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Erika Dawidowicz * 1920
Falkenbergsweg 62 (Harburg, Neugraben-Fischbek)
LODZ / LITZMANNSTADT
TOT BEI BOMBENANGRIFF
Anna Dawidowicz, née Satz, born on 9 July 1898, deported from Prague to Lodz, Auschwitz, and to the Neuengamme concentration camp, perished in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 10 May 1945
Erika Dawidowicz, born on 5 June 1920 in Mistek, deported from Prague to Lodz, Auschwitz, and to the Neuengamme concentration camp, perished on 5 Apr. 1945
Shortly after the founding of the Czechoslovakian Republic, Anna and Josef Dawidowicz (born on 11 Apr. 1886) were able to delight in the birth of their daughter Erika. They were not the only Jews living in the small Moravian town of Mistek and the neighboring city of Frydek at the time. In the nineteenth century, many Jewish families had found their way to the two neighboring towns located at the confluence of the Morava and Ostravice rivers. It is not known whether Anna and Josef Dawidowicz’s parents ranked among them as well, or whether the two young people got to know the city only later. In 1890, when Moravia was still a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Jewish Community, assembling for their religious services in the synagogue in Frydek on religious holidays and on the Sabbath, numbered 489 members. Josef and Anna Dawidowicz operated a small store in Mistek if the meager data in the surviving documents are correct. They do not reveal, however, what they were trading, how large the store was, and for how long they were able to hold on to it. At the latest by the time the Czech state was occupied by the German Wehrmacht in Mar. 1939, not only their private but also their professional latitude became narrower all the time. Increasingly, they were hindered in practicing their trade and eventually banned from doing so entirely. All Jewish businesses had to be sold or handed over to a trustee. Assets were withdrawn from Jewish private persons. Their marginalization from cultural life and from all fields of education did not unfold much differently. Step by step, they were denied access to cultural events and public educational establishments, and eventually banned from them across the board. Erika Dawidowicz too was not allowed to complete her studies. Through an ordinance dated 5 July 1941, the Nuremberg laws [on race] were also extended to the inhabitants of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Since 1 Sept. 1941, Czech Jews had to wear the "yellow star” and from 23 Oct. 1941, they too were subject to a strict ban on emigration. Eight days afterward Anna, Josef, and Erika Dawidowicz were among some 5,000 Czech Jews transported from Prague to the Lodz Ghetto, established in 1940, in the course of the first wave of deportations. On 31 Oct. 1941, they were led from their collection point, where they had spent the previous night, to the Prague-Bubna train station. One day later, their train reached the Radegast train station in Lodz. As early as the fall of 1941, this Jewish residential area measuring approx. 4 square kilometers (1.5 sq mi) accommodated 143,800 people in cramped surroundings. In Oct. and Nov. 1941, 20,000 additional Jews arrived there on top of that from the "Old Reich” [Altreich, i.e., Germany within the 1937 borders], Vienna, Prague, and Luxembourg. They had to be quartered, and thus the Jewish ghetto administration faced a nearly unsolvable task. Initially, the "in-migrants” ("Eingesiedelte") were committed to provisional mass accommodations that lacked practically all basic amenities. Anyone requiring water had to check and see how to find a functional pump somewhere, and anyone looking for a toilet had to go outdoors. Sick persons used a bucket in the hallway to relieve themselves. Since it was possible to make available only few beds and plank beds, most people had to sleep on floors covered with straw. It took several months until the situation eased somewhat due to a readjustment in the allocation of residential space to the disadvantage of the Polish inhabitants, who were forced to move together even closer. Five months later, Josef, Anna, and Erika Dawidowicz were assigned a room at Franzstrasse 34, where they found accommodation together with a male relative. However, this was not the only measure exacerbating tensions between the Polish Jews and the "western Jews” ("Westjuden”). The new arrivals had to be looked after, which in turn resulted in cutbacks of the food rations for the entire ghetto population. The daily bread ration was reduced from 330 grams (11.6 oz) to 280 grams (9.8 oz) on 3 Nov. 1941. Anyone not having a job had to make do with an unsweetened coffee in the morning, a bowl of soup and two slices of bread at noon, and a coffee in the evening. The disastrous nutritional situation did not remain without consequences for the general state of health, which the always helpful though very inadequately equipped medical personnel could not change in any way. The mortality rate in the ghetto was high. By the end of 1942, 4,200 fatalities among German, Austrian, Czech, and Luxembourg Jews had been registered already. One of them was Josef Dawidowicz. He died on 13 Oct. 1942 at the age of 56. What was more, the new occupants were also a problem in terms of the labor market since their influx