Editor’s note: Excerpts of Lotte’s oral history have been selected to provide further insight into her experience at Theresienstadt.
The interview was recorded by the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education at the University of Southern California in 1976.
Lotte discusses growing up with her sister, Nelly, and her widowed mother, Greta. Greta raised Lotte and Nelly entirely on her own, even though many close relatives lived nearby. Lotte also recalls her experience learning Czech and German at school.
On March 15, 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia. Lotte recalls the events of this day and discusses the consequences of the German occupation for her and her husband, Ernest.
In December 1941, Lotte was transported to Theresienstadt in a group of 1,000 women and children. Here, she describes the uncertainty and anxiety of the transport process.
(Note: the second interview was recorded by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre in 2002).
During her transport, Lotte was fortunate to meet an old friend who explained that Ernest was also at Theresienstadt. Lotte recalls her surprise at learning of her husband’s whereabouts, and she also discusses the detailed registration process for Jews upon arrival at the camp.
As a healthy young woman at Theresienstadt, Lotte was selected to complete fieldwork in Krivoklat, a beautiful forest next to a Czech castle. Here, Lotte recalls meeting a friendly forester who arranged communication with her relatives and set up a secret reunion in the woods.
During her time at Theresienstadt, Lotte worked at Evidenz, the administrative office that processed transports and registered new arrivals. In July 1942, her mother arrived at Theresienstadt. Through careful negotiation, Lotte secured a respectable job and living arrangements for her, but she could only delay her transport for so long.
On May 8th, 1945, Czechoslovakia was liberated from German control by Soviet troops. After learning the good news, Lotte dashed to her room, gathered her belongings, and caught the first bus to Prague. Here, she recalls her delight at returning home and watching the Germans leave in defeat.
Upon arriving home, Lotte visited many of her old friends, including her uncle’s fiance, Fritzi. After a long day catching up with friends, Lotte returned to Fritzi’s house to find a pleasant surprise: her husband had survived the war.
After returning to Prague, Lotte tried to contact her sister who had fled with her husband to Shanghai before the war. Lotte was shocked to receive a brief telegram from China, explaining that they were alive.
Lotte discusses the role of storytelling, both within her family and within the greater body of Holocaust narratives, and shares her recent reflections on the Holocaust.