This Holocaust Author's Auschwitz Blog

This Holocaust Author's Auschwitz Blog

This blog describes my thoughts and experiences in visiting Auschwitz, Belzec, Majdanek and Sobibor and Anne Frank's House from 2014 to 2018

I blogged my preparations for my visit, I posted daily during my visit to Poland...there are also my ongoing thoughts posted here; in the aftermath of my visit...
(Please note due to the sensitive nature of this blog, and the prevalence of trolls, comments have been blocked)

Vilma Grunwald

Revisiting the PastPosted by P.A. Draigh Fri, May 25, 2018 19:26:12

Vilma Grunwald.

One of 6,000,000 Murdered Jews.

"..You ..my only one ..dearest ..in isolation we are waiting for darkness. We considered ..possibility of hiding but decided not to do it since we felt it would be hopeless. ..famous trucks are already here and we are waiting for it to begin. I am completely calm." Vilma Grunwald.

From a piece of paper, the love and resilience of a Wife, a Mother, a concerned human being who was awaiting her Destruction with her older Son John, recognises that their final end approaches. While it is inconceivable to us that humanity could have sunk so desperately low, it has become so real for Vilma and 6,000,000 other Jews from the whole of Europe. Tragically, we are left to reflect upon what could have been for Vilma and all too many of these 6,000,000 Jews, if we in the World had simply intervened. As we now know, Vilma is taken toward Birkenau, and away from her Husband and younger Son and her destruction and John’s is certain there. From the remoteness of time we become all too well aware that she chose rationally in the best interests of her Son. In those final moments before any choice eluded her, to fully console and care for the one Son who had been chosen to die due to a pronounced limp, Vilma accepted death as the only course open to her.

"..Ultimately ..we have just one moral duty ..to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves ..more and more ..peace ..and reflect it toward others. ..more peace there is in us ..more peace there will be in our troubled World." Etty Hillesum.

Here, this scene final which fully captivates us, does not reflect even the start of the tragedy for the Jewish People. It signifies the struggle Parents, their Children, their Family’s must have continually and consistently been forced to make. Nor does this individual episode suggest the end of the atrocity for the Jews of Europe is anywhere nearing its final toll. From the very start and somewhere in Germany or even in Austria, and certainly prior to Hitler's rise toward power in 1932, a Jewish Man, Woman or even Jewish Children was somehow Murdered. This relevant though unrecorded fact was administered as a consequence of either Hitler's hatred for the Jewish People, or as an example of the vehemence of Hitler’s clearly pronounced and often stated bigotry. At the end of all that has been recorded in relation to what the Jewish People and here Vilma was due to suffer, of everything we have since assessed and accumulated on the atrocity that is The Holocaust, we are absolutely certain that 6,000,000 Jewish People are no more.

"..My Mother was a great reader of personalities. ..She must have sensed this guard had some compassion. He was older; he was 50 or 60." Frank 'Misa' Grunwald.

Vilma Grunwald alone does not give us a full view of the terror brought to such a horrible place as Auschwitz nor more certainly Birkenau, but what majesty represents for us, is exemplified here by Vilma. Vilma Grunwald gifts her Son John what will remain a final few moments that will be filled with such Love and Devotion, we are bereft of any chosen words to assess the Love she delivers, let alone the Sacrifice she made. That love and devotion is inherent in Mother’s the World over and this selfless devotion will be recognised wherever Children and Parental bonds are in evidence. While we accept broadly, that these 6,000,000 Jews were Murdered and while much of the World stood aside, Vilma Grunwald stands as an example of how humanity should operate, should concern and must behave. As our human race did little to alleviate much of the Jewish pain, or even condoned much of the treatment vented against these Jews, a Mother and her Son faced oblivion amongst those of her People.

"..Thinking gets you nowhere. It may be a fine and noble aid in academic studies ..but you cannot think your way out of emotional difficulties. That takes something altogether different. You have to make yourself passive then ..and just listen. Re-establish contact with a slice of eternity." Etty Hillesum.

