, having turned the full force of her magnetic personality on him... told him that the Allies would be arriving at any moment and that she, a British parachutist, was in constant wireless contact with the British forces. To make her point, she produced some broken... useless W/T crystals.... 'If I were you,' said Christine, 'I should give careful thought to the proposition I have made you. As I told Capitaine Schenck, if anything should happen to my husband [as she falsely described Cammaerts] or to his friends, the reprisals would be swift and terrible, for I don't have to tell you that both you and the Capitaine have an infamous reputation among the locals.'
Increasingly alarmed by the thought of what might befall him when the Allies and the Resistance decided to avenge the many murders he had committed, Waem struck the butt end of his revolver on the table and said, 'If I do get them out of prison, what will you do to protect me?'
Cammaerts and the other two men were released. Capt. Schenck was advised to leave Digne. He did not and was subsequently murdered by a person or persons unknown. His wife kept the bribe money and, after the war, attempted to exchange it for new francs. She was arrested but released after the authorities investigated her story. She managed to exchange the money but received only a tiny portion of its value.
Skarbek's service in France restored her political reputation and greatly enhanced her military reputation. When the SOE teams returned from France some of the British women sought new missions in the Pacific War, however Skarbek, being Polish, was ideally suited to serve as a courier for missions to her homeland during the final missions of the SOE. As the Red Army advanced across Poland, the British government and Polish government-in-exile worked together to establish a network that would report on events in the People's Republic of Poland. Kowerski and Skarbek, fully reconciled with the Polish forces, were preparing to be dropped into Poland in early 1945. However, the mission, Operation Freston, was canceled because the first party to enter Poland were captured by the Red Army (they were released in February 1945).
All women SOE operatives were assigned military rank, with honorary commissions in either the Women's Transport Service - which was an autonomous, though elite part of the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) or the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. Skarbek appears to have been a member of both.
In preparation for service in France, Skarbek worked with the Women's Transport Service, but on her return had transferred to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force as an officer, a rank she held until the end of the war.
Skarbek was one of the few SOE female operatives to have been promoted beyond subaltern rank to that of Captain, or the Air Force equivalent, Flight Officer, the counterpart of the Flight Lieutenant rank for male officers. Skarbek, by the end of the war was Honorary Flight Officer, a title that of Pearl Witherington, the courier who had taken command of a group when the designated commander was captured, and Yvonne Cormeau, considered to be the most successful wireless operator.
For her remarkable exploits at Digne, Skarbek was decorated with the George Medal. Years after the Digne incident, in London, she spoke about her experiences to another Pole, also a World War II veteran that, during her negotiations with the Gestapo, she was completely unaware of any danger to herself. Only after she and her comrades had escaped did she realize "What have I done! They could have shot me as well!"
In May 1947, she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for her work in conjunction with the British authorities. This award is usually presented to officers about the rank of colonel, and a rank above the "standard" award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) given to other women of SOE.
In recognition of Skarbek's contribution to the liberation of France, the French government awarded her the Croix de Guerre.
After the war, Skarbek was left without financial reserves or a country to return to. Xan Fielding, whom she had saved at Digne, wrote in his 1954 book, Hide and Seek, and dedicated "To the memory of Christine Granville":
After the physical hardship and mental strain she had suffered for six years in our service, she needed, probably more than any other agent we had employed, security for life. […] Yet a few weeks after the armistice she was dismissed with a month's salary and left in Cairo to fend for herself ... [Alt]hough she was too proud to ask for any other assistance, she did apply for […] a British passport; for ever since the Anglo-American betrayal of her country at Yalta she had been virtually stateless. But the naturalization papers […] were delayed in the normal bureaucratic manner. Meanwhile, abandoning all hope of security, she deliberately embarked on a life of uncertain travel, as though anxious to reproduce in peace time the hazards she had known during the war; until, finally, in June 1952, in the lobby of a cheap London hotel, the menial existence to which she had been reduced by penury was ended by an assassin's knife.
During the latter part of her life, she had met Ian Fleming, with whom she allegedly had a year-long affair,although there is no proof that this affair ever occurred. The man who made the allegation, Donald McCormick, relied on the word of a woman identified only by the name "Olga Bialoguski"; McCormick always refused to confirm her identify and did not include her in his list of acknowledgments.
Christine Granville met an untimely end at a Kensington Hotel on June 15, 1952 where she was stabbed to death by a man by the name of Dennis Muldowney, an obsessed merchant-marine steward and former colleague whose advances she had rejected. After being tried and convicted of her murder, Muldowney was hanged on the gallows at HMP Pentonville on 30 September 1952.
Krystyna Skarbek / Christine Granville was interred in St. Mary's Roman Catholic Cemetery at Kensal Green, in northwest London.
Following his death in 1988, the ashes of Skarbek's comrade-in-arms and partner, Andrzej Kowerski (aka Andrew Kennedy) were interred at the foot of her grave.
Skarbek became a legend during her lifetime and after her death, has become forever after immortalized by popular culture. In Ian Flemings first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, the character Vesper Lynd is said to have been modeled after Skarbeck. According to William F. Nolan, Fleming also based Tatiana Romanova, in his 1957 novel From Russia, with Love, on Skarbek.
Four decades later, in 1999, Polish writer Maria Nurowska published a novel, Milosnica (The Lover)—a fictional story about a female journalist's attempt to probe Skarbek's story.
A Polish TV series has been announced by Telewizja Polska (Polish Television) about Skarbek.
The Krakow Post report on February 5, 2009 that Agnieszka Holland will direct a big-budget film about Skarbek—Christine: War My Love.
Order of the British Empire Croix de Guerre (France)
- 1 May 1915 – 15 June 1952