When Darkness Fell
by David P. Stern (copyright 2009, 2011)
Outline of a script for a film or drama.
Guiding ideas are listed at the end, as well as
a guide to the pronunciation of Czech letters.
This is the story of my grandmother Minna Pächter and of my mother Anna Stern, and accurately includes the facts I know. It is also dedicated to the memory of my grandparents Ottilia and Josef Stern, deported from Terezin on 10/19/42 to Treblinka, Poland, where they died at the hand of the Nazis. |
a short way south of the Czech-German border.
Inside Minna's apartment, initially empty. Minna Pächter is a widow, living with her daughter Anny, her husband George and their first-grade daughter Else. Heavy wooden furniture (many pieces carved in central-European style), paintings in gilt frames
Minna opens the entrance door, Anny follows her ("Shh! Else is asleep"), then a family enters, wearing wet raincoats, carrying luggage, a child with teddy and sailor's hat...Then George.
--Father of family: Thank God we are here! You cannot imagine...
--Anny: "Stop worrying. You stand on Czech soil, you are safe. (pause) The Germans won't come here--we have our own army, and are not alone. France and England stand behind us."
George meanwhile has gone to another room, brings back a small pack of bills.
"Here is the money you gave me. It smells of beer, because I smuggled it out in an empty beer bottle, on the local train which brings workers back from Schönau. On days when Czech border guards are on duty they will let you do it, and it is registered legally in your name".
Minna brings from some other room candies in a box--"have a treat!"
Little square candies, wrapped in wax paper.
Mother of family (MF) --Hmm, that tastes good. What are they?
Minna: "Baden Caramels".
MF--Like the ones made in Austria?
Minna Exactly. Only, these I made myself. Fresher, maybe better, extra coffee in them.
MF--Hmm. Can I take some more?
The cook comes in. "Herr Doktor, a letter for you arrived this afternoon."
The cook takes the refugees to their bedroom. George, Anny and Minna stay behind.
George (rips open the envelope): This is a call-up by the army reserve! I have wondered if it would come... They give me three days.
Minna: " Three days! Will there be war?"
George: "I hope not. The Germans have a strong army, modern airplanes.. We would fight back, but can only hold them back with France and England."
Anny: "And even then... the border is so near, German guns reach us even here."
Minna: "I have a small apartment in Prague, for when I do business there. Maybe I should pack and take there for safe keeping--at least our valuable art."
George: "Well, I have to go to the 35th regiment. And Else should go to the farm of Arthur Pešek in Vrchotovy Yanovitze ("Janovice"), he is married to my mother's niece Beda. She should be safe there."
(Much of the following is reconstruction of a plausible scenario for which I have no hard evidence except my uncle's memoir, where he wrote:
Only in 1960 was I informed by her former maid what had happened. In those days many people already knew that they could not possibly stay where they were. They transferred their property to Prague, almost all the Jews did. Apparently Anny and George did so too (even though they never told me): they rented a truck, loaded on it most of their collections, and told that they sold it to Prague. [There they sold part, part they brought to Palestine, but I received nothing of that property. Such is my sister. The sale of these goods or some of them sustained them when they reached the country [Palestine] in 1940.])
Minna in her bedroom, where workmen are already removing some pictures. She opens a box, carefully puts her late husband's picture into it--old fashioned, handlebar mustache.
The same street in Bodenbach, outside Minna's apartment. Anny and Minna sit in George's small boxy car, which he starts with a crank, then hops into the driver's seat, next to Anny, as a truck with two workmen pulls out behind them.
Fade to "Prague, September 1938". Camera sweeps skyline of Prague with spires and Hradczin castle, while Smetana's music (opening bars of "Vyshehrady") sounds in the background,. Picture fades to a dingy street, 4-story walkup apartments faced with stone, darkened by the soot of many years. The car pulls up, the truck stops behind it.
The women get out, the workmen too and they drop the tailgate. Fade
George leaves the house (house #3 on a street later renamed by Czechs, "Tomasyrska"). He wears a Czech uniform, 4 round silver buttons (almost hemispheres) on each shoulder across the end of his epaulet. Hugs at the door, a neighbor helps carry his suitcase. On the short visible section of the town's main street, which crosses the street some distance uphill, a commotion and loudspeakers . The camera briefly glimpses parts of a line of open trucks driven uphill on the street, with swastika flags and some people in brown shirts.
George (leaving): "I hope it will be peace (pause)."That the French and English will prevent war. Otherwise, it's their tanks against our horses."
Last hugs, then he walks down the street.
Czech soldiers sitting around a radio in a barracks room, listening to the announcement about the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain meeting Hitler at Berchtesgaden.
....segue into Minna and Anny listening to a radio in a small apartment in Prague, different voice, caption "30 September, 1938."
Announcer--- "In the Munich conference, Chamberlain and French premier Daladier agreed to allow Germany to occupy the Czech borderland, and so preserve "Peace for our Time". Czechoslovakia was not invited. President Benesh, in protest, resigned and fled to London."
(scene from old B&W newsreel)
Neville Chamberlain (stepping from his airplane, waving a paper document): "My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time"
(as the words are spoken, they scroll across the screen and disappear, except for the last four, which remain and grow larger, before disappearing too.)
The two women are pale, look at each other, Minna quietly says : "It has happened." Anny: ":And where is George now?"
(A story by Minna's son--probably too much to include: Minna in Prague boarded a train to Bodenbach, to return to her apartment and retrieve more of her things. A man recognized her on the street and told her: Mrs. Pächter, go back immediately to the train, while you still can. Too many people know you in this town, you are not safe. And she went back)
Panorama of Prague from the ancient Charles IV Bridge across the river--the camera pans over the statues along which line the bridge, comes to focus on a balcony of Hradczin castle above. As the camera slowly swings around, large letters proclaim
Scene (reverse view down from the same balcony; reconstruction of a historic photograph): Hitler standing on the balcony of the Hradczin castle, facing the river and the bridge, and gleefully surveys Prague
German troops occupy Prague
The Czech Republic no longer exists
In Minna's small Prague apartment:
George has come back from the army, in civilian clothes. He is reading a letter. "It orders me to report to a labor camp"
Minna: "The Germans probably got lists of soldiers released from the army. Other Jews were also ordered to labor camps."
George: "But what can I do? Hardly any country will allow Jews in. (to Anny) Your brother is in Palestina, my brother Oswald was transferred by Baťa shoes to a factory in Casablanca. But we have (spreads hands)--no place!"
Anny: "Don't go to the camp. Baťa also arranged through the army command of General Baskovitz permission for you, me and Else to leave the country."
"You still have a valid visa to Italy, from your work. Take a train to Trieste, where ships still sail for Palestina".
A--I have worked for years with the Zionist organization, and know Yankev Edelstein, who heads the Palestina Emigration Office. I will ask his help to get us all to Palestina, to "Eretz Yisra'el."
...And we will send money for you to Trieste. Also, maybe you will find some opportunities to work there. Let us know.
George: "I suppose that would be my best choice. But you, and Else?"
A--"Let me talk to Edelstein."
George goes to pack a suitcase
Scene: the Zionist office. Old furniture, file boxes (old style--white with black bands and a round hole ?), old manual typewriters, telephone, map of "Palästina" on the wall, blue box of Jewish National Fund, maybe the famous picture of Herzl leaning over the bannister of a bridge in Basel.
Anny enters the office of Jacob (everyone calls him Yankev) Edelstein, head of the office. He raises his head:
A--Yes, I am in Prague too. Though I wish we were in Palestina, where my brother is.
A--George and my daughter Else, too. George was ordered to a labor camp, and we all have exit permits to travel to Trieste. Only ... to continue from there, we need your help..
J--(looks her over). I will see what I can do, but you know, we all have waited too long. Now the British will only allow 1500 "Zertificate" (Tser-tifica-teh) each month, 1500 immigration permits.
If George can go to Trieste, let him go, he will be safe--for a while, at least. But you... we know you... an excellent organizer. This office could use you. Will you work for us?
(Anny looks at him, silently)
J-- I promise I shall try to get all three of you to "Eretz." My powers are limited, but I will do what I can.
Anny: I will gladly work for you. If I can help, I am yours, and my mother will take care of my daughter. What would you like me to do?
Before answering, Edelstein reaches out, pulls a chair from the side of the room and motions to her to sit down.
J--Surely you have heard of Eichmann. The Gestapo specialist for Jews.
J--We are now officially the "Palestina Amt", the Palestina emigration office. The Nazis want to expel all Jews from Czechoslovakia. That is, all Jews should go, everything they own stays with the Germans.
Half a year ago Eichmann set up an emigration office in Vienna, and got 100,000 Jews to leave. Now he has arrived in Prague, to set up the same kind of thing here. And that is us! The Zionist office is now the official emigration center.
A-- But the British won't let 100,000 Czech Jews enter Palestina!
J--That is where I need your help, Mrs. Stern, The Nazis don't care HOW our people leave. They would be quite happy if we smuggle them illegally into Palestina, or Uruguay, or South Africa,... any place, just far from here. (silence)
And let me tell you: I have spoken to Eichmann. In five days I am supposed to go to Palestina and negotiate with the British one last time, to ask them to let Czech Jews in.
