Sheindi Miller-Ehrenwald lives in Israel. That wasn’t always the case. In the spring of 1944, the then 14-year-old was sent by the Nazis to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and had to perform forced labor. Her family was murdered. The girl wrote down her experiences in a diary, risking her life in the process.
“I am only able to tell my story to the world today,” says the 90-year-old. “Soon I will die and I don’t want the people who were killed there to be forgotten.” Today, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sheindi Miller-Ehrenwald is one of the last remaining Holocaust survivors.
The 54 pages of her testimonial of the horrors she and her family went through are only revealed now.
Persecution and deportation
The tragic fate of her family — and of hundreds of thousands of other Jews — came in the aftermath of the invasion of Hungary by Nazi German forces on March 19, 1944; the small town of Galanta, where the Ehrenwalds lived (and which now belongs to Slovakia), was also occupied through the so-called Operation Margarethe.
As a consequence, Jews were persecuted, disenfranchised, rounded up in ghettos and deported to Nazi death camps.
On the day of her deportation in June 1944, for example, Sheindi noted:
“We are packing. Everyone has something in their hands. Hurry, hurry. Everything has to get out of the apartment … The door slams shut. I hear the keys in the lock … A piece of my heart has broken.”
Galanta, a town of 4,000 inhabitants near the Austrian border, had a strong Jewish community of some 1,200 people, to which Sheindi’s family belonged. The small town belonged until the end of the First World War to Austria-Hungary, from 1920 to Czechoslovakia and from 1938 to Hungary again, and the Ehrenwald family spoke Hungarian, German and Slovak.
Sheindi’s father Leopold (54 at the time of the deportation) ran a wine shop; her mother Cecilia, then 50, helped in the business. Sheindi was the second youngest child. Her sisters Jitti (20) and Dori (12), as well as her brothers Rüvi (25) and Beri (17), were also living in the family home. Two older brothers were fighting at the Eastern Front.
Writing at the risk of her life
Crammed into the freight car of a cattle wagon, the family was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Through the Nazi selection process, Sheindi’s grandparents, parents and some of her siblings were sent to the gas chambers.
Sheindi was chosen to do forced labour in an arms factory in Lower Silesia. Throughout the whole ordeal, she kept the pages of her diary with her — just crumpled pieces of paper.
In Karl Diehl’s arms factory in Peterwaldau near Breslau, she collected discarded index cards and used them to pursue her diary. She managed to keep her notes hidden until her liberation in May 1945.
Sheindi, her sister Jitti and her brother Yezeziel were the only survivors of their family.
Holocaust testimony made public for the first time
Revealed for the first time in an exhibition, Sheindi Ehrenwald’s personal testimony of the persecution, deportation, and annihilation of the Hungarian Jews is on show at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.
The exhibition “Deported to Auschwitz — Sheindi Ehrenwald’s Notes,” organised in cooperation with the Axel Springer publishing group, opens on January 23 and will remain a part of the permanent exhibition. Sheindi’s Diary, a short documentary by Bild reporters on the story of the Holocaust survivor, was also released to accompany the exhibition.
This article was originally published on DW. You can read it here.