June 7, 1943

A letter from Rosie, detailing her life in Vught

June 7, 1943
Dear Magda and Henk,

Here I sit, three high on my bed (honestly, the beds here a piled three high). After three months, this is finally the first opportunity I have to send a clandestine letter. Thank God I’m here alone in this camp and don’t have my parents with me. It can’t be any worse in Poland than it is here.

Men and women live separately, and if they’re very, very good they’re allowed to see each other once a week. Westerbork was paradise by comparison, can you understand that? This place is run by the SS, enough said. The female guards are German and Dutch, the so-called Aufseherinnen, the Dutch are NSB members.

When I first arrived here it was truly awful. Things have improved a little of late. The food is bad. We’re poorly fed every day, mostly cabbage soup and 4 slices of bread with a thin layer of margarine. Drinking consists of artificial coffee, black.

I was sports leader at first and exercised with people all day, but that made me twice as hungry as you can imagine. I never received food parcels.

I arrived here on February 20th and at the beginning of April I received a farewell card from my mother. A few days later your first large parcel arrived. I was delighted beyond words and was extremely grateful. From then on De Telegraaf followed on a fairly regular basis, 3 to 4 times a week; the censor appeared to withhold the rest. A week later I received another parcel from you and that was also wonderful. The cigarettes were particularly criminal. What I need most is bread, butter, sugar, jam and cigarettes. Everything else is welcome but not essential. If you send tins of milk or porridge the censor confiscates them.

Then there was a 14 day penalty for the whole camp and no one received their parcels. I don’t know how many, but there will surely have been some from you. When the parcel ban was over, I suddenly received tiny parcels with your handwriting and Walterlaan [?] as sender. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I first thought that Henk had gone to Germany and had stayed at the aforementioned address. I was also worried about the lockbox. The parcels were getting smaller and smaller and I associated the two. Then I received nothing for three weeks and finally your letter arrived with the old address. I was pleased as Punch, as I’m sure you’ll understand. I understood from your letters that you were receiving mine; otherwise you could not have known my laundry and barrack numbers.

I’ve no further news. I look more or less the same as I did when Magda saw me in Westerbork.

The absence of my parents is terribly stressful, as you can imagine. My hair has turned very gray. Things like that get to you after a while. There is so much indescribable suffering around that you would have to be a monster not to be disturbed by it.

Then I became leader in my barrack. Just when all those provincials arrived. Three of my mother’s sisters were among them, one of whom was a year older than my mother and looked just like her. She was suffering from asthma and when they were forced to stand naked in front of the Commander while they were sprayed with delousing powder she died. Sad isn’t it?

Then I became leader of the Women for Women cabaret, 40 professional artists participated. We worked in all the barracks with enormous success last week until we received word that this wasn’t a so-called Auffangslager or reception camp but Durchganslager, a transit camp, and then suddenly all the old people disappeared. Yesterday and today they dispatched 3000 mothers with children and the men were not allowed to go with them. The panic that prevails here I cannot describe. All the children and their mothers have to leave, just like the people over 45. On top of that, 1,000 men have left to work in Moerdijk and Amersfoort, doing various jobs for the Wehrmacht. All families are torn apart. It is simply terrible. I have enough “content” and continue to work on my book.

I hope this letter will reach you. As for the cabaret . . . In spite of the huge success we enjoyed, it seems pointless after what’s happened here in the last few days.

I’ve signed up for a job with Philips, the real Philips factory in Eindhoven. They’ve built special barracks in the camp where selected girls work. They’re expected to solder wires and radio tubes. They call it Wehrmachtsarbeit. It’s for airplane communication. I find it interesting. They give me a set of overalls and I have to play the factory girl. It’s also useful material for my book.

I write in the middle of transport uncertainties. If I want I could be back in Westerbork tomorrow, but in spite of the terrible conditions here I don’t plan to volunteer and I hope I can stay in Vught.

Please send my raincoat. My fur coat was stolen from my bed in a nighttime raid and I had to hand in my black jacket. And please send a couple of summer dresses and those brown suede shoes. Also make sure that I have a food parcel every week; otherwise I would definitely starve to death here. Write to let me know that you’ve received this letter, and reply quickly with news. Much love and lots of kisses from
Rosie

The address is unchanged.

Advertisements