I worked for Adolf Eichmann
Valerie White, a Czech noiv living in Toronto, helped “process” thousands of Jeivs for Eichmann’s Central Office. As Eichmann’s trial begins, here is a first-hand report of the methods he used
FOR ALMOST TWO YEARS I was a secretary in one of the efficient offices Adolf Eichmann organized in Nazi-occupied countries to transact his infamous business: the extermination of Jews. I was employed in the division called, with grim Nazi logic, THE CENTRAL OFFICE FOR THE SOLUTION OF THE JEWISH QUESTION IN BOHEMIA AND MORAVIA.
Probably most Westerners think that when the Germans occupied a country they just seized the frightened multitudes of Jews wherever they found them and drove them like animals to the gas chambers. It was not done that way at all. The liquidation of Jews was a highly organized business operation. It was done with cold, clerical efficiency (all records in triplicate at least, and meticulously entered in ledgers).
As a secretary I was more concerned with avoiding typing errors-—no erasures were permitted: a whole sheet of names would have to be typed again — than with the fact that what I was doing was in effect taking part in the death sentence of thousands of my fellow Jews. The staff was assembled—on Eichmann’s order—by the Jewish Community Council. At first the duty of the Jewish staff was to interpret to the Jewish population the various decrees of the Nazis. But before long they were performing all duties leading to the final destruction of their fellows—and eventually their own. This happened in all Nazi-occupied countries. In the Prague office there were about three thousand employees at the time I worked there—all “privileged” Jews, that is, Jews married to Gentiles. Before us the office had been staffed by “full” Jews. We replaced them when they were deported to concentration camps. Only a few in the highest positions were allowed to remain.
Eichmann was a frequent visitor in the Central Office. We usually knew ahead of time that he would be coming. Our supervisors made us clean and shine all offices and instructed the male employees that they had to stand at attention when he came into the room. But Eichmann never entered any other office but that of the Eldest of the Jews (a ghetto term revived by the Germans, meaning in this case the highest executive).
I met him only once, when the secretary of the Eldest was sick and I was called in to take dictation. Before we finished with the letter Eichmann walked in wearing a grey leather coat and a hunting hat—the preferred attire of the Gestapo. He didn’t look frightening at all. The most conspicuous thing about him, I thought, was his reddish hair. His face was rather expressionless, even mild, and his manners were courteous though somewhat contemptuous. He talked to the Eldest as a slaveholder might talk to a slave to whom he wants to show what a well-mannered slaveholder he is. I saw him a few more times entering the building and once I spoke to him on the phone, but I’ll come to this later.
I must admit that at the time I didn’t know what an important man our boss really was. Before I started to work at the Central Office I had never heard his name. Not many people in the German-occupied countries had. While other high officials of the Third Reich basked in the limelight, Eichmann was never publicized. His picture was missing from the gallery of important Nazis displayed everywhere. The papers didn’t write about him. I regarded him as one of thé Gestapo men who happened to be in charge of our office but I had no idea about his vast power.
My summons for
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I worked for Adolf Eichmann
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The Nazis seldom published orders. This kept the Czechs from learning the fate of the Jews
work arrived on a sunny spring day in 1943. 1 had known about the Central Office before, as most of the regulations the Germans imposed on the Jews were made and sent out by this office. The Nazis avoided publishing them, so the
Czechs would know as little as possible about what was happening to the Jews.
Regulations, decrees and restrictions to make our life more miserable fell like rain in those days. I can still feel the terror, that overcame me whenever I
opened one of the Central Office messages. They were carefully composed and mimeographed forms informing me that I had to wear a yellow star; that I was forbidden to appear in public places; that I could use no streetcars
or railways; that I was allowed to walk only on certain streets—and not on any street between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. I was also instructed to list all my belongings and hand them over in batches to the Germans. Even our dogs were taken.
But all this was only an overture to the final duties of the office: the summoning of all Jews into “transports”, which were then shipped to concentration camps. As a privileged Jew I didn’t get any of the forms relating to this operation until about the end of the war, but I saw them in the hands of my aged parents, my paralyzed sister, my relatives and friends. I was allowed to witness their departure, and remain in Prague with the many sadly empty apartments.
