Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Meissner, Erna, 1921- (2 of 13) The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
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The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
Meissner, Erna, 1921- (speaker, male)
Thompson, Katherine, (speaker, male)
Part 2:Restrictions during German occupation - no theatre, cinema, no mixing with Arians, Sackings etc. She had to wear Star of David from 1941. She finished her studies in 1940 - after that no more Jews were allowed to study. She could not go to her graduation party. He non-Jewish friends stood by her. They were not many informers in a small town. The hard times started when she finished her studies and could not get job. In spring 1941 she worked in the Council of the Jewish Community (explains function) as secretary. She gave advice to transports but also had to work with Germans. She tried to do it fairly. She met her fiancé Franta Aschermann. They went to places together but they could only travel within 12 km. Terezín was made a new 'home' and people hoped to go there. Transports started in Prague, the first from Kolin in 1942. People of mixed marriages were excluded. She and her family were included in the last transport from Kolin. They were German reprisals due to Heydrich's assassination. Mentions numbers in transport and how many returned. The 3rd transport was assembled in a school and they took them by train to Terezín. German revenge: the first transport direct from Prague - A.A.H. ('Attentat Auf Heydrich') was sent direct to East and they were all shot. And Terezín was ordered to send a 2nd transport east (including most people from the first two Kolin transports) and they were also all shot. On arrival in Bohousovice she saw people from Terezín to be sent east and also 250 people from her transport (her 1st 'selection'). He fiancé's family worked in Terezín which saved her from being sent east and so she also went to Terezín. In Terezín they were also Jews from Germany, many old people who were promised to go to a 'Sanitorium'. She learned the 'hard facts of life' - she found that there were also bad Czechs and Jews and good Germans. Description of Terezín. Separation of women and men. Later removal of Czechs and people being allowed out of the Ghetto. She worked in an office. A Jewish employee there wanted sex with her and she refused. His revenge was to put her in transport. Her dilemma to decide whether to go with parents or stay.
Interviewee's note: Born in Prague, lived in Golecuv Jenikov near Kolin, Czechoslovakia; Jewish family. Talks about relatives, school, no experience of anti-Semitism. The German occupation brought restrictions to Jews; no theatre or cinema, no mixing with Aryans, they had to wear the Star of David from 1940. Not allowed to study. The Jewish workers were sacked. Non-Jewish friends stood by her. In spring 1941, she worked for the Council of Jewish Community as a secretary. People were hoping to be sent to Terezin (Theresienstadt), the new "home". She and her family were on last transport from Kolin to Terezin. At this time, the Germans were seeking revenge for assassination of Heydrich, by shooting whole transports of people being taken to Terezin. Her fiancé?s family worked in Terezin which saved her. Description of Terezin; She learned that there were bad Czechs and Jews, and good Germans; they were many old people there, who had believed they were coming to a sanatorium; she worked in an office. Then she was taken with her parents on transport to Raasiku concentration camp in Estonia. There she was separated from her parents and later discovered that they had been shot. Life in Raasiku: work and food. The commander of the camp was later sentenced to death. After some time she was sent with 30 girls to Tallinn prison; she worked on a building site and was beaten for accepting bacon from other workers on site. More information about Ralf Gerets, Estonian Fascist, nicknamed centipede; the prisoners were given soap made from Jewish bodies. Tallinn prison; description of a typical day. Then transported to Kochtla camp, occupied and managed by Polish Jews who hated the new arrivals. Story of Inge Sirten, with whom commandment fell in love; they planned to escape but they were found out, both committed suicide. She worked on building site, then in a kitchen. They ate Christmas dinner in the camp. New camp: Goldfil. The Russian were advancing; some prisoners were evacuated, she was sent to work on farms; they had opportunities for escape but did not as she feared her parents would be shot. Evacuation of Goldfil camp; taken to Tallinn then Lagodin. The unfit prisoners were shot, the rest taken to Danzig and then to Stuthof camp. Then to Oxenzoll, where she worked in a munitions factory. She stayed there until April 1945. The Germans were nervous; there were air-raids on Hamburg. She was then taken to Belsen; the worst yet. Then the British arrived; they brought food, clothes, and drugs. A coach collected prisoners; she had a wonderful reception from an aunt when she reached home. She discovered her fiancé had been killed. She got a flat and started working. She felt very lonely and nearly attempted suicide. She worked in Prague and joined the Communist party. She met her first husband, a Communist party member, they had a son. The husband died, supposedly of TB but she suspected something sinister. She married again in 1954. She was interested in politics; worked in publishing, editing and was involved in Prague Spring. The Russian occupation was a shock and decided to leave Prague for Austria, then England. She had bad health and a hard life to start with; she experienced several different jobs, her second husband got cancer, started to think about faith and became a Christian. Her second husband died. Now she has 3 grandchildren. She talks about Christianity, husband's illness, other concentration camp survivors, who she's made contact with and financial problems.