The Jews under duress and immediate threat, for whom at the time we simply refused to recognise was imminent, recognised our inaction as intolerable, indifferent and immoral. Due to Misa’s decision later in life, the World has a space filled in with a letter of such courage and is such an extraordinary detailed view of compassion, this one single episode shames us even further. Of course, there are many such instances of this bravery of resistance, and many have gone unrecognised in the initial stages of Hitler’s own rage. While history terms The Final Solution of The Jewish Question as The Holocaust, the Jewish suffering under the directing banner of die Endlosung der Judenfrage is more than a symbol of hatred, it is a club wielding exercise in debauched savagery. What was an unresolved issue for the Jews in Germany, the Jews of Austria, or the Jewish People of the Czech lands, grew with escalating force to a systematic resolve which consumed all 6,000,000 of these Jewish People in a mechanised slaughter upon an industrial scale.

"..You my only and dearest one ..do not blame yourself for what happened ..it was our destiny. We did what we could." Vilma Grunwald.

European Jews, who were forced to repress their anxiety, were still waiting as the conflagration in the World consumed so many other’s and still we watched blindly and then abandoned the Jews to an unprecedented and unparalleled atrocity. Admittedly, we were as unaware of the full extent to which Hitler would raise the stakes in dealing with European Jewry. But the signalling could not have been so more obvious if Hitler had written it himself into his tacky tale of Mein Kampf. However, and even without consideration of such a book, it became quite clear that Hitler would not simply stop at disenfranchising the Jews of Germany or Austria, nor of removing their human rights, nor of stripping them of any worldly value. Here though the supposed ideological impertinence of the act was laid bare and wasted no time ensuring it also delivered a financial and profitable gain. It was an enormous gain for the furnishing of a regime which history will never be able to deny.

"..I want to tell those deniers ..I have seen ..gas chambers ..I have seen ..crematoria ..I have seen ..burning pits. ..these atrocities happened. I was there." Oscar Groening.

With the stench of atrocity, which was permeating Hitler’s whole effort toward the Jewish People, his outspoken words could not be written more demonstrably. These declarations of intent, the pronouncements of a murderous exercise to be conducted against all Jews was not simply orated and not just within his immediate sphere of influence. The World listened to the rancid detail spouted by the Austrian corporal and simply glanced and looked the other way. Here though, and with Hitler’s wider resolve to conduct his affairs against all of World Jewry, his move against the Jewish People was out in the open while being honed into an enormous and murderous confrontation. All too readily the World was eager to denounce as merely rhetoric or simply bluster what the Jewish People faced on a daily basis. It is a sad fact too however, that all too many Jews of The Holocaust struck this as a resigned tone for themselves in not accepting that the vehemence of Hitler stated aims hid a more despicable clause.

"..Destruction of Hungarian Jewry constitutes ..last phase in Nazis war against ..Jews." Randolph L. Braham.

Those Jews who were immediately confronted, and whether from some religious conviction, or being so rigidly berated by the hatred which surrounded them, they all too often looked to what clearly appeared real to them, but as some form of an aberration. How else could innocent Jewish People view a supposedly civilised, cultured and moral German people? However, what caught the Jews off guard was such an aberration that history recalls, it moved swiftly to devour all the best of European Jewry and from many other’s beyond that Jewish Question. As for our own inaction? The Jews who clearly learned first hand and saw their abandonment was evidently clear, and from our vantage point, it might appear that so many of these Jewish People acceded to the capricious nature of what was to become their assigned fate.

"..I have told ..story of ..arrival to people ..when I can see exactly how it happens through this photo ..I relive it. Every emotion. It takes me right back." Irene Weiss.

Simply put, because of our lack of any human compassion for them, their march toward an uncertain fate for all so many of them, was marked by our indifference toward them. Also, and while it was true that many of these same Jews did all they could to alleviate their own and fellow Jews suffering, even when they purchased much of their safety or even sought to enhance their despicable position, this was no guarantee of their eventual nor final security. Where was a Jew to go when it had already been proven that nation’s the World over did not want them. Here though, that simple effort of a Mother’s care and relief cannot but accuse an intolerant effort being watched over by an idle World. It will be so often said of such an indifferent World, which did not do enough of what it should have done, time was wasted in the delivery of care carelessly.

"..Because my hatred towards ..Jews is too great. ..I admit my thinking on this point is unjust ..I admit this. But what I experienced from my earliest youth ..what ..Jews were doing to us ..well that will never change. That is my unshakeable conviction." Hans Friedrich.