I started my work with mixed feelings. On one hand I was glad to have something to do that would take my mind off all my sorrows, but on the other hand I loathed the idea of working for the Gestapo and helping them to carry out their “emigration” plans. But there was no choice. Everyone who was summoned had to go. Only women with small children and sick or aged persons could be excused.
My first job was to type out endless lists of people who had to be or had been deported. There were about thirty typists in the same room doing the same job. We worked in seven-hour shifts beginning either at seven-thirty in the morning or at two in the afternoon. After a while it was just like any other typing job. 1 ceased being aware that the names belonged to human beings. They could have been rivets or aluminum plates.
I suppose that after four years of the horrors of German occupation I was too numb to realize fully all aspects of my work. There is only so much misery a person can perceive. As a typist I was at least in the fortunate position of not having to see the people whose names, addresses and transport numbers I typed day in and day out. Some of my colleagues had to handle worse duties; for instance, delivering the “Summons for Travel” forms and seeing the faces of the recipients, or bringing the aged and sick in moving vans to the gathering place for transports.
We did not know that most of these people were going to their death. We did not know about gas chambers and crematoriums, about monstrous medical experiments, or about the conditions in the labor and death camps, until the end of the war. The majority of the transports left for Theresienstadt. We knew that Theresienstadt was a large concentration camp in northern Bohemia, administered entirely by Jews, but we didn’t know that for most of the deported this was only a transit station from which they were shipped to the Polish horror camps.
The orders for organizing transports came directly from Eichmann or one of his representatives and were delivered in person to the Eldest of the Jews. The Gestapo officials would never put their signatures on their orders to us; they were always anonymous.
After Eichmann’s visits the “procedures” started. New forms for ordering the selected to appear at a given date and hour for emigration (that’s what the Germans liked to call it) had to be made out. The forms were composed in
such a way that the victims would not be too alarmed. They were going to be ghettoized, the forms said. They should leave behind all their remaining belongings (which they had to list beforehand) and take only a few suggested items since there wasn’t much room on the train.
Some of my colleagues had to make out the labels that all deportees had to hang around their necks and sew on their baggage. Unless they w-ere old or sick, in which case the office took care of their transportation (hospitals were able to provide stretchers for their Jewish patients), no one cam® to pick up these people. They walked obediently to the slaughterhouse without any German or Central Office supervision. You might think they could have escaped, but there was no place where they could hide. They couldn’t just take off the star and move to another part of tow'n or into the country. Wherever you went and whatever you did in those days you always had to present your identification card with a photograph, and all Jews had a huge red J stamped on theirs.
Many Czechs would have liked to help them but to aid a Jew in any
way meant a concentration camp or the death penalty. A few' did, nevertheless, and some paid for it with their life. It wasn’t an easy task to hide a family that had no food rations, in constant danger of Gestapo raids and even of being given away by spies. And thus some fifty thousand Jews in Prague alone—many of them singing the Czech national anthem — walked patiently to the gathering places w'hcre the employees of the Central Office were waiting for them.
The regular number of people transported was a thousand at a time, and it usually took the Central Office employees, several days and nights to register the summoned persons. (The preferred time for gathering w;as in the late afternoon.) In the morning the Gestapo jammed everyone into closed cattle wagons. Occasionally a few' people were trampled to death during this operation. Meanwhile cleaning women and men from our office tidied up the gathering place and life went on as before.
It w'as Vera who told mo about these procedures. She was a slight blonde girl from a very rich family who. until the Nuremberg laws, did not know she was a Jew'. Both of her parents were baptized at an early age and Vera was born and educated a Roman Catholic. She had no Jewish friends and in the beginning felt quite lost in the Central Office. I met her in the cemetery. Since Jews were forbidden to visit parks, Jewish cemeteries became the meeting place of Jewish friends—and lovers as well.
At that time Vera was working in the museum. Perhaps the most macabre duty of the Central Office was to establish a Jewish museum for the time when Jews would be extinct, and only a memory of their existence remained—the mu-
seum still exists in Prague, as a reminder of Nazi brutality. It contains religious objects, prayerbooks, candelabra, pictures of Jews, Hebrew reading material, and anything typical of the life of a Jewish r'amily. I couldn’t imagine why Vera, who didn’t know a thing about Jewish relics, ¡vas assigned to work there. It must have been some mistake for she was soon transferred to another department and became a regular at registering deportees ior transports.
