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Elisabeth Polach
© Dita Kraus

Elisabeth Polach (née Adler) * 1902

Falkenbergsweg 62 (Harburg, Neugraben-Fischbek)

JG. 1902
TOT 29.6.1945


further stumbling stones in Falkenbergsweg 62:
Anna Dawidowicz, Erika Dawidowicz, Ruth Frischmannova, Zuzana Glaserová, Nina Müller, Alice Weilova, Lili Wertheimer

Elisabeth Polach, née Adler, b. 9.28.1902 in Brünn, deported from Theresienstadt to many other places, died on 6.29.1945 in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp

Neugraben district, Falkenbergsweg 62

When Elisabeth Adler, the child of Jewish parents, nicknamed Liesl, was born in a southern Moravian town on the Danube, her birthplace was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. She spent her childhood and school years there; after the establishment of the Czechoslovakian Republic, she made her living as a secretary. In 1927, at the age of 25, she married the attorney Hans Polach, who came from a Viennese Jewish family. When he was offered an attractive position in Prague, they moved to the Czechoslovakian capital and took up residence at Würfelgasse 3, where in 1929, their daughter Edith, called Dita, was born.

The happy years of the young family ended with the occupation of Czechoslovakian territory by German troops on 15–16 March 1939 and the establishment of the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.” Shortly thereafter, the first Jewish cemeteries and synagogues were desecrated. There followed bans on the professions and schools. The doors of theaters, concert halls, and movie houses were also soon closed to Czech Jews, who, from September 1941, just as in the Old Reich, had to wear the Jewish star.

On 20 November 1942, Hans and Liesel Polach with their 13-year old daughter Dita were brought against their wills to the hopelessly overcrowded Theresienstadt ghetto. The inhuman living conditions that ruled there were a bit easier to bear for the inhabitants who still found enough strength to participate in the remarkable cultural life of the community. The offerings were diverse, ranging from evenings of light entertainment to ambitious concerts and theater performances. An absolute blockbuster was Hans Krása’s children’s opera, "Brundibár," which was performed more than fifty times. It was also performed before a delegation of the International Red Cross, invited to visit Theresienstadt by the SS in June 1944, in order to deceive the worldwide public. Dita Polach took part as a singer in many performances.

One day, Dita, like many of the musicians, singers, and actors, before and after her, had to be replaced by another child, because she and her parents had been designated for "resettlement in the East.” They left Theresienstadt on 18 December 1943. Only two days later when the train reached its destination, did the 2,473 men, women, and children see that they were in Auschwitz.

There they were put into the "family camp for Jews from Theresienstadt," that the SS had erected three months earlier (see Zuzana Glaserová). Initially in this camp, the prisoners were treated better. They remained together and were not distributed all over the whole camp. In addition, they were allowed to keep their personal items, did not have their heads shaved, and could even write postcards and receive packages. The meals were a little better than in the rest of the camp, although essentially worse than in Theresienstadt.

In the Czech family camp it was permitted, with the knowledge, even the express approval of the camp leadership, to have a children’s bloc, in which children up to the age of 14 were cared for – but not educated. These benefits served the interests of propaganda and were intended to counteract the rumors coursing through the world concerning the annihilation of Jews in Auschwitz. The children’s block was a desirable place to stay for the many boys and girls of the family camp because the caretakers did not limit themselves simply to looking after the children but, secretly, did everything possible to offer them an interesting sort of free-time program. Dita Polach was among the older children who were happy to help the caregivers in their work.

When the preparations for the liquidation of the Czech family camp began in July 1944, Hans Polach was no longer alive. His wife Elisabeth and their daughter Dita were among the female prisoners who were sent to Hamburg in July 1944, after they had previously been found to be capable of working in one of the selections conducted by the SS-doctor Joseph Mengele.

The 1,000 Jewish women posted to the Neuengamme concentration camp were at first put in the Dessauer Ufer satellite camp of the port of Hamburg; there they were set to heavy work clearing rubble (see Zuzana Glaserová). Seven weeks later the satellite camp at Falkenbergsweg in Neugraben was their next posting. In this city district they were put to work producing prefabricated components and the building of shelters in the Falkenberg settlement. Occasionally they had to clear rubble in Harburg or Moorburg or help dig anti-tank trenches in the Harburg heights, which were supposed to stop the advance of the allies before the gates of the Hansa City. On 8 February 1945, all the women prisoners from Falkenbergsweg in Neugraben were transferred to the Tiefstack satellite camp and, two months later, in the course of clearing out the Neuengamme concentration camp, transported to the hopelessly overcrowded Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

A week later, when British troops reached this camp in the Lüneburger Heath, they instituted an exemplary rescue program for survivors. However, Liesl Polach was already so weakened that all the efforts to save her were in vain. She died on 29 June 1945 at the age of 42 and was buried in a common grave at Bergen-Belsen.

Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: February 2018
© Klaus Möller

Quellen: 3; 8; Meyer, Kinder Auschwitz, S. 125ff.; Kraus, Wand; Eichengreen, Asche, S. 96ff.; Schultz, Neugraben, in: Ellermeyer u. a. (Hrsg.), Harburg, S. 493ff.; Diercks, Hafen, S. 54f.; Czech, Kalendarium, S. 603, 684, 811, 820ff.; Glass, "Jeder Tag ..." S. 47ff.; (eingesehen am 8.3.2010); Schriftliche Mitteilung von Dita Kraus, geb. Polach, vom 31.10.2009; Yad Vashem, Quarterly Magazine, Volume 41, Jerusalem 2006.
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