Last March I received an invitation to the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. It was signed: KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau.”
I was taken aback. Is Dachau still a place on the face of the earth?
Sixty-five years ago I, a fourteen-year old scary skeleton, could barely comprehend the overwhelming news of freedom Americans liberation. Over the years with the birth of children, grandchildren and thank G-d, great grandchildren, the hell of Dachau has begun to recede into the distance. And now: an invitation to return.
The invitation told of a special exhibit and film commemorating a most phenomenal event: the miraculous survival of seven young Jewish mothers and their babies born in a Dachau sub-camp in the winter of 1944/45. Six of the seven babies, living in parts of the world, were expected to attend the exhibit.
In an earlier column I described the fate of my fellow Augsburg camp inmate, Miriam Rosenthal who, seven months pregnant, was shipped to Auschwitz to be gassed. The Russian occupation of Auschwitz forced her jailers to take her to Kaufering at Dachau where she was put into a wooden barrack with six other young pregnant Jewish women. Labeled the “Schwangerkommando” (pregnant commando), they had to do forced labor until their date of delivery and immediately after giving birth. They gave birth one by one without medical or nursing assistance, suffering from cold, starvation and appalling sanitary conditions — to seven healthy babies!
When Dachau was taken by the Americans on April 29, 1945, the seven young Jewish women — Eva Fleischmann, Sara Grun, Ilboya Kovacs, Elisabeth Legmann, Dora Lowi, Miriam Rosenthal and Magda Schwartz –were liberated with their live infants born in the death camp. All seven infants – George, Jossi, Leslie, Marika, Agnes, Judit and Suzi – grew to adulthood in various parts of the world – seven saved, while one and a half million Jewish children were murdered in the Nazi hell.
Of the seven mothers only Eva Fleischmann and Miriam Rosenthal are alive today. However, neither Miriam Rosenthal from Canada nor Eva Fleischmann from Slovakia could undertake the arduous journey to attend the exhibit.
For me this phenomenal exhibit was the impetus to return to Dachau. I wanted to be present at the reunion of the Dachau babies, now sixty-five year old grandmothers and grandfathers. I wanted to experience first-hand the commemoration of seven divine miracles.
When I met Miriam’s baby, Dr. Leslie Rosenthal and his wife, grandparents of nine, Miriam’s brother, Mordechai Schwartz, came painfully to mind. I agonized over the irony that while Miriam and Leslie survived the Nazi hell in Germany, Mordechai lost his life to British Jew-hatred in the Jewish National Home. A committed Zionist, Mordechai went to Eretz Yisrael in 1934 and as a committed Jew was executed in 1939. During the bloody Arab riots against Jews, he killed one Arab as the latter hurled violent threats at him and all Jews in Eretz Israel. Despite numerous justified defense pleas the British Mandatory authorities carried out Mordechai Schwarz’s death sentence.
At the reunion of the surviving seven, Leslie Rosenthal remarked: “The babies, that’s what I call them: my camp brothers and sisters…. We could be the last living link to the Holocaust, so that’s quite a responsibility.”
(To Be Continued)