A-- Do you think it will work?
J-- I do not know, all I have is hope. Many Austrian and German Jews have already emigrated, and the British Mandate Government of Palestina is afraid of the Arabs, afraid of armed attacks on its oil pipeline. But it may admit some refugees. Not everyone, maybe, But no Jew is safe here in Czechoslovakia ... The more we get out, the better..
A-- What would be my part in this?
J---Eichmann has given us quotas, as he has done in Vienna. Every day, 100 Jews must leave, maybe 200. It is not easy to arrange. I hope you will join the people already working on it.
A-- What do we do?
J---You locate refugee families who want to leave, see that they go through the legalities--which usually means, hand over all they have. Meanwhile go to embassies of--oh, Chile, Costa Rica, any far away country, and buy immigration visas for those people. For a payment, they will give you visas, with the understanding they will not be used except as excuses for leaving the German "Protektorat".
A-- I hear you.
J---The refugees with visas then take a train to Bratislava, where people of our organization are hiring river steamers on the Danube. The emigrants board the steamer and since the river is an international waterway, you can sail on it without transit papers through Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania... all the way to Constanza on the Black Sea.
A.: And then...?
J---Other agents of the Zionist organization are buying small steamers, rusty old ships, which will wait at Constanza. They will go straight to Palestina, land at night on some sandy beach, and our people in "Eretz" will help passengers land and hide before the British catch them.
... And. even if the British Navy catches them--they may be arrested in a camp, perhaps, or sent to some distant British colony. Whatever it is, staying with the Nazis is worse.
A-- And my job?
J---Smile nicely to the consuls and buy those visas. Help us get money to pay for them. Get the people through the paperwork and on the trains. Don't worry: you will find yourself very busy.
A--- And you will help George--and Else and me--get to Palestina too?
J--- You are my personal friend. I will try my very best, I promise.
A--- Then you can depend on me.
One more question, though: George has three brothers who are also trapped here. Single young men. Can they go, too?
J---You can add them to any illegal transport from Constanca. But remember--you will have to work hard.
A--- I certainly will.
Zionist office. A sheet of paper on Edelstein's empty desk simply states "Palästina!"
Anny sits at a nearby desk, coached by a veteran of the office:
Veteran-- What is the capital of Peru?
A--- I don't know. Why do I have to know the capital of Peru?
V--Because the answer is "Tel Aviv." What is the capital of Ecuador?
A--- (slightest hesitation) Tel Aviv?
V--You are learning. Now go, smile nicely to the consul of Peru and buy for us 200 visas. Let me show you how...
Voice: "Eichmann is here"
Text from 1977 interview with my mother Anny Stern:
Edelstein, came back from seeing Eichmann for the first time and said: "We have to make an immigration office - that means Anny, this is just what you can do, You will put down every day the names of people who want to emigrate, who get visas, who get certificates, and that we give daily to The Gestapo,"
While we were sitting, about 8 people, all the leaders of the Zionists and the Jews in Prague, a man rushed in, one of the - office guards, or whatever you may call them --and said: "Eichmann and his staff are here"
Eichmann: Dr. Stern, are you a Zionist?
My answer: Yes, Herr Obersturmbannftihrer.
Eichmann: I am a Zionist too. I want all Jews to get out as quickly as possible and you have to work hard.
So -- one of his questions, one of his first questions, was "who is in charge of the emigration?"
As they were not prepared for it, they gave me George's title and said "Mrs. Dr. Stern". So Eichmann took me under oath, that I will be in charge of the emigration, will work with the SS and the Gestapo, and will be absolutely responsible for what I'm doing. And this is how I started my career, never have [having] sat at a desk
Continuation of the scene, Anny is now at her desk with 3 other workers, discussing a list on a sheet in front of her.
Eichmann enters office, dressed in black storm trooper uniform--leather belts with gun holster, silver skulls on his lapels and on his cap, swastika on his armband, followed by two SS offices in heavy coats, behind them the driver, military uniform, helmet, armed.
Eichmann (scanning the office)-- "Wer ist verantwortlich ("v" as "f") hier (here) ?"
Silence. Eichmann repeats in English, marking a transition of language:
---"Who is in charge here?"
The office workers look at each other, finally one points at Anny
Eichmann faces Anny---"Wie heissen sie? (needs no translation)
Anny--- "Frau Doktor Shtern" (name in German is always pronounced with "sh").
(hesitation) --"Anna Shtern"
Eichmann--- "Dr. Shtern, are you a Zionist?"
A ---Ja, Herr Obersturmbannführer (Obershturmbannführer).
Eichmann--- "I am a Zionist too. I want all Jews to get out as quickly as possible and you have to work hard." (pause) "Stand up" (she does, facing him) "Raise your right hand." (she does)
Eichmann---Repeat after me: Ich, Anna Shtern"
A--- "I, Anna Stern" (switch of language, also switch of camera angle, so that the repetition of Eichman's oath in German can be omitted. The camera now faces Anny.)
A---"Will faithfully follow orders of the Gestapo and do my best to help Jewish emigration from the Protektorat of Bohemia and Moravia."
Eichman looks her over for a silent moment, then one of the officers hands him a sheet of paper, which he passed to Anny. --"Sign here"
Anny reads the paper, nods. Eichmann hands her a fountain pen and she signs, then with the paper in hand, she walks over to Edelstein's desk, lifts a stamp, moistens it in the stamp pad, stamps the document and hands it back.
Eichmann: "Danke Schön, Frau Doktor!" He turns around and leaves, followed by officers and driver.
The senior among the office workers at her table stands up and shakes her hand. By taking responsibility, she has defused an awkward moment, one better handled by a handsome young woman than an aging functionary.
Scene ends with Anny entering to the consulate of Peru, an ornate doorway with Peruvian coat of arms and Spanish inscription.
Prague rail station. George hugs Anny, then boards train. Else and Minna stand on the platform, wave as the train chugs away... Anny waves, then breaks down and cries into a handkerchief.
Panoramic shot of Jerusalem from a pine forest in Talpiyot (to the south of the old city and considerably higher). The entire panorama of the city is revealed, centered on the Dome of the Rock and the city wall (the shot may be quite recent, as it is a long distance view. Conspicuous tall newer buildings may be edited out, or a still may be substituted in the studio, where indoor parts should also be filmed. The pine grove may be at some other suitable location, but a shot or clip of the "Government House of the High Commissioner" (later, UN HQ in Jerusalem) should be included.
Caption---- Jerusalem, June 1939
Three people are viewing the city from that high vantage point. One is Edelstein (E), in a formal suit, another is an older gentleman (O), the third is a young translator (T) in a suit but no tie, just white shirt.
O---Why do you want to return to Prague?
E---I must return!
O---But here you are safe, while in Prague...(searches for a word) ..not so..
E---I cannot stay. Not just because my wife and son are there, but the entire community depends on it. Any "Zertifikate" (tser-tifi-kat-eh) I may get today will be lost if I just try save myself.
Driver joins them---in a hurry, wears workman's pants, white shirt. "Yallah! We better move, they said 10 o'clock!"
They drive to the gate (1938 vintage British car). Two British guards in police uniforms (dark-blue, flat-top officers' hats) stop them, examine the letter they hand to one--the other asks for the visitor's passport and examines it, then the gate is opened and the car is park ed in the yard.
Camera view rotates to one of the pillars of the gate, with brass plate "The High Commissioner for Palestine" and under it, attached by screws (to allow name exchange)"The Hon. Harold McMichael".
In the office of High Commissioner McMichael (MM), Edelstein explains his mission to the commissioner behind the desk, with two secretaries attending, one taking notes. The translator helps.
E--- "You know the Germans are preparing a war against England. And you know how little regard they have for the life of Jews."
MM.--- Yes, but I am not allowed to change policy made at Whitehall, in London. I can write to them, but you really need people in London.
E--- But of course, you also know about refugees trying to get here by sea. Could you just quietly let them through?
MM.--- I wish I could. But I am a governor of this country, of both Jews AND Arabs. And anyway, when those ships are stopped, it is by the British Navy, over which I have no control.
(after a while)
What I can do for Czech immigrants is to allocate them 2000 certificates. That would provide at least some help. But that is my limit.
Edelstein is back in Prague, in the emigration office. Office workers hug him.
E--- They gave me 2000 "Zertificate". I will have to report to Eichmann, but I already know what he will say: legally or not, get more Jews out.
Edelstein in Anny's office, hugs her. "It felt good to breathe free air. And I will keep my promise. I can send George a Zertifikat."
"Meanwhile, how do we stand with money for those visas?"
A--- Not much is left, But know someone with money. I can convince her that the Germans will not let her keep it anyway...I will try to get her money, but in return, you MUST promise her and her husband emigration permits."
E---If she can provides enough to make a real difference, she will get them.