We met quite frequently in the thirteenth-century cemetery, one of the oldest in the land. Our favorite spot was a bench close to the Renaissance tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Low who, according 10 legend, created an artificial being, the famous Golem. The grave of the rabbi ¡vas covered with pebbles, for it was said that if someone made a wish while putting a stone on the grave the wish vould come true. Vera and I brought our pebbles, too. but most of our wishes didn't come true. Vera died in Theresienstadt of typhoid three days after the end of the war.
Nobody knew by what rule the deportees were selected. Sometimes they vere all intellectuals, or all old people, other times only young people with a trade. The lists came from the high executives of our office but I couldn’t tell vho made the actual choice. There was i certain amount of favoritism, of course. It was an open secret that some higher executives could arrange it so they could be left out and someone else take their places, but in the long run this didn’t mean much. Eventually all non-privileged Jews had to go — even our highest executives.
The Gestapo men always lied
After some months of typing names and transport numbers I was transferred to a small office. I shared it only with my immediate boss, whom I shall call Berger. Berger didn't work for the Central Office—he worked for the Gestapo. He looked like one of their men, too, and was almost as frightening. I don’t know why the Gestapo had chosen Berger for these duties; possibly it was because he had worked for the Czechoslovak police before. Most of my former colleagues felt sorry for me for having to work for him. He was a very unpleasant man with a very ugly job. His responsibility was to handle the cases of Jews whom the Gestapo had arrested individually for political reasons or some kind of disobedience. I hese people were sent to a prison outside Theresienstadt—which they shared with non-Jewish political prisoners — where most of them were tortured to death.
Berger visited the Gestapo every morning to obtain his list of those arrested the previous day. After this he had to notify the relatives of the prisoners. Day after day to our office there came weeping wives who demanded to know what had happened, why, and what was going to happen next to their husbands. The wives were all Gentiles, since by that time there were hardly any fully Jewish couples left in Prague. It was part of Berger’s duties to interpret to them the Gestapo’s advice to divorce their Jewish husbands. The bait was a promise (naturally false) that the arrested would be better off. Very few Czechs were willing to swallow this bait. Other times he had to tell the wives that their husbands were already dead when they weren’t. It was typical
of the Gestapo to cheat and lie, to keep the Czech population from realizing the terrible conditions in the concentration camps.
Berger was most cynical about his work. The constant tears, sobs and pleadings in our office that drove me nearly out of my mind didn’t make any impression on him. He seemed to be interested only in the pills he took every two hours to protect him from a sour stomach. He made it appear that he had some rights to modify the fate of the prisoners but what those rights were and whether he ever made use of them I couldn’t tell. Similarly 1 don't know what other jobs he performed for the Gestapo. He had frequent conferences with them but he never talked and all his records were kept under lock.
One day when he was out of the
office the phone rang and Eichmann asked for him. I told him that Berger was out and I didn't know where he was.
“Who are you, anyway?” Eichmann demanded.
Now I had to give him. answer by answer, all my particulars, when 1 started to work in that office, what my working hours were, what kind of work I was doing, the name of my husband. I managed to keep calm, as I knew that the worst thing you could do was show some excitement in front of the Gestapo. The examination lasted at least half an hour. Finally Eichmann seemed satisfied and he finished the conversation by ordering me to have Berger call him on his arrival.
When Berger returned he just smiled. He had visited Eichmann in the meantime, and knew all about our conversa-
tion. That day many colleagues came to my office after they heard what had happened. We discussed the meaning of it and the opinions varied about what the effect would be on my person. After two days the answer came. I was hurriedly transferred to another department. Much later I heard the explanation from Berger: Eichmann did not like having clever employees handling Gestapo affairs.
A few weeks in the statistical department followed. There 1 had to make various charts showing how’ the number, age and profession of the Jews deported in, let’s say July, compared to those in September. But 1 wasn’t meticulous enough, and as no figure could be corrected or erased I had to retype everything dozens of times. They didn’t like me very much there. The super-
visor soon managed to have me replaced. I was put in the registry to type lists of the deported for the City Hall. In Czechoslovakia the city keeps a file on every citizen with all his particulars: his name, the date and place of his birth, the name of his parents, his occupation, marital status, etc. If he dies the file is marked so and removed. After the war we found out that, according to the Central Office lists, all the deported were automatically marked dead. My registration job didn't last long either. Typists were shifted around a great deal according to the amount of work in certain departments.
