H., Renee

H., Renee

Bratislava, Bergen-Belsen

Renee was born in Czechoslovakia in the third largest city, Bratislava. She was only six years hold when Hitler came to town and she was told to remain inside and avoid the large crowds in the streets. Both her parents and her little sister were deaf. She was their ears in the coming years.

She remembered her mother sowing the star on her coat and she didn’t like it. She wore a scarf around it when she went out into the city, which she like to do against her parents wishes. There never was a true ghetto in Bruten, but she did notice the closing in of the neighborhood. Certain places one knew not to go. She saw many beatings and always feared that she too would receive one. She was told this never happened to her because she had curly blonde hair. She didn’t want to associate with the local Slovaks, but she did enjoy the freedom of movement. She said there was more Anti-Semitism among the natives than from the Germans themselves in her city.

The worst fear of this time was the constant interruption of their lives by the SS transports and the fear the marching boots instilled in her. When they came the people had one hour. They were taking up to 2,000 away a month, but sometimes much less. She was the ears of the family so she always had to listen for the boots then reach her family.

By 1943 her parents couldn’t stand it anymore and sent Renee and her sister to live in the country with a family they paid. So she and her sister removed their Jewish star and left. But after half a year the family put them out because they had not been paid. Her and her sister returned to the city alone. There were no more transports, but there were also no more anyone. Payments stopped because two months earlier on the last transport, Renee’s parents were sent to Auschwitz. Renee recalled not wanting to be the last one alive.

For three weeks she and her sister scrounged during the day and lived in a tailor shop at night until employees found out about them and could have turned them in. So they were homeless for a couple of days. After been rejected by everyone else they knew, Renee turned herself in to the police. The two girls, only 9 and 7, were then on a train to Auschwitz. After five days on the train, heavy bombing made the train jump the track so they were sent to Bergen-Belsen, which was another 3 days in a packed cattle car.

The one thing she regretted was that she had no recollection of being liberated by the British because she was near death with typhus. She recuperated with her sister in Sweden and eventfully made her way to distant relatives in New York City.