Doctor in Hades
I AM a woman of forty-three, Catholic and ‘Aryan.’ My family lived in Vienna. At the Sacré Cceur school the two most important things I learned were good French and good manners.
In 1922 I married a young Viennese physician. Fritz was Catholic, but nonAryan. He had a good practice, and with what I earned we were very happy.
We were not much interested in politics. We regarded ourselves as liberals, but since there was no liberal party we sometimes voted Christian Socialist and sometimes Social Democratic. Only on one point were we firm as a rock — no union with Germany! We shared the general Austrian aversion to Prussians.
To us and our friends in a small Viennese suburb, Hitler’s seizure of power on January 30, 1933, was totally unexpected and inexplicable. We had read of him in the newspapers, but we had not taken him seriously. Now came stories of all sorts of Nazi atrocities and of anti-Semitism. My brother wrote from Berlin: ‘Begin to liquidate everything. You must leave Austria. I don’t know how much time you’ll have. But some day the wolf will eat you. You can bet on that!’
This seemed to me ridiculous. Emigrate? Simply from fear of the Nazis? Leave our lovely little home and garden, our friends, and my husband’s good practice? And what if the Nazis should come? To be sure, Fritz did not have the right kind of grandparents, but he was born in Vienna and his medals were proof of distinguished war service.
In the autumn of 1937 my elder brother came for a visit. He could not stand it any longer in Berlin. As he was leaving us, he took my hands in his: ‘Farewell, Sister. And for the last time — sell everything! Transfer your money abroad! Leave Austria!’
‘You’re an idiot,’ I laughed. ‘Auf Wiedersehen in the spring!’
When I next saw him nearly two terrible years had passed, and he was standing on the pier in New York to meet me and my little boy Max.
That winter in Austria the Nazis became more and more provocative. There were constant fights in the streets. Schuschnigg visited Hitler at Berchtesgaden and promised to take a couple of Nazis into his cabinet. The feeling grew more tense. One saw it everywhere in people’s faces. My husband and I talked very seriously. Perhaps my brother had been right. If things got any worse, we would leave. He would begin to wind up his practice and prepare to sell a part interest in a house we had inherited.
Too late! On Sunday, March 15,1938, German troops, trucks, and tanks were in our streets, airplanes roared overhead, Nazi flags flew, church bells rang. Annexation !
A fortnight later I took little Max for a promised trip to the Kahlenberg. Like his school friends, he wore a swastika on his coat. He knew I did not like it, and offered to take it off. But I knew how hard it would seem to him to sit naked, so to speak, among the other Aryan children. My boy, who was a baptized Mischling (part Jew), had the right to wear the swastika. He had the privilege of drawing it in his school copybook and of learning the Horst Wcsscl song by heart. The sprinkling of Jewish pupils had been set back on the rear seats and forbidden to join in the song. So Max wore his swastika. He evidently regarded it, and not without reason, as a badge of protection.
The road to the Kahlenberg was more beautiful than ever. Flowers were blooming in the valley of the Danube. Below us lay the beloved city, the beloved river. If only so many Brown Shirts had not been standing around! I realized suddenly that I was seeing it all for the last time. But Max was enchanted. A Brown Shirt explained to him the mechanism of his revolver, and promised that when he was a couple of years older he -would get one like it and could then shoot down as many Jews as he pleased.
‘Get the child away from this crazy country as quickly as possible!’ I said to myself. ‘That is our first duty. If we hurry, we can leave in a week.’
When we came home, Mother said that the Nazis were searching houses in the neighborhood. ‘Thank God, they have left us in peace,’ I replied. Fritz was out visit ing his patients.
The doorbell rang. Three secret police in civilian clothing! ‘A search is ordered,’ said one of them in an embarrassed way. ‘May we examine your desk?’
‘Precisely what do you want?’
‘To prevent the smuggling of money out of the country.’