.Anny goes to Martha Hirsch and strikes a bargain, ... From end of file Relatives > "Family notes":
Martha Hirsch was the daughter of Regina Stein, sister of my grandmother, who married Hugo Rudinger. Willy and Martha owned a wire factory in Czechoslovakia and were quite wealthy: they lived in Pilsen and were friendly with Kokoschka, who painted her picture several times (4?). Also, Adolf Loos designed their house. When the war broke, a son named Richard was already living in Australia, but they themselves had to flee to Prague, where they were trapped by the German occupation.
My mother was working in the emigration office, and she went to them and told them--I can get you out, but you have to trust me. She then went to Yaikev Edelstein, told him the Hirsch'es had large sums of money which the organization could use, and made the arrangements. Much of the money of course was taken by the Germans: they appointed a special attorney, Dr. Dewalt, who it turned out had been an intern in my father's law office. They got a certificate to Israel and were all their life grateful to my mother--"just when we gave up an angel appeared, in a cape with red lining, and told us 'trust me'." Two years later they made it to Australia.
[World War II breaks out in the beginning of September. Previously, Czechs could enter Britain, but no longer. A British airplane drops leaflets "we are with you", but Czechs know they are at the mercy of the Nazis.]
[Edelstein is asked to send someone to a camp near Lublin (Nisko?) to which Jews perhaps can be evacuated. Anny volunteers, but Edelstein says no, I will go, you stay here. You might never come back, but I know that I will. ... a week later he comes back: "That is not a place for us. Poland is terrible. We should do anything to avoid being sent to Poland"]
On November 27, Anny leaves by train for Trieste with Else and with Edelstein. Scene at the railroad station, Hugs, magnesium photographic flashes. Anny, Else and Edelstein climb aboard--the sign on the wagon "Prag -- Trieste". The train starts to slowly chug away, people wave, cry, slowly the melody of "Hatikvah" rises from the crowd, as the train speeds up.
Anny and Edelstein sit in a compartment. Edelstein is drafting something on a piece of paper, backed by his briefcase and a closed file that provides a writing suface.
A---"Yaikev" He raises his head.
A---"You know my mother, she wanted to stay behind. Minna Pächter."
E---Yes. I will look to see she is safe. Is that what you wanted to ask?
A---"Yes. And my in-laws too, Ottilia and Josef Stern. They did not want even to talk about emigrating. 'You cannot transplant a fully-grown tree' they said.
E---I have met them, and will remember. Now let me try write what I want to send from Trieste to Palestina."
Night scene by the dockside.. The "Galilea", a small passenger ship (4500 ton) is pulling away in the dark, people singing "HaTikvah" both on boat and on shore,
...Fade to arrival in Tel Aviv, ship is anchored far from shore, arrivals jump from gangplank to passenger boat...
On shore, a small port (too small and shallow for the ship). Old rubber tires hang on the concrete pier, small warehouse behind. George sees his family arriving, jumps up and down behind chain-link fence, Else runs to the other side of the fence. Anny is crying, George too.
(fade... back to Prague To establish location, perhaps a brief shot of the clock on the Jewish town hall, where Hebrew letters replace numbers.(it still exists) The clock strikes the hour, the scene fades with the sound.)
Entrance to a school building. German guards with rifles, pair of teachers. Children arriving. Big sign in Germanic Letters:
(small)Protektorat Böhmen und Mähren --Abordnung 573, 8 August 1940 (check German)
(Big) Keine Juden erlaubt
Below that is a similar inscription in Czech. Camera focuses on the date, then switches to the soldiers, who examine the identity card of every child and send away those whose card says "Jew." One little boy cries: he is not a Jew, but has forgotten his identity card at home. A teacher consoles him--go home and bring your card. You will NOT be punished for being late.
Minna serves dinner, boils Czech dumpling. Grandparents Josef and Ottilia at the table, everybody wears a yellow star (maybe some strangers, with children, also sit there?). Close-up as on dumpling she cuts it with a string tautly held between two hands (the traditional Czech way).
M---"... sorry, that is all I have, but at least there are enough mushrooms for a good taste."
First view of the Terezin fortress, camera pans around its massive brick walls.
Theresienstadt Fortress, built 1780
Named for Austrian empress Maria Theresa
(Theresienstadt--Terezin in Czech--was a fortress and garrison town with large brick barracks for about 12,000 soldiers. In addition to massive brick fortifications, if had a separate outlying "small fortress". It was never tested in war--Napoleon just by-passed it, and in the Czech republic most of it was occupied by civilians. Because of it was confined behind walls, the German occupation chose it, starting in November 1941, as central concentration camp for Jews, evicting its original settlers. The "small fortress" became a Gestapo prison for Czechs.
Jewish prisoners were allowed a certain level of self government, some provided forced labor for the Germans, others ran the hospital, the camp police (with distinctive badges), kitchens, schools, social activities and more (but were strictly forbidden from communicating with the outside, even by mail). The authorities let it be known that the "Terezin Ghetto" was a "good" place to be, and funneled there Jewish prisoners from other parts of western Europe. In fact, that was a deception: for most inmates, Terezin was just a temporary location, and within a year "Transports" began in which residents were taken by rail, in cargo wagons, for "resettlement in the East", supposedly Poland. In fact, many were taken directly to Treblinka, a gas-chamber facility in Poland, and died soon after arrival. Later transports went to Auschwitz, near Krakow, which had much larger gas chambers.
No one ever was sent back from "the East". Only much later, a few Jews escaped Auschwitz, came back and told the truth about "The East," but the Ghetto leadership decided to withhold it--it was too late to rebel. The last large transports were sent out in October 1944 and left only 11,000 prisoners. Later, as the Russian army advanced into Eastern Europe, prisoners from other camps were dumped in Terezin--including for instance "Schindler's people." Many died when a typhus epidemic broke out in the ghetto, which was finally liberated by the Russian army.)
In this scene the fortress is being inspected by two Nazi officers (O1, O2) with escort, walking down the street.
O1--- "Ganz gut... How many people live here now?
O1--- They will have to leave. I guess we can fit 50,000, maybe 60,000 Jews here.
O2--- We have more than that in the Protektorat.
O1--- Don't worry, they will not stay here too long. Our people in the east are getting ready for them.
The walls look good and high. I guess we can bring the "Aufbaukommando" from Prague, to prepare bunk beds, gates and kitchens.
Terezin is getting populated by inmates. two "Hundertschaft" groups of 100 Jewish men each are collected, given tools, marched to trucks and, followed by cars with guards. They are brought to Lidice (Li-di-tseh), a not-too-distant Czech village in which dead bodies are scattered..
They get off and a German officer with a black armband (for mourning) addresses them:
---"These are some of the people who ambushed one of our high officers, right here. They paid dearly for their crime! Now, take off their shoes and clothes--what can be used will be taken back to Terezin. And bury them here in this pit."
(camera pans to pit dug by bulldozer).
An explosion: little pebbles rain down.
O---"Pay no attention. Every house in this village is being blown up. Nothing will remain.
The prisoners turn to work. One man asks an overseer: "What was this place called"?
(Near Lidice two Czech soldiers (parachuted from a British airplane) ambushed the car of the Nazi head of the Czech lands, Reynard Heydrich, and killed him. The Germans in retaliation killed all inhabitants and obliterated the village. A detachment from Terezin was sent to help bury the dead, and later a "Schuldtransport" of 1000 Terezin Jews was sent to the East, as part of the collective punishment of all Czechs. The two soldiers were tracked down to a church and committed suicide rather than surrender.)
(the next scene belongs to March 1943, but was shifted here to 1942)
Train station sign in Gothic letters "Bauchowitz" (in smaller letters below it, perhaps, "Bohuševice"). From this station Jews arriving by train were marched to Terezin, suitcases and baskets in hand. Camera singles out a young woman with nurse's apron (Elizabeth "Liesel" Reich, neé Pollak). In the rear of the walking group, five German soldiers with shouldered rifles and an officer with a pistol.
Coming the other way is a farm wagon pulled by horses, a couple sits on the front seat, two children on top. The children point at the group and shout "Židy!, Židy" (caption below: "Jews! Jews"). The woman turns to them "They are going to Terezin. Our homes will be their prison"
On left is Terezin--and the person guiding the group explains,
---"This is where we are going live"
---"Behind those walls?"
--"Behind those walls."
Suddenly shots are heard from the other side of the road. Heads turn to a smaller fortress on the right, similar to Terezin. (the scene needs to substitute a regular field in front of it--after the war that field was covered with monuments). On the gate, painted in large black letters on white background, "ARBEIT MACHT FREI"
---"What is there?"
--- "That is the small fortress of Terezin, Maly Pevnost. A Gestapo prison. "
One of the walkers asks another in Czech
---"What does it say there? (English subtitle below)
--"Abandon all hope ye who enter." (English subtitle)
--"Abandon... no, seriously!" (Subtitle in English, picture changes).
Camera sweeps over the high curved brick wall flanking the entrance. The people reach a large shack with tarpaper roof, slightly elevated. The entrance door is at one end, exit at the other. Barbed wire and a car barrier flank it: once you cross, you are inside Terezin.
[This represents the infamous "Sluice" (Schleusse) through which prisoners enter or leave Terezin. A sluice is a one-way opening in a dam: water going out through it never comes back. I do not know what the Schleusse actually looked like: at one time it was in a cellar and the set-up can perhaps be changed to fit available pictures. Later a railroad spur was added into the fortress and people coming and going arrived there.]
