I was there.
In October 1941, Grete and her mother received the order to report for deportation. They were allowed to take only a suitcase each and bedding. The two women were deported to the Litzmannstadt ghetto, in Łódź, Poland, in the first of five transport trains of one thousand Jewish people each. Grandmother Cäcilia Zweig, already 86 years old at that time, remained in Vienna. Saying goodbye to her grandmother is one of Grete's most painful memories. Cäcilia Zweig died in 1943 in the concentration camp Theresienstadt.
In the Litzmannstadt ghetto, the National Socialists had already forced more than 180,000 Polish Jews to live there under cramped conditions lacking the most basic necessities. With the deportations from the west, another 20,000 people were added. A few days after their arrival, Grete met the Polish Jew Henrik Apt who supported her and her mother as best he could. He helped them to find work, Grete in the ghetto administration, her mother in a slipper factory. Several times, he saved them from deportation to the death camp Chełmno nad Nerem. In late autumn 1942, one year after their arrival in the ghetto, Grete’s mother died of starvation and exhaustion at the age of about 60 years.
Grete Stern, nee Feldsberg (1920), Austria
Grete Stern describes how she arrived with her mother in October 1941 in the Litzmannstadt ghetto in the Polish city of Łódź. Under inhumane conditions, the two were housed in huts with many other deportees from the West.
1) Listen to Grete as she describes her arrival in the ghetto with her mother. Answer the question.
1a. How did the two women deal with the new situation?
Grete Stern talks about her friendship with the Polish Jew Henrik Apt, who had been forced to move to the ghetto in 1940 with his family. He supported Grete and her mother as much as possible. She is convinced that she would not have survived the ghetto without him.
2) Listen to Grete as she talks of her life-saving friendship with the Polish Jew Henrik Apt. Answer the questions.
2a. How did he help her?
2b. Discuss the role that friendship and solidarity can play in an authoritarian regime.
Liquidation of the Ghetto
In August 1944, when the ghetto is liquidated, Grete Feldsberg has to make a difficult decision.
3) Listen to Grete as she speaks of the desperate situation in the ghetto. Answer the questions.
3a. What were her “injections”?
3b. What difficult decision did she have to make when the ghetto was closed?