He sat down at the desk and began pulling out the drawers. My conscience was clear. I had already taken the precaution of destroying all dangerous letters and papers, and we had not transferred any money abroad, worse luck. He examined my husband’s checkbook and made sure no suspiciously large sums had been withdrawn from the bank.
‘Now the passports, please. Only a formality. In three days you will have them back again.’
So that was what they had really come for! Without our passports we could not leave. It was months before I was able to get them back.
Meanwhile we filled out the endless papers and executed the innumerable formalities — emigration permits, tax payments, photographs, French visas, an affidavit from America, and passage on a ship sailing in August. On a day early in July I telephoned my husband at his hospital to tell him that at last I thought I had arranged successfully for the return of our passports (I had followed a hint that a bribe of $500 would do the trick.)
Instead of my husband’s voice, I heard a nurse sobbing, ‘Gestapo men are in the Herr Doktor’s office.’ I flew downstairs, caught a taxi, and rushed to find him. His secretary was pale and trembling in the outer office. I tore the door open. Inside stood Fritz with two strange men in civilian clothing. One of them was cramming notebooks, patients’ records, X-ray photographs, and other papers into a portfolio. All the desk drawers were pulled out.
Fritz was pale, but smiled reassuringly at me. ‘My wife,’ he explained to the men, and added, ‘I believe, dear, I am under arrest. Don’t get excited. Take care of the boy and of Grandma, and especially of yourself. Auf Wiedersehen.’
We kissed each other, and I made the sign of the cross on his forehead, mouth, and heart, according to an old custom before a long journey. We did not weep, and the Gestapo fellows were relieved. ‘Sensible people who make no fuss,’ murmured one of them.
‘Where are you going to take my husband?’
‘We have no idea.’
I followed Fritz down the stairs. He stepped into a waiting auto, sat down between the two men, and sped away around the corner.
Eight terrible months later I stood at midnight in the railway station at Tours, trembling and waiting for the train from Paris which would bring my husband back to us.
My cousin’s coachman had driven me to the station. As the train pounded to a stop, the kindly old man whispered to me, ‘When I came back on furlough — after a year at Verdun — my Maria did not. recognize me, Madame.’
The train stopped. A man sprang out and ran up to us. It was Fritz — pale, thin, head shaven, but the same old Fritz, laughing and gay. His voice was husky, but he was well.
That night we had supper by the fire. Max was asleep, but Fritz kissed him in his bed. Then, as we sat before the lire throughout the night, Fritz began to talk. The pages that follow are part of what he told me of his months in concentration camps. . . .
We were herded in the train from Vienna for nearly twenty-four hours. Finally, the station at Weimar. I had always wanted to sec Goethe’s town, but — Black Shirts everywhere. Here we got a foretaste of what a concentration camp and S. S. troops mean. ‘Quick, you beggars! We’ll make you run!’ They struck us with whips and sticks. There were old men among us. We were hindered by our clumsy parcels, badly wrapped in old newspapers. Rough, brutal faces peered at us. They were the masters, and we the captive animals.
My service in the army aided me more than anything else from that moment on. At the front I had lived for years in misery and danger. I had seen stupidity and brutality and had had to hold my tongue. Valuable knowledge, that proved to be.
We were still as death. We would have been quiet, even without the S.S. bawling at us that anyone who opened his dirty mug would get a blow in the face. We were driven rapidly to the gate of the camp, flanked by watchtowers with machine guns. Above the gate in giant letters: ‘Right or wrong, Thy Fatherland.’ The Vienna police who had brought us were just as terrified as we were.
We were taken to a muster ground. The commandant, a sadistic, drunken swine, looked us over. Then he ordered the Vienna police to fish out for him the more important personalities — a kind of prize collection of samples: State Secretary Karwinsky; Count Colleredo; the Rotter brothers, film directors; former Minister of Justice Winterstein; and a few others. They had to step forward. They were berated, cursed, spat upon, and beaten. The Vienna police stood by pale as death.
