Alice Ehrmann: October 23, 1944

On this date, young Alice Ehrmann wrote about the brutal deportation of young children.

Alice Ehrmann was sixteen years old when she was sent from Prague to the ghetto at Terezin (Theresienstadt). She was the child of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother. According to Nazi racial laws, she was considered to be mischlinge of the first degree (half-Jewish).

Alice was in love with a young man in the ghetto named Ze’ev Shek. He was involved in the leadership of Theresienstadt and was concerned with collecting and preserving documents so that the history of Nazi crimes in the ghetto would be known to future generations. When Ze’ev was deported to Auschwitz, Alice decided to continue his work and also started keeping a diary to create her own record of events.

By the fall of 1944, it was obvious that Germany was losing the war. In response to their declining fortunes, the Nazis increased the pace of deportations into and out of the ghetto. Alice witnessed the chaos that came from such a large scale movement of people under hash and brutal conditions. On October 23, she recorded a deportation of young children. She wrote “Came into the room; small children, three to ten. Screaming. Each has a little backpack, with cried-out eyes; some a mature and self-possessed expression that could shoot fear into one. They will have their bags, but probably never again their childhood. All are alone; most of their parents were murdered… Those who walk have turned to stone; those who remain swallow their tears. In the end, the luggage remained; there was no space.”

Alice’s diary entries were economically brief. Often, she didn’t even bother to write in complete sentences. There was so much to record and so little time available that she had no time for composition and reflection. She was confronted with appalling, heartbreaking events, but they came at her so quickly and continuously that her reaction was mainly one of exhaustion.

Excerpts from Alice Ehrmann’s diary have been published in a book entitled, Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

The story of Alice and Ze’ev can be found here.

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