Alice Ehrmann's Diary Entry on Death Camp Survivors, April 20, 1945

Entry from the diary of Alice Ehrmann from April 20, 1945, in which she describes a transport of people arriving in the Theresienstadt ghetto after leaving death camps.

April 20, 1945

At six-thirty a transport arrived consisting of twenty-five railroad cars, eighteen hundred people. The news flew through the ghetto: people from the camps. As they passed by [. . .] they yelled out “Auschwitz,” “Birkenau,” “Hannover,” “Buchenwald,”; they yelled out the most frightful phrases from the train. The heart of the city stood still, and now they are here. Stinking, befouled cattle cars, stinking, befouled people within them, half-living, half-dead or corpses. They pressed themselves against the windows; horrible faces, bones and eyes. Eighty women from Teres [probably Terezín]; other than that, mostly men. And how they looked. Now they were coming, what for months had made us tremble the most. It is a matter of life and death for us, of countless sufferings without deliverance and now it is here. Now it is here. The little remainder of the mass, the remains of human beings. They threw out cigarettes, they pointed to  their mouths, they fell to the ground — drink, eat. They were unloaded in the sluice-gate - unloaded. So-and-so has arrived, names — mother, daughter, loved one of so-and-so. Everyone is horrified. They are taken on flatbed carts to the hastily constructed sick rooms. Mothers don’t recognize their own children, their eyes are so deadened. People throw bread to them; they throw themselves upon it and fight one another for it. They have been under way for days.  They are starved.  The cars—-I will never forget it. The half-dark, the wooden crates and cellulose, filth, articles of befouled clothing - and yet so empty. A stench that is just too horrible of old excrement, and on the slippery floor, behind a crate, in the dark, the white gleaming foot of a dead person, of one who had been alive a week before. And in all this misery, it became clear to me how good it is to be dead. Carried out on stretchers. . .In the middle of the night, six cars from Hungary.1

  1. Citations

    • 1 Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 415.

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