The unbridled nature of shooting operations had seeped into the consciousness of the ‘intelligence’ services of the allied nations. Continually too, as Hitler maligned all of World Jewry on a wholly atrocious and unbridled level, Jewish fears were not augmented by much from a World of concern so omitting of compassion or care. Through the lens of hindsight, we see now what must have presented itself to Vilma as she stood amongst her own, and it seems, knowing her fate was to be so destructive, her choice was Motherly and compassionate. Then, once we had reached the end of a Second World War, any such human despair was over written by lost pages and missing People’s reports for these 6,000,000 Jews of Europe. Here, we know they were Murdered in the most horrific of ways ever envisaged or enacted.

"..I see it as my task ..to face up to these things that I experienced and to oppose ..Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened." Oskar Groening.

The many photographs, some of which form an album of this procession, now known to have been of the soon to be Murdered Hungarian Jews, is a shocking and revealing insight. Of these lines of innocence, there are 6,000,000 Murdered Jews who formed the back drop to a World history that would forever be mired in the destruction of the Jewish People. Today we sit less comfortably than we should because of the deliberately brutalising experience suffered by the Jewish People, all because we moved too tardily to prevent the atrocity itself. The emergence of such photographic examples, added here to a more rounded acknowledgement of what the World refused to act against. Of the overall atrocity that is The Holocaust however, the seeming indifference to the Jewish struggle would set an almost cynical precedent for other’s to follow. Ever since then, there are now many examples of the conduct of other atrocity’s raged throughout the World and these are enacted against their own fellow human beings.

"..Kropotkin. ..reread his first reaction to ..prison cell in which he was to spend several years. that account can still teach us how to cope with ..measures by which our own freedom of movement is ..being restricted. to take what little space we are left with ..to fathom its possibilities and ..use them to ..full." Etty Hillesum.

Peter Alekseyevich Kropotkin touched an anarchistic note with Etty and perhaps from within his own Mutual Aid, she resigned her own fate to other’s. From the text of what turned out to be an accurate assessment of what Hitler always intended, Mein Kampf has pasted the narrative of aggressive realisation that we simply chose to ignore throughout the course of this War. In these grubby Hitler pages, it must be remembered, that for the Jews and Hitler’s world view, Hitler’s dystopian view, die Weltanschauung, there would be a factor of complete dominion over the Jewish People, an aggression of intolerable indifference to their suffering and a destructive capacity that would Slaughter Men, Women and Their Children simply for being Jews. As to the World, it looked on with complete ignorance toward what Humanity fully demanded, compassion, concern and the alleviation of the suffering of that Jewish individual.

Monday June 29th. 1942 "..They want to exterminate us to ..last ..this is a new certainty which I accept ..but an acquired certainty should not be eroded by another. I work and live with ..same conviction and I find life meaningful anyway ..even if I hardly daresay so in society." Etty Hillesum

Here, on June 29th. 1942 Etty Hillesum wrote to her diary what she had just learned on the British Broad Casting radio. It is barely credible that we are here acknowledging that 700 000 Jews had already been exterminated by the Hitler and his Nazis within Poland. This is practically 3 years before the ending of World War II and a significant amount of time for Hitler to press ahead with his overriding agenda, to pursue the liquidation of the Jewish People. It is incredulous from all that has been omitted by time that such was the stark reality facing the Jews of Europe and for the next 34 months. What must have shook those like Etty at this time, who now knew with little doubt that the annihilation of the Jews was at the forefront of Hitler’s demand, could not have envisaged the total inactivity of the World in the fight against this annihilatory process.

"..It was not long before I was assigned to supervise ..luggage collection of an incoming transport. When this was over ..it was just like a fairground ..there was lots of rubbish left and amongst this rubbish were ill people ..those unable to walk. And ..way these people were treated really horrified me. For example ..a child who was lying there naked was simply pulled by ..legs and chucked into a lorry to be driven away ..and when it screamed like a sick chicken ..then they bashed it against ..edge of ..lorry ..so it shut up. We were convinced by our world view that we had been betrayed by ..entire world ..and that there was a great conspiracy of ..Jews against us." Oskar Groening.

