Alžbéta Bendová

In November 1941 her family was transported to Terezin, in winter 1942 to the ghetto in Riga; her parents were shot dead in Hochwald in the fall of 1943; together with her sister she was sent to Kaiserwald concentration camp, Stutthof concentration camp, Bromberg camp.

For one year I was able to teach, until the Germans came and I was dismissed. I had many non-Jewish friends, for whom I taught private lessons. As early as 1939 our friends had recommended that we leave. But we did not believe that Hitler would win. Our lives changed dramatically with our deportation to Terezin. alzbeta-bendova3 From then on, we were no longer in charge of our future, and we were exposed to anything that might happen. There were two transportations from Terezin to Riga. We were in the first one, and I could stay together with my family. In the second one, the women and children were separated from the men and shot dead, the men were sent to the labor camp in Salaspils.

The ghetto was a comedy. The Germans wanted to pretend that life was more or less normal. The ghetto was divided into different districts that were named after the cities from which Jewish people came, for instance the Vienna-House or the Prague-House. I was a teacher at the Vienna School. Plenty of teaching material was available. We staged theater performances for the children, some fairy tales. One performance was “Snow white”. The SS treated the children as if they were really fond of them. Before the ghetto was closed they took all the children away in trucks.

Most prisoners worked outside the ghetto in Riga, in the slaughterhouse or in the fish factory. They always managed to smuggle something into the camp. They knew that getting caught would mean their death. Once the SS had found out that people were selling gold in the town. After that, many were hanged. To deter others, the bodies were left hanging for a week, and the children had to pass them on their way to school. Late in the summer of 1942, after the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto our camp was closed. Those who were younger and able to work were sent to the concentration camp in Kaiserwald and to the factories in Riga. Finally, they took the old and invalid people away in trucks and shot them dead. My parents were among them. My sister and I were taken to Dumdagen, where the commander of the camp was a mad man. It was cold in the tents, and the ground was soggy. The men had to throw themselves into the mud, and the commander shouted, “This will be your resurrection after 400 years.” Someone complained, and the commander was replaced by someone else. He introduced himself as the “Iron Gustav“. The food improved somewhat, but we were tormented just like before. With him, we marched for two days. Some escaped; and we were afraid because we did not know what would happen to us. From Liepawa we were taken in cattle cars to Stutthof; and from our last camp in Bromberg we walked to a polish village. We spent the night in a barn, and we were afraid that the building would be burned down while we were still in it. The following day there was chaos in the streets. The German soldiers holding machine guns shouted: “We are surrounded, you won’t get far.” My sister, a friend and I stayed in our hideout for several nights, until the Russians came.

Head teacher, born September 18, 1914 in Hradec Králové, married, 1 son.

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