Jarmila Weinbergerová was born on March 21, 1923 in Prague into a Jewish family of an insurance company employee and a French teacher. She had a wonderful relationship with her younger sister Anna and parents, and they often went to the theater, concerts and exhibitions together. She studied with the only ones at the girls’ real grammar school, went to the scout and to practice in Sokol, from which she left at the beginning of the war, annoyed: the first manifestation of anti-Semitism in 1938, which completely shocked her. She had never experienced anything like it before.
According to Nuremberg law, since 1940 she had to wear a yellow star, follow various regulations, when shopping, how to behave on the street, what to own, what to hand over. The exact number of anti-Jewish ordinances in the protectorate is difficult to quantify, as they were issued by various authorities. It is estimated that their number reached several hundred. And according to official statistics, it concerned 118,310 people.
The Weinbergers had to hand over their bikes, skis, move out of the three-room apartment to a small studio, where they lived with three other families. Dad lost his job, the prime minister Jarmila was fired from school just before graduation. All this only for their Jewish origin. In April, the so-called summons, an order to board the transport, arrived in the mailbox for all members of the family. They were to arrive on April 24, 1942, at the assembly hall in the hall of the Trade Fair Palace. They were allowed to take 50 kg of things with them. Like scouts, they cleverly packed the most important things into large backpacks to carry as many things on their backs as possible, putting only spare clothes in their suitcases. They lost their suitcases at the station in Bohušovice, and the gendarmes ordered them to leave their suitcases on the platform to bring them to nearby Terezín. But they didn’t see them anymore.
People were dying of minor injuries, a weakened body could not handle the inflammation
“In Terezín, we were included in the work teams. Dad pulled the boards and stuff. He was small in stature, so it was strenuous for him. Her mother was assigned to a laundry outside the city, and she was taken daily by police. The nurse was classified as me as a nurse, she worked in an old nursery. And I went to a morgue, “says Jarmila Weinberger, who cared for patients who did not need surgery or did not need to be isolated due to infection. Such patients were transferred to the so-called Vrchlabí barracks, where specialized departments operated as in a hospital. Marodka, where Jarmila worked, was placed in a hall with thirty beds, fifteen beds on each side along the wall: “You can’t imagine hospital beds, they were just unplaned planks. There were bedbugs everywhere. Once we performed the disinfection, after opening the room, there was perhaps a two-centimeter layer of dead bedbugs on the ground, “described Jarmila Weinberger, who had only been trained as a scout by a nurse.
In Terezín, she learned during the march how to take care of the sick, and the doctors explained everything to her. After twelve hours, they took turns for two shifts, day and night: “It was a very hard job. Only one sister suffered at night. In the morning we had to linen after all those who unfortunately died at night. This often happened because the resistance of the patients was very low. They were dying of pneumonia, inflammation of the veins, general sepsis from a fairly small injury that began to fester, and blood poisoning that we could not face. Even though we had sulfonamides available there, at least for the most severe cases, people were dying before the drugs could take over. ”
For the first time, she saw an epileptic seizure by candlelight
The Nazi authorities gradually liquidated Jewish old and poor people in all occupied countries and sent the old and the sick to camps. Jarmila says that such transports arrived in Terezín at night. The nurses had to get up and go to the transports for the sick and take care of them: “There was no room for them anymore. We also dragged them to the ground, where they were not even swept, where there was no light, we walked with a candle. And there, for example, I first saw an epileptic seizure, in the dark, with only a candle. And that seemed absolutely scary. Old men were moaning, most of them had swollen prostates, they needed catheters, which failed on the train in a few days, so hurry catheters. People were starving, we had nothing to feed them. It was a complete apocalypse when we saw the horror of the old helpless people we had to put on the boards, “says Jarmila Weinberger.
The Hamburg barracks, where Jarmila’s Marodka was located, also functioned as a place where people gathered for “transports to the east.” This phrase caused panic. The prisoners suspected that the camps in the east would be worse than Terezín. Nobody knew what horror awaited them in the Auschwitz concentration camp, where these transports went most often.
The story of Jarmila Weinberger was documented by people from the non-profit organization Post Bellum for the Memory of the Nation project. This is a unique collection of thousands of audio and video memories. The project arises mainly from regular small donations. You too can help. For more information, visit the Memory of the Nation website. Thank you very much.
