Saturday morning 31 December 1938 was sent to Vienna as courier of the Nederlands Kinder Comité.
In accordance with my instructions I went toThe Society of Friends, Singerstr. 16, for a meeting with Herr Lipopsky, in charge of the department for kindertransports to England and the Netherlands, who was not available, however.
Then I visited Herr Gildemeester, for whom I had been given a message. He was not, however, inclined to discuss anything as he presumed the Gestapo would hear everything and that could have unpleasant consequences for him.
Herr G. brought me to the Aktion-Gildemeester office, where I spent some hours and was told the following:
It is as difficult for the emigration offices to get Jews over the German border as it is to get admission for them to another country. Each Jew means money for the German government, how they get it and by what means is immaterial to them. Even when all papers are in order, ticket paid, etc. the emigrants are sent back from the station and [they] try to get more money out of them.
Furthermore the head of the Gildemeester office, Herr Fasal, had many complaints against the director of the Kultusgemeinde, Herr Löwenherz, who according to him not only paid [no] attention to the urgency of cases (in this case fully Jewish children [based on racial, not religious identity]) but was very partial in his choice for the transports e.g. Polish Jews and Zionists enjoyed his favour. According to Herr Fasal, that is also the reason for much disagreement between the Kultusgemeinde and the Gildemeester office, and cooperation is particularly bad. It is evident that children who are in entirely bad circumstances and who have obtained permission from the Netherl. government to reside in Holland still do not come with the transport although others are arbitrarily chosen in their place. This is laid down by the Kultusgemeinde. The Comité is under the impression that these children have already been sent away and will do no more about them. Not cases in the greatest need, therefore, but favouritism.
One of the difficulties at the moment concerns the emigration of boys of 16 and 17 years, as they are in continual danger of being sent to concentration camps, mainly if they are of large stature. One can guess what this indicates for these children when one thinks that they undergo the same treatment as adult men.
On Sunday afternoon I went to the Swedish Mission and there heard about the possibilities of emigration to Sweden. These are also not great. There are already many children from Czechoslovakia there. 7 January a transport of 100 Evangelical children left and during January the Kultusgemeinde organised a further transport of Jewish children to Sweden.
One hundred families have gone to Ecuador, who can find a life there. Thereafter I was at the Gildemeester office for some time again, where I was told about a great plan for emigration to Abyssinia. The costs of it are 100,000 pounds and would be carried out by England. Given Mussolini’s attitude to the Jews and the climate there, many think this is an impractical plan, anyway unsuited to providing emigrants with a permanent place to stay.
Monday morning I found Herr Lipopsky and he told me the following about the Gildemeester office:
This office has asked the committees of all countries to become officially recognised as an emigration office. None of these committees has complied with this and therefore the G. office is trying to achieve independence as far as possible. Favouritism plays a large part here too. On the first transport to Holland e.g. all 20 children were allocated by the G. office, children of its own staff. Furthermore, they arbitrarily take everyone who turns up, whilst it is emphatically stated that the K. G. [Kultusgemeinde] looks after Jews, The Society of Friends after Evangelicals. Because of this the work is very thwarted, the children have to report to different offices, and these meanwhile do not know from each other if the children have gone with a transport or not.
The only thing that the G. office looks after for the K.G. and for the Soc. of Friends are the group permits with which the children travel. The cooperation between the G. office and Herr L. is thus limited too, and there is no talk of mutual working. In case of the greatest need they get in touch with each other. From Herr L. I had the impression that Herr G. himself is an entirely trustworthy person, but he is used as a tool by the staff of his office. Three weeks ago Herr G. also went away as he had nothing more to say at the office and he was recalled again because his name and possible contacts were of great importance to the office. Some things were confiscated from the till, though it is hoped to get these back again on 15 January; according to Herr L. this is not likely.
The Gestapo had also been at the house of The Society of Friends and looked through all the books, which seemed not to indicate much, however, and they were left alone.
It sometimes appears that the children who have transport opportunities and are on Herr L.’s list cannot be found any more. This happens because the families are often suddenly displaced from their house and then no longer have another fixed address. This explains sending other children than those who are given to Herr L. by the Nederl. Comité.
