Hermine Nierlich-Jursa
Ratuj mnie, reši me! (Rette mich)
"How should one individual have saved them all? It had to be well organised. Only an organisation was able to do that.“

Thank God, Rosa Jochmann, who was a block chief in the old camp, got to know that two Viennese women had arrived, and got us into her political block, and got us work at once, in the effects room. That was extremely important, to be in some shop, so you didn’t have to go to work outside.

Later [as artisans in the industrial sector] we had to produce blackout material. We had passes to all shops, to the weaving mill, the tailoring, the basketry, the furrier’s. The industrial sector was expanded, with lots of shops. There, people were put to work. That was the motto: „Extermination by Labour“. They gave people worse and worse food, and the quota was put up, so the lifespan got shorter and shorter. A worker couldn’t take it for longer than six months. A lot of people perished through labour.

When the transports came from Auschwitz, most of the political ones were condemned to death. For example there were three Viennese women. One of them we put into Siemens, that was outside the camp. The second they placed in a large workshop, and the third, Toni Lehr, she had typhoid fever, she had a high temperature, we couldn’t take her anywhere. But the SS looked for those three, to shoot them. Toni Lehr was lying there with a high temperature. Mizzi Berner went there and told her: „You can’t stay here, come on!“ But Toni said: „Mizzi, leave, you shouldn’t endanger yourself. I give up, I can’t go on.“ Then Toni Bruha came in. Those two took Toni Lehr and carried her to the block where all the women with infectious diseases were, typhoid fever, scarlet fever etc. And sure enough, the SS came to search for her there. The block chief said: „Yes please, come in, but I’ll tell you, these are all infectious diseases.“ After this, the SS didn’t go in. That way, Toni Lehr was saved. Then Gerti Schindel was sought. Gerti was sent for from Siemens, for execution. I didn’t know anything about it, but Mizzi Berner, with whom I had constant contact, knew. She also had a brassard, [so she could move freely in the camp, like all of us], otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. She informed the Camp policewoman Mizzi Grassinger: „If Gerti stands there and the overseer walks in and reports her, you’ll call out to her to run.“ Sure enough, the overseer gets Gerti, walks in and reports: "Inmate such-and-such is here!“ And they checked in their files. Meanwhile, the policewoman cries: „Gerti, run!“ Gerti runs, and Mizzi Berner received her at once. I walked in by chance, from a tour of sick calls with my toolbox, and Mizzi Berner says: „You, Hermi, take her with you into the industrial sector.“ I took her along into the industrial sector, to my little workshop at the back, and told her: "Gerti, there is a large box, in the evening you’ll hide in there, and when you hear that there isn’t anyone in the camp any more – that the fur workers have gone – then you’ll go and sleep in the furs, and I’ll get you at seven in the morning.“ I came back at seven o’clock, and got her out of the box, and went back across the camp with her. At the gate I used all my wit to get her through, and then I passed her on to Mizzi Berner. Then they were looking for Edith [Rosenzweig-Wexberg] too. They didn’t find her at once. We knew she was on their list, and gave her inside duties, because she wouldn’t have been able to flee from the machine. So she was at the block. A few days later, I met Mimi Freiberger in the yard, she told me: „Hermi, they have found Edith, they are getting her now.“ I turned round, went to the block and said to Cilli: „Where is Edith?“ „She’s gone outside for a walk with the nightshift.“ The nightshift always went for walks at the electrical fence before work. She had mixed with them. I went up to her and told her “Edith, come on.“ She already knew then what was up. I walked along with her, and Toni Bruha came by, she was on her way to Rosa Jochmann. I said: „Toni, come here, we need to get Edith past the guard.“ We both had brassards, and had a good talking to with Edith, what she had been up to again, scolded her, and got her past the guard. Toni passed her on to Mizzi Berner, that was our main base. She managed everything from labour deployment Arbeitseinsatz. Mizzi Berner accomplished a lot, Toni Bruha too. [Gerti Schindl, Toni Lehr and Edith Wexberg were active in the French resistance within the "travail anti-allemand". In Ravensbrück they were concealed from the SS until they were able to leave the camp on a Red Cross transport under false identities.]

There were 500 children in the camp, and the camp community agreed to arrange Christmas for the children. But how? What? The whole camp started to be busy. From the shops, scraps were taken, little dolls and all sorts of things were made. The knitters made mittens and gloves for the children. The whole camp revived. The people, especially the old people who had given up all hope, said: „There is an incredible force in the camp, so we may still hope to get out.“ The whole International worked together. We decided to stage a puppet show, Hella and I did that. We told the overseer: „Please, we need a blackout frame!“ She went out to the carpenters’ shop with us. We told the men: „Make a frame, it’s going to be a puppet theatre, make it to suit that.“ They made it, and we carried it in officially. We then painted it. The women really worked hard.The Polish women made the heads, the Czech women made the dresses, each one made something. The SS heard about something from spies, and then they started looking, but of course they didn’t find anything, because we had hidden everything. When they saw how it spanned the whole camp, they put themselves in the lead and said: „We’ll allow it.“ A barracks was freed up. Of course we didn’t give them all the things at once, because the SS would have made inquiries why we had them. We gave away presents, and collected food. Then the commander comes along and holds a speech in front of the children. „Children, there is a war on now, and it’s not easy for you, and it’s not easy for us either. But when we have won the war, you will have a future.” What happened afterwards? The children went on transport in January, to Bergen-Belsen to extermination.

From: Ratuj mnie, reši me! (Rette mich), Österreichische Überlebende des Frauen-Konzentrationslagers Ravensbrück, 65 min.
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