My heart bursts with pain
Letters from the Holocaust
On this day in 1945, Soviet Army soldiers arrived at Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland and liberated approximately 7,000 of its prisoners. For this reason, 27th January of each year is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, during which the world remembers the 6 million Jews and many others murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
These extracts are from letters written by victims of the Holocaust during their final days. Needless to say, their messages are desperately sad. But they should never be forgotten. They are taken from the devastating but essential book, Final Letters From Victims of the Holocaust, and from the profoundly important Yad Vasham Documents Archive. I recommend both.
All is lost, but may I at least be the ransom for you, so that you, the survivors, the last spark left of our family, will not be extinguished.
Chaim Prinzental Letter to his children 1942
The writer of this letter is a distraught mother who is being taken away with her family to an unknown destination. You have surely heard about our current predicament. The same thing that happened in your city is happening in ours. I am sending you an adoption document for my little daughter, in which I give her up for her own good. In this way perhaps she will be saved and they won't take her. I have no other choice. . .
I beg of you, love her like a mother, so that she feels my absence less keenly. Don't tell her where I am.
Isabella Fodor Letter to Mrs. Szomor 3rd May 1944
You, my only one, dearest, in isolation we are waiting for darkness. We considered the possibility of hiding but decided not to do it since we felt it would be hopeless. The famous trucks are already here and we are waiting for it to begin. I am completely calm. You—my only and dearest one, do not blame yourself for what happened, it was our destiny. We did what we could. Stay healthy and remember my words that time will heal—if not completely—then—at least partially. Take care of the little golden boy and don’t spoil him too much with your love. Both of you—stay healthy, my dear ones. I will be thinking of you and Misa. Have a fabulous life, we must board the trucks.
Into Eternity, Vilma
Vilma Grunwald Letter to her husband 11th July 1944
Beloved, precious children,
In these final moments, before I join your dearest father, and will, like him, lose my freedom, there is an urgent compulsion within me to tell you the following.
You are in our thoughts by day and night; our love for you makes our life even under these present difficult circumstances worth living; we long for the moment when we shall once more be able to embrace you with outstretched arms—you, our most precious possessions—and we have faith in the future, that this supreme joy will be granted us.
‘Beloved Sparrows’—I must call you this once more, as I used to do when you were still very young—should circumstances alter course for us and we, according to the will of the Almighty, not meet again, I beg each one of you with all my heart to lead honest and straightforward lives always, and to support one another whenever necessary.
Cilli Dzialowski Letter to her children 1st April 1943
My dear ones, keep this letter, it is perhaps the last one and perhaps you will show it one day to my dear mother. Tell her that I was with her in my thoughts until the last moment of my life. If my father should be rescued, take care of him and see to it that he does not do, God forbid, something stupid. . .
I conclude because my heart bursts with pain.
Helena Mandelbaum Letter to her family 1944
On this, the last night of my life, I bid you farewell. Our days of happiness were short-lived, but beautiful. At this moment I am remembering our love, from its beautiful beginning until its cruel end. You were the love of my life, and I would willingly have sacrificed everything to save you.
Ellie Kulka Letter to her husband 30th June 1944