Escape Story by Eva Erben - Read Online
Escape Story
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Summary

As a young girl Eva Erben was suddenly forced by the Nazis to leave her home in Prague to join, with her parents, one of the transports to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. The nightmare that followed is told by Eva as a young girl struggling to cope with the fear and danger that becomes part of her world.

Eva’s eventual journey to Auschwitz and her experience of three selection processes by Mengele make this child’s view of the Holocaust a unique and moving story as well as an important historical record.

When the allies drew ever nearer to the camp, Eva along with her fellow prisoners were hurriedly evacuated by the SS and taken on a 500km march, walking 30-40km a day through Poland in the snow and cold. Miraculously, she managed to escape her captors and was found and hidden by a Czech family until the war ended.

Then follows her rehabilitation through a journey back to her old home in Prague, a meeting with an old friend, travel across postwar Europe and eventually emmigration to Israel. This is a survival story with a happy ending.

Escape Story is ideal for work with children and a great addition to the children’s literature of the Holocaust, but provides a different perspective from that of Anne Frank.

Published: Imaginative Minds on
ISBN: 9781301702619
List price: $14.38
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Escape Story - Eva Erben

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Foreword

Ashkelon, Israel

It is hot, unusually hot even for an Israeli summer. Even the little lizards that usually scamper across the pavement in the street outside are still in the heat. From early in the morning bright sunlight streams into every corner of the room. There is no cool breeze through the open window, only hot air pouring in and settling everywhere. There is no respite and nothing else to do except close the window, close the shutters and turn the air-conditioning to high.

But shutting out the sun somehow felt wrong to me and, unconsciously, there came into my mind thoughts of my childhood and how I loved the sun. I remembered how the sun had been pleasant, gentle, sometimes even cool, and I gave myself up to a reverie of the past. As the summer in Israel lasts a long time, I had enough time to recall memories, to go through them, focus on them and explain how life was at home.

So, I remember…

****

My first home

I remember the town where I was born, on a rainy autumn day in

1930. Dĕčin lies close to the border with Germany, about 60 miles North of Prague, the capital city of what was then Czechoslovakia. My parents, Marta and Jindrich Löwidt, gave me the name Eva, Eva Löwidt. Much later in my life, I would realise that my initials were the same as those of Estée Lauder, famous for cosmetics and beauty products and also, of course, Czech and Jewish, just like me!

My first real memory is of the visits to Grandma Matilda (my mother’s stepmother. My mother’s mother, Charlotte, had died long before I was born and Grandpa had remarried. By the time I was born, Grandpa had also died so I never knew him, except for photographs and family stories). Grandma lived in Heřmanův Mĕstec, a little town over 50 miles East of Prague, where Grandpa had a shoe factory which his father, my great-grandfather, had set up in 1867. We used to visit her regularly twice a year, in the summer and in winter at Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, which we celebrate in December about Christmas time. The trip involved a four hour train journey — a great adventure for a little girl! When we visited in winter, the snow was already on the ground, everywhere was white and glittered in the lamplight. It was like fairyland.

Joseph, Grandma’s coachman, came to meet us at the station with his two horses and the coach. There were very few motor cars and it was quite usual at that time for families in the country villages to have a coach and horses — it was certainly not a sign of great wealth! He used to lift me up and wrap me in a big fur rug against the winter cold and to me he always seemed so strong. Then, when we were all comfortably settled in the coach, Joseph cracked his whip and we set off with such a jerk that we were almost thrown off our seats.

The jingle of the horses’ bells accompanied us all the way to Grandma’s house, along a straight road lined with tall trees. Grandma, Uncle Ernst, mother’s elder brother, Maria the cook and Stella the maid, all came to meet us at the door as soon as they heard the bells and welcomed us all with hugs and kisses.

Since it was already late, they put me to bed straight away. It was a big bed in a large room, smelling delightfully of apples, as Grandma used to store apples for the winter on top of the wardrobes. Tired and happy, I soon fell asleep despite all the excitement of the long journey. To this day, the gentle smell of apples conjures up pictures of that bedroom and my grandmother.

One summer during our visit, we had a thief! Grandma’s house was surrounded by a lovely garden with big old trees. Just outside Grandma’s bedroom window was a chestnut tree where a beautiful magpie had built his nest. The magpie was not afraid of us and often sat on the window-sill. When the window was open he even dared to come into the room. Then, cautiously, he would hop to the large mirror in the corner. He was attracted by shiny objects and the mirror in particular attracted his attention. I loved to watch him as he looked at his reflection, turning his head from side to side and making a queer croaking sound. I was very fond of this magpie.

