“It went on because whoever lied down was dead. We took the side ways, two or three days and we walked until we hit a place to sleep. I don’t know how they secured those places beforehand, sometimes we slept in barns, in hay barns which had just a roof, in an open area, once we slept by a stack of straw at the edge of the forest. Depending on where we stayed we either were given a bit to eat or nothing at all. Sometimes they gave us a bit of warm soup, sometimes a few potatoes, but sometimes these were so frozen that there were crystals of ice.”
“Then we moved. We didn’t go long and found ourselves in Auschwitz. Naturally we had no idea where we were, suddenly the door sprung open, we saw the wires, searchlights, people in striped uniforms and, of course, the SS men and shouting, ‘Los, los, los!’ The dogs barked, we saw prisoners, in striped suits, sometimes these were hit, by a person in an SS uniform or in striped suits, hit by a stick. Now they were shouting at us, ‘Los, los.’ We had to form in rows by five and were marched on. We walked, to Brzezinka we found out later, and there were huge barns made of wood.”
“Naturally we got into touch with those who had been there before us. They described to us what had happened in March, this was quite a known case when virtually all the transport went to gas chambers. They started telling us about gas chambers, first we were reluctant to believe, as this was something very hard to believe, but we saw new and new transports coming, we saw chimneys in full operation, so eventually we believed. So we somehow believed that first it was the transport from Theresienstadt sent in September, there was the one from December before us, so they waited for it any moment. And we told ourselves that then it would be our turn. I didn’t think much of it. I tried to give my utmost attention to children and even if I gave them back to their mothers, I thought what we would do with them the next day.”
“In the beginning, there was a misunderstanding, because when the soldiers saw us and the terrible condition we were in, they tried to help us and they thought that they had to quickly feed us. Thus they would give us condensed milk and made us goulash or goulash soup. But for many of the inmates with their starved stomachs, this resulted in immediate death. In this way, many of the inmates would die even after the liberation. Luckily, I didn’t eat anymore at that time, I would only take liquids. The soldiers would furthermore distribute biscuits and such a brown powder among the inmates. We tried cooking that powder as we didn’t know what it was. It was coffee powder. I would drink only that coffee and that’s how I was more or less saved.”
“When we arrived in Cheb, we went to the train station where they loaded us up into cattle cars. We were given some bread and a piece of salami. But they didn’t give us enough water and we were terribly thirsty on the way. The transport lasted for about four days. Due to the thirst and also because of the general exhaustion, some of the girls started dying in the cattle cars on the way. The SS-men probably found out about it because at one point, the door was opened and the SS-men ordered us to get out and pull out the corpses from the cattle cars. I was lucky as I was among those who were chosen to stand below the railroad. There, in a sort-of a ditch, was still snow which I took and swallowed. This eased my thirst at least a bit. When we were coming back for more dead bodies in the train, we made huge snowballs and brought them to the other girls in the cattle car. We came to Celle where we got off the train and then we walked again all the way to Bergen–Belsen.”
“During those days when we were locked up in those barns, our greatest pleasantry was to sleep for long hours, as much as we could. The guards would usually leave us alone because they weren’t too keen on going into the barns. In the end, they even gave up counting us. Once, we were lucky because there was a pig sty right next to the barn where we were accommodated. The farmer’s wife brought a large pot full of hot potatoes for the pigs and we stole the potatoes from the pigs. There was just a single plank separating us from the pigs and so some of us could creep to the pig sty and take a little bit of food again.”
“We would walk some twenty to thirty kilometers a day. We walked for a day or two and then we would take a rest for a day. We slept in a variety of places, mostly in barns or hay stacks. Sometimes we would simply sleep on the ground. The food was terrible. Sometimes they would give us some soup or a few potatoes. Mostly we’d get three or four frozen potatoes. Sometimes we got nothing. In this way we were gradually losing weight. We were in a group of five people and we had a bucket with us which we would fill with water whenever we could and then we washed ourselves regardless of whether it was warm or cold. Nevertheless, we were lice-infested all the same.”
“I was assigned as a child nurse to take care of the children from the camp. I was put in charge of a group of children who were of the age of nursery school kids. We were free to play with them and we even had at our disposal a place where we could play with them. It was located behind our block but that little space of the size of a living room was surrounded by an electric fence. So we had to look after the kids to not come too close to the fence.”
“We were promised not to be placed on the transport from Theresienstadt in order to be able to take care of the sick until the last moment. But apparently, there was a major drop-out of inmates in one of the transports and they had to fill the gap. Therefore they placed all of us nurses that worked there on that transport at the last moment. That was in May 1944. I was the only one from the whole family who was leaving Theresienstadt. Somehow, my sister learned about my assignment to the transport. She managed to bring together my dad and my mom, who had to be brought by a policeman because she had been out of town. Thus I could at least say goodbye to them through the window of the train. Since then, I haven’t seen them again.”
“I would spend the entire night shift on a chair next to the little stove, unless I was nursing the patients. There was no possibility to lie down and have a rest for a while during the whole night shift. We served 12-hour night and day shifts. It was a very demanding job, not only physically, but mentally as well. There was just one nurse on the night shift and in the morning, we had to change the bed linens of those who had unfortunately died during the night. This would occur very frequently as the overall immunity of the patients was very low. They were very much worn down. Thus people would die because of banalities such as pneumonia, phlebitis, but most of all of overall sepsis from a tiny little wound that began to suppurate and caused blood poisoning. There was nothing we could do about it. We couldn’t have saved them. Although we had some stock of sulphonamide for the most severe cases, people would die before the medicaments had a chance to become effective.
“What was a big problem was that everything was full of bedbugs. This was a great source of suffering for the patients, they were bitten. Once a German doctor arrived for a check and he criticised me that visitors sat on beds, that they could bring in some insects. I told him that most they could leave with some, as the place was festering with bedbugs. He was horrified, he ordered disinfection, we had to move the patients out, the place was closed, sterilised and when it opened again the floor was covered by an inch of bedbugs.”
“Theresienstadt was the first shock where we realized that it was possible to derail a man completely out of his routine ways and previous life. From the very beginning they tried to break you and to deprive you of your self-confidence. They wanted to make you believe that you were inferior and no good. This started by the way they addressed us. They would address us like this: ‘Du sau juden’, meaning Jewish swine.”
Jarmila Weinbergerová was born on March 21, 1923, in an assimilated Jewish family in Prague. She had an older sister Anna and she lived an ordinary life without any greater social ambitions. Before the outbreak of WWII, Anna studied at a grammar school. Since 1938, her family was persecuted and since 1939, they were beginning to feel the impact of the Nuremberg laws. In 1942, Jarmila and her sister were transported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, where Jarmila worked as a nurse. In 1944, she was transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where she was placed in the family camp and worked as a child nurse. Next in line was the Christianstadt camp, where she had to work in the forest as a construction worker. In February 1945, the Nazis evacuated the camp and Jarmila Weinbergerová set out on the death march together with the other inmates of the camp. The march led them across the Bohemian borderlands all the way to Cheb, from where the surviving inmates were transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She witnessed the liberation by the British army on the brink of her physical powers and almost unconscious. After she had sufficiently recovered, Jarmila returned to Prague on July 13, 1945. Her large family had been almost completely exterminated during the war. Jarmila Weinbergerová passed the school leaving exam and studied medicine. After she had graduated, she got a place in a hospital in Carlsbad. As she didn’t pass the cadre screenings during the period of the so-called “normalization”, she lost her position of deputy director of the hospital and was transferred to the position of a medical examiner. She worked as a doctor until her retirement.