... Inside the shack. Prisoners stand in several lines in front of tables as they are given papers. The papers of everyone who leaves are checked again at the exit. At the head of the line nearest to the camera stands Liesel Reich. She hands the clerk some sheets. ---"Name?"
The clerk rummages.--- "Are you a nurse?"
He hands her a sheet.
Clerk--- "You will be in the hospital. Go there." (points out the direction). Liesel does not move.
L---Where can I find Jaromir (Yaromir) Goldner? He is my distant cousin.
One of the people sitting in the back says "I know where he is. Here, sit in my chair, I will find him for you."
By the time the man comes back with Jaromir, the line is gone--only two ladies and a man are lugging suitcases down the road, with a 3-year old child carrying a doll.
J---"Yes what can I do for you, Miss...?"
L---Reich. Mrs. Liesel Reich. I am the daughter of Inginieur Rudolf Pollak. Do you know him?
J---"Yes, of course, he has another daughter Lene. But he is not here."
L---"NOT HERE!!? But I was expecting to meet him! My mother and Lene, too. We all lived together in Prague, and should stay together here. I was left behind in Prague because I got sick.
J--- "Sorry, but he is not here. A month ago he was placed on a transport for resettlement in the East."
L---Where in the East?
J---"The Germans don't ever tell. But I have a message for you."
J---"Your father did not know where they were going, no one ever does. But all transports to the east go in cargo wagons, and after three days, the wagons are back here, empty. Always the same wagons--the people whose job is to clean them watch the numbers, and they are always the same. So Inginieur Pollak and I made an agreement. Each wagon has a lamp. So he told one of the cleaners the number of his wagon-- and he promised to put in the lamp a message for you. When the wagon came back, the cleaner checked the lamp and here is what he found:
(rummages in his pocket, pulls out a beat up identity card, opens it and takes out a slip of paper, which he hands to Liesel)
(Liesel (reads) ---Aussig... Bodenbach...Dresden... These are railroad stations! He must have read the names through a crack!
(continues): Görlitz... Breslau ... Katowitz ... Auschwitz....the name Auschwitz is retraced and underlined. So (pause) ... they went north to Germany, then east to Poland. Katowitz is a big center of coal and iron, near Krakow.
But Auschwitz? I never heard of it.
J---"I have not, either. There is a small Polish town Oswiecim nearby, maybe the Germans renamed it. This must have been the train's final stop."
Silence,.. Liesel is crying. Wipes her tears.
L--- "Lene, my Helena... oh, how I miss you, Lenitshka! Now they are all gone!
J---"Yes, together with about a thousand other people, The Germans have started resettling Jews in the East.
J---""That is what they tell us. No one has come back yet, or even written back. But then, they hang people here just for sending or even receiving letters. I hope your family is safe, wherever they were sent. In Auschwitz, or whatever place."
They hug. "The least I can do is show you the way to the hospital. Here, let me help you." Takes her suitcase and slowly they walk out of the shack and down the road.
Inside Terezin, the camera scans a street, some people walking about, a pair of German soldiers march in step down the road. The view focuses on the sidewalk, where a woman is walking towards a door, a man following here and carrying her suitcase. As the view gets closer, we recognize Minna.
This is an old barracks building, weathered window frames, cracking yellow stucco. A man next to her carries her suitcase. At the door sits a Jewish policeman, a police badge on his armband (I think a 6-cornered star with a baton in the middle--check USHMM) looks at her papers and motions her follow him inside, to a door on the first floor. The man with the suitcase follows her, puts the suitcase down in front of the door, they shake hands and hug, and he leaves. Minna knocks on the door . The door opens and Vally looks out, then invites Minna in, and when she has difficulty lifting the suitcase, carries it for her.
The room is shabby, walls have some stains, ceiling is high. Opposite the door is a window, shut and dirty. On one side, with ends to the wall, are three tiers of 3 bunks each, with narrow passages; on the other, two tiers. Some clothes hang from nails at the ends of the bunks, some are piled on the beds. In the middle is a potbelly stove, two chairs and an unpainted table. A single naked bulb hangs in the middle. Suitcases and other things are along the wall under the window and next to the door, also under the bottom bunks. The room is crowded--with Minna, 14 women live there, and most of them are inside, some just lying in their bunks, conserving energy.
Vally---"Welcome, whoever you are. Somehow we felt those bunks won't stay empty."
Women peek put--some are standing around the stove, warming themselves.
Lisa (Vally's sister, actually)---"Welcome to this high class hotel! Please tell us who you are.
M---"I am Minna Pächter, from Bodenbach in the Sudetenland."Podmokly nad Labem", across the river from "Ďěčin" (Dyetshin)."
My room was ordered to report to a transport to the East. My date was the 8th of October--but I went to the Magdeburg [name of barracks where Jewish HQ were housed] and showed a commendation letter from the army for my services to the Red Cross in the war in 1916. After that Yakov Edelstein signed for me an exemption order, and I was told to move here.
(Note: This was one in the series of transports to Treblinka, to certain death. George's parents Ottilia and Josef Stern went in another one, on the 18th)
The "room commander" Frau Holz [Holts] :
---"Here is your bunk" (points.). "The lady who was here got sick and never came back."
(brief pause). "Just as good it is a lower bunk, at your age you should not have to climb. But you should do your share in sanitation, in cleaning, in keeping the stove warm and boiling water. Are you ready for winter? It can be very cold here."
Two women in the room have been debating something when she comes in, but they stop when she enters.
Minna goes to the bunk, unlocks her suitcase with a key hanging around her neck and takes out a pillow and a blanket, which she puts on the bunk, then finds place for the suitcase under the bunk. The two women with the argument come to her--
W1---"could you help us?"
M---help with what?
W2---We have a disagreement about cooking. Did you cook at home?
M---Oh, every woman does. We had a big kitchen, and a big family to feed.
W2---Are any of them here?
M---"I do not know. My son and daughter are in Palestina. Of the six other children--my husband was a widower--one has died, the others... they may even be in Terezin...My husband died long ago, so I am completely alone. And by the way--my name is Minna Pächter. But what is the question?
W1---What is the proper way to cut knedliki [Czech traditional dumplings of toasted bread and dough] ? With a knife or a string?"
(to a Czech audience this may seem a trivial question. could substitute a better one--this one, though, ties to an earlier scene.)
M---"You can use either, but the string is the traditional way. Do you cook knedliki here, on this heating stove?"
W2----(Laugh) We wish we could! If we had flour, and bread, and oil... no, we just talk about recipes, to help forget hunger.
(Other women have meanwhile moved around them. Different ones talk.
[see also http://history1900s.about.com/od/theresienstadt/a/opfermann.htm ].
W---"I love cooking too, but when was my last decent meal? Now we must be happy with dry bread ..."
W---"...And barley soup, maybe you find some potatoes in it ..."
W---"...And a barley drink which they call it 'coffee,' I am not sure why.. ... "
W---"...The water... if you are lucky, it won't make you sick"
W--- "...and anything you can find, or steal. Watch out for thieves!,"
(slowly the argument fades and the picture gets dark. It is night now, just a light shines in from the street, through the window.
Minna lies in her bunk, on a straw bag, facing another woman across the passage.
V ---I am Vally. I saw you writing today.
M ---"Yes, I write rhymes, letters, all sorts of things. When you are 70, you must somehow keep your mind alive. This so-called food is not enough! "
V ---Are those letters actually sent?
M ---"Of course not. The Germans hang anyone they catch sending mail. But I keep them. and--who knows!"
V----Can you cook?
M---"Do you want me to cook something for you? I wish I could! Before the1914 war, my husband had a factory, he was rich and yes, we had a big kitchen, I did a lot of cooking. And I loved it! (pause) But that was a completely different age. Why do you ask?"
(Camera shifts to Vally).
V---Because here in this room, there is really not much to do. We clean the floor, kill bugs, keep the sanitation as clean as one can with this worn-down wood. Most of us are old women, and even young ones are rarely given real work.
So there is a lot of time for arguments, even fights. And for gossip, and stories about families, parties, journeys. But also, quite often, about food. When your stomach is empty, your mind naturally thinks--food, food, food!
V--"So I was thinking, you write all those things. Maybe instead of arguing about recipes we remember, we should write them down. I have quite a few myself. We may never make those dishes, except in imagination... but it gives us something to do."
M---"So--you think I should collect and write down recipes?"
M---"Will you help me?"
M---- "I just arrived here. I do not even know anyone in the room, except you."
V---"Yes, and my sister Liesel is next to me. Also, my daughter Zhenka is in the camp, in a different building, she comes here every day.
And yes, I will gladly talk to the others. But we need paper. Do you have any?"
M---" Just a little, from Prague. We can look for more."
V---"Good. In Terezin it is hard to find paper even to wipe your own "poh-poh".(pause)
"Luckily, when you eat so little, you don't need it so often."
M----"Let us talk about it tomorrow. Now, I am tired, need sleep. These damn fleas keep biting."