exacerbated the demand for employment, with a job in turn increasing an individual’s chances of survival. On the other hand, due to the new arrivals’ specific professional qualifications, it was not very easy to integrate them into the work processes in the numerous workshops. Anna Dawidowicz had to wait for a long time until she finally found employment in the central Jewish ghetto administration and later in a wood-processing operation, while Erika Dawidowicz’s desperate search for a job finally ended happily in a stocking factory. When the Red Army advanced westward ever more quickly in the summer of 1944, the order was issued to liquidate the ghetto completely, after, according to judicial investigations, at least 150,000 ghetto occupants had already been murdered in the Chelmno extermination facility during the previous years. Between 2 and 30 Aug. 1944, in excess of 60,000 Jews – including Anna and Erika Dawidowicz – were deported from Lodz to Auschwitz. Whereas most of them were forced to set out for the gas chambers immediately upon their arrival, about 2,500 men and women were chosen for labor duty during the "selection” at the ramp and in most cases transported to the German Reich only a few days later. Anna and Erika Dawidowicz were among them. On one of these transports, they reached the Dessauer Ufer subcamp in the port of Hamburg in Aug. 1944 and soon afterward, along with 500 other female prisoners, the Neugraben subcamp, which was also under the control of the Neuengamme concentration camp. It was adjacent to a labor camp accommodating many people from different western and eastern European countries. The Czech women had to put up with far worse living conditions than these, though they could console themselves by thinking that the situation was not quite as dreadful as in Auschwitz, at any rate. In this external branch of the Neuengamme concentration camp, they were distributed to two residential barracks, featuring bunk beds with sacks filled with straw and some tables and chairs. Two other barracks housed the kitchen, washrooms, and latrines. The clothing of the female prisoners consisted of a frock, a coat, a pair of clogs, and a set of underwear, all of which afforded no protection against rain, wind, and cold whatsoever. Provisions were more than meager as well, as a survivor reported later: "… The meals were very poorly cooked and not sufficient at all. Breakfast: very awful coffee. Lunch: nothing. For supper, we got a much diluted soup, approx. 200 grams [7 oz] of bread, 2 grams [0.07 oz] of margarine, and a thin slice of sausage …” Consequently, the women did not pass up any opportunity to scavenge in garbage bins and in bombed-out houses for food scraps at the right moments, even though this carried heavy penalties if the "theft” did not stay a secret. Under female supervision, they had to exercise even more caution than in the presence of male guards. Their workplaces were located at, among others, companies manufacturing concrete slabs for prefabricated houses, burying utility lines in the Falkenberg settlement, carrying out initial clearance work after heavy air raids, and clearing snow off streets and footpaths as best as possible. At the beginning of 1945, they also helped build an anti-tank ditch supposed to halt the Allied advance at the gates of Hamburg. The next station of the sorely tried women was the Hamburg-Tiefstack subcamp, where Erika Dawidowicz was killed during an Allied air raid in early Apr. 1945. Immediately afterward, her mother arrived with the other female prisoners in the Bergen-Belsen reception camp in the Lüneburg Heath. This took place in connection with the evacuation of the Hamburg subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. There, absolute chaos prevailed in the last days of the Second World War. When British troops reached this camp on 15 Apr. 1945 and saw the stacks of corpses, they froze with horror. Despite their desperate attempts to save the survivors, they could not prevent approx. 13,000 additional persons from dying over the following weeks, including Anna Dawidowicz. On 10 May 1945, she was laid to rest in one of the numerous mass graves on the grounds of the former camp.
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; Theresienstädter Gedenkbuch, Institut Theresienstädter Initiative (Hrsg.), Prag 1995; United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database, www.ushmm.org; Stiftung niedersächsische Gedenkstätten www.stiftung-ng.de; Archivum Panstwowe W Lodzi; Archiv der KZ-Gedenkstätte Neuengamme; International Tracing Service, Listenmaterial Bergen-Belsen, listenmäßige Erfassung von DPs in DP-Lagern, www.its-arolsen.org; Fritz Neubauer, Universität Bielefeld; Alfred Gottwald, Diana Schulle, Die `Judendeportationen´ aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941–1945, Wiesbaden 2005; Adolf Diamant, Getto Litzmannstadt. Bilanz eines nationalsozialistischen Verbrechens, Frankfurt 1986; Lucille Eichengreen, Von Asche zum Leben, Bremen 2001; Andrea Löw, Juden im Getto Litzmannstadt, Göttingen 2006; Danuta Czech, Kalendarium der Ereignisse im Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau 1939–1945, Reinbek 1989; Hans Ellger, Zwangsarbeit und weibliche Überlebensstrategien. Die Geschichte der Frauen-außenlager 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.