Bergen Belsen November 1944

By Jona/ Toby Landau

In this camp of Bergen Belsen, we did not have to do physical work, but there was almost no food to eat at all. After three years we were at the end of our rope – malnourished and cold. Among us there were many Jewish professionals, including a language teacher. At this point my mother said to me, “Maybe it would be good for you to learn something new. If we will survive we will NOT return to Poland; it would be smart to learn some languages.” I was pretty skeptical about the idea. I asked, “The Nazis won’t kill me if I know two foreign languages?” But my mother insisted, so the language teacher began teaching me French and English. I dropped the French, because I saw it was a difficult language to learn.

After a short while, I noticed that my mother gave away her soup as payment for the lessons. I was horrified!! My mother at that point was weak and sickly, since she often gave her food to my little brother and me. I immediately stopped the lessons.

As it turned out, even those few short lessons came to good use pretty soon. I was able to ask the first soldier who came to free us for bread and any food they could spare. We were liberated in April 1945.

Because my brother was very young, they sent him along with another 60 children to Palestine. Therefore, my mother and I got certificates to Palestine right away, so we should be able to take care of him.

Looking back, I always wonder how my mother had the presence of mind and foresight to think about the future and surviving under such terrible conditions. Only a person with deep emunah could have thought past the horrors that we lived through. My mother ע”ה was one amazing woman.

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