V----"Tomorrow I will help you clean your bed and your hair. When there is light.'
M--"Dobrou noč (notch)" (good night)
Morning. Street in Terezin. Minna sits under a tree, next to her an old beat-up handbag, in one hand a tablespoon and a chunk of bread, in the other a big mug in which something is steaming, Her teeth are no longer good (in fact, she uses dentures), so she dunks the bread in the "coffee," then chews on it. Once again, then she carefully chews off all the wet edge of the chunk, pulls out from the bag a handkerchief, wraps the rest of the bread in it and tucks it in the bag.
---Minna enters the room as the women huddle on the floor in the middle, as if they were conspiring (except for four who are lying down, too tired, but they too are listening). As she enters they turn around to see who has entered, and seem happy the see Minna.
She then takes the barley brew and drinks from it .. next picture, she drains the last bit from the cup, tilting it to make sure she got everything, then puts it and the spoon in the bag. Stops at a water tap outside. A woman fills a teapot, then Minna quickly pulls out the cup, rinses it perfunctorily and drinks most of the water, then continues. There is already another woman waiting for her turn.
Vally stands up and says: "Yes, everybody agrees. Let's collect recipes."
W (One of the women)--- "Yes. Platonic cooking".
(Another Woman)--- "Platonic?"
(AW)--Yes. "Like Platonic love. You talk, discuss... only the last step is missing."
Minna--- "Good . I will try get paper. But first, we should know each other. I am Minna Pächter of Podmokly--Bodenbach auf der Elbe. Long ago my husband had a factory for buttons, but he died in 1915, the depression killed the factory, and I became an art dealer. I used to live with my children, but thanks God they both are now in Palestina. So I am really alone".
--I am Else Holz, from Prague, and this room is my responsibility. Everybody has duties, and I make sure they get done. Luckily, we are all hard workers.
--(Mrs. Langer) Nu-nu. (eyes turn to her. Pause as she realizes, she is probably expected to speak next)
Langer---"I am Edith Langer, from Beneshov..." (fades to next scene)
Minna exits from a door--painted dirty brown, with inscription "Kultur Zentrum". She carries a sheaf of pages and a sheet of cheap gray cardboard, about 18" by 24". She walks slowly, from weakness and age.
Next scene: the camera looks down from above on the assembly of the book--the faces of the women doing the assembly are not seen.
Closer views--- A page is carefully folded in half, to find its middle, then opened again and centered on top of the cardboard.
The ends of the crease are marked on the cardboard by scoring it with the tip of a pair of nail scissors. The spine of the book is then creased the same way, using a wooden lath as a ruler
Finally, the cover is slowly, carefully folded. Sounds of relief: "Ahhh..."
Another pair of hands produces needle and a string. The entire bundle of pages has now been creased, the person with the needle holds it firmly with one hand and slowly pushes the needle through page after page, then the cover.
Next view--the book is almost assembled, last needle thrust and then the strings are tied (see image Files > Kochbuch > KB-26). It is passed from hand to hand, until everyone has looked at it, maybe turned a few pages.
Frau Holz--- Do we have enough good pens, and ink?
Voice--- I have a fountain pen, it can be refilled in the office.
Minna--- I have one too.
Voice--- And I too.
Frau Holz---All writing must be clear, of course. If you think someone else has better handwriting, you can dictate your recipe to her...
Frau Weil--- Can I use a dark pencil?
Liesel Grabscheid: If it does not smear, and the words are clear--why not?
Voice--- "And if the recipe is a good one!"
Frau Holz:---"Let us begin tomorrow. Today there is still dirty work waiting for us, scrubbing toilets and floors, wiping the window. And washing up, before the water is turned off! Tomorrow morning, with clean hands, we can start."
Knock on door: "Inspection! Vally takes the book and tucks it under a suitcase.
Frau Holz--- "Come in, we are all here!"
Jewish policeman comes, followed by a German soldier shouldering a rifle.
---"Achtung! Stand up!" (the soldier illustrates with hand motion and the women rise)
Policeman has list on a board, held by a clothespin. "Just checking identity cards. Each of you, show me yours, and soon we will be out again."
A little later, the inspectors have left and Vally pulls out the Kochbuch.
Vally----"Minna, can I take care of it?"
Minna---- "Why not. You are younger than me."
Vally takes a pen and the book, and writes on the cover with fine cursive hand: "Kochbuch" [these hand-written captions should resemble those on the book]
Then she holds edge of some book like a ruler, and underlines the word twice.
Below that, in larger letters, she writes:
Next day. A woman is scribbling in the book. She voices what she writes:
---"Torte. Very good", Writes a little more and then says:
---"Actually, that was a wartime recipe, with potatoes and beets and "ersatz" coffee, not the real thing. But it tasted surprisingly good."
Vally (resting on her back, as do most women in the room)--- "Sometimes, you do what you can with what you have."
Mrs. Kreisky--- "Like now"
Minna---" I will write the next one--it is from before the war, when we had lots of good ingredients for the "Pächter Gesundheits-torte", our family's 'health cake'. "
Vally--- Is it your recipe?
Mrs. Holz--- "By all means, write it down after she finishes".
A little later, Minna finishes writing in the book.
Minna--- "There! A real "health cake"--sugar, cream, butter, eggs, almonds... and of course, flour. You bake it in a kugelhupf mold, it starts small but grows to fill the mold completely."
Vally looks at it.---"You have a clear handwriting, and a good pen. Perhaps you want to write a few more?"
Minna--- "Gladly. Why don't you dictate one of your favorites?"
Vally--- "How about 'asparagus salad with mayonnaise'. Of course you need make the mayonnaise too and save it in the icebox."
Minna---" I am ready.... "
Vally--- "Asparagus salad.... Cook half a kilo asparagus spears..." (fades)
This is followed by different short scenes of women entering their own contributions: one sitting on the floor and writing on a board perched on the top of a suitcase. Another sits by the table (the furniture is unpainted and beat up, stuff which Czech inhabitants or soldiers had discarded), next to the window, which provides more light.
As the writing scenes are shown, they are overlaid or combined with scrolling pictures of recipes, images from the actual book. Each has subtitle in English at the bottom of the screen. Not all items on the list below need appear, but keep the first (image KB-26) which shows the string holding the pages together (it's the middle of the Kochbuch), and the last one (KB 44), signed by Minna Pächter at the bottom left. At the end, the camera zooms onto that signature, and its text which was dim while serving as background, gets brighter to make it stand out.
Their file-numbers and subtitles:
KB 26 Plum Strudel
KB 25 Hay and Straw
KB 15 Pächter Pirogy
KB 23 Matzah Kugel
KB 44 Farina Dumplings
Scene of Minna in the evening, writing--and as she writes, the image of "rhymes 2.3" slowly scrolls across the screen, and lines 80-193 (page 90 in the book) are read and subtitled together, a few lines at a time.
Subtitles in German
Letters dissolve and are replaced by a translation, which continues to the end
"Bei der Türe legt ein Schwesterpaar
Harmonisch wie selten es war
Sie kochen zusammen oft, nur platonisch...
Two sisters by the door, a pair
Their harmony is something rare
A love of cooking both do share
But it's platonic, the cupboard is bare
The food they brought no longer there
A man and child each has somewhere
Both creative in this art
Always something new they start
Often some of it I tried
Just the skimpy share decried
In vain do you seek weakness or folly
That might embarrass dear Liesel or Vally
By God, not one flaw can I recall
Like Demosthenes, Vally speaks for us all
... ... ... ...
Another scene: Minna looks out the window.
Minna---"Snow again. God, it is cold! With this constant hunger, the chill goes to the bones."
Frau Holz:---Come join us around the stove!" The women are resting around the coal-fired stove, with a large teapot on top.
Mrs. Hermann: It must be even colder in The East.
Vally--- "Just saying "The East" makes me shiver. Four months ago Manzi's
parents were sent there, and not one word. You both fear and hope, all the time."
Vally--- "The love of my daughter Ženka. You have met her, she visits every day.
Remember, she mended your torn dress."
Minna--- "Yes, and I gave her a little ball of margarine which I had. Is Manzi in Terezin?"
Vally--- "He is now. He was lucky to work for a Czech farmer--in a group under guard, of course, but still, on a farm you sometimes find food, even if you have to steal it from pigs. After the ground froze, he was sent back, and we will have a wedding as soon as the weather allows.
(check this for consistency. One poem refers to Liesel as "Virtuoso flea catcher")
Minna sits on a chair by the window (so that her hair gets best light), with Liesel Grabscheid going through her hair carefully with knitting needles. Close up on Minna's hair.
Liesel---"Ah, there. Got another one!".
Minna---enters a doctor's cubicle in the clinic of the Magdeburg building (big room with high ceiling, divided into cubicles where doctors meet patients). Her doctor is a blond woman, fortyish but trim.
Doctor---"And how are you today, Mrs.Pächter"
Minna--- "Cold and hungry, but what can you do?. And my legs are swollen and hurt.
D---"All Terezin is hungry and cold. How are the fingers?"
Minna--- "Swollen, too, but the toes are worse."
