Monday, January 24, 2011
The Terezin Diary of Gonda Redlich, Saul S. Friedman editor, published in Hebrew in 1982, in English in 1992
Egon “Gonda” Redlich, born in 1916, was deported from Prague to Terezin, the "model" ghetto, late in 1941 and started his diary on January 1, 1942. Having been an active Zionist, a school teacher and soccer coach he was chosen to be the head of the Jugendfursorge, the Youth Services Department, making him responsible for the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin. He was also a member of the Transport and Appeals Committee.
Redlich serves as an important eye-witness to day-to-day life in Terezin, including the 1944 visit by the International Red Cross that the Nazis had prepared for by staging the event. Redlich made entries almost daily and they are usually terse. He despaired about the living conditions and he felt burdened by his responsibilities, but he also expressed great love for Gerta Beck who was still in Prague at the start of his diary. Soon she joined him in the ghetto. When their baby was born it is heartbreaking to read of their excitement at his birth, their fears, their hope. The book includes a short diary written for the baby.
Redlich’s diary reveals what it was like to be part of the ghetto administration. The Nazis used the Altestenrat, the Jewish Elders Council, to run the ghetto, and he makes us feel the tension that they lived with every day. Ghetto life exacerbated fault lines amongst members of the administration as well as amongst the residents. Zionists had differences with assimilationists. There were disagreements when it came to sharing space between a group working on cultural affairs and others who wanted the space for religious observance. Practicing Catholics and Protestants who had been deported to Terezin because they were converts from Judaism or the descendants of converts caused dissension because they wanted to celebrate Christmas. And there was long-standing friction between German Jews and Czech Jews that erupted under the difficult ghetto conditions.
To the general discomfort and fear caused by overcrowding, disease, infestations, and meager food supplies, was added the fear of the unknown – who would be transported next and where would the transports be going? What was particularly devastating and what took its toll is Redlich’s role in obeying the Nazi orders to help fill transports with children. When the Nazis said they needed a certain number, it was his job to work with others to come up with a list.
It was agonizing for Redlich to be a member of the Transport and Appeals Committee. It didn’t take him long to realize that people did whatever they could to pull rank; some had friends in high places, some used bribery to buy themselves off of transport lists. Redlich himself was approached by family members and friends of family who asked for his help. When he couldn’t help them, they accused him of disloyalty. He did manage to exempt his mother-in-law and brother-in-law from being transported early on. But all these exemptions did in most cases was buy time. None of his administrative positions helped him from being transported. Gonda, his wife and seven-month-old son were sent to Auschwitz in October of 1944.
The Diary of Gonda Redlich includes extensive footnotes with rich in information including other sources to consult. Many entries refer to the Hebrew University Oral History Project and the Beit Terezin archives in Israel. There is a Foreward by Nora Levin in which she writes about the founding of Terezin by the Nazis and the role Gonda Redlich played in its administration. In the Introduction Saul S. Friedman draws a fuller portrait of Redlich. Also included are a map of Terezin, Bibliographic Notes, an Index, and a photo of Gonda Redlich.
To watch a short clip from CNN on a special Monopoly board created at Terezin that includes an interview with two brothers who survived, click here.
For an interesting discussion of Terezin, its conditions, and some discussions of health issues there, click here.
To read a review in a previous post of a cookbook put together by women in Terezin, click here.
Max Redlich – Gonda’s father
Egon “Gonda” Redlich – “married” Gerta Beck; author
Dan Peter Beck– their son
Robert and Hugo Redlich – Gonda’s brothers
Wilma Goldstein – Gonda’s sister
Bohusch Goldstein – Gonda’s brother-in-law
Vitek Beck – Gerta’s brother
Medah Beck – Gerta’s sister
Carolina – Gonda’s aunt
Bertik – Gonda’s uncle
Dita – Stella’s sister
Ruth Baeck – relative of Leo Baeck
Jacob Edelstein – married to Miriam Olliner
Arieh Edelstein – their son
Honza Eisenberger – his son
Arthur and Rosa Englander
Willy and Manya Groag
Trude Herzl – married to Richard Neumann
Otto and Fritzi Zucker
Posted by Toby Anne Bird at 12:00 AM