Käthe Starke, Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt. Read by Laura de Weck, excerpt from the audio book “...in schwarzer Nacht und lautloser Stille muss ich meinen Weg allein suchen...”, Hamburg 2011.

English Translation

    What the slaughter animals feel when they roll along dully crammed into the cattle truck – I know it from experience.

    Farewell and journey.

    This cannot end well, the animals know instinctively, considering how it has begun: Led from the home farm – with cudgels and shouting the drivers in their heavy stock boots then trampled over their backs crowded between the barriers, and whoever tried to break free in fear was beaten up mercilessly. – Certainly – the pasture – has not always been pleasant either. Hot sun – little shade – thirst – . In the spring, the ice-cold wind from the sea often whipped the rain horizontally for days and nights, and we stood defenseless, all facing the same direction to be hit by it head on, as still as now – but free. The stable was good. Warm and familiar the smell, familiar the neighbors, their voices, their habits – ah, and now – – one should scream – – if only no one starts screaming. – – No – on our transport to Theresienstadt no one started to scream. Nor did anyone kick us in the back, as I had seen eleven months earlier in the courtyard of the Sternschanze school, when the old people could not climb quickly enough up the high folding steps on the police team cars.
    The Chief of the Jewish Department of the Gestapo, State Police Headquarters Hamburg, “Herr” Göttsche, who gave us our farewell escort with his baton, appeared several shades more off-duty than usual. There were no film cameras whirring, no photo cameras hung around necks taking private pictures of pretty helpers, of miserable figures on the platform or of stretchers with dying old people. Comparatively speaking, there was nothing going on today. Only a small transport of 108 souls. But with this small transport, which took away the last employees of the congregation and the last people in their care, the officials of the Jewish Department saw their area of work in the homeland disappear and the front come dangerously close for them. And that was what softened them.
    Their more lenient attitude had already become noticeable in the handling of the formalities. We were able to spend the last night in our own bed and were not, as had been customary up to then, collected days before and kept under lock and key. Several aspects may have been decisive for this. The earlier transports left behind a congregation apparatus which, although increasingly weakened and decimated, had been made capable of action time and again. There were still large kitchens that could cater for such crowds, and there were enough volunteers on duty day and night. How this was managed repeatedly is a miracle of organization on the part of the congregation leadership and of the willingness of its members to serve. But when it was our turn, the rest were also taken. There was no one left to take care of us, we had to organize our own funeral. Since June 11, we were also under house arrest, which extended to the Beneckestraße 2-6 complex. Since September 1942, the Jews living in Hamburg had been gathered in these houses, which belonged to the congregation. [] On this June 11, 1943, Hamburg State Councilor Dr. Leo Lippmann no longer thought it worth the trouble. He and his wife were found in a deep sleep, and they did not want to wake up to the life they had foreseen for themselves. Before that, however, they paid their farewell visit to my sister and me, among others, and asked us to give their regards to their friends, Dr. Heinrich Wohlwills, in Theresienstadt – in case we should meet them.

    Track 2, 00:00-01:16

    At the out-of-the-way freight terminal, the “Hannöversche[r] [Bahnhof],” which had already been the scene of many transports of Jews, where heartbreaking events and inhumane scenes had passed like eerie shadow plays in the nightly darkness, the adventure from which no one had yet returned began for us. But it began in the bright light of a cheerful summer day, such as our city does not know many. The freight cars that swallowed us requited the sunlight with a warm glow of their matte red paint. The procession of porters, who carried our bedridden patients, our oldest and immobile ones, across the empty platform to the wagons, which had been provisionally outfitted as couchettes, was merciless in the clear air. Cleanly prepared, as if by a mortician, looked after with care for the last time, they disappeared behind the sliding doors, vanished out of sight from their “Aryan” relatives who helplessly accompanied them, and were at the mercy of a fate whose name is “starvation.”

    Track 2, 03:15-04:07

    The Gestapo men said goodbye to the two colleagues who were to accompany us. All alone and closest to us was Dr. Plaut, Dr. Max Plaut, the head of the congregation. For many difficult years he had been under extreme pressure from the Gestapo as well as from the members of the congregation. He was the curbstone between the fronts. He was the first to receive news of actions, transports, and arrests, and he had to pass them on to those affected. He received orders and had to carry them out. Day after day, when he went to report to “Herr” Göttsche, he never knew, we never knew, whether he would return. In the process, he was like all bearers of bad news: he was blamed for them.

    Track 3, 00:00-00:36

    The doors were pushed shut. The transport was dispatched. We realized that we were leaving. – At that moment – on June 23, 1943 – the time-honored tradition of the High German Israelite Congregation in Altona, and that of the highly respected and wealthy German Israelite Congregation in Hamburg, came to an end.

    Source Description

    In 1975, Käthe Starke-Goldschmidt published her memoirs The author published under her married name Starke, which she used from the late 1940s. In reference to other publications and for better readability, she will be called Käthe Starke-Goldschmidt in the following. of her time in the Theresienstadt ghetto and transit camp under the title “Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt” [“The Führer Gives the Jews a City” ]. She begins with a critical, at times bitter-seeming classification of the period before 1933, describes in detail her life, her work and her encounters in Theresienstadt, and ends with her return to Hamburg on August 2, 1945. Particularly stirring is the description of her deportation, which, despite its sober far-sightedness, is highly emotionally charged – it will be the focus here.

    Her book contains all the artworks from Theresienstadt that she was able to save. In addition, it contains an account of a trip to Terezín with her son Pit in 1964, which she ambiguously and similarly sarcastically titled “Stadt meiner Träume” [“City of my Dreams”]. An extensive document section includes both an account of the Central Library and evidence of deportations to and from Theresienstadt. The book also includes a reproduction of Starke-Goldschmidt's “certificate” issued on July 28, 1945 by the Jewish self-government, which identifies her as a former prisoner.

    The book has long been out of print and can only be purchased from antiquarian booksellers at rather high prices. The documents saved by Käthe Starke-Goldschmidt were exhibited by the Altona Museum in 2002. Axel Feuß, Das Theresienstadt-Konvolut, Hamburg / Munich 2002. The museum still keeps the Theresienstadt collection, which is in the possession of her son, on permanent loan.

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    Recommended Citation

    Käthe Starke, Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt. Read by Laura de Weck, excerpt from the audio book “...in schwarzer Nacht und lautloser Stille muss ich meinen Weg allein suchen...”, Hamburg 2011. (translated by Insa Kummer), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-218.en.v1> [June 21, 2024].