D---"You should have stayed by the stove, it would do you more good than I can. The swelling is from hunger, Mrs. Pächter, and cold makes it worse. By the way--where do you come from?"
Minna---"Bodenbach-Tetschen, in the Sudetenland, where the Elbe crosses the mountains."
D---"A scenic neighborhood. We have a nurse from there--do you know Elisabeth Reich?"
Minna--- Reich... so many people are named Reich. I don't think so. And my headaches--can you give me something for that?
D---"I have run out of aspirin, maybe at the hospital they have some, I will ask them. If I get any, you'll get your pill next time. Now go and lie down in a warm place, and put on all your stockings, one over the other. You will feel better!"
Minna shuffles out.
----Evening. Minna writing in the light of the room's single lightbulb
(scroll image of rhyme, with German subtitles. Voice is reciting them)
subtitles dissolve into English: (recited in English, different voice)
Du bist wie eine Blume (recited in German)
So hold, so schöen, so rein
... ... ...
"you are just like a flower
(angle changes--it is a different part of the poem)
so fair so pure so bright
... ... ... ... ... ...
The profession you chose is one of the best (recited in English)
God only bestowed it on those that He blessed
Your fame far from Magdeburg's borders has flown
You are as the blond pretty doctor now known
... ... ... ... ... ...
Camera rises towards the lightbulb, which suddenly goes out.
A voice calls "Dobrou Noč!
Outdoor scene, sunny weather, outside the barracks next to some old fortification. The women and some men stand in a circle around Manzi and Zhenny, about to get married. The two stand under a canopy made of a tablecloth, held by pieces of wood lath or sticks from dead tree branches. Vally stands with her husband, she removes her own wedding bands and gives it to the rabbi.
Minna sits on a chair--she is weaker, and all wrapped up. But she smiles and raises an arm. All fall silent as she reads:
The sun smiled into the ghetto once more
As springtime did Manzi to Ženka restore
From now on together through life they will go
Will stand by each other throughout joy and woe
That's how they stood here today, hand in hand
Chained tightly forever by their holy band
May nothing again take the one from the other
No pain and no hardship should ever cause bother
For eighteen months they were a long way apart
But Amor, the love god, took them to his heart
The wrongs of their fortune, again he set right
And helped the two lovers once more reunite
Yet seldom is joy whole, untempered by pain
And our hearts suffer a small bit of strain
For one pair of parents is not with us here
Alas, they are elsewhere, now gone half a year
But even far in the East, we trust
Their love of their children will never rust
Silently they bless this celebration
Reinforced by their own determination
To move with you two, to the promised land
And there the rest of their lives with you spend
I sense it--no, know it for sure, it is true
Hansl and his young wife, they wait there for you
The other two parents you congratulate
See all the joy which their eyes radiate
But this is quite easily understood
Two young people--both, so handsome, so good
We wish you the nicest and all of the best
On this, your wedding day, may you be blessed
May your good fortune never relent
May you enjoy wealth, be always content
May you for your good luck always be known
May gods of kind fate count you two of their own
And may you never be deserving of pity
In this sense I write you this wedding-carmen ditty
Pious Jewish men
Say to such words: Amen!
Everybody applauds. Rabbi gives ring to Manzi and say: "Put the ring on her finger as you repeat after me:
Daytime, Minna in her bunk, breathing heavily, dozing. Knock on the door.
Liesel Reich walks in---"Minna! A doctor told me you were here."
Minna (shakes her head up, as if coming out of a daze)--- "Anny! Anny is here!"
Liesel --- "No, no, Anny is safe in Palestina, thanks God. I am Liesel --Elisabeth Reich, a different part of the Pächter family."
Minna--- "Liesel ! How did you get here?"
Liesel --- "Just like you. All Jews were taken to this prison."
Minna--- "Liesel ! And the rest of your family? "
Liesel--- "Gone, with a Transport to the East. My little sister too. .. Not good. Only I remain, married to a doctor at the Ghetto hospital. How are you, Minna? The doctor who knew you said you were very weak.
Minna--- Yes., weak and swollen... And tired... And hungry.
Liesel--- "Let me see your arms"
Minna stretches them out. They are red and puffy.
Liesel --- I will try to get help. Go back and rest, I will be back
(looks over Minna for a moment longer, then walks out quietly. Minna closes her eyes, rolls over on her side, then pulls up blanket over her head.)
At the hospital, Liesel is talking to a doctor (a man):
Liesel --- ... yes, a relative, from my town. You see, my grandfather...
(new viewing angle)
... she had a good education, and supported herself and her children as an art dealer.
Here in Terezin, she has protection papers. But she is very weak, old and confused, all swollen up, with sores.
Doctor--- It is all from lack of food! We too go hungry, nothing we can do about it.
Liesel--- But we can bring her to the hospital. At least she will have a clean bed, I can wash her, and she will also be warmer.
Doctor--- (after short pause) We do have some beds, quite a few people died last week. Is she alone?
Liesel --- Completely.
Doctor (thinks for a while) ---Bring her here. Take an orderly and a cart with you, and bring her back.
Later that day in Minna's the room, the women come back from work outside. Minna's place is vacant.
Vally--- "Where is Minna?"
Mrs. Kreisky (one of those who remained in the room all the time)--- "A nurse and an orderly came and took her to the hospital. With her suitcase."
Vally--- "And the "Kochbuch"?
Kreisky--- "Must be with her, too. When we thought we had finished with the recipes, she took it back to copy someone's play in it. Maybe she should have waited, because women from other rooms heard about the Kochbuch and wanted to contribute too. In the end, their recipes went on pieces of paper, which she saved inside the book"
Vally--- "How did it happen? (pause) Why?"
Mrs. Kreisky--- "The nurse is a relative of hers, and said she wanted to take care of her."
Mrs. Holz--- "Maybe that was a blessing. She was fading fast, and I did not think she would survive the winter."
Liesel Grabscheid--- "But how we will miss her! Her rhymes, her ideas, the way she held herself. Such a fine lady!"
There exists an episode about Terezin --very telling, but probably too big to be fairly treated in the film. On April 1944, Siegfried Lederer escaped from Auschwitz in an SS uniform, found his way to Terezin and told people there--including Rabbi Leo Baeck, one of the leaders--the truth about Auschwitz. (See books by Erich Kulka about that escape). Many refused to believe. Some had already heard, but still refused to take action--maybe they felt it was too late, that the chance for a quick victory over Germany was better than the chances of a revolt, like the one Lederer tried to start in the Ghetto, but was not able to. I do not think this full story can be included--it may deserve a separate film, and perhaps one already exists.
Scene: Minna in the hospital. Big long room, paint peeling, men and women lie in steel beds painted white, most of them hardly move, many doze. Minna lies in one of the beds, eyes shut. Liesel walks in with a man, Mr. Arthur Buxbaum. They approach the bed and sit on the edge.
Liesel (softly)--- "Mrs. Pächter! Minna!"
Minna slowly opens her eyes.Her face is tired and wrinkled. The man gets up and sits down again closer to her head.
Buxbaum --- "Mrs. Pächter! Remember me? Arthur Buxbaum! You asked me to come."
Minna (slowly)--- "How could I forget you! We were in the same business, and you just one town away. Welcome!
Buxbaum --- "It hurts me to find you like this, in this place."
Minna --- "Yes, things have changed, Arthur, worse than ever. Is what I have heard about you true?"
Arthur --- "Yes. I have protection thanks to my world war medals, and also because the Gestapo sometimes needs advice on art. Some have become quite protective, and now and then I even get left-overs from their meals. "
(Pause, sigh). "In Terezin, you exist as well as you can."
Minna --- You have still some hope. Not me. More and more I begin to doubt that I will ever leave this place.
Arthur --- There is always hope for anyone. Germany is losing the war, you know.
Minna --- Yes, but too late for me. (pause) I need a favor from you.
Arthur --- Yes?
Minna (tired voice)--- "My daughter Anny Stern got out to Palestina. Thank God. Her husband George was an advokat, a lawyer, but now they have a small restaurant in an army camp, and their daughter Elsa is also taken care of. I have papers which should go to them when this terrible war ends. Letters written but not sent, a "Kochbuch" put together with other women in my room--just to forget hunger and danger--and little silly poems I have written."
(Pauses, then with a little more urgency)
"Will you take them, and if you survive this awful place, will you see to it that they reach my daughter?" Arthur nods. "Anny Stern, in Palestina."
Liesel --- "Where are the papers?"
Minna --- "In the bottom of the suitcase under the bed. It is open."
Liesel moves the bed aside, drags out a suitcase, opens it, thrusts her hand inside, searches for a second, then retrieves a large envelope and gives it to Minna.
Minna --- "Yes, this is it." (Reads. Files > Kochbuch > Letter 2 jpg) "Muj ("j" pronounced as "y" in "yellow") Milaya Zlataya Elsitshka...!..." Pushes the page back, closes envelope and hands it to Arthur
(subtitle appears in Czech, and under it the translation in italics:
"My dear golden little Else!....")
Arthur (taking the envelope)---"I hope Mrs. Pächter, I will be able to give this back to you, some day after we have peace again.