My next assignment was completely different. This time the lists didn’t concern people but valuable objects. Besides four buildings for offices, the Central Office occupied several warehouses where the more valuable belongings of the deported were stored. No one without a special permit could enter these warehouses, but a friend of mine who was employed in one smuggled me in one day. I shall never forget that sight. There were rooms and rooms filled with silver and gold objects, a museum of valuable paintings, halls packed with antique furniture; there were musicalinstrument rooms and appliance rooms and so on. I didn’t know where to look first. I've heard and read it a thousand times that it was for ideological reasons that the Nazis wanted to liquidate the Jews, but seeing all these treasures piled up I realized that robbery was a motive of even greater importance.
Operation Robbery meant countless jobs for the Central Office. All families who were deported had to hand over the keys of their houses to one of our employees when they were registered for transport. Someone then had to seal these homes. After a while other employees were sent out to take inventory. Then the moving department took over and delivered everything left in the houses to the warehouses, where all objects were sorted, even repaired if needed, and stored. There were girls who didn't do anything else but wash china, clean silver, or dust paintings for months.
The cream of the loot went to the
highest officials of the Reich. They either picked it personally, occasionally using the advice of a Jewish art expert, or they chose from the lists I and many other girls typed out for the attention of Eichmann. The rest (or I should say some of it. for there wasn't enough time to move all of it) was gradually sent to Germany. Less valuable objects were moved to some other part of Prague and sold to the Germans.
The Central Office was located in the so-called Old Town, an ancient district of Prague where the ghetto used to be in the Middle Ages. The Nazis revived the ghetto idea and forced all Jews to leave their former homes and move to certain streets. In the beginning there were many more Jews than flats available but the diminishing number of the inhabitants solved the problems of the overcrowded conditions. Most of the employees of the Central Office lived in the ghetto, since mixed couples in which the husband was Jewish also had to move.
By some miracle, we were spared
I almost paid with my life for the disastrous circumstances in which I lived. For some time I lived unregistered in the apartment of my husband, in a building where Jews were not allowed to live. It was just at the time of the assassination attempt upon the protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Reinhard Hcydrich. A week later Heydrich died. An intense search for the assassins followed, and everyone found unregistered was ordered to be executed. I he Gestapo men went through most of the buildings of Prague, beginning the following night; by some miracle, our apartment was spared.
Newspapers and radio gave long columns of death sentences. My husband took advantage of the chaos, when long queues of people registered, to go to a police station, where a kind clerk took mercy on him and entered my name with the ominous J.
My husband and I could stay in our former apartment but this had its disadvantages, too. It was a most uncomfortable feeling to wear a yellow star
in a district where no one else had to wear it. The Jews in the ghetto at least had company, hut I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone around me. I felt cut off from everything. One night I had a nervous heart attack. I had to do without a doctor, for Gentile physicians and hospitals were forbidden to treat Jews, and to reach a Jewish doctor in the faraway ghetto when hardly anyone had a phone was out of the question; my husband suggested that he would go down to the ghetto, but it would have taken him ages and I was frightened to stay alone. Thus I had to wait until the morning to get medical help.
And then there were the daily trips to and from work. No one with a star was allowed to take a streetcar. We in the office who lived far off got a special permit, but this usually wasn't respected by any Gestapo men who happened to be aboard. I never knew what to do. If I hid my star and was caught doing so I was liable to be sent to prison; if 1 didn't hide it 1 could be beaten up and thrown off the car. Actually it happened to me only once; two Gestapo men pushed me off. Luckily the car wasn't moving very fast, but I knew of friends who had less luck.
Because of the trip I was afraid to go to work in the mornings yet at the same time I looked forward to it. The employees of the Central Office didn't have a bad life. Except for the days just before a transport was to leave, when we often had to work overtime until late at night, we weren't kept very busy. There was plenty of time for chatting and we had the most interesting and elevating conversations, almost exclusively about spiritual topics. For most of us the hours* we spent in the office were the best part of the day. The outside world didn't offer anything nice. There were endless line-ups for food, and then trying to make a meal out of nothing, for the Jewish rations were incredibly small and those for the Czechs weren't much better. Besides, we all had our personal problems.
