Helga Kinsky-Pollack was thirteen years old when she and her father were sent to Terezin in Czechoslovakia. The “camp-ghetto” at Terezin, named Theresienstadt by the Germans, had some unique features that were rarely found in other places of imprisonment. Though the conditions were terrible there, some children had the opportunity to engage in educational and cultural activities. Helga was able to keep a diary during her time in Terezin and wrote extensively about her life while there.
Helga was forced to live apart from her father in a barracks for young girls. In some ways, these girls became a new family and source of support and comfort. Tragically, children were often deported from Terezin to other destinations (most often Auschwitz), so losing close friends was a constant danger. On September 5th, Helga found out that her friend Zdenka was going to be sent away. The girls in the barracks gave her some small gifts of food and said their good-byes. At six in the evening, Zdenka has to report to a closed holding area in preparation for transport the next morning. According to Helga, the parting was hard.
On September 6, Helga wrote, “I got up at six [in the morning] to see Zdenka again. Everything was boarded up all around so no one could get to them and so they could not run away. I jumped over, ran up to the last people going through the gates. I saw the train pulling away and in one of the cars Zdenka was riding away.”
Friendships were vital to people struggling to survive the terrible conditions of ghetto and camp life. On the other hand, as Helga’s diary revealed, every time someone made a friend, it increased the chance of later heartache and loss.
Information provided by Helga Kinsky-Pollack is featured prominently in Children With A Star: Jewish Youth in Nazi Europe by Deborah Dwork.
You may read more about Theresienstadt at this website.
You may take a virtual tour of the memorial at Terezin here.
May 24 to May 26
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