'Tree of life' planted for peace

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by dbf, Nov 12, 2009.

  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    I just found this interview, not sure if it has been posted before.

    BBC NEWS | UK | 'Tree of life' planted for peace

    A sapling derived from a tree grown in a Nazi concentration camp is to be planted by a Holocaust survivor to mark UN Peace Day.

    The tree was grown at the Theresienstadt camp in what is now the Czech Republic.

    It was kept alive by Jews held there, before being uprooted and re-planted outside the camp as part of a memorial to the thousands who had died.

    Seeds from the original tree were later taken and have been used to grow other saplings around the world.

    Steven Frank, who was liberated from Theresienstadt in 1945, has grown saplings derived from the original tree and will plant one at a school in Surrey.

    He spoke to Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme about the tree.
  2. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    There is a very good book written by Paul Rea Regarding the Inmates
    at Theresienstadt. "Voices from the Fortress"

    Tells of the horrors comitted against the Jewish Inmates as witnessed by Australian P.O.W.
    dbf likes this.
  3. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Was this the camp that the Red Cross kept being brought to by the SS to show how "humanely" inmates were being treated?
  4. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Not sure about that, but remember the text describing the horrendous behaviour by the Guards.
    The P.O.W. in the Fortress were the ones who were persistant Escapers.

    Must reclaim my copy as it has been on"loan" for a few months now.
    Gerard likes this.
  5. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

  6. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    For those who can't access the link, a transcription of the interview:

    What happened was that the elders of the camp there realised that we were all going to die. Em, the most likely to live would be the children, and so they had secret religious instructions in all sorts of little cubby holes - in attics and cellars - to let the children know where they came from, what their origins were, so that they could pass that on to their children, if they survived.

    And one of the eh, teachers there erm, decided to celebrate a Jewish festival called Tu Bishvat which is the Year of the tree and she persuaded a man who worked outside the camp - he had a working party - to bring back a sapling and it happened to be a sycamore sampling which he hid in the boot, and - in his boot - and be brought it back and on the 21st January 1943 they had this little ceremony and this little tree was planted - this little sapling - by the children.

    The children looked after this tree, but then were sent off to Auschwitz, to the gas chambers and other children took their place, and when they went, yet more children took their place.

    The little tree grew and became erm the symbol of the children of Theresienstadt. And when the war had ended the teacher had survived and took people round the camp which was part of the sort of Communist regime of Czechoslovakia. And the tree - it was important that it was recognised - and it was transplanted into the front of the camp, where there was a great big memorial area where it grew into a magnificent 60ft tree. And it was in 1996 that a group from the Northwood Pinner synagogue, em, went there and their rabbi said prayers for the children who died, under this tree, and some of the people there saw its seeds lying on the ground, brought them back, germinated them here in Northwood and two of the saplings are planted here in the U.K. One at the side of the car park at Northwood which is dedicated to Anne Frank and another one at the Holocaust centre in Newark in Nottinghamshire which is a fantastic, beautiful place.
    Your story is so immense that I'd wonder if I could ask you which of these two questions you consider as you look back, to be more important, which is: Why you were taken to Theresienstadt, or how you managed to remain?

    I was taken there because I was a Jew, not for what I'd done, purely for what I was. And I managed to survive because I had a phenomenally resourceful mother who kept us alive, because people were dying mostly of starvation and of typhus at the time and she was incredibly resourceful and it is entirely due to her that I'm not only alive today but, but sane with it.
    And when you look back, how many people did you lose?

    Of my own family? Em, I lost quite a lot, but not in Theresienstadt, they, most of those went to Auschwitz and perished there. We were just one of the lucky few that went to Theresienstadt because we happened to be on a, in a group called the Barneveld list, one of the many groups that were set up in Holland to keep the, stop the Jews from panicking before they were taken away to the camps.
    Do you put it down to that, that you were the last in the line?

    I entirely put it down that we were the last in the line. Yes absolutely. We were the last, almost the last in the line to leave Westerbork which was the camp we ended up in, in Holland. We were only the penultimate transport to leave there - the Allies were already on the banks of the Rhine when the took us away in cattle trucks to Theresienstadt, and again in Theresienstadt we were last in the line or nearly last in the line, I assume because of the eh, people who had been taken away to Auschwitz to be gassed there. And in fact I learned after, learned after the war that in fact Himmler had decreed that we should all be gassed in the newly constructed gas chambers in Theresienstadt on the 15th of May and we were liberated on the 9th.
    You're telling us about this tree from your own garden because you want it to be a witness. I wonder if you'll tell me what you remember of being in there?

    Well, it's almost sort of surrealistic really, because there we were starving, hunger was never never far away, constantly wanting to eat, nothing to eat. Playing with your friends, making games of the few bits and pieces that you had - you know, cards, made from several different packs of cards em, chess pieces that we made and chess sets that we had and we played with.

    And suddenly all that fear is gone. I sit in this lovely garden here at home, which is like the garden of Eden for me, em, with these three little trees who represent my grandchildren really - the sapling in Theresienstad was me, a little child - and the one at Beth Shalom and at em at Northwood are my children. These three here in front of me are my grandchildren and they look lovely and, just like my grandchildren do.
  7. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    Many thanks for the post.


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