Then we all had to cross our arms behind our heads and remain standing in this position, the Aryans two hours, the non-Aryans five hours.
The barracks were not finished. We slept on the ground among the cleared tree stumps. No straw. No covers. We lay close against one another, with our parcels under our heads. We had been given no food, and were hungry and thirsty, but I slept really well.
The next morning we learned that we were in the outer camp. That meant that we had worse quarters but no striped prisoner uniforms; we wore our own clothes and did not have to work in the chain gang.
At 4.30 A.M. we had to get up. The food was miserable: an unsweetened brew of roasted oak galls and a bread ration — a loaf for Aryans, a half loaf for nonAryans. Then roll call. The main meal came in the afternoon: soup with potatoes, beans, or carrots, in which, for a hundred men, there were five little pieces of sausage or bacon. At night we got a piece of cheese or a herring. There was no water for washing, and no place to wash; no sanitary arrangements except the latrines. The drinking water, I soon found, was unsafe. During the five following months in Buchenwald I never drank a drop of the water — only the oak brew, because they had to boil that in order to make it at all. We prisoners had no way to boil water. I warned and warned, but the others wouldn’t believe me. We soon had a beautiful typhus epidemic.
All day long we had practically nothing to do. We did fix up some sleeping barracks — banks of bare boards in four rows one above the other. We also were provided with some covers, but we had to sleep in our clothes. That was prescribed by the rules. Reading or studying was out of the question. There was no quiet, no room — too many men. It got cold and we froze.
One thing, unfortunately, I must say: in general the Aryans behaved better than we Jews. Here and there, naturally, there were exceptions. But we all lost our nerve, all of us together. We lived like animals and were treated like animals. Beatings were common — twenty-five or so practically every day. They beat us with long bamboo sticks. I treated many men who got bad festering wounds.
Our money was taken from us, except for ten marks. But we political prisoners, almost without exception, were able to get the permitted five marks weekly sent us from home. You could also get more money very simply. You wrote home that you owed Fraulein Lieschen Muller, such and such an address, a couple of hundred marks; please send her the money. She then sent the money to certain Black Shirts in collusion with her. Naturally about half the money stuck to their fingers on the way, but you got a hundred marks or so. It was strictly forbidden to have possession of more than ten marks. If you were caught, you got a severe beating. I was never caught.
You need money in the concentration camp. Now and then you can buy food in the canteen. You need money to give a couple of marks for the privilege of being allowed to walk for an hour in quiet in the wooded enclosure surrounded by barbed wire. Everywhere in the world you need money, but especially in a German concentration camp. The Black Shirts were bribable down to the last man. Every Block Senior, every Room Senior, took money. These ’Seniors’ were mostly professional criminals, quite nice regular fellows. They had inside control of the camp well in hand. Since it was no use for them to write home that they owed Fraulein Muller money, and since no one sent them any, they had to devise ways and means of getting it.
They were mostly men who had already served prison terms. Others were not exactly criminals — just men whose wives were coveted by some influential Black Shirt and who had to be got out of the way. The professional criminals had a green sign sewed on their clothing. There were about 300 of them. Then we had 500 Bible Searchers (religious fundamentalists); they had a sky-blue sign. The overwhelming majority in Buchenwald were the ‘blacks’ — the men charged with being ‘idle’ and ‘antisocial.’ There were also about 3000 Jews, of whom 90 per cent were reckoned as ‘political’ — that is, ‘reds.’ There was a small group of homosexuals — less than a hundred — marked with a violet triangle. Finally, some two-dozen so-called ‘emigres,’ men who had fled across the frontier and been recaptured; they had a dark blue sign. The normal total for Buchenwald was about 12,000. But don’t think that all the prisoners were noble persecuted human beings. Far from it. Many of them I would have prevented, with the best of conscience, from running around loose if I had been in power.
