Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Vera Gissing - April 22, 2006

Fate of Parents


And there's one where, where a girl speaks--I mean, you wouldn't have time to look at them--but from a certain school I was speaker before I even met Nicky Winton. And then that absolutely shakes the youngsters, because it's got the heart in it--it's got--it's not written by an old woman looking back at her childhood. And they, they actually--my mother left the most wonderful letter to say goodbye the day before she was taken into the camps.

She went to Auschwitz?

She went first to Theresienstadt...


...then she went to Auschwitz. Uh, then she went to Hamburg. They had to work, you know, when--during the air raids um, to see the German guards--they used to take bets how many will be killed by, by British bombers, you know. And then she ended up in Belsen.

And she died of typhus.

And so did my cousin, Berta. But you see, the letter she sent--I mean, the, the news that she had succumbed to typhus, that letter wa...the news was given to my sister. And she wrote me the most wonderful letter, which is in its entirety in the book.

In the book.

And she broke it to me so gently, you know? And uh, e...even, somebody--even thought that father had survived, you know, and then we hear that he was shot on a death march. And again, just really--just months be...af...three and a half years--with him it was four and a half years of terrible suffering because he was uh, taken first to the little fortress in Theresienstadt, which was the most renowned--the most awful prison for political, as well as Jewish dissidents. And uh, mother managed to dri...bribe somehow the German guards there and a month later to let him go to a normal--to the normal Terezin ghetto. And she didn't know she was successful. But when she got to camp--to the camp, you know, there was father. And during that month he went from his jet black hair--he was only in his forties then, uh, he went completely white. All his fingernails had gone. Two fingers had gone as well--they were taken away with the, you know, under torture. And he never really recovered. You know, he went from camp to camp, but so--you know, their lives were prolonged, but with a lot of suffering. And it was very, very hard for me to come to the fact that God gave me mother back and then took her...

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