Minna --- "Yes, yes.. But if not..."
Arthur --- "Then, if I live, I will try find your daughter Anny Stern, and make sure she gets it."
Scene in the street, overcast autumn day: Liesel and an orderly push a two-wheeled handcart with Minna's body down the end of a street, to the casement where bodies are collected. About ten men are there, loading bodies onto a funeral wagon, one taken from a Jewish funeral home. A horse is tied to it, waiting. A two-wheeled handcart stands by the side (probably used to bring another body or two) and about 5 people who have come to accompany the deceased stand around. One man among them quietly recites the kadish .
This is as far as inmates are permitted to go: the exit next to the casement has a barrier guarded by German soldiers, and a sign with an arrow, German letters, "Krematorium".
The cart stops next to the wagon, four people come and slide the body from the cart to the wagon, and the supervisor watching them raises his palms and says "Enough".
Liesel and the orderly stand by and watch impassively as the men shut the rear of the wagon, then the supervisor sits on top, two walk behind. They roll it towards the gate, where the guards, accustomed to this and knowing the people, simply lift the gate and let them out. They disappear, following a road on the left, outside the wall.
The few mourners slowly walk away.
The orderly looks at Liesel and says:
--"People here tell me that transports to the East are starting again. Some have received notices, and protections have been cancelled."
He picks up the ropes which had held the body on the cart, puts them into a box attached to the front of the cart, lifts the traces and pulls the cart as they slowly walk back.
After a while, the scene shifts to the crematorium, where a fire is burning inside and attendants are waiting (the flames must be added to the picture in the studio, but the crematorium still exists today and may perhaps be included). Meanwhile a message in big letters scrolls across the screen.
Liesel was deported to Auschwitz three weeks later
So were 18,000 Jews--two thirds of Terezin inmates.
Edelstein had been shot in Auschwitz in June 1944
At the end of the war, 6,900 Czech Jews
remained in Terezin, out of 73,600 deported there.
26,000 Jews had emigrated during the Nazi rule.
Liesel Reich survived (her husband did not)
Vally Grabscheid and her husband survived,
As did Ženka and Manzi.
The other women of the room perished, including Vally's sister,.
New scene. Instead of a gloomy day in Terezin, here is a sunny one, in a tidy living room, pretty pictures on the walls and a small sculpture. An older Arthur Buxbaum is sitting in an easy chair, reading. A large caption across the screen
A doorbell rings. Arthur walks over and opens the door. A younger woman walks in and they hug.
Arthur --- "Irma!"
Irma --- "Good to see you, at long last! I wish you had gone with me to Tel Aviv before the war."
Arthur ---" But finally, we meet! Even if most of the family is gone..."
Scene shifts to an outdoor café, where they sit, sipping coffee. On the plates are small servings of cake. The sun is shining, flower pots hang from the enclosure. Pastel colors.
Arthur --- "Irma. Before you fly back, I have a favor to ask of you."
Irma --- "Yes, you wrote me about it."
Arthur --- "In Terezin I met Minna Pächter, another art dealer, who lived up the road near the bank of the Elbe--the river Labe ("Lah-beh"). Quite an old lady, but upbeat and creative; even in Terezin she wrote humorous rhymes, and with other women in her room they assembled a "cookbook."
Irma --- "She died, no?"
Arthur (taking her hand between his palms?)--- Yes, she died. With most of them. I was lucky, you know my story. Most went to Auschwitz, to the fire, but Minna died in Terezin, of starvation and old age. Just before that, she gave me her papers, including some letters never sent, and I promised to get them to her daughter Anny Stern in Israel. She only knew the names--Anny and George Stern, and their daughter Elsa, who should be grown up by now. Last she knew, they were in some town called Be'er Tuvya.
I have no idea where they are now, and your visit is my first opportunity. Will you take the papers with you and see to it that they reach those people?
Irma --- Of course I will. I do not know how, but I will do my best to reach Anny Stern.
Arthur --- "Good". (Presses her hand)
Very short scene in a railroad station. Irma stands by the door of a carriage, the station master's whistle is heard, the steam train slowly starts. Irma waves to Arthur, who stands on the platform and waves back.
Party room in Israel. The camera slowly sweeps the table: bottles with Hebrew lettering "Asis", Carmel wines in screw-top bottles,, bowl of mandarin oranges and bananas. Plate with pita slices, small bowl with green olives, chummus dip... ashtrays
In the background is a big social gathering, well dressed people. Gradually the camera is raised from the table and focuses on the participants. A woman--obviously the hostess--stands apart in the entranceway, with Irma next to her. The woman holds a wineglass and a spoon, and deliberately hits the glass a few times for a clear, tinkling sound. Gradually the hubhub dies down and eyes all turn to her.
Woman --- We have all met Irma Buxbaum--I hope we all have--she has just come back from Prague. Now she would like to ask you something. Irma?
Irma --- "Todah, [Hebrew "thanks"] Thank you! I have been telling you all about Prague, about my visit to Terezin and other places. I also visited Teplitz-Schönau to see my relative Arthur Buxbaum, who was an art dealer before the war and is one of the few survivors of Terezin. In the camp Arthur had met another art dealer, Mrs. Minna Pächter, who finally died, of hunger more than of anything.
But she told him she had a daughter somewhere in Israel, named Anny Stern, with husband George and daughter Else. Minna gave him a package for Anny, and he gave it to me. Does anyone here know Anny Stern, or where she is?"
People look uneasy--they do not know. But a voice of a man in the back shouts:
Man ---Yes! I know her. They lived in Haifa for many years. (pause). But they are not here! They moved to America not long ago!"
Irma --- "Where in America?"
Man ---"I do not know. New York, I think. But I know someone who may."
Irma --- "Would you...?"
Man ---"Sure, I will gladly forward her the package and see it gets to Anny Stern."
Irma sitting by a table in her home and writing. and as she writes, her letter (in German) appears in the background and the text (in English) scrolls in the front (Files > Kochbuch > Letter 5.jpg)
Dear Mrs. Stern
I have visited Tepliz-Schönau and spoke there with my in-law sharing my name, Mr. Arthur Buxbaum, who was in Theresienstadt together with your late mother. Perhaps you remember him too, he was a known dealer in antiquities.
He asked me to hand you the enclosed papers as legacy of your mother. Because he did not have your address, he kept the papers for all these years, and he asked me, to find out the address. Because of the helpfulness of the ladies Cahane and Edith Reiner, the package will now reach America and your own hands.
Tel Aviv 5.X.60
(Note: My mother said the letter was brought by a man, not a woman. See "Parents 7 p. 36" on file Files > Memoirs > Family History > Family > 7.15.82 Anny 2nd cont.
However, the letter cited above suggests it was a woman named Irma Buxbaum, so I will go with that version. More on this further below, added in 2009)
Picture of Haifa bay, with port, mountains--sunny day, clearly a new location (tall buildings dating after 1960 may be edited out, or an old photo may be panned). The camera swings around and into an open window, zooms until we are in the room itself. A woman speaks to a man:
Woman --- "So you fly back to America, and stop in New York. I asked you before and you agreed...
Man --- "Yes, and I will try to find Anny Stern and give her your package. If I cannot do it, my friends in New York will"
Woman opens drawer in a desk, pulls out the package--square, wrapped I brown paper tied by two strings at right angles. The camera zooms onto address
New York (?)
And then on top left corner:
From Mrs. Minna Pächter
c/o Irma Buxbaum
Haalkoshi Street 4
Tel Aviv, Israel
Note added in 2009
The scene which follows is invention based on guesswork: At the time of its writing I estimated the date was 1968, based on a verbal account by my mother (who sometimes replaced what she did not remember with a guessed scenario.)
Actually, the package arrived in 1960, and I myself was involved. I had forgotten it all, but discovered the story in 2009 while sorting old files of mail, kept in the basement. The people in Tel Aviv did not know my parents' address, but they knew that I had begun a post-doctoral research associateship in physics at the University of Maryland. They therefore delivered the package to a family in New York and wrote a letter to "David Stern, Physics Department, University of Maryland", which reached me without much delay. I then told my parents in New York by phone, (also sent them the address) and they picked up the "Kochbuch"
Such an ending could replace the one below (written in 2008), with or without the change to "Else". As it is, I changed the date to 1960.
A shot of Manhattan, with lettering
New York, 1960
(From the 2008 draft, citing the date of 1968 "I do not know why it took so long for the package to travel--but it arrived about then").
Indoor picture of another party. Different furniture, ceiling lower [In Europe ceilings were about 9' high,, in Israel at the time too]. A TV stands in the corner, turned off. Wine bottles on the table have corks, large cake is next to them, bottles of ginger ale and Coca-cola, paper cups and plates... Again, many people milling around in the room.
The man we saw in Haifa is among them. He goes to the hostess talks to her, she nods. She takes him by the hand, goes to the light switch and flips it on and off, and again. Most people stop talking--she claps her hands a few times for silence, and everyone turns towards her.
Hostess --- "As many know, our guest here, Mr. Goldmann from Cleveland, has just come back from Israel. He has a question."