Back then, Etty was seized by a double conviction that will never leave her, and she wrote till her enforced transportation toward that destruction stilled the pen which has inspired so many of us to this day. Also, there is no certainty that Vilma, nor Etty came up against these murderous individuals we mention, whose prevailing attitude at the time was obedience to a criminal act which they enacted and witnessed on a daily basis. What can be certain is, and in both Etty’s and Vilma’s case, there were vicious signs of the atrocity before them that were so terrible, that neither one of them could dispute they had arrived at the way station before hell. For Vilma in particular, such a scene as Groening describes could not allow her to leave her Child to the vagaries of a brutal and brutalising system which would all too readily devour her Son and leave him consumed by fear right up to the very moment he would be consumed wholly.

"..In ..ghetto there was an order given out one day for girls under 16 to have their hair cut or their father would be punished. I didn’t even tell my mother. I just ran to this place and sat down. They cut my hair. I had long braids at ..time. They had a way of having people comply." Irene Weiss.

Compliance was a barked at response and here I can only begin to reconstruct what must have been both terrifying and unimaginable. To honest, decent human beings being faced with such savagery, there must have appeared a strange madness before them that confronted their former awareness. How else does one retreat from the ability to describe what remains in Remembrance, for those who have no other conduit of expression before they are catapulted into oblivion. Far more than that which is afforded them, must be reconstructed for them after they have been destroyed. Tragically, and while 6,000,000 Jews were systematically sought out for such Slaughter, both Vilma and Etty coped with the vagaries of their shrinking position and within those measures which sought to restrict them ever further. This is not simply an indictment of Hitler’s policy toward all the Jewish People in isolation, but it is also an accusation of our complete indifference to the Jewish People.

"..You ..my only one ..dearest ..in isolation we are waiting for darkness. We considered ..possibility of hiding but decided ..it would be hopeless. ..famous trucks are already here and we are waiting for it to begin." Vilma Grunwald.

As proof and evidence of the escalating brutality and murderous treatment was made aware, and this was clearly known almost immediately the destructive process was commenced, we moved with a languid approach both reckless and careless. Until the Jewish People had to finally come to terms with the Catastrophe not of their making, we deliberately muffled the inadequacy of response. With a resounding acquiescence that allows for a complicit nature to emerge duplicit in all that 6,000,000 Murdered Jewish lives suffered and endured, humanity has been somewhat immune to concern. Here, and from the overall assessment of too many lost lives, I will borrow the words from both Vilma Grunwald, an extraordinary Mother and from Etty Hillesum, whose Letter’s of an extraordinary Writer, we mark that descent toward the abyss so many were forced to take. Also, and with a long standing sorrow for Tovah ‘Tokele’ Olshak, I will create the words needed to leave an added legacy of Remembrance for her, that Etty and Vilma have left for us in their own words.

"..Children ..they are not ..enemy at ..moment. ..enemy is ..blood inside them. ..enemy is ..growing up to be a Jew that could become dangerous. And because of that ..children were included as well. ..So many people died in ..war ..not only Jews. So many things happened ..so many were shot ..so many snuffed it. People burnt to death ..so many were burnt ..if I thought about all of that I wouldn't be able to live one minute longer." Oskar Groening.

For me in particular it is essential that the Children are forever at the forefront of this degradation of human concern, as they are the least able to understand, appreciate or avoid the coming tragedy. That all of these x3 individual Jews fully deserve their appropriate space in that recall, that is also my wished for promise to more than 1,500,000 Murdered Jewish Children. It is becoming more and more obvious that we simply cannot ever look at History the same way ever again. There are 6,000,000 Jewish Murdered reasons why that will always be the case. Morally unjustifiable, the assault upon the integrity of the Jewish People was unprecedented, sustained and calamitous. For me, as I look at photographs of Tokele, Etty and now Vilma, and I know the sadness of loss which many in this Human Race have yet to recognise, I find it astonishing still that the suffering of 6,000,000 People, their total Destruction can still be overlooked simply because they are Jews.

"..Stay healthy and remember my words that time will heal if not completely then at least partially. Take care of ..little golden boy and don't spoil him too much with your love." Vilma Grunwald.

Israel knows this tragic detailed assessment all too well and so must The Holocaust Survivors, and as do the Jewish People recognise this a tragedy for all humanity, so must we. For me it is a matter of principle that People should never be used as political pawns or obliterated from our conscious mind with little concern. While I know too that it is the Catastrophe for the Jewish People which can never be calculated in numerical terms, we must correlate our human concern with figurative assessment. For me too, if but just 1 Jew from the sum total of 6,000,000 Murdered Jews, who are The Holocaust, is to be recognised from amongst the entirety of the atrocity, then that one Jewish life lost to our humanity must affront us on every conceivable level. The protection which was never fully afforded them during their period of assault, must be clearly recognised and protected during our period of recollection.