In November, young Grynszpan shot Herr vom Rath in Paris. That was bad news. The Völkischer Beobachter fulminated, and every Black Shirt acted as if his own child had been murdered. It was lucky that we were in a concentration camp, we learned. We knew that the event boded evil for Jews, but we did not suspect that a couple of days later the heroic period for Buchenwald was about to begin — the most terrible for us and the most profitable for the Black Shirts.
On November 10 the Gestapo tried to arrest all the male Jews in Germany. They wanted to make a 100 per cent seizure, but did not succeed. To Buchenwald they delivered, from all parts of Germany, 10,000 harmless Jews who must have been exemplary citizens, else they would not have been left undisturbed so long. Ten thousand uprooted, helpless human beings were pumped into a camp which was already completely full. The crowd slept — my God! they couldn’t sleep — they lay over, under, and against one another in a heaving mass. They could not wash themselves or their clothes. At this time we were being fed stew made from preserved whale meat. Either whale meat is not fit for human consumption, or the canning process was rotten. The whole camp got dysentery. I will not and cannot describe the way the men looked and stank. It was hell.
We Viennese prisoners had already organized our life a little. We had been able to get a little water and empty food cans — naturally by paying something— and so to wash out our drawers. One night when a Block Senior refused to let a comrade have even the bit of water to which he was entitled — for which he had paid — the prisoners killed him. It served him right.
The authorities did not interfere at all in such internal affairs of the prisoners. If the prisoners found it necessary to kill a crude blackmailer, a spy, or a traitor in their midst, that was clearly their own affair, according to the S. S. Human life was not at a premium in Buchenwald. A single complaint by a prisoner against a fellow prisoner — and the complainant was a dead man. Any prisoner who had dealings with the administration was our enemy, who must be got rid of.
The new unfortunates upset everything, including the bit of order we had already established. Among them were many insane people, whom the Nazis in pride of race had thrown out of insane asylums and dumped into Buchenwald. You can’t demand of a poor insane fellow that he observe discipline — that is, you can demand it, but it won’t do you any good. Many previously normal men came into the camp with severe fear neuroses. Housed with the insane, they grew rapidly worse. A couple of dozen maniacs can make more disturbance among 10,000 tolerably normal human beings than you can imagine.
After a few days the S. S. had enough of it, and let us know unofficially that if we ourselves could not bring about order in the outer camp they would come with machine guns and mow us down.
So Dr. X, a Viennese gynecologist, and I and a few others established an insane asylum in the wash kitchen. This was a dilapidated shed, full of holes, on the border between the outer camp and the main camp. The pipes and faucets were there, but, since there was no water, it had never been used. It was in a tumbledown condition, but had a cement floor and a roof.
We caught the insane and bad neurotic cases who were upsetting the camp and endangering our lives, and forced them into the wash kitchen. Twenty men volunteered to help us.
That wash kitchen in those first weeks was simply a hell. Two doctors, plus twenty lawyers, industrialists, and journalists, who were dependable enough but without the slightest knowledge of medicine. No drugs except a little luminal. No beds, straw, or coverings. We took up a collection among the prisoners in order to procure some drugs in Weimar through the agency of an S. S. man, but he merely pocketed the money for himself. A second collection brought results, but it took a fortnight to get the drugs. The first days we spent in tying up the more violent maniacs by force in order to isolate them in a locked room in the wash kitchen. The camp administration had willingly put a lot of electric wire at our disposal. Day and night we struggled with these poor insane creatures, until we had them bound and under control.
The floor was a filthy mess of dirt, blood, and excrements. Some of our own helpers went insane, but it was quite a while before we noticed it. New insane people were constantly handed over to us from all the other barracks. We had as many as lot) or 160 patients. Many of them died. From the very first day I tried to write a case record for each patient and establish his identity. Cut with the insane, and in the circumstances, this was by no means easy. When we left the fifth corpse lying because we could not identify it, the lieutenant commandant of the camp, the famous Jonny, a sadistic blockhead of the first order, threatened me with twenty-five blows, ‘because it was evidently my fault.’ The whole camp was made to file by the corpse, and no one recognized him, not even his own brother. Only later was he identified upon a careful examination at Weimar. On the same day that Jonny threatened me with a beating because of slovenly administration of the wash kitchen, the commandant gave me a box of cigarettes in recognition of my services. I don’t smoke cigarettes, but naturally I accepted them in order to give them away, and because I understood it was like a decoration of honor.
