years Bernhard never spoke of his experiences during this time. Finally, almost 50 years
later when we 3 brothers met in Frankfurt and spent a lot of time together did he open up
somewhat. When asked how he kept up his will to live under the horrible conditions he had
to live in, he answered that watching the beautiful sunsets in the evening over the
distant mountains, he realized that there was still beauty in this world and therefore
still hope for a better future. In his interview with the reporter for the
"Frankfurter Allgemeine" newspaper, he even mentioned that he had several
conversations with the infamous Dr. Mengele, who could be charming and friendly one day
and then the next day perform cruel experiments on the same prisoners he had spoken to the
I only recently, during my visit to
Frankfurt, learned the fate of Fraulein Fechter, who had taken care of dear Papa's office
ever since 1919. Since she was old, could not work anymore, and had no children or other
relatives, she was considered unproductive and useless and therefore was killed with an
injection. This happened to quite a few old people. Fraulein Fechter was a Christian
My father's stepsister, Sylvia Freyholdt,
was married to the German Gentile, Erich Freyholdt. When Hitler came to power, he had to
obtain a divorce from his wife; but in spite of the divorce, he kept on supporting her.
When the deportation of the Jews started, he convinced a friend of his who was in a high
position in the SS to employ Sylvia as housekeeper in his country house up in the
mountains, knowing that Sylvia was Jewish. She was able to stay there throughout the war
and was never molested.
Her 2 sons, Helmut and Horst, although half
Jewish, served in the German Army for 2 years. When their half-Jewish background became
known, they were transferred to the sapper adjunct of the army, where they served through
the war. While still in the regular army, Horst visited Bernhard in Holland and offered to
take him to the French border in an army car so that he could escape over the border.
Bernhard turned down this very kind and courageous offer since, if caught both he and
Horst would have been shot on the spot.
We met Horst and Helmut during our visit to
Frankfurt. Their grandmother, Rosa Natt - my father's stepmother - and Sylvia's sister
Nelly Fuchs were deported to Theresienstadt and from there to the death camps in Poland.
Horst showed us the letter his grandmother
Rosa Natt (my father's step-mother) had written to her daughter Sylvia on August 13th,
1942, just after she was notified to get ready for deportation to the camps. Sylvia, due
to her former husband's Erich efforts, was not liable for deportation.
As the short letter indicates, she had a
premonition about the fate awaiting her.
We have just been advised to be ready for
travel by Saturday night, and early on Sunday we are leaving for Theresienstadt, after
spending the night in the Rechneigraben (The Jewish Community Center). I am totally
confused and dizzy. What a sad fate and the separation from you and the boys is very
painful. We are allowed, to take along as little as possible, just a satchel and a bag for
some food. I'll stay home on Friday and Saturday, I won't go out at all. I believe that
everybody has to come along this time, those in the old age homes, the hospital and the
boardinghouses. Do you think it will be possible for you to say good-by to me and to take
a few small things along like pictures and the red sofa pillow? What will happen to my
clothing I don't know.
What an end to my days without any guilt. I
have always done my duty and I wish I could die now.
I wish you peace, happiness and all the
best. Whether you will hear from me I don't know.
Many thanks for all the good you have done
for me and keep a good memory from you unfortunate.
Mother and Oma"