Alice Ehrmann's Diary Entries on the End of World War II in Theresienstadt

Entries from the diary of Alice Ehrmann from March and April, 1945, in which she describes the events that took place in the Theresienstadt ghetto as World War II was coming to an end.

March 25, 1945

A transport with three thousand Hungarians has been en route for thirteen days. Only we who have unloaded the transports know what that means. Thirteen days and nights; how many insane? The air raid alerts get longer every day, three to four hours.

April 1, 1945

Frank is expected; on the fifth the [Red Cross] Commission. The children in Fireflies get a tan daily under two sun lamps.

Three trucks with food from Switzerland arrived. White tents with red crosses. Chocolate, rice, sugar, matzoh, peas, cigarettes. The drivers stayed in the fellowship house. While they were talking to the SS, Georg [Vogel] was sweating in the boiler room trying to get the boiler to work so that the men could have a hot bath — as if that were usual here. Since it was broken, Georg expected shit this evening. That’s the picture. They, however, don’t know.

Sometimes I think that if they did know. . . well they wouldn’t be able to understand. And even if they could understand — I hate their pity because we are not pitiable — not, in any case, by them. How much higher we stand in our misery than they in their prosperity. I hate their pity and sympathy and laugh in this  merciful one’s face: are they not the ones who instigated torture upon torture upon us for thousands of years; bloodbath upon bloodbath, humiliation upon humiliation for hundreds of years? Are they not the ones whose children will become the carriers of a new Jew hatred? O God, a plaything in their hands, we in their hands; an object of their mood, their interest— always an object. Here I know: I am in the middle of a development that is cruelly true and necessary. I am permitted to hate all of them, and since I can expect nothing except death and torture at their hands, I never have to be grateful. Never.

April 12, 1945

All card files, documents up to the end of 1944 burned; smoke coming out of all the chimneys. Things are being burned that can never be replaced. Ze’ev’s documents gain in value minute by minute.1

April 14, 1945

[. . .] I am so stuffed with experiences that I can no longer write objectively. Everything flows together in the overwhelming excitement that agitates us. I wish I didn’t have to sleep or work so that I could just drink in these days. Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t come to an end. Only one thought makes me shudder.

April 15, 1945

This morning I saw twenty-four white cars with the insignia of the Red Cross. Twenty-four drivers from Sweden drove slowly out of the ghetto, taking 420 [Danish] Jews to a new life, to freedom. People stood there intoxicated; they yelled and made signs; they surged as far as Q-7, the “Victoria,” the closed quarter where one can only go with a pass. The band played, and a spring morning presided in all its glory over the event.2

Airplanes fly over from the north, one  after the other; sirens day and night. People say that Dresden has fallen. Buchenwald with its twenty thousand people is supposed to have fallen into the hands of the Americans, Celle, too, with its fifty thousand, although with typhus. [. . .]

April 17, 1945

[. . .] All of a sudden we feel so secure and guarded and protected by a world that knows about us. The Germans are getting prepared. At the train station, everything that has wheels is being repaired: crates and trailers, a field kitchen, a railroad car for poultry, rabbit cages, et cetera. [. . .]

There is a bonfire in the courtyard of the Sudeten barracks. Sweating SS men are throwing ten- to twenty-kilogram packages of files down from the windows. They stand there in a line, like the Jews a year ago, and sweat it out. Above, they patrol and collect stray pages blowing about.

 [. . .] Rumors of surrender circulate. Everything is topsy-turvy, and time moves so slowly.3

  1. Citations

    • 1 Alice took the documents that Ze’ev had collected in Terezín back to Prague with her after the liberation. Shortly after returning to Prague from the camps in the summer of 1945. Ze’ev established a project to gather additional documents from the ghetto. One year later, he transferred the material to the National Library in Israel for safekeeping. In 1976, Ze’ev donated the papers to Yad Vashem, where they are held as the Ze’ev Shek Collection. Alexandra Zapruder, Salvaged Pages (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), fn 13, p. 468.
    • 2 George E. Berkley, Hitler’s Gift: The Story of Theresienstadt (Boston: Branden, 1993), 233-34.
    • 3 Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 410–413.

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