As often as possible I go to listen to lectures on many different subjects and considered but could not quiet make up my mind to go to the Goethe Institute in Jerusalem to hear a lecture about the ”Transportation of the Jews by the Reichsbahn 1941-1945” by Alfred Gottwaldt, Abteilungsleiter Landverkehr auf Schienen, Oberkustos, Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin,
Would he have something new to talk about? Or have I heard enough on the subject? In the end I went.
It was a well prepared lecture, presenting a difficult subject in an orderly manner, using power point presentation, showing various documents hitherto not talked about, and little known. He published his research in a book of many pages, which he passed around so that we could look at it.
In his talk he gave a few examples, showing photos, mentioning names and the fate of the person. I recognized one of the women who survived, having been in the women orchestra playing the cello and was liberated in Bergen Belsen.
Each transport of Jews is recorded, how many persons, when and from where it left to what destination, what wagons where used.
I tried to talk to him after the lecture, wanting to let him know how much I appreciated listening to his well- prepared lecture.
Unfortunately and elderly man was talking to him none stop and another man standing in line.
I gave up and went home. Instead I wrote an e.mail to him, telling him how much I appreciated his lecture and mentioned the fact that my parents were on a transport from Berlin to Theresienstadt, on the 5.of November 1942 asking him what was known about that.
He promptly answered giving me the following detail:
This transport being a small one, people were sent in two old third class carriages, hooked up onto the regular train from Berlin to Prague via Dresden stopping in Theresienstadt. The train left Berlin early in the morning and arrived at the Ghetto in the afternoon of the same day.
For years I have been wondering about my parents fate, imagining all sorts of scenes like those that I read about in books and reports.
Until their deportation I had received many long handwritten letters from Berlin via Portugal to England, telling me how they fared, my father doing forced labor, my mother in an old age home. My mother described whom they met and who had been sent away address unknown. She wrote that they had celebrated Purim or Chanuka, prepared birthday tables for each other, received guests and visited people.
All the time worrying about us children dispersed all over the world, hoping one day to be united with us. And then there were only a few more Red Cross letters of 25 words and that too stopped one day.
Now, after 60 years I received this firsthand information.
In my sleep and in my waking hours I try to visualize two prematurely old looking people huddled together in this train, worried as to where they were going, loving and caring for each other, helping others in need, as was their custom.
Did they know the truth how it all would end? Could I have helped, had I been with them? I will never know the answer.
Grateful for the relevant information, I thanked Alfred Gottwaldt for his speedy reply.
However many years may have passed, for me there might always be some more detail gleaned form listening to a lecture or reading an article or book.