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The Holocaust Recalled! - Women

Women Record Their Accounts

of the Holocaust



Melita Maschmann 

Bund Deutscher Madel Member


Melita Maschmann 

“On the night of November 9 1938, the “Crystal Night” a shadow fell on our joy. Of the riots of that night I saw nothing. But in the morning I saw the wreckage of the little shops and restaurants in an alley near Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, where the inhabitants were Jews.


I was horrified at the violence that must have raged there. But didn’t we hear all the time that international Jewry was inciting the world against Germany? And now the Jews had had a frightful warning.


I expelled this episode from my mind as quickly as I could. It meant sorrow for innocent people – for what had these little men, whose little shops were destroyed, to do with international Jewish capitalism?


It was simpler not to dwell upon these things, but to plunge oneself quickly back into one’s own work.”


Emmy Bonhoeffer 

Sister-in-law of German Resistance martyr Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer


“Standing in line for vegetables or something like that I told my neighbour standing next to me that now they start to kill the Jews in the concentration camps and they even make soap out of them.


And they said Frau Bonhoeffer, “if you don’t stop telling such horror stories you will end up in a concentration camp too and nobody of us can help you. It’s not true what you’re telling, you shouldn’t believe those things, you have them from the foreign broadcasts and they tell those things to make enemies for us.”


Going home I told that to my husband and he was not at all applauding to me and the very contrary he said, “My dear, sorry to say but you are absolutely idiotic what you are doing. Please understand the dictatorship is like a snake.


If you put a foot on its tail, as you do, it will bite you. You have to strike the head and you can’t do that, neither you or I can do that. The only single way is to convince the military who have the arms to do it, to convince them that they have to act, that they have to make a coup d’etat.”


Hertha Beese 

Berlin Housewife and Social Democrat


In the flat underneath ours lived a Jewish family. The only reason they had not yet been persecuted and taken away was that the father was Italian and belonged to Mussolini’s party.


Household ID card for Jews in Berlin

But when we ourselves faced more and more difficulties the wife began to feel insecure and was scared that they might take her away despite the Italian connection and she therefore left.


So that there flat became empty and I begged that it should not be handed over to the landlord since we still hoped there would be a total collapse and we would be rid of our difficulties.


I looked after the empty flat and one night, it must have been around midnight, the doorbell rang. I opened and there stood in front of me a Jewish couple. This was how I began to help persecuted Jews. All of a sudden I had entered an invisible circle of people who smuggled Jews about.


As soon as one hiding place had been detected they were quickly passed on. They would always move about by night. I have never found out who it was who sent them to me in the first place. Some decent people


The problems started with the feeding of the Jewish people since they neither had food-rationing cards nor very often any money. So we in turn had to make use of friends who exchanged their smoking cards for the odd potato or bread, or a friend would come and leave a bit of food.


But all this was so illegal that names, sources or contacts had to remain unknown.”


Toshia Bialer

Warsaw eyewitness – Moving into the Warsaw Ghetto – October 1940


“Try to picture one-third of a large city’s population moving through the streets in an endless stream, pushing, wheeling, dragging all their belongings from every part of the city to one small section, crowding one another more and more as they converged.


No cars, no horses, no help of any sort was available to us by order of the occupying authorities. Pushcarts were about the only method of conveyance we had, and these were piled high with household goods, furnishing much amusement to the German onlookers who delighted in overturning the carts and seeing us scrambling for our effects. Many of the goods were confiscated arbitrarily without any explanation.


In the ghetto, as some of us had begun to call it, half ironically and in jest, there was appalling chaos. Thousands of people were rushing around at the last minute trying to find a place to stay.


Everything was already filled up but still they kept coming and somehow more room was found. The narrow crooked streets of the most dilapidated section of Warsaw were crowded with pushcarts, their owners going from house to house asking the inevitable question: Have you room?


The sidewalks were covered with their belongings. Children wandered, lost and crying, parents ran hither and yon seeking them, their cries drowned in the tremendous hubbub of half a million uprooted people.”


Rita Boas- Koupmann 

Dutch –Jewish Teenager survivor of Auschwitz – Birkenau


“I think the alarm started when Jewish people had their card with a “J” on it. That was the first time they marked you, you had your identity card you had to carry with you and what was special was the “J” in it and you were marked because anybody could ask for the card.”

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/women.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto
H.E.A.R.T 2009

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