Margit Silberfeld

From September 1942 until the end of the war she and her mother were in Terezin.

It was night when we arrived in Terezin. In the ghetto there were so many people moving about, and the Germans were shouting. Suddenly my mother was gone. I had lost her in the crowd. A German woman started to examine me. I asked her if I could sit down. She hit me so hard in my face that I was too stunned to cry. Our nurse in the children’s home, a talented ballet dancer organized for me to work in the ceramics workshops. Professor Saudek was looking for someone to be a model for a dancer. Jewish artists were only allowed to work for the SS. It was beautifully quiet there and warm. Whenever I closed the door behind me I almost felt as if I was in an illusionary and abstract world. The professor taught another girl and me everything about art. Meanwhile there had been transports from an orphanage in Prague, where I sang in a performance of the children’s opera “Brundibar“. margit-silberfeld1 I had volunteered immediately, but the director of the choir found that my voice sounded too adult and was not suitable any more. He took me to Rafael Schächter. I was allowed to go through an exam, and then I was allowed to join his choir. We adored him. We started to rehearse Verdi’s Requiem. There were 150 people singing, without sheet music, by heart and in Latin. I think the most beautiful Requiem ever to be sung was the one in Terezin. Rafael Schächter always told us, “Sing loudly and clearly, so that someone up there can hear us.” The possibility to be involved in art made us forget our suffering and hunger for a while. Those were stolen moments of happiness. Apart from my work in the agricultural department I was an actress in the theater. Kurt Gerau, who had been in the “Blue Angel” with Marlene Dietrich “, told stories about the actors. In the ghetto there were many creative, talented and ingenious artists.

My beloved uncles, known in the ghetto as the Ernst the Roofers, were supposed to be transported. They were already boarding when I went to the camp’s commander to ask him to get them out. I was aware that my request could get me into the next transport. But they stayed in the ghetto. In the first months of 1945 the Germans started to send the prisoners from concentration camps that had been closed down to the ghetto. I was in a group on 25 girls. We were to look after the women’s transports. When they arrived they were ill and neglected, disturbed and used to react only when beaten. We had clothes for them, but first of all they had to wash. When they heard that they had to take a shower, they panicked. Showers to them equaled gas chambers and death. I had the idea that we, the girls, should undress too and wash ourselves in front of them. This way we managed to convince them. I was dragging a young man out of a car when the SS without warning opened fire and shot at those who were arriving. Almost numbed I carried the man on my shoulders to the doctor. He said, “Why are you bringing me dead people – there are so many wounded here?” A bullet had killed him and I had not realized it. I do not know how I got through all this. It was hard to stay normal.

Born July 21, 1928 in Jihlava, widow.

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