On a recent visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam with my niece, I was reminded that it is still not known who betrayed the Frank family. I was also reminded of the courage of those who helped them, only a few people who risked so much to do the right thing.
In Chemnitz, Germany, Irene’s family was one of the few trusted with the secret kept to save lives. (Selected excerpts from “Survive Little Buddy” Book 1, My World War 2 Childhood. All rights reserved.)
Herr Baustein came back to his non-Jewish wife….He had been gone three months but knew he would be picked up again. He was ordered to divorce his wife, otherwise she would have to go into a camp with him. Their son, Jedidiah, was arrested and they did not know what happened to him.
“I don’t want her to go into a camp. Dear God, help us!”
….One morning Mama went out, early as usual, to the dairy store. She came back, shaking all over and crying. All the neighbors in our building cam out into the hall.
“The truck!” she cried. “They are at the Zweiniger dance hall. They are loading family after family into them. The Gestapo has been gathering people all night.”
Everyone ran to the dance hall.
“Get out of here or we’ll put you in these trucks too!” threatened the uniformed and plainclothesmen.
….The police came to the Cohen family who lived in back of their shoe store across the street. Their three sons, Tobias, Simon and Abner….were not home. One neighbor said he thought they had gone one way, another neighbor said another way; everyone cooperated in confusing the police.
….As many Jewish families were disappearing regularly, some of our neighbors decided to dig caves where such families could hide….The fear of informers was so great, only a very few people knew of the plan or were allowed to work on the project.
….The Cohens worked on the digging and slept in the caves even before they were finished….Papa helped brace the ceiling with railroad ties.
….Every other day Mama took some meals late at night to the cave. She covered the food with potato peelings just in case some suspicious person would see her. Those peelings were fed to the rabbits mixed with some grated wheat.
I heard that Esther Goldberg [Irene’s playmate] and her family moved into the caves. The hidden people now totaled nine.
….When we washed clothes for the hidden people we could see the fabric was wearing to shreds….Mama took the clothes we got from the Diakonissen sisters to the hidden people. One day Papa brought home some “army uniforms”….the Cohen boys were grateful for them.
In the late fall and winter when evenings were quickly dark, the ever hungry Cohen boys, dressed in their army uniforms, would slip through the courtyard fence and line up with the soldiers in temporary quarters outside the dance hall where the Army cooks dished out stew and bread.
[Over the next two years…]
….Policemen continually watched the neighborhood for some signs as to the whereabouts of the Jewish families. I just knew there must be more Jewish people in hiding all over Germany, being protected and helped by friends. Of course, we spread a lot of rumors that ll the Jewish people had been already picked up, and they ought to get their records straight.
Herr Helbig, another friend who drove a truck for the cities’ food supplies, came by our house often….”For them,” he used to say.
Resourceful and courageous. In the midst of darkest days, there shines a light. I believe that. So next will be K is for Kindnesses.
Kristin King is an indie author who published Irene Kucholick’s memoirs because she saw them as a historical treasure. “Preserving and distributing them means a lot to me.”