Monday, 17 April 2017

Remembering one

This is Therese Klau. She is 36 years old and she has just given birth to her second daughter. I know these things because that infant grew up and kept four boxes full of old photos and letters which are now available on line for anyone to look at.  

This is what I could tell from reading the letters and looking at the photos.  Theresa was married to Dr Oscar Klau, a lawyer who was seven years older than her.  She had two sisters and an elegant mother with white hair called Bella.  

Theresa lived in Frankfurt and signed her name ‘Resa’.  Her oldest daughter, Helga, was born 11 years before Ursula.  Before the war, the family went on holiday in Davos, St Moritz and even saw the pyramids in Cairo.  In the photo above you can see the flowers around her bed, the comfy cushions and decorated cottons and satins.  You can see these things for yourself.  You could think that a life that like would keep you safe. Looking at this picture, of the infant Ursula in her mother’s arms, it’s hard to imagine that Resa could die thirteen years later; unwashed, sick and starving at the end of a long train journey at the end of the war.   But that is what happened.  It’s shocking that that could happen and how hard to stop that from happening once it starts.  

Resa and her family tried hard to escape Nazi persecution by moving from Frankfurt to Switzerland and then to Amsterdam in 1936, but to no avail.  The family was taken to Westerbork transit camp from where Jewish people were then sent on by train to the death camps.    60,330 people were sent to Auschwitz.  Most were gassed on arrival.  One of those people was Resa’s elegant, white haired mother, Bella.   34,313 people were sent to Sobib√≥r. Very little is heard about that death camp because all the people sent there were killed on arrival.  4,413 people were sent to Bergen-Belsen. Three of those people were Resa, Oscar and their 12 year old daughter Ursula who were sent there in February 1944.   Oscar died there a few months later.   

As the war was coming to an end, Himmler decided to send three train-loads of Jews from Bergen-Belsen to Theresienstadt.   The last train left on April 9 with 2,500 people inside including Resa and her twelve year old daughter.   Two weeks later the train was abandoned by the driver and guards in Troebitz.  

Squashed, starved, and without drinking water or toilets, 133 people did not survive the journey and were buried near the railway tracks.  Another 320 people died of disease, starvation and exhaustion after being liberated.    Resa Klau was one of those.  On May 7, 1945, on the same day, that Germany signed an unconditional surrender at the Allied headquarters in France, Resa Klau died in her thirteen year old daughter’s arms.  

As part of the Yellow Candle project to remember individual members of the Holocaust on Yom Hashoah on April 23rd, I was given Theresa (Resa) Klau-Altheimer.  There are still many more candles available from New North London Synagogue that can be picked up on Wednesday, April 19 between 7.30 and 9.30 pm and on Sunday 23 April between 9 and 11.30pm. 

From Helga, the oldest daughter to an American relative. She calls her sister 'Uschu'

from the family album
A letter from Helga to a relative where she describes her mother's death as told to her by her sister.
Oma Bella