TheS.S. liked to stand outside thewash kitchen looking through the holes in the tar-paper walls with drawn revolvers in their hands, waiting to see if they could help us by a well-aimed shot in our wrestling with the maniacs. It was difficult. to tell the patients from the nurses. We tied handkerchiefs on our left arms as badges. But the insane are sly. Some of them imitated our arm bands, and helpers had their arm bands torn off and were battered down and bound by their colleagues. We all of us became crazy, more or less. Finally we marked a number in ink on the forehead of each insane person. But that was no sure help. The patients rubbed the ink off. Dr. X and I once worked thirty-six hours without a moment’s rest.
One day an S. S. man came and took a look at the hell from the inside. ‘Look here, Herr Doktor,’ he said sympathetically, ‘we sec how you are plagued here. We recognize it. So long as you have these absolutely rabid fools on your necks, you cannot establish order. Pick out the twenty worst cases and we’ll take them off your hands. Then you’ll have an easier job.’
‘At last a glimmer of common sense,’ I thought; ‘now the poor devils will be taken away and given proper care.’
I picked out twenty incurables whom it was impossible to calm. Then Dr. X came from his meal, and I went out for mine. When I came back, thirty-five of the patients were gone, among them several quite mild cases — harmless neurotics. One was an old man who had never wanted to harm anyone, only he kept talking, talking, talking, without ceasing. His son, a nice young fellow, had volunteered as one of my helpers in order to stay by his father. The whole thirty-five were pounded to death in the camp prison.
Another S. S. man came and took a look at us. He bawled out at an old bearded Jew who was praying and sobbing. The old man didn’t hear him at all, but went on praying to his God and sobbing. ‘That will be dangerous,’ I thought to myself, and quickly went over to them. ‘A harmless case of fear neurosis,’ I explained. ‘Give me a little time. I can quiet the man down.’
‘Try it, if you want,’ said the S. S. man, shrugging his shoulders.
‘I want to help you,’ I said to the old man. ‘Take this pill, and you will feel better. I am a doctor; I know; I take them myself when I feel bad.’ I tried to soothe him with simple kindly words. But that takes some time when one is dealing with a completely disturbed brain. The S. S. man had been looking on with his watch in his hand. After two minutes he said, ‘You see.'' Aou can’t do anything.’ And he knocked the old man down with the blow of a stick and stamped on his head a couple of times with his heavy boots. The old man died in three hours.
I had made a certain name for myself because of the wash kitchen. This was both advantageous and dangerous — advantageous because I could now get food more easily and because the S. S. left me in quiet, and even treated me with a certain respect. The dangerous thing was that I had seen too much. That often cost a man his life.
The first thing I had done when I came to the camp was to inquire for Dr. R. Yes, I was told, Dr. R. had been brought in from Dachau and was sitting over there. Ten men were sitting close together on benches around a table. I looked at them one after another. He was not there. I tapped one on the shoulder: ‘You there, I am looking for Dr. R.’ He pointed to an old man opposite, gray-haired, shrunken, and bent; two front teeth had been knocked out.
I had not been able to recognize among ten men a man I had had for years as a patient and friend, and had seen for the last time half a year before!