"..We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds." Etty Hillesum

Etty seeks to heal our wounds, and with the certain knowledge of what was done to her and 6,000,000 of her own People, who are we not to look for the answers which will encourage us to seek to heal the wounds of their betrayal. We can look simply to the resolve of knowledge, and where we are allowed to know the shortcomings that exist in The Holocaust narrative, assign only truth to fix that fact. Fully aware that knowledge of the individual is scant indeed and we have a detailed assessment of the 6,000,000 Jews Murdered, who are The Holocaust, to make, we cannot ever forget we are dealing in the lives of People. So while we know not who all of them are, we are aware that all of those removed from existence were brutally treated and in all too many ways. Now, as we look to the evidence from those places now missing their Jewish Community’s, we search through the debris and records of their former existence to structure their presence in any conceivable way.

"..Both of you stay healthy ..my dear ones. I will be thinking of you and Misa. Have a fabulous life ..we must board ..trucks." Vilma Grunwald.

We also must recognise that in a supposed secrecy we know could not exist, all too many of these Jews were aware of what now lay in front of them. Sadly too, that while we have only named a few more than 4,500,000 of these Jewish People, and what we do know of them is perhaps sketchy at best, it is lacking the fuller detail of their presence and existence. When we are clearly well aware that they have all been taken from amongst us, we can begin to see the enormity of the task remaining to add a newer dimension to their lost identity. Clearly, a Child who enters this life has no expectation of the Love and Nurturing that awaits them. That the Jewish Child of The Holocaust was no different and received both care and affection in abundance, this was not to be denied prior to or after Hitler sought to destroy them.

"..As soon as Mengele saw my brother limping he directed him to ..left with a group of young kids." Frank 'Misa' Grunwald.

With the clearest Hitler intention for All Jews altered that premise of care and compassion, as Jewish Children were forced to depart our concern with all manner of hatred drowning out the warmth and Love they had previously encountered was still met with Maternal love and Paternal care. In so many cases that very strength of compassionate enrichment was secure, and though barely of any extensive duration, it might even have been momentarily afforded but it was surely felt. Thus, forced toward oblivion, the Jewish Child is coerced and uncertain as to why the hatred imposed itself into their short lived lives. For the Survivor who has lost a Child, how much more deeply must the trauma run as the Catastrophe consumed so much Love and Affection. Eventually too, what caught up with the Jewish willingness to nurture their own, it became undone by a fellow human being who must also have nurtured the thought that care and concern were sacred values.

"..We have to fight them daily ..like fleas ..those many small worries about ..morrow ..for they sap our energies." Etty Hillesum.

Surely here in the midst of the carnage, the depth of human emotion struck the very limits of human despair. The immeasurable grief is pinned here with words unable to fathom the recesses of human minds that are shredded by grief, fear and the obvious threat of annihilation. Can we not now mourn this incurable loss without resort to mere blame? Any accusation, which cannot fully exhume what is now missing, must still deliver the Justice necessary to confront this grave wrong. While we seek any tangible link to a specific time or place, we recognise further still the losses incurred as those empty spaces show up their ghostly past. All too often when a Jew has been Murdered, and we know not when or where these occurred in all too many instances, the Jewish Child has also been Murdered, and the Jewish Child is also condemned toward oblivion in the midst of this apparent void.

"..Seeing John alone ..too much for Vilma to bear. She couldn’t let John go into ..gas chamber by himself ..so she chose to go in with him." Frank 'Misa' Grunwald.

The distance, let alone the duration of the killing spree which persisted even outside the gas chambers, and stretching the length and breadth of that very human excess, has all too few markers. These markers to the memory of all too many now remains focused upon that void where once 6,000,000 Jews once resided. There is all too often little remaining of their presence and beside them, locked in the turmoil of conscience over regret, 1,500,000 of their remarkable Children, unproven in the deeds of future possibilities, are a humbling exercise in human awareness. Jewish Children we have to remember, were extinguished from existence over a birth mark they cannot resist. We now reach into that nothingness and continually seek to know their last resting place. That which remains for far too many of these 1,500,000 Jewish Children and the 6,000,000 Jews, who are The Holocaust, is an unknown resting place for far too many of them.