The Gentiles involved in mixed marriages had to share a great part of the burden imposed upon their Jewish spouses. Their social life was affected. Their family life suffered too. The Nuremberg laws established a barrier between Gentile and Jewish spouses and not everybody had the qualities to withstand the daily obstacles.
My existence was kept secret
My husband did everything in his power to help my family, my relatives and my friends before their departure. Later we were allowed to send parcels to Theresienstadt. That meant another aggravation of daily life. Every night we made preparations for the next 45-pound parcel, which had to be carried to the post office by my husband, since Jews could use only a post office in the Old Town.
After the occupation of the Sudetenland by Germany in 1938, we fled to Prague. It took my husband two years to find employment. He was hired as secretary to a count, the head of an old German aristocratic family. He had to keep secret the existence of a Jewish wife. That was another obstacle imposed on our relationship.
As I was excluded from all entertainment. I was very often left alone at home, with my deep anxiety about the fate of my family and friends. I couldn't even concentrate on a book. My piano stood abandoned for years; I couldn't bear to touch the keyboard. The radio, with its news from abroad, was my
only enjoyment. In these circumstances the occupation in the Central Office was a happy break in my sad life.
Toward the end of the war my husband was even sent to a labor camp in Germany because he had a Jewish wife. 1 he thought of the hardships he was undergoing because of me made my life unbearable.
It wasn't easy for a mixed marriage to survive in those days, no matter how well the Gentile spouses behaved. My husband tried to be considerate, yet the gap between us grew from day to day.
The only connecting links between us were our old Gentile friends, whom we visited in spite of restrictions.
My husband was managing the estate of the count at that time. The count often invited my husband to his house but he couldn't take me with him.
And of course 1 couldn't go with him to a theatre, movie, cafe, restaurant, concert. sports event, or even for a swim in the river. If he went alone. I felt lonely at home: it he didn't go, he was ill at ease. He was very nice to me and took upon himself all the hardships that being
married to a Jewish wife meant. I don't know whether he resented me after his stay in a labor camp. If he did. he never did say so. but I couldn't help suspecting it. and to see him suffer made me feel horrible.
We at least didn't have to face the problem of children, a problem most of the mixed couples had. If the children were not of Jewish faith none of the restrictions concerned them, in which case they often felt embarrassed because one of their parents had to wear a star. In a number of families some
Children of mixed marriages who were brought up as Jews fell into the “dangerous enemy” class
of the children followed their father’s z-' faith and others their mother’s and so some of them didn't have to wear a star and could go to school while their brothers and sisters belonged to the “dangerous enemy” category and were thus marked and restricted accordingly.
To be a Jew in those days was to be a defenseless animal, one that anyone could assault, one that had no law to
protect it. This state naturally changed everything in us: the way we thought, the way we felt, the way we reacted to the hostile world. It was nearly impossible for a Gentile spouse to perceive what was happening to us. And so we felt lonesome and craved for the understanding, the friendship and affection of those who had to go through the same changes. And where else could
we find them but in the Central Office?
The office was our life, the only reality. We didn’t know how long we could stay and what dangers awaited us, but we knew that there was no way out and we had all resigned ourselves to our fate. We never spoke about death but it was always in the air and it made us shed everything that was superfluous in us, and what remained,
our real self, or at least our real self at that time, we desperately longed to share with each other. People with completely different backgrounds suddenly became closer to us than anyone had ever been before. We confided in them our innermost thoughts, our problems and doubts, our memories and fears. Friendships for life were made, though this didn’t necessarily mean a very long period in our case.
My last job in the Central Office was in the moving department. Work there was nearly the same as it was in any other big moving concern. The head of the department was the former owner and manager of one of the largest travel agencies in Moravia. He had been specially brought over to Prague to organize the transportation of Jewish belongings. We made out routes for the drivers from lists of Jewish homes that had been already inventoried. Every morning the movers come in to receive their orders; they checked in again before the end of the day to report that they had delivered all goods, according to their copy of the inventories, to the warehouses. It all went very smoothly. The movers, though some of them had been bank directors or university professors, had by then acquired enough experience and skill to do a good and fast job. Most of the time the work was finished long before the day was over. After the report of the movers, folding card tables were produced and those who could play enjoyed a pleasant game of bridge.
