Kindertransport refugee Bernd Koschland recalls learning that his father Jacob managed to sneak a set of tzitzit into Dachau Concentration Camp, which was liberated 75 years ago today.
On the night of kristallnacht, Koschland, who was born in Fürth near Nuremberg, was forced out of his family’s apartment to a public space, where men, women and children were instructed to stand separately until the morning. His father was deported to Dachau and released several weeks later.
“Ostensibly he had a visa from someone or somewhere to go to Paris, and that made him eligible to be released,” Koschland told Jewish News over the phone on Wednesday.
He recalls how his father, who worked for a shoe company, brought a set of the knotted ritual fringes into the camp so he could pray. “A number of years later, I saw a copy of a letter from a very distant relative who was also in Dachau with him, and he reported that my dad, having been a solider in the Germany army, maintained a very German mentality and he was able to bring in a set of tzitzit. How, he doesn’t know,” he said.
His father’s release came years before the camp was liberated by American forces on this day in 1945. The anniversary was marked by Jewish groups across the world.
Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich, who was liberated from Bergen Belsen, survived Ravensbrück concentration camp. She answered questions from Twitter users on Wednesday in an online Q&A session organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust.
“Firstly they took our details and then we had to strip, with our clothes taken away. Our heads were shaved and went through cold communal showers,” she wrote, describing her arrival into Ravensbrück concentration camp, which was liberated by Soviet forces from 29 to 30 April.
She continued: “At the other end we got the striped clothing. When we looked at one another we couldn’t recognise each other. We were stripped of our identity which made people lose hope.
“My aunt Frania Klein died within a few days of arrival. So did my best friend, Pema Blachman. #MalaLive
“Our rations were half a slice of black bread – I don’t know what it had in it – some watery soup, a cup of ersatz coffee, and occasionally a knob of margarine. Most people worked but I was too young for working.”
Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, stressed the duty of remembrance “as the holocaust moves from living history to just history.”
“Dachau was the longest running Nazi concentration camp, built close to Munich, the home of the Nazi party. As we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, we remember the tens of thousands of men, women and children persecuted and murdered there by the Nazis, from political prisoners in the early years of the Nazi regime, through to those incarcerated simply because they were Jewish,” she said.
“As the Holocaust moves from living history to just history, and survivors of this notorious camp become fewer and frailer, we must commit to being the next generation of memory, and ensuring that people know what happened during the Holocaust and what can happen when hatred and prejudice are left unchecked,” she added.
Koschland is doing his part to keep that memory alive. He arrived in the UK aged seven on the Kindertransport and lost both his parents in the Holocaust. In the years since, he has shared his testimonies with hundreds of pupils in schools up and down the country.
He described seeing a photo of his father, stood next to other prisoners at Dachau, displayed at Yad Vashem a few years ago. It now hangs on a wall in his home.
“In later years, it’s brought my father in a sense nearer to me, even though not physically,” he said.