She last saw her parents and sister through the window
In May 1944, during a gathering of people destined for transport, the gendarmes ordered that the entire shift to the marodka complement the transport. Jarmila suddenly found herself among the prisoners in Auschwitz. She just said goodbye to her mother, dad and sister through the window, they saw each other for the last time. “They stuffed us in cattle, one bucket of water, one bucket of discards. We were lucky that there were only two children in our car that we were able to take care of. We straightened our luggage so that at least the children could lie down. Also, a few old people could at least sit. The rest of us stood or took turns sitting in one suitcase. Of course, we didn’t know where we were going, it was said that we were going to work east. There were such rumors that work was done in the mines, where there is a high mortality rate, but no one knew that we were going to a concentration camp, “says Jarmila Weinberger, who did not go through the selection on the ramp like other prisoners.
The children urinated on the bunk beds in Auschwitz at night, and this was a conflict
Some transports from Terezín to Auschwitz in 1943 and in May 1944 were special. A total of about 17,000 prisoners did not go through the selection ramp, as was the case with others, but placed the prisoners in a family camp. Families were not divided, mothers and dads stayed with the children, so the “family” camp. Boys and men were placed in blocks with even numbers, women and children in blocks with odd numbers. But the prisoners experienced hell like everyone else: they suffered from hunger, cold, exhaustion, disease and poor hygiene: “In the block, the children and I slept on wooden three-story bunk beds, where we were very squeezed. We always turned around at once. There were mothers with children lying there, and there were such small conflicts, for example, when the child peed from the bunk to the woman who lay under it. Then we reorganized it so that the children were lying underneath.
The night we arrived, they took us for a tattoo and then the next morning we experienced the first appeal. We were confused, we didn’t know what was going on, how to behave, they yelled at us, beat us when we didn’t get on fast enough. So it was such another shock. An elongated chimney led through the whole giant hut, where there were many of us, through which it was heated in the winter. We were there in the summer, so I didn’t know its function. In the morning we had to appeal, and even the SS, when they saw the children standing on the appeal, they decided that they could stay inside on the chimney, and they counted them there. They still left us our clothes, but we never saw our luggage again. We had to hand over all the jewelry, watches and the like, “says Jarmila Weinberger.
She sang and danced with the children in Auschwitz
The children were allowed to stay during the day on the children’s block, where they were taught by the famous scout, athlete and imaginative teacher Fredy Hirsch, but he was not alone. The educators helped with the children. And one of them was Jarmila Weinberger: “I was in charge of a group of children aged in kindergartens. We were allowed to play inside the block, and then even in the confined space behind our block, which was surrounded by wires charged with electric current. So we had to babysit to keep them out of it. They had a lot behind them, so they immediately understood that they must not touch it, “says Jarmila, who sang, danced with children, played all sorts of games from a scout adapted for the little ones.
Jarmile Weinberger was over twenty years old and withered. Modest food was not enough. For lunch, she used to have only a soup based on turnips – rapeseed intended mainly for cattle. During the war or in times of famine, this crop saved the population from famine. She got a piece of bread for the soup. The children used to have a special ration of milk and a little pudding here and there, says Jarmila Weinberger, who loved the children very much. But none of them survived.
Mothers chose to die with their children rather than live without them
As early as March 1944, the first selection came six months after the first transport to the family camp. The Nazis murdered 3,792 people, including children, in gas chambers that day. This is the largest mass murder of Czechoslovak citizens in the 20th century. They entered the gas chambers singing the anthem Kde domov můj, the International and the Jewish anthem ha-Tikva.
On July 2, 1944, a decision was made to liquidate the entire BIIb family camp. During the selection, families were divided. The children cried, the mothers shouted. The Nazis separated able-bodied mothers from their young children. In the end, however, they allowed mothers to join their children. Moms knew they were likely to die. Most remained with the children and perished in the gas chambers. Historians estimate that there were about 600 of them.
A few days later, on July 9, 1944, the guards transferred about two thousand healthy and able-bodied mostly childless girls to the BIb women’s camp. Jarmila Weinberger was among them. She was transported by cattle to hundreds of others for forestry and construction work on the German-Polish border in a camp near Christianstadt, the Gross-Rosen branch camp. Jarmila survived a several-week death march that ended in Bergen Belsen. Here, in poor condition, she was rescued on April 15, 1945 by British soldiers.
Vigilance is important in life
When she recovered from this war-torn martyr, she returned home to Prague and found that she was left alone with the whole family. Her parents and sister died in the camps. Thirty-five of her relatives did not survive.
Jarmila was accepted by her friend’s family. She studied medicine, which she decided on precisely because of what she experienced during the war. “My experience with the Holocaust has given me vigilance. That no danger is underestimated. The main thing was that it was said, ‘It can’t happen to us.’ Nobody prepared for anything, “says Jarmila Weinberger at the end of her story.