R. was terribly broken, both physically and mentally. He was half starved, frightened, and full of anxiety. He had worked in the stone quarry, and, with the miserable, insufficient food, he could not stand the hard labor. He had used up the last bit of energy and strength to live from one hour to another, trying to escape blows. R. had been an excellent organizer, a clever and thoughtful fellow. But he never understood men. Such a lack brings dire consequences in a concentration camp, more quickly and severely than anywhere else. He never attempted to better his position by bribery. He also hadn’t enough money, because he never dared to try Friiulein Lieschen Muller. He slaved in a bad work group because he feared to fall into a worse one if he tried to better himself. He wanted only to live and hold out. He did not understand that in this way he would some day drop exhausted.
The first thing I did was to see that R. got something to eat. The average prisoner in the main camp did not get a bite from the canteen, which never had portions for more than 200 men. How could they be divided among 12,000? The few men like myself, who had access to the canteen, naturally bought up everything in order to provide for their own group and friends.
I stole sacks full of bread and smuggled them into the Jewish quarters — in broad daylight and right across the muster ground. One day an S. S. man asked me what I was carrying. ‘Bread,’ I said and went on. You see, that was the secret. If I had appeared frightened and tried to hide a loaf of bread under my coat, I should have been discovered and beaten up. Since I made it a point to have at least twenty loaves in a sack and went openly across the empty muster ground, the S. S. fellows assumed that I was simply a good prisoner who was attending to his job. I tell you, if I had been walking around with hand grenades, and had told the S. S. fellow that I was just carrying hand grenades to the Jewish quarter, he would have let me pass without objection in exactly the same way.
One day a certain Willy came to me. He had been a printer and Social Democrat. He was arrested after the Reichstag fire and had been in concentration camps for six years — six years! But he was still unbroken in body and spirit. A head like a Roman Cæsar; some natural gift in medicine. In a previous camp at Esterwege, in order to have an easier life, he had asked to do hospital work on the lying pretext that in the war he had belonged to the sanitary corps. Since he was skillful, and the S.S. doctors are not, no one discovered the deceit. In Buchenwald he ran the hospital practically alone. It was prisoner-administered, the camp doctor merely a matter of form.
In small surgical cases the prisoners were fairly competent, but they knew nothing of medicine. The best thing about the S. S. doctor was that he too knew nothing, and was willing to be shown. Willy had heard of the wash kitchen and wanted to get the help of Dr. X and myself. He also asked me whether I would be willing to work unofficially in the hospital after 8 P.M. I naturally told Willy I should be glad to help him. A typhus epidemic was giving him plenty to do. I was a physician.
The first thing that Willy told me under strictest secrecy was that the S.S. doctor was helping all typhus cases or typhus suspects into the next world by giving them injections of strophanthin. But Willy and a couple of others in on the secret had emptied out the strophanthin and replaced it with boiled water.
At one of my first rounds of the hospital, the S. S. doctor joined me. A prisoner hospital assistant, strong as a bear, passed us. The doctor said, ‘You can’t depend on strophanthin, Herr Doktor. You see that fellow? He had typhus. I gave him injections of strophanthin, and he is still alive. You see for yourself, he is still alive!’
‘Isn’t that fine?’ I said. ‘Now you have him as an assistant for the typhus division.’
‘To be sure,’ he replied, ‘but you can’t place any reliance on strophanthin.’
I was frozen with fear when the S. S. head doctor calmly told me what Willy had confided to me as the strictest secret — that strophanthin was being used against typhus. He evidently assumed that I would never come out of the camp alive, so what I knew made no difference.
However, in the case of Dr. X, he behaved very decently. Dr. X was due to be released, but a quarantine was also due on account of the typhus. So the doctor honestly made an effort to get Dr. X out, and when an S. S. man proposed to shoot X before his release, because he had seen and heard too much, the doctor stood up for him. ‘No,’ said the doctor, ‘Dr. X has worked hard and been a real help. It would be a dirty trick to use the “shot in trying to escape” gag.’ Willy was present at the conversation and immediately told Dr. X, so that he should be careful in his last days and go around only in the company of the S. S. doctor.
