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Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember




As everywhere on the road, here again we could clearly see openly the critical signs of the end. Finally we reached another camp. This was called Ravensbruck, a women's lager and famous for its brutality. We didn't have the slightest chance to get some food so the morale was low enough. To our astonishment we were offered a very pleasant surprise which we took suspiciously. At this place where we expected the worst, it turned out otherwise. With our experiences from the past, we didn't have much hope.

With the usual commanding voice we were ordered to line up in double file. We had to follow the directions although we didn't expect anything good. We were ready for the announcement and now we heard with disbelief that a surprise was in store for us. By standing two abreast we discovered that one of us, myself or my sister, was left alone in the last row. Since we had lived with distrust for the past months, we couldn't believe that something good should happen to us. We found a girl who was alone and begged her if she would change her place with us. She didn't care and was willing to move.

What happened later could be a joke, but in reality this was the naked truth. Many boxes were piled up in front of us and the Red Cross started to distribute those parcels to us. In accordance with the facts the truth is that we were supposed to have been getting those parcels monthly but instead they had disappeared in thin air. But at this time they were in front of us and unopened. Every twosome row received one whole parcel, only the girl who was in the last row alone, had the box just to herself!

This parcel came as though from heaven. We never dreamed such a beautiful thing could happen to us. When we opened our treasure, we couldn't take our eyes away and examined every single thing again and again. Neatly packed, clean, real edible things, everything wrapped and not touched by anyone yet. Cocoa, instant coffee, chocolate, crackers, biscuits and even cigarettes. The smokers had suffered another measure of hardship all the time. On our wanderings we all watched the road for cigarette butts collecting them. The cast away cigarette butts had been a treasure, now we had a brand new, real cigarette pack which we could exchange for food. At a time, when we had absolutely nothing to eat, not even a little hope for some food, this parcel was a double blessing.

Towards the end was real chaos. They had nothing for us and we could see the fear in the guards eyes. Probably they were contemplating what was in store for them in the near future?

The situation became more uncertain day by day. In this camp we had another chance to look for relatives and tried to look around. We saw stiff, naked bodies thrown on a big pile. I looked there and I also looked away. I watched those bodies with deep seated anguish for I was afraid what I might find. My dear mother had an operation in her younger years and the mark was visible all her life.

Suddenly there was a call that they needed a few people for work. We never knew what to expect, but our meager situation was pushing us to try. So, poor Olly, my sister, tried her luck and unfortunately fell into a commando where the work was much too hard and even harder to remember, or try to forget. I mentioned before that we had spotted a pile of corpses already rigid and stiff along the whole length of a wall. This wall belonged to the crematorium; so poor girls, including my sister, had to gather the remaining parts of the bodies, the bones and carry the heavy load in little wagons to the end of the lager near to the river. There they had the sorrowful task of burying everything and raking the top to cover up.

Finally, thank God, she got away from there but it was a terrible experience. I was working somewhere else. On the way back Olly found a powder case which she gave to the kapo who gave her two slices of bread for this treasure. It was a lifesaver.

After a short stay we had to hit the road again. It really is very hard to describe the situation or what we saw there. The roads were full, fleeing civilians with crying children, dogs, and carriages. Children were yelling and also groups of häftlings, prisoners like us all over in every direction. Again there were air raids, hurrying into the ditches, we were already more than exhausted. We were pushed all the time although we had hardly any strength. I was the last one in the group and I was sure that my last strength was ebbing slowly away. I had a most unpleasant problem for I had developed diarrhea. I wondered how they let me shuffle after them, but the group was able to wait for me until I could reach them. From somewhere a bed sheet was found which they tied around my body. The sheet was longer than my coat, so it was hanging and showing a piece from my coat, but who cared?

Gypsies or any homeless creatures couldn't look worse. We were so very tired as we tried to cope with everything, carrying our burdensome life, our emaciated, light, thin body in rags into uncertainty.

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