Holocaust Remembrance Day – contemporary witness Inge Auerbacher speaks at “Markus Lanz”

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Markus Lanz and Inge Auerbacher. © Cornelia Lehmann/ZDF

Markus Lanz welcomes Shoah survivor Inge Auerbacher. The contemporary witness tells of her childhood during the darkest chapter of German history.

Hamburg – “What does that mean to you?” talk show host Markus Lanz asks Shoah survivor Inge Auerbacher one day before she will give a speech in the German Bundestag on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. “Everything. I’ve wanted that for a long time,” replies the Jewish woman who lives in New York, adding jokingly, “and to come onto your show, that was my heart’s desire too.”

Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27 – Shoah survivor Inge Auerbacher on “Markus Lanz”: “That’s how it was and that’s it”

Station by station, Auerbacher reviews the war events of her childhood. As in the “Markus Lanz” program on December 8, when Holocaust survivor Margot Friedländer brought her Star of David with her, Auerbacher takes her Star of David out of a plastic film. “Why do you keep that?” asks the moderator, “isn’t that something you want to get rid of?” The 86-year-old from Auerbach reacts emotionally: “That’s where I come from today. That’s how it was and done. You don’t exactly throw away what you experience in your life. This is a symbol from my childhood. When I look at it, I always think: You’re very lucky to be alive.”

Auerbacher was born in the Swabian town of Kippenheim. Her family’s downfall was that the seriousness of the situation was understood too late: “My grandmother was one of 14 children. There were four brothers in World War I and two gave their lives for Germany. Today she lies in a mass grave near Riga in the forest. She lost two brothers. We were proud Germans. That was our country, our homeland.” Lanz quotes Auerbacher, who has published several books about her childhood memories: “My dad always said: I was a soldier. I was badly wounded. Stupid Hitler is going away again.” “Yes, that’s what he said,” Auerbacher recalls, “we understood it too late: You have to get out! Dad didn’t want to and grandpa didn’t want to at all, he said: I was born here and I will die there.”

Holocaust survivor Auerbacher reports in “Markus Lanz” from 1941: “Wherever I am, I think of this good woman”

“When did you have to wear the star?” Lanz asks after the events unfolded. “It all started in 1941,” says Auerbacher, looking at the studio ceiling for a moment. “You had to be six years old. I also had to go to another school, a compulsory school. There was only one for the whole of Württemberg, in Stuttgart. Drive down there every day.”

Host Lanz goes on to ask: “What does a six-year-old think who suddenly has to wear a star like that?” Auerbacher remembers her father’s advice: “My dad always said: Sit by the left window and lean against it. Only one lady has ever seen me without a star. When she got off the train, she put her lunch next to me. She must have felt sorry for the little girl who drives to such a big city all by herself. I’ve been a village girl. I have never forgotten this lady. Wherever I speak, whether in New Zealand or Moscow, wherever I am, I probably think of that good lady looking down from the sky.”

“Markus Lanz” – these were his guests on January 26th:

  • Inge Auerbacher – Shoah survivors
  • dr Christopher Kreutzmuller – historian

Finally, at the age of seven, Auerbacher was deported with her parents by train from Stuttgart to the Theresienstadt ghetto in August 1942. “Of the children who were taken away from Stuttgart, I’m the only one who came back,” Auerbacher states sadly. “When you arrived there, you were in this camp with your parents the whole time, how did you experience that?” moderator Lanz wants to know. “Well, I was only allowed to be with my parents because we were in the section for severely disabled people. Most of the time the men, women and children were separated.”

“Everyday life always revolved around food,” says Auerbacher of her time in Theresienstadt. “Bread was distributed once a week. Not much bread. My mother carved purely: from Monday to Tuesday, or Wednesday. And we were only allowed to eat from here to there, otherwise we had no bread.” “And hunger was a constant feeling,” Lanz interjects. “It was always about the food. We children played there. There was no proper school activity. My mother had a friend from Hamburg who taught me a little English, even a poem.”

Inge Auerbacher remembers Theresienstadt: “I believe what is most important for human beings: not to be hungry and to be free.”

“I wish I were a little bird up in the bright blue sky that sings and flies just where he will and no one asks him,” says Auerbacher of the poem and summarizes: “We wanted to get out. I believe what is most important for human beings: not to be hungry and freedom. That’s very important for everyone.” Lanz listens attentively as Auerbacher describes his hunger: “My father always went hunting for something to eat. Those were horse bones. We have never had any piece of meat. But there was still a bit of cartilage on it. It was really great that they found it.”

From the Theresienstadt ghetto, which the National Socialists called “intermediate camps”, many of the prisoners went on to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. With a picture of the concentration camp in the background, host Lanz asks: “How many people from your family were killed there?” “13 close, but 20 in all. Uncle, aunt and so on. Spacious at that, but 13 very close.”

Holocaust witness remembers the day of liberation: “We are free, the Russians are here”

“When you experience something like that,” Lanz addressed Auerbacher, “this horror, these three birthdays, the eighth, the ninth and the tenth, you then ask yourself as a child: Why? And how do you ever get rid of something like that? What explanation can you find for that?” “I have to say, none,” replies Auerbacher, searching for words, “when you live like this, everyday life becomes day. Then the idea comes up: Maybe everyone lives like us. And when I came back, I wanted one thing – a new doll’s pram. I was ten years old.” Auerbacher says she cannot forgive the atrocities she witnessed: “I can never forgive those who did the bad things, the shootings and where the gas is put in, the real perpetrators . There is another instance. God can do that, but not me.”

Only as moderator Lanz “8. May” says Auerbacher’s face brightens again. Lanz: “The day of liberation. How did you experience the arrival of the Red Army?” Auerbacher remembers: “They burned a lot of files, you could see the paper floating in the air. And then there was the sound of the trucks pulling away. Then the Nazis will be gone. I climbed a wooden fence and all of a sudden there was a riot, I thought it was an explosion, I thought my head was gone. Did they throw in hand grenades? We looked for safety in the basement, one of them had a very small candle there. Later in the day someone came up and said: We are free, the Russians are here.”

Survived the Holocaust – and then? Auerbacher survivors: “My life must have value every day”

In 1946 Auerbacher moved to New York with her parents, and it was 20 years before she came back to Germany for the first time. She also visited Theresienstadt in 1966: “I wanted to go to Theresienstadt again, I didn’t tell my parents. Then I’m in Vienna. I got my visa for three days in Theresienstadt, the Russians were still there.”

Lanz cautiously asks whether what he has heard from other Holocaust survivors also applies to Auerbacher, “that they have developed deep complexes and feelings of guilt because they survived and others didn’t.” Auerbacher’s look shows understanding for the question, she answers: “I don’t want to say a real feeling of guilt. But I can’t sit down and do nothing. I have to become something and see that my life has value simply and not just look at the day. My life must have value every day.”

“Markus Lanz” – The conclusion of the show

On the evening before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, “Markus Lanz” hands over his stage to Holocaust survivor Inge Auerbacher. The reports of the eyewitness show the otherwise rather short-tempered talk show host Markus Lanz from another side. Also in the group is the historian Christoph Kreutzmüller, who reports on the Wannsee Conference*, which took place 80 years ago on January 20, 1942: “A lot of people come and say: how does that work? How could they talk in such a beautiful place in 90 minutes? That means that they think: If you have a feeling of beauty…” “…then you can’t have the same horror in your head,” Lanz completes. “Yes,” says Kreutzmüller and warns: “But the Wannsee villa shows that. And that we all have to be careful. Because that’s apparently possible.” (Hermann Racke) *Merkur.de is an offer from IPPEN.MEDIA.


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