"..Polish antisemites say ..a good thing ..Jews sit behind their walls. At last Poland will be Jewless." Mary Berg.

On September 7th. 1943 Esther ‘Etty’ Hillesum boarded a transport that contained 987 Jews from the Westerbork internment Camp in Holland. This transport then arrived at Auschwitz on September 9th. 1943 and Etty is amongst the 105 Jewish Women admitted to the Auschwitz main Camp, alongside 187 Jewish Men. It is uncertain as to the fate of her Parents, Dr. Louis Hillesum or her Mother Rebecca ‘Riva’ Hillesum, formerly Bernstein. While we know that both Parents did not Survive the selection process. Though we can barely be certain that Etty’s parents died on September 10th. 1943, as prevailing records show, we remain uncertain as to whether they died in transit or were gassed immediately upon their arrival.

"..It’s ..only artefact that they have that expresses a prisoner's feelings right before they were killed." Frank 'Misa' Grunwald.

Etty’s Brother Michael ‘Mischa’ Hillesum remained in Auschwitz until October 1943, when he was moved to the Warsaw Ghetto, where, according to the International Red Cross, he died sometime before March 31st. 1944. As will be noted by those who emerged from with the Warsaw Ghetto itself, there was to be no hiding place for any Jew, let alone a Jew extracted from the West. Of this Westerbork transport, all remaining 695 other Jews are taken forward toward immediate gassing at the Birkenau Death Camp facility.

"..That I should die next week ..I would still be able to sit at my desk all week and study with perfect equanimity ..for I know now that life and death make a meaningful whole." Etty Hillesum.

Amongst these Gassed too are the 170 Jewish Children on board. Etty’s two younger brothers, Jacob ‘Jaap’ Hillesum and Michael ‘Mischa’ Hillesum suffered differing fates. Though Etty only mentions Mischa and her Parents on the postcard, we know with uncertainty too of Jacob ‘Jaap’ Hillesum’s deadly end. It has to be remembered too that while all hope of escape was disappearing, the further Western Jews got from their former Home, and specifically for these Jews who ended up in Poland, the hostility there was twofold. Immediate capture of foreign Jews was almost certain and destruction awaited whatever their intention to save themselves might have been. Here though, and while Etty does not mention Jaap, we are aware that he had not been brought to Westerbork prior to the Family’s dispersal to Auschwitz.

"..Aryan side. ..a number of Jews hiding there ..live in constant terror. Many ..blackmailed by ..Poles with whom they are staying. After ..money ..jewels ..are ..gone ..hosts deliver them to ..Germans. ..in spite of ..fact Polish population ..is bitterly persecuted by ..invaders." Mary Berg.

Jaap Hillesum did finally arrive in Westerbork though, but after his Family’s transport had long since departed. He did not make any awaiting transport toward Auschwitz neither, but in February 1944 he was removed to the holding camp at Belsen as somewhat of a privileged prisoner. Here, as a bartering commodity for Hitler, Jews from all over Europe, from his Death Camps he was demolishing in Poland, they were concentrated in an area and left to their own devices to perish. It is believed that Jaap died some time after the Camp was handed over to the British Army and liberation was then secured on April 15th. 1945. Before Etty departed Westerbork, she composed herself and wrote to her friend Christine back in Deventer a postcard, and before the journey that would take her toward Auschwitz and consign her to a destruction there we are given her insight:

Christine,

Opening the Bible at random I find this: ‘The Lord is my high tower’. I am sitting on my rucksack in the middle of a full freight car. Father, Mother and Mischa are a few cars away. In the end, the departure came without warning. On sudden special orders from The Hague. We left the camp singing, Father and Mother firmly and calmly, Mischa too. We shall be travelling for three days. Thank you for all your kindness and care. Friends left behind will still be writing to Amsterdam; perhaps you will hear something from them. Or from my last letter from camp.

Goodbye for now from the four of us.

