Rivesaltes, August 7, 1942
My dear, good Lorle,
A difficult, unspeakable difficult week lies behind me. Days full of excitement and desperation. Perhaps you have heard there of the events that happened here. Now, that I can almost say: it “was”, only now can I write to you, before that I couldn’t lift a pen.
For already 10 days, registrations and lists are made. Well, one is used to that, and yet one keeps wondering what for. This time the grapevine had it that we will be shipped off, in fact to Poland. I am not that pessimistic and did not believe it. Hugo came on Sunday, he made fun of me when I asked him to at least take his clothes back with him. All right, I was easy to convince and, all the rumors notwithstanding, I went quietly to bed. Than at 6:00 AM there was a knock on the door. “Get up! Come outside with the (I.D.)cards!”. The other barrack inmates got the same tender wake up call. I cannot describe the excitement. It was like the time we had to leave (Germany). But now I was all alone with (all) my multiple baggage, sick at heart with the thought that now I am shipped to Poland, all of you are here and Papa in P. (Perpignan). During that time, they kept calling me to finish preparing my luggage. By concentrating all my strength and energy, I was finally ready. Everything and everybody stood in front of the door until 10:00 AM. Then a commanding officer came and read off names. Some were permitted to reenter the barrack immediately, I was among the others. Lead by a gardien we were marched off 3 by 3 toward îlot F. We could leave the luggage in front of the barrack. I would not have been able to carry anything. In (îlot) F we and all the people from (îlot) Q were led to barrack 27. This one was completely empty. Around 3:00 PM or even later, all the food from (îlot) J was brought to (îlot) F. Then one had to stand in line to pick up strawbags. I thought of the fact that until then (now) you used to do that for me. The old strawbags with the matted straw were transported by car from (îlot) J. I couldn’t care less. Then everybody got one thin blanket. I put my (straw)bag on the floor, the old blanket on top and covered myself with my own two blankets. I sure was tired enough. Before that cars kept unloading luggage all the time. So one had to look out whether somethng was there and then drag it to the barrack, which again was the last one. I hired Mr. Freund for 5 Frs. for the boxes. You can imagine how tired I was. And I slept well, for the first time in a long time without bedbugs. I unpacked the next day and especially to gather Hugo’s stuff together, and washed Papa’s underwear which Hugo had brought along and which I had to take along still soaking. Then I reserved a bed and in constant worrying the day wore on, and on Wednesday, all the “Reichsdeutsche” (German citizens) had to appear at the Police Department. There was a commission there, one was summoned alphabetically, all the people with A – everybody with B. You can imagine what our W did to me again. At the next occasion, I’ll divorce and take a “A–hole”. People were mostly asked whether they had any money and whether they have the children here or want to leave them in the homes. Others, whose husbands were not here, that is in a (work) unit or in the hospital, got a special mark. It was afternoon until my turn came, I got on the special list, was therefore hopeful.
To my great joy and surprise, Hugo came on Thursday all excited of course, he brought me fruit and his bread, was afraid I would starve. He also brought me a certificate that he is working and where. Today, Friday, the list of those who were permitted to return to (îlot) J was disclosed, I was among them. So now it was time to pack again. First of all, the strawbag and blanket had to be carried away (as far as from Barrack 32 to the Police Department), then a mark was affixed to the (ID)card. Then it was standing in line, a long, long time, to collect my salary, and I got 55 Frs. for 11 days, of which I paid 10 Frs. to my porter, because it was far, and I let everything be carried and I still had enough. Then somebody said that they are standing at the package department of the post office where they hung out the names and one has to see if one’s name is among them. So, I stand in line here. It was the first Portuguese package in a year: 2 tins of sardines, 1 of which I already snacked on with my wine. In between, the meal came and now one still needs a certificate, that one is free to stand in line again. Before then I was told: “They are looking for you at the eye doctor!”. My eye glasses, ordered half a year ago, had arrived. Just today! However, they are very pretty and cost nothing, from the American Friends (Quakers). With the receipt, one could then bring the luggage in front of the barricade but one was not allowed to return to îlot F. So I remained, like so many, again sitting by my suitcases. Always a sad picture of misery! Then I ate one of Hugo’s apples and bread. Took my backpack and sundries and walked to (îlot) J with the intention of getting OSE’s cart and to be my own driver because my porter was not allowed to cross the barricade.
You have no idea how (îlot) F is watched, every 3 steps there is a guard also “garde mobile”. There is roll-call at night and in the morning, and during the night they walk 1-2 times trough the barrack and look into each bed. Despite this flights (escapes) are blooming. A few days ago, Mr. Block and wife and girl friend made off. A faithful shepherd!. Then Schürmann and Mrs. Stern and Lore Adler. Those are only the prominent ones and how many others! And imagine Mrs. W. and Mrs. Rossm also went “heidi” (took off). It was not necessary for them because as a result of this new decree, Mrs. R, whose husband is in a work unit and Mtrs. W., whose husband is in Perp. (Perpignan), were also ordered back to (îlot) J. My room in barrack 17 was occupied, somebody else got my job, but the “Schwester“ (social worker) said that I could become “femme de ménage” (cleaning woman) in a men’s barrack, also OSE care diet, and 5 Frs. Will hear more about it tomorrow. I am now sleeping in Barrack 17, i.e. I am sitting up in the middle of the night and am writing, because I cannot sleep thanks to the infinite hordes of bedbugs. You cannot imagine, big, small, heavy, thin, wide, round, hundreds of these disgusting beasts. They don’t even leave me alone while I am writing. Our (îlot) B-fleas were very, very well mannered in comparison. Be happy, dear child, that you were delivered from them. I am thankful that you don’t have to suffer through this. So then the com. (companie) cart was promised to me, but only after they were through carting the food all over. So I again went to the barricade in (îlot) F to my possessions. Mrs. Silvia Cohn was also sitting there. Marianne Schlössinger had just returned. She should have stayed until the 10th in a home on vacation, came back before then but was not allowed to see her mother. She came to the barricade. Marianne is supposed to get into an OSE (home) but she prefers to stay with her mother. In the meantime, the big car which brings the food from (îlot) J to (îlot) F came back. We were lucky that we could load everything onto it and also climbed on top. A few empty barrels of noodlesoup were standing there too. I took my spoon and scraped the leftovers out and Mr. C. even with her hand. An unforgettable picture. Unloading was done in the free square of (îlot) J. But the longest route was done. I went to get the cart and took everything to Barrack 17. By now I could hardly move from fatigue. Depite that I cannot sleep. So I am telling my adventures on the path of suffering and wandering. Yes, dear children, our patriarch Jacob’s wanderstaff was put into our hand for eternity, and only the hope that we will be granted a long rest from these most difficult wanderings remains for us .
Send this report immediately to Manfred and he should send it to Margot. Because I do not have the patience to write this long epistle to each one. If I use this slip of paper, you must excuse it, since the paper is still packed. So good night, I am trying to sleep. Tender regards and thousands of kisses to Lorle, Federle and Margot
Read: Lorle, Manfred
Dear Lorle! I am again at Mama’s today, Sunday. She is now working in the OSE kitchen. We went through enough this week. For today many regards and kisses from your