I was born Gerda Schild in 1922, into a religious family in Ansbach, Germany. My father was the Jewish butcher of the town, my mother often helped him in the store. I had a sister, we were very close. After Kristalnacht, November 9, 1938, we were forced to sell our house and the store and move to Munich. From there my father was able to get to England and then to America, but my mother was stuck in Munich and never made it out until she was deported to Riga, November 9th 1941. She died there.
My sister was a student nurse at the Gagern Hospital in Frankfurt, and I was a student nurse and later a full nurse at the Jewish Hospital in Berlin. My sister was also deported in 1941and died. I was sent to Theresienstadt in March,1943. Theresienstadt was not a killing center like the other camps, it was run as a model to deceive the world about the real “resettlement”.
After a while I was able to work in the camp as a nurse and that saved my life. We worked hard, had little to eat, didn’t get much sleep. Always an SS man was nearby and yelled at us and hit us. One of my friends was hit over the ears with his rifle butt and she is stone deaf ever since. I was not hit.
After Liberation I wrote to the Red Cross to find my father. I found him in New York and I soon began to make plans to emigrate to America. Many, many of my friends and camp mates were in a very different situation. They had no one to go home to, no place, no country, not a penny to their names, no person who was waiting for them and lovingly welcomed them back to freedom. This was a great hardship that is often overlooked. My best childhood friend who lost every single member of her large family and didn’t know what to do, was finally able to come to America but she was so alone, so disillusioned, that she changed her name, dropped her religion, and disappeared. I feel so badly for her. Hanni Oppenheim from Ansbach, if you read this, please get in touch with me. I love you and want you to know that.
Well, I had a happy life after liberation. Married, had four wonderful kids, got myself a new profession [librarian] and wrote a book about the Holocaust. “Tracking the Holocaust” is available through Lerner Publications in Minneapolis. It costs $25.99. [I think]. In 1983 I was able to found a Holocaust Center in Augusta, Maine, which is flourishing. I traveled through the New England States and lectured about Judaism and about my experiences.
I am happy that Elyse invited me to write this short epistle. If anyone wants to know more, please contact me. Love to all who read this. Gerda Haas