Etty

On November 30th. 1943, Etty died in the Gas Chambers at Birkenau, amongst the now numbered 1,100,000 other Jews who shared the same Zyklon ‘B’ gassing, or the other murderous fatality’s that awaited them. Here at the Birkenau Death Camp, merely a short distance from the arrival station at Auschwitz, Jewish existence was being decimated. For Etty, as she had shared her fate with her fellow Jewish People, we are left with a remarkable imprint which will forever allow us to retrieve her memory from the words we are made aware of. These words allow us to link her to the tragedy for so many other Jewish People who have left little or no trace as to their being. For more than 1,500,000 of these Jews they remain but a blemish upon the parchment of words set aside to recall their passage in and amongst us. To add further perspective as to the chances of Survival for any Jew who could escape the confines of these Death Camps, Mary Berg is quite adamant.

"..ocean of blood in which ..Jewish population of Poland is being drowned still has not washed away ..existing antisemitic poison." Mary Berg.

While estimates might vary as to the chances of Survival in and around the Death Camp system, or from deep within the Ghetto complexes of Polish Towns or Cities, history will lend us an assessment which does suggest the possible outcomes. In Warsaw alone there were nearly 30,000 Jews in hiding and barely 11,500 of these Jews Survived. These were mostly Polish Jews who could for the time being escape the attention of all but the intentional betrayer. For Western Jews that possibility was less than uncertain. For varying reasons also, we cannot know why such is this fact but perhaps Mary Berg had lent us her insight. Of course this subjective view might suggest some 18,000 hidden Warsaw Jews alone were betrayed, but it is not a proven fact. When, on July 11th. 1944 Vilma Grunwald, formerly Eisenstein, wrote her note to her husband, in the vain hope that something more lasting than their fading from sight would reach them and inform them of her final moments.

"..Sometimes ..most important thing in a whole day is ..rest we take between 2 deep breaths ..or ..turning inwards ..for 5 short minutes." Etty Hillesum.

Vilma must have judged her captor well, for the note made its way to Kurt and Misa, and as a result, History has a further piece of that evidential puzzle which has entrapped 6,000,000 Murdered Jews in The Holocaust. Kurt Grunwald had lovingly imparted the knowledge of the fact of the letter to his Son, and this was sometime in 1946. Allowing for space and time, and when Kurt felt that his Son had sufficiently recovered, at least physically from the trauma, Misa was not quite ready for the ordeal. The sheer weight of their loss, which could have so easily submerged them both, still managed to direct them toward a future that could be filled with hope and promise. With the War still fresh in the minds of Kurt and Misa and their loss was not blurred by such heightened a well of despair, Misa, soon to become Frank, was as an 11 year old without his Mother and Brother.

"..I was curious about ..letter ..but at ..same time afraid ..I think ..for its sadness." Frank 'Misa' Grunwald.

Tragically however, there are 6,000,000 Murdered Jews with no place to hold onto their own Memory as they have been vanquished from existence. So we simply have to assume that within a 3 million square mile area, 6,000,000 Jews of Europe were brutally Destroyed. For them, mostly, no stone can be placed on all the sites were they were shot, gassed, destroyed, annihilated, killed and murdered. So with words and sometimes deeds, we add a newer stone to any such site where we can assert as close as possible that enough is known of them to recall and remember them specifically there.

"..Dr. Grunwald F Lager.

You, my only one, dearest, in isolation we are waiting for darkness. We considered the possibility of hiding but decided not to do it since we felt it would be hopeless. The famous trucks are already here and we are waiting for it to begin. I am completely calm. You my only and dearest one, do not blame yourself for what happened, it was our destiny. We did what we could. Stay healthy and remember my words that time will heal if not completely then at least partially. Take care of the little golden boy and don’t spoil him too much with your love. Both of you stay healthy, my dear ones. I will be thinking of you and Misa. Have a fabulous life, we must board the trucks.

Into eternity, Vilma."

I have been using words to describe the incomprehensible nature of The Holocaust for so long and I have yet to feel I have afforded memory an adequate response. There are however, 6,000,000 very real reasons why the effort to do so, and the effort must continue for the sake of a world looking to strengthen the present with lesson’s from the past. It is all an essential need to ensure that the future is no longer failed by what should have been adequately and truthfully learned. So while we simply cannot know all that we need to know, I point to Tokele and one who was from the last Murdered Jews of The Holocaust. But for now we allow from a short note delivered to posterity, from a Murdered Jewish Wife and Mother of The Holocaust, the last word.

"..Into eternity. ..Vilma." Vilma Grunwald.





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