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‟I never saw my parents or my sister again.”

Dagmar Lieblová was the only one in her family to survive the Theresienstadt ghetto and Auschwitz Concentration Camp. This past weekend she spoke about her fate to some 60 guests in the synagogue in Vöhl and read from her book „Jemand hat sich verschrieben – und so habe ich überlebt“ (“there was a misprint  – and so I survived”). The public reading was part of a series of events organized by the Vöhl Synagogue Association with partners from the region. The ITS has been supporting these events. Dagmar Lieblová received copies of documents about her incarceration that are preserved in the ITS archives.

Life in Kutná Hora

Dagmar Lieblová was born on 19 May 1929 in the Czech city of Kutná Hora. Before the invasion of the German army she lived a normal life with her parents and her younger sister Rita. “We were a Jewish family, but that didn’t play a role at that time”, Lieblová tells. Julius, her father, was a practicing doctor, her mother Irena took care of the household. She was nine years old when she first realized that something terrible was happening: her father – a convinced Czech patriot – woke her up on 15 March, 1939, tears in his eyes, and said, “Our republic doesn’t exist anymore.”

Transport to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz

On 5 June 1942 the family was deported from Kolin to Theresienstadt. Lieblová remembers: “Ever since the first of the deportations began in October 1941 there was only one thing we talked about, that of preparing for Theresienstadt, preparing for the transport. I was already too old to take along a doll or a teddy bear. Our father allowed me and my sister to take one book.” In the ghetto the family was separated for the first time. The children stayed with their mother, their father had to live in the barracks for men. Although it was strictly forbidden for girls and boys to receive any education, caregivers in the so-called girls‘ home had the courage to prepare the young people for their future lives. “Each of us found our place in life, we didn’t fail, thanks to these women”, Lieblovà said during her reading. In Theresienstadt she met her friend and later companion Dagmar Friedová.

“Our greatest fear in the ghetto was of being deported ‘to the east’”, Dagmar Lieblovà tells. After one and a half years, on 15 December 1943, fate dealt a blow to her family: Without undergoing “selection”, the family was sent to the so-called “family camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau. The 15-year-old thought she would never see anything else in her life but barbed wire and blocks of barracks.

‟I never saw my parents or my sister again.”

In early July 1944 the camp administration ordered that men and women capable of work were to be sent to a camp in Germany. This applied to women between the ages of 16 and 40, but a writing mistake in Dagmar’s date of birth stated her as being four years older than she was, thus forcing her to be “selected”. “My mother could have volunteered to take my place, but she didn’t want to leave my younger sister. I was taken out of Auschwitz-Birkenau. I never saw my parents or my sister again.”

Her friend from Theresienstadt was also deported to Hamburg for forced labor. Staying in three different satellite camps of Concentration Camp Neuengamme, they were forced to do clean-up work in the destroyed city. A major air-raid took place in the spring of 1945. The camp prisoners were first freighted off to Celle, then forced onto one of the so-called death marches to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. On 15 April 1945 the British army liberated the camp. Three months later, Dagmar Lieblová, sick and weak from tuberculosis, returned to Czechia and spent over two years in a sanatorium.

Documents in the ITS archive

After the public reading, Anna Meier-Osiński, Head of the Tracing Investigations into Nazi Victims Branch at the ITS, presented Dagmar Lieblová with copies of the documents preserved in the ITS archive on Dagmar’s fate, among these an index card about the transport to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz as well as numerous liberation lists showing her name. The survivor knows the ITS from her work as chair of the “Theresienstädter Initiative“, which she co-founded in 1990.

With the series of events titled “Auschwitz“, the Vöhl Synagogue Association and partners from the region wish to commemorate the Jews from Waldeck-Frankenberg who were murdered in Auschwitz. The ITS has been supporting this series through information, research, and documentation.