One day Grandma had left a pair of earrings on her dressing table in front of the mirror. When our daily visitor hopped into the room, he, of course, immediately noticed and went straight over to them. All of a sudden he snatched one of the earrings in his beak and flew straight out of the window.

Grandma and I had not expected anything like that and were so surprised that we were dumbstruck and did and said nothing. He was already high up the tree, where he put his new toy in the nest and inspected it carefully. When Grandma recovered from her surprise, she had a long ladder brought and leant against the tree. The hunt for the thieving magpie — or rather the earring — had begun.

The ladder was tall enough to reach the nest, and we were sure that we would easily get the stolen earring back. But the magpie was smarter than we were. He was not ready to part with his new toy so soon. The moment he noticed what was going on, he flew away with his loot in his beak.

We did not see him for several days, either in the tree, on the window-sill or in the garden. The earrings had been a present to Grandma from her mother and she was very upset at losing them.

We had totally given up hope of finding the earring again, when, five days later, the magpie suddenly appeared again at the window, as he usually did, only this time with the earring in his beak. He flew into the room, hopped onto the dresser in front of the mirror and dropped the earring in the exact spot where he had found it. What relief and excitement!

The magpie deserved a reward and I know that Grandma would have paid a lot of money to get the earring back. So I prepared a feast for the magpie. I hurried into the garden and, together with the gardener, collected worms and insects which I hoped the bird would like. I laid the banquet out for him on the window-sill, and indeed he came for it. He gobbled everything up and we were all so happy — virtue had triumphed and been rewarded!

If the smell of apples reminds me of my mother’s parents, it is the smell of fish that brings my father’s parents to mind. My Grandfather — my father’s father — had a fish-canning factory in Krochvitz, which was very close to where we lived. We lived in the Podmokly district of Dĕčin and so we used to go almost every Sunday to see Granddad Rudolf and Grannie Kateřina. You got the fishy smell from quite a long way away! As soon as we got into the yard, their dog, Bobik, would start to bark very loudly. He was very pleased to see us but I was a bit afraid of him and didn’t want to get down from the coach until someone had calmed him down. Meanwhile, our arrival always caused lots of noise and fluttering in the pigeon-loft and also with the chickens who pecked and clucked around in the yard.

Granddad Rudolf and Grannie Kateřina were waiting for us at the door with their arms wide open for hugs. Granddad always wore riding trousers and boots — he loved horses — and Grannie wore a long dress, buttoned up to the neck. Once inside, we all sat down for something to eat. On one occasion, when we were sitting down for our snack, Bobik was asleep under the table. He woke up and suddenly jumped onto my lap and I spilt raspberry juice all over myself!

After the snack, usually I was ‘on’; I had to perform some little turn for the adults. I had prepared something, a poem or a song and I liked to perform. Grannie and Granddad were an appreciative audience. After singing a couple of songs, I would jump onto Grannie or Granddad’s lap, and bask in the glory of their applause!

My father was the youngest of three brothers. The eldest, Oskar, lived in Vienna. His wife, Aunt Elsa, was pretty. Their daughter, my cousin Inge, whom I liked very much, was the same age as me and very much like me. The second son, Franz, lived in Plsen where our family came from originally. I did not know where he met his wife, Aunt Klara. She was Hungarian, spoke very good Czech and was very elegant, rather too elegant for our taste! Father used to say that she slept on a corrugating machine which is how she got her regular wavy hair! In the evenings, she would put glycerine on her hands, to keep them soft, and wear white knitted gloves to stop the glycerine getting on her clothes. The family called her ‘The Original Hungarian’. Cousin Edith, their daughter, was three years older than I. She was pale, well-behaved, quiet, didn’t climb trees and didn’t get dirty, which annoyed me.

From time to time, for family celebrations, we would all gather in Granddad’s garden under the pear trees and eat and chat. Later on, I realised that the adults stopped talking whenever we children appeared and that they must have been discussing the future as the storm clouds gathered over our country. Nazi Germany, aided and abetted by nationalist German movements within Czechoslovakia, was threatening the whole country. As I look back now on those times, I am struck by