Radios were barred to Jews
One of my special duties in the office was to bring news from the outside world. All Jews, including the mixed couples where the husband was Jewish, had had to hand in their radios years before. My husband could keep his, but at one time even the Gentiles’ radios were collected. They were returned later with some parts missing so no one could listen to foreign broadcasts. But the Czechs soon invented a device: a little wire which, if inserted in the back of the radio in a proper way, made it possible for anyone to listen to shortwave stations. This device, by the way, was named Churchillek, meaning Little Churchill.
I spent most of my free time listening to the Czech news broadcast from London. Once in a while I could even listen to America. It was a very dangerous thing to do. One’s neighbor could have turned out to be an informer who put a china plate between his car and the wall to hear better what was going on next door—as some Nazi sympathizers did. There weren’t many informers among the Czechs, but one could never be sure. Even so, the majority of the population did listen to London, sometimes under covers in bed or accompanied by a noisy gramophone record or the singing of a member of the family.
Every morning when I arrived at the office we had a news break. I had to report word for word what I’d heard the previous day. Many of the people around me hadn’t heard news from the West for three or four years. They were fed only on the propaganda of the German and local papers and even in the beginning of 1945, no matter what I reported, they simply refused to believe that Germany could lose the war.
Gradually we had less and less to do. All the non-privileged Jews had been
deported, all their belongings stored or sold. Then one day Eichmann appeared again. As soon as he walked out of the building, rumors started to spread that the privileged would have to go, too. As a rule all the rumors at that time turned out to be true. A general shifting of jobs began. Someone found out from Berger that the former high executives of the Central Office had been sent, instead of to a concentration camp, directly to the Gestapo prison infamous for its tortures, so employees in high positions wanted to get less important jobs. On the other hand if you had an unimportant job it was more likely that they would send you away first. So the bosses played musical chairs until each of us got his summons, except for about fifty men who. as it turned out. remained in Prague until the end of the war.
I won’t tell here about life in Theresienstadt, one of Eichmann’s pet projects. It was the model concentration camp
where the occasional visitors from the Swiss or Swedish Red Cross were taken to see how humanely the Germans treated the Jews. Actually they weren't treated so humanely on days when there were no visitors around. The daily death rate in 1942, for instance, was 150 to 200 persons. But naturally the prisoners couldn't talk about this to the Red Cross officials, who were always accompanied by Germans. I was told by former inmates that Eichmann even had a film made of the camp, for which occasion he put sheets on the bunks, special food in the kitchens, and a few children in what he called the kindergarten. The film showed him distributing candies to the youngsters, who had to jump around him happily and cry in unison “Thank you. Uncle Eichmann." After the film was made he sent the children directly to the gas chambers.
But even if Theresienstadt had been the humane place Eichmann wanted the world to believe it was—and it certainly was much, much better than the other camps—it would have mattered little, because most of the 153,000 prisoners who were dragged through it spent only a short time there. Of the conditions in the other camps I found out only shortly before the end of the war. when the death trains started to arrive with the shorn-headed, half-dead skeletons, evacuated from concentration camps close to the Allied front. Those who didn't die
aboard the trains or on the infamous death marches were piled on the ground where they lay infected with all kinds of sicknesses. They mumbled about gas chambers and crematoriums in a babel of languages. The biggest problem was to get them into the shower rooms. They fought against it with all their remaining strength and nobody could convince them that water and not gas would come out of the taps. The whole nightmarish story about the gas chambers was finally revealed to us.
I escaped from Theresienstadt a few
days before the end of the war, just in time to be in Prague for the three-dav battle caused by the reluctance of a handful of Nazis to give up.
1 stayed with a friend in the Old Town, the very place where 1 had worked under Eichmann's Gestapo men for so long.
The moment the bombardment stopped 1 went out into streets covered with broken glass and rubble. I walked through the square where the smoke was still rising from the City Hall. The first Red Army tanks rumbled into the
square. At first we thought they were Americans. Women and children swarmed over the tanks, hailing the liberators.
Down a familiar street a troop of soldiers marched toward me. They were captured Germans. I asked myself. “Can this be true? Isn't it all a dream?"
From a house nearby two Jews stepped out. still wearing their yellow stars. 1 yelled at them, “Are you out of your mind?” They ripped off their stars and laughed and laughed. I tried to laugh too. 1 just couldn't. I wouldn't be able to laugh for years to come. ★