Mr. Goldmann:--- "In Haifa I was given a package from one of the survivors of Terezin, who brought from there papers for someone named Anny Stern. She escaped from Prague to Israel in 1939 and supposedly now lives in New York. Does anyone know someone like that, named Anny Stern?
Note From this point on the pronunciation changes (without comment) from "Shtern" used in Czechoslovakia and Israel, to "Stern" used in America.
Woman: Anny Stern--of course. She lives at 20 East 35th Street. I can give you the exact address.
Mr. Goldmann: I am staying in New York only overnight. Could someone here make sure it is the right Anny Stern?
Woman: I also have her phone number. Why don't you call her?
(Phone rings. Anny is standing in a small apartment kitchen as she answers)
Woman ---"Is this Mrs Anny Stern?"
Woman ---"Was your name once (brief pause) "Pächter?"
Woman ---"I have a package for you, from Mrs. Minna Pächter "
Anny ---(very emotional) "That was my mother's name! (pause). But she died in Theresienstadt!"
Woman ---"It is from her. Some of her papers survived the war, they were sent to Israel and I have just come from there. Can they be brought to you?"
Anny ---"Yes! Yes!!"
The picture goes slowly out of focus as Anny's recorded voice is heard (file and tape "Parents > 7.15.82 Anny 2nd cont.doc) and words scroll on the screen
"This is how I got all these things. And if this is not destiny, if this is not a hand reaching out and holding you, I don't know what it is. Because I still have .. I still did not come over this loss."
As New York fades, the scene shifts to Terezin, gradually receding. Red brick, yellow barracks with red tile roofs, the gate of the Small Fortress with the garish Nazi "Arbeit Macht Frei" --only now Czech workers stand on ladders, painting it out in white (For filming, the inscription—which has been preserved--may be covered by a fake plywood front, painted white, on which the German letters are gradually covered) . The music gradually rises into the Czech anthem "Kde Domov Muj (mooy)", another gentle melody
Where is my home? Where is my home?
Waters murmur across the meadows
Pinewoods rustle 'pon the cliff-rocks,
Bloom of spring shines in the orchard,
Paradise on Earth to see!
And that is the beautiful land,
This Czech land is my home!
This Czech land is my home!
With the music Terezin recedes, until only hills and forest dominate the scene and the fortress is a small detail on their background--suggesting the bad memory of Terezin will gradually fade too, and the gentle Czech heritage reassert itself, in spite of the terrible things which have happened here.
Possible parting message:
"Minna's ashes may have been poured with others of the crematorium into the river Ohře (Ohrzhe) next to the camp. Her story now belongs to all of us, as does the memory of Terezin.
Preliminary Thoughts (2008)
What ideas would set the tone of the film? The story of the Minna Pächter's Kochbuch is a significant part, but alone it seems too limited. Edelstein's office and desperate attempts by Jews to escape are also a part. And the story of Terezin as a whole has not yet been told. These three topics should interweave on the background of Czech culture and society--a small brave nation, devoted to building up a fair society and culture, people very much like us, with history of foreign oppressed but an active culture--abandoned by their allies to the Nazis.
Brutality was not absent, but it was not as virulent as in the East-- some Germans even tried to be fair, but all obeyed orders, and gradually the Nazi leadership revealed its extermination plans, Czech identity was crushed and Jews disappeared "to the East." The "Kochbuch" was part of the instinctive urge to cling to normalcy.
While this is the story of a Jewish family and its community, this scenario suggests broadening the scope and also covering the fate of the Czech nation. The film-going movie has seen quite a few Jewish Holocaust stories, but none of Hitler's rape of the Czech Republic. I think including this angle is not just part of the story but it widens interest in the film.
These are some thoughts about the story line. I will try to write down anything which may be significant; inevitably, parts will have to be whittled down, but still better than padding with invented incidents.
To stress this is not about me, in the story the Sterns do not have a boy but a little girl Else (who after a while no longer appears in it).
The main figures are of course my grandmother Minna Pächter and my mother Anny Stern (pronounced as in German "Anni", that is "a" as in "car", not as in "cat"), Jacob (Yaikev) Edelstein, Vally Grabscheid and other women in their room (Minna's rhymes help here), and maybe , their wedding and Minna's poem about it. Liesel Laufer (at that time Liesel Reich) also belongs here, very much, and since she has given me permission to use her name, it would be included. Edelstein's trip to Palestine deserves to be told, also the story of the illegal steamers. Incidentally, I refer everywhere to "Palestina" (Palästina actually), the German name used then: using the term "Palestine" in English has too many loaded connotations.
I would avoid gratuitous violence, stress instead methodical German dehumanization--by restrictions, by reduced food rations, by constant pressure in the name of rules and regulations clearly meant to oppress.
A scene that underlies this subtle difference may be the story of the "Aufbaukommando" group of 342 (?) young Jews sent in 24 Nov 1941 to prepare Terezin as a camp for Jews. Though they were promised protection, they were in fact sent as a group to Auschwitz with orders of "special treatment" (Sonderbehandlung), which meant, immediate extermination. (Actually, this happened only a year later, when SS moved some archives to Terezin and needed empty barracks to make place. Thus the script would slightly distort history here). One can show German officers discussing the order:
"Sonderbehandlung"--you know what this means?
"They all will be put to death. Immediately."
"Why then send them all the way east? Why not take them to the forest and shoot them here?"
"No. The Czechs will know, the story will spread, and we will have more problems. Things must stay quiet here, at least while our country is fighting its war."
"And killing them in the East--is it different?"
"The East is different. You don't want to know, but it is different."
(this may be changed, and placed in the proper spot.)
Opening, ending, and music
The next questions may be how to open the film, and how to end it.
Both opening and closing should be accompanied by appropriate music; two selections are proposed, (but may be interchanged). The opening (while credits and initial images appear on the screen) can be on the background of Karel Hašler's "Ta naše pisnička česka", a lilting, gentle and sad song (hear it on web at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7fcNDqCG-4 , or search "nase pisnicka ceska" ) The words--which may be included or omitted, in either Czech or English--reflect the desperation of the Czech people confronted by the Nazis. Hašler himself was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Mauthausen, where he was tied down outdoors on a wintry night and left to freeze to death. Here is a rough translation, based on memory (and help by Vilem Mikula):
| This is the little Czech ditty |
| It is so pretty, so pretty |
| As in the meadow the flower grows |
| So our little song here arose |
| When this song no longer sparkles |
(or: If this song ever falls silent)|
| We will have nothing at all |
| If it is left to die |
| All we have will be gone |
| Then we shall no longer live |
| Little people, sing with me |
| Whoever you may be |
| Moravian, Slovak or Czech |
| Our sad little song |
| Simple as it may be |
| Is what we treasure the most |
The ending music (as used here) can be the gentle melody of the Czech national anthem "Kde Domov Muj" (Where is my home).
Note about this script, 31 May 2009
A book telling this story, "In Memory's Kitchen", was edited by Cara de Silva and published in 1996, shortly after Anny Stern passed away. The book also contained a selection of Minna's recipes, adapted to modern use by Bianca Brown--food columnist and herself a Terezin survivor. Minna's story was written up by her grandson David, who also translated from German Minna's poems, including the "wedding poem" received in 1997 from Ženka Manuel, Vally Grabscheid's daughter.
In 2005 a French independent producer of documentary films, Anne Georget, heard about Minna Pächter and decided to create a documentary film about her. She took pictures of the "Kochbuch" at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, visited David and obtained pictures and a recording of Anny, Minna's daughter, telling about the "cookbook". She visited Bianca Brown and together they traveled to Terezin, where more of the film was produced, with Bianca guiding her. The film also included Daliya Goldstein and Anita Tarsi, director of the "Beit Terezin" museum in Israel, where Anne also met other grandchildren of Minna, now living in that country.
Together with Elsie Herberstein, author and illustrator, Anne produced a 45-minute documentary video "Les Recettes de Mina, Terezin 1944", shown numerous times on the French "Planete" network (it is also available with English narration). In 2008, an accompanying French book "Les Carnets de Minna" was produced by the Seuil publishing house in Paris, with water-color illustrations and writings by Elsie.
Czech and German Pronunciation
"ch" is as in German and as in Scots "loch"
"j" is pronounces like "y" in "yellow"
č is pronounced "tsh".
In Western transcriptions, it may appear as "cz", e.g. Czech"
ď is pronounced "dy" (y as in "yellow")
ě is pronounced "ye"
Thus the city name "Ďěčin" is "Dye-tshin"
ň is pronounced "ny", like the Spanish ñ in "canñon"
ž is "zh" (like s in "measure")
ř is "rzh", pronounced like "rž"
š is pronounced like English "sh"
ť is pronounced "ty" (y as in yellow)
ů is a long "oo" as in "soon"
and in German, double dots above a vowel (umlaut) blend vowel sounds
ä are a blend of ah and eh (sometimes rendered in English as ae)
ë an exaggerated flat "eh", rarely used
ö blends o and e -- lips puckered for "o" but sounded like "eh"
ü blends "oo" and "ee"-- lips like"oo" but sound like "ee" in "see"