Then Herr L. went with me to the Swedish Mission to take lists of Evang. children who could possibly emigrate. In the waiting room there I saw various cases of frozen limbs as a result of spells in a concentration camp, incl. one young man whose hands remained thick and blue. He had already been in Dachau twice and was in danger of being arrested all the time. Further variously crippled men (frozen feet) and one man with a totally bandaged head (frozen ears). Many cases occur particularly as the men are sometimes made to exercise day and night scantily clothed in a cotton jacket and trousers with a pair of shoes and bald shaven uncovered head. Whoever puts his hands in his pockets from the cold is struck with a club.
Herr L. told me afterwards that in a transport to the camp 200 men were loaded into a cattle truck and stood for 5 days and nights without food and water. Strong lights were brought onto the roof of this truck and the men had to look into the light without a break. Whoever bent his head was beaten to attention again. The truck was shot at if there was the slightest sound. The number reaching the camp no longer alive is not small. On arrival there they have to exercise for hours. If they complain of thirst, coffee is thrown on the stone floor which they can lick up.
In the race crimes section each man gets 5 kicks in the belly with a spiked shoe for each crime committed, many die here too. Another torture is to tie round the men’s legs with a rope and in the room hoist them up to the ceiling with heads down, then the guards undo the rope. Many are smashed to pieces on the stone floor. This is a bloodbath each time. Men are laid on the floor in rows, they have to open their mouths wide and they urinate into their mouths. There are many indescribable variants of this policy.
As regards small things there is punishment of 20 lashes with a spiked stick, not administered by a single guard but by 20 different ones, so that each stroke is administered by a tireless arm. Each prisoner must sign a paper where only one small square is left blank for the signature; the rest is covered up so that no one knows what he is signing. They must also sign a piece of paper which says that they were never mistreated, had always eaten and drunk well, and they were forbidden to speak about their treatment in the concentration camp, on pain of death.
Machine guns are mounted at the four corners of the camp; anyone who goes outside after sunset is shot down without further ado. Prisoners may talk to each other for an hour a day; whoever says a word outside that time receives a number of blows. There is nothing to eat, drinking water is inadequate and polluted. There is also no heating, while the shelter is totally inadequate. There are men returned from Dachau who lost 30 pounds in one week.
Fatalities are reported to the family so they can come and fetch the urn; the body itself is never returned.
There is also a concentration camp for women guarded by men. One can imagine what this indicates. It seems not to be rare for Jewish girls of 12-14 years to be assaulted by SS or SA men. The emigration chances of these children are naturally extremely small, because one must wait for the results of this outrage. A few cases have nevertheless been transported to England.
All these stories were told to me by Herr Lipopsky, himself a full-blooded “Aryan”.
The general misery in Vienna is unbelievable. There are people who have not had a roof over their heads for weeks, walking from doorway to doorway, who dare not report for emigration from fear of being arrested. Others, who no longer possess a cent, can get food at the K.G. to the value of 15 Pf. [Pfennig] per day.
From a statistic of one of the Jewish cemeteries in Vienna it appears that in the first weeks after 10 November 130 dead per day had to be buried. Many cemeteries were set on fire and the bodies lay open above the ground until the Jews themselves covered them with straw. The number of Jews killed on 10 November and later cannot be counted; they talk of hundreds.
The Dutch government has provided green cards for adult Jews, with which they are permitted to cross over the Dutch border with a valid passport. These cards are valid only three weeks. For those coming from Vienna, sometimes 4 to 5 days go by. As application for a pass without the possibility of emigration is pointless, and the minimum time required is three weeks, the cards expire before a pass is obtained. Nor can these cards be extended. In these ways emigration is made harder because a new application does not succeed. The cards should be valid for at least six weeks, as there is sometimes a delay through unpaid tax or fine.
In relation to the various offices in Vienna one has the strong feeling that Austria is treated harshly by the Netherlands, as the number of Austrian children in relation to the total number of emigrated children is particularly small, while the need in Austria is certainly no less.
The motto of the Gestapo in Vienna is: “The Jews shall not travel but perish."