For me the work in the hospital was a blessing. I could be active in my profession. It also had practical advantages. Willy got his food from the S. S. kitchen and took care to get me fresh meat and green vegetables. I had freedom of movement within the barbed wire. The danger was that too many people were acquainted with me. Theoretically it is best in a concentration camp to win an exceptional position by work and civilian courage and at the same time not attract attention. Practically, however, it is impossible. Men in exceptional positions are noticeable.
The period before Christmas was frightful. It was bitter cold. Our uniforms were made of a miserable substitute material. Jews got no coats. I wore two suits of underclothing — also forbidden — and three sweaters. But I shivered terribly at the morning and evening muster.
One day two prisoners were missing at the muster. At first we and the S. S. men hoped they had hanged themselves, but they were nowhere to be found. With the thermometer at thirteen above zero we had to stand stiff and still on the muster ground for six hours. About a dozen froze to death. After six hours it was clear the two had escaped. Next day the hospital was full of pneumonia cases. They died like flies.
To try to escape from a concentration camp is usually stupid, and always disloyal — disloyal toward one’s fellow sufferers. This escape cost dozens of lives.
At the beginning of January a kind of unrest suddenly swept through the camp. No one knew exactly why. The nerves of all of us — prisoners, S. S., and the administration — were shot to pieces. And when the S. S. had bad nerves, life was in danger. The floggings, hangings, and deaths increased. It was then that Willy took me as a patient into the hospital, in order to bring me into a little more safety. I was at last spared the long painful daily musters.
Slowly releases began to take place, without any discernible system. Apparently it was a lottery; a handful of numbers were drawn out of a hat. The thing I most feared was that a camp quarantine would be imposed before I got out. The typhus had increased and a quarantine seemed imminent.
One of the greatest scourges which prison life produced, from a psychological point of view, was the fanatical hater. One such, a Jew, was a self-made man, a fine, clever fellow. His only aim in life was to rush out and destroy everything German and Aryan. Since he was really a clever and able man, he will probably do a lot of damage, once he is free and outside of Germany. Every Aryan who for any reason remained in Austria after the annexation was his deadly enemy. Viennese who suffered just as we have, perhaps even more, because they did net emigrate, were too old, or didn’t have the opportunity to begin life anew abroad with their children, are the object of this man’s hatred just as are the S. S. themselves. I tried to preach a little sense to the fellow. I explained to him how much real friendship and true help I had found among Aryans both in and outside of Greater Germany; told him that to regard all German Aryans as scoundrels was just as stupid as Hitler’s notion that all Jews were criminals and scoundrels. It was useless. He hated. That was his life’s purpose. Buchenwald saw to it that hate will not die out for the next two hundred years.
At last came the orders for release. At last! I took leave of my friends and learned by heart the usual messages for their families. From Buchenwald no one can carry out a single written word. We heard, to our astonishment, that we were to go in a transport: barred windows and a guard armed with revolvers. In Halle and Munich, to take us from one train to another they chained us together like common criminals.
In Vienna we were taken to the Liesl Prison.
After the usual waiting and filling out of papers, we were led to the common prison room. It was late in the evening, and we were weary. Whom did we see sitting on the old straw beds? Old Buchenwalders! Men who had left the camp the middle of December, and who at the end of February were still sitting in the Liesl, unheard and uncared for. We peered at them as if they were ghosts. We had imagined them already far away somewhere beyond the seas.
That was the worst shock of all of those terrible times. Were they going to leave us to rot in the Liesl? That night I was in despair.
After a week I was brought before the Gestapo and asked my plans. My passport was ready, taxes were all paid, the French and American visas were all right. ‘In half an hour, you arc free, Herr Doktor.’ . . .
My husband fell silent. Early next morning I heard voices in the adjoining room. Our boy was telling his father, partly in French, partly in German, about the horses and the Indian huts he had made. . . .
A few weeks later we sailed for the United States. It is a kind and peaceful land. There is a new home, new friends. We realize that the wind rustles through the trees all over the world, not merely in the garden of a Vienna suburb.