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Alice Weilova (née Kaufmanova) * 1902
Falkenbergsweg 62 (Harburg, Neugraben-Fischbek)
Alice Weilová, née Kaufmanová, born on 6 July 1902 in Kostelec tnad Orlicí (Adlerkosteletz), deported from Prague to Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, and to the Neuengamme concentration camp, perished on 6 Apr. 1945
The Bohemian town where Alice Kaufmanová was born as the daughter of her Jewish parents Arnold Kaufman and Irene Kaufmanová at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century still belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire prior to World War I. That this monarchy was a multinational state was also reflected in the Kaufman family, with Arnold Kaufman being Hungarian, his wife Austrian, and his daughter Czech. Together with his brother, Alice Kaufmanová’s father was the joint owner of a small but very successful factory producing women’s shoes. Her parents lived in a stately villa that was furnished accordingly. There, on the edge of the Orlicke Mountains (German: Adlergebirge; Czech: Orlicke hory), the girl spent a happy childhood, which she always fondly recalled later. In 1924, her father passed away, a painful loss for everyone. In 1925, at the age of 23, Alice Kaufmanová married Oskar Weil, the son of a Jewish state councilor in the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Transportation. He was two years her senior and a civil servant in the Czechoslovakian national railroad company. The two newlyweds moved into a modest apartment in the Czechoslovakian capital of Prague, where daughter Eva was born in 1927 and then spent the first years of her life. Even though the apartment was not very spacious, her father still found a corner in which to set up his bookshelf and her mother a nook to place her piano. The Jewish religion did not play a special role in the life of the Weil family. They celebrated both the Jewish and the Christian holidays, and their circle of friends included Jews and non-Jews. Eva Weilová too did not feel marginalized in any way by her teachers or classmates. The intact world went to pieces when troops of the German Wehrmacht marched into Prague on 15 Mar. 1939. With the establishment of the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” began the persecution of the Jewish population living there. It was not long before all Jewish inhabitants were ordered to get registered. Just as quickly, all Jewish men and women were dismissed from public service, something Oskar Weil was not spared either. In the short term, he found a new job in a travel agency, and when he lost this position as well, the family’s distress became greater all the time. Casual work by which he assisted the Jewish Community to an increasing extent was not suited to change the situation either. Eva Weilová was also affected by the anti-Jewish orders of the occupiers. In the summer of 1940, she was – like all other Jewish children and youths – banned from attending any public school. This ban not only blocked her path toward an education but also made her carefree contact to children of the same age more difficult. However, she was quite lucky in that many classmates and one female teacher as well stuck with her and did not withdraw – despite the mounting danger. They met up with her even in unfavorable circumstances and did not shrink from the risks of inviting her to visit the theater and concerts together, undertakings that involved grave danger for those involved. That a teacher ranked among those that fearlessly disregarded all bans on contact was something Eva – and especially her mother – appreciated in particular. In quick succession, further laws and ordinances were proclaimed that progressively destroyed the basis of livelihood of the Jewish population in Bohemia and Moravia. The number of occupational bans grew and the allocations of food rations were reduced at intervals shrinking all the time. Many Jewish tenants were forced to vacate their apartments and move to smaller accommodations owned by Jews. Moreover, gradually not only all of the radio sets and phones were confiscated but so were record players and fur coats. Soon visits to the theater and the movies were no longer permitted, as was going to restaurants or to the public pool. As of 1 Sept. 1941, the obligation came into effect for all Jews living in the Protectorate to identify themselves by wearing the "yellow star.” One month later, the deportations to Lodz and Theresienstadt began. On 6 Mar. 1943, Oskar Weil as well as Alice and Eva Weilová had to leave their apartment in Prague and board a train that first took them to Bauschowitz (Bohusovice). After that, burdened with 50 kilograms (approx. 110 lbs) of luggage each – they covered some 3 kilometers (nearly 2 mi) on foot to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. In this place, Oskar Weil and his wife and daughter were quartered in two separate military barracks. After a while, Eva Weilová moved into the girls’ home of the ghetto. She coped better than her parents did with the adverse conditions of this place. Her mother in particular had difficulty resigning herself to the altered circumstances of their lives – especially the breakup of the family. Even more than as result of the constant hunger, she suffered due to the spatial separation from her husband and daughter and the loss of any private sphere, which was hardly less painful, and the agonizing uncertainty about the future. For Oskar Weil and Alice and Eva Weilová – as for many others – the Theresienstadt Ghetto was nothing but an intermediate stop. The transport to the extermination camps in the East belonged to the everyday experience in this place. On 18 Dec. 1943, they too had to go on a transport to the East without knowing where the journey went. However, even the conditions of the transport in completely overcrowded livestock cars, in which people were so cramped that they stepped on each other’s feet and which provided no water supply or latrines, boded ill. Two days later, when the doors of the freight cars were torn open, they learned that they were in Auschwitz-Birkenau. After their arrival, they were led to the Theresienstadt family camp of camp section B II along with 1,137 men and boys receiving numbers 169,969 to 171,105, as well as 1,336 women and girls marked with numbers 72,435 to 73,700. There, Alice Weilová was nothing more than prisoner no. 73,671 and Eva Weilová nothing more than prisoner no. 73,672 from then on. This special camp was a gigantic deception maneuver intended by the National Socialist rulers to counter all speculations circulating in the international public about the true function of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. The new arrivals were not subjected to any "selection” upon reaching the camp. Instead, on the next morning, they were led into the "sauna,” where they had to undress and surrender everything. After showering, they received "new” clothes, resembling a collection of rags more than anything else. After that, they were quartered in different barracks separated by gender, but not far from each other. They slept on straw sacks and three-story plank beds that more than three persons were often forced to share. In contrast to the other camp inmates, they did not set out for work every day. Only occasionally, they had to carry rocks senselessly from one spot to another on site and carry them back again afterward. Moreover, in any kind of weather, they had to line up for role calls frequently lasting for hours that wore down the elderly people in particular. However, soon they realized what was actually happening in Auschwitz-Birkenau. By 9 Mar. 1944 at the latest, when 3,791 Jewish prisoners of the Theresienstadt family camp were murdered in Crematoria II and III, they became aware of their situation. On 2 July 1944, all of the men between 16 and 50 years of age as well as all women aged 16 to 40 still left in the Theresienstadt family camp had to report for a "selection.” In the course of this, the notorious concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele chose 2,000 women and 1,000 men that he deemed still fit for work and that were supposed to be used for labor duty outside the camp soon. Among these prisoners were Oskar Weil as well as Alice and Eva Weilová. The other inmates of the Theresienstadt family camp were driven into the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau a short time later. Following months and months during which only fully occupied trains from Central and Western Europe had arrived in the Auschwitz camp, news that recently fully packed trains were also leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau in the opposite direction must have sounded like a fairytale. In July 1944, Oskar Weil was on a transport that reached the Schwarzheide satellite camp in Brandenburg, an external branch of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, and Alice and Eva Weilová departed Auschwitz on a transport destined for the Dessauer Ufer women’s camp, an external branch of the Neuengamme concentration camp located in Hamburg’s Veddel district. There, the Jewish women and girls were quartered in a vacated warehouse. A large hall featured dual bunk beds in which they slept and tables and benches on which to eat and drink. Even washing facilities and a toilet were available. Their workplaces were located in Hamburg harbor. They worked six days a week. Two months later, they were transferred along with 498 women from there to the Neugraben subcamp on Falkenbergsweg in the southern part of Hamburg. In the area surrounding the camp, the women were used toward building temporary accommodations, excavating an anti-tank ditch, clearing rubble, and removing snow. By the time they were transferred again in Feb. 1945, Alice Weilová’s body was so weakened that she could no longer cope with the severe physical and psychological strains of life in the camp. Shortly before the evacuation of the Tiefstack concentration camp subcamp and the transport of her daughter and the other female prisoners to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on the Lüneburg Heath, which served as a reception camp, Alice Weilová closed her eyes forever. In vain, her daughter had tried at her deathbed to give comfort and strength to her. Ten days later, Eva Weilová was liberated by British troops at this last and most horrible station of her odyssey through camps – in between piles of corpses. In Nov. 1945, after an extended period of convalescence in Sweden, she returned to her home town of Prague. The hope for a reunion with her father did not come true. Instead, one day she received the sad news that he had not survived the "death march” of prisoners in connection with the evacuation of the Schwarzheide concentration camp subcamp during the last days of the war. The people from Eva Weilová’s family that did not survive the Holocaust included not only her parents but also nearly all of her other relatives. When she returned to Prague, there was only a reunion with one grandmother and one aunt.
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: April 2018
© Klaus Möller
Quellen: Yad Vashem. The Central Database of Shoa Victims´ Names: www.yadvashem.org; Häftlingsliste des Lagers Theresienstadt. Theresienstädter Gedenkbuch; KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme. Interview mit Eva Keulemansova, geb. Weilova, vom 5.5.2011; Danuta Czech, Kalendarium der Ereignisse im Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau 1939–1945, Reinbek 1989; Alfred Gottwald, Diana Schulle, Die `Judendeportationen´ aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941–1945, Wiesbaden 2005, Karl-Heinz Schultz, Das KZ-Außenlager Neugraben, in: Jürgen Ellermeyer, Klaus Richter, Dirk Stegmann (Hrsg.), Harburg. Von der Burg zur Industriestadt, Hamburg-Harburg 1988, S. 493ff; Hans Ellger, Zwangsarbeit und weibliche Überlebensstrategien. Die Geschichte der Frauenaußenlager des Konzentrationslagers Neuengamme 1944/45, Berlin 2007 Karl-Heinz Schultz, Das Barackenlager am Falkenbergsweg 1936–1976. Entstehung – Nutzung – Ende, in: Peter de Knegt, Olinka. Eine Freundschaft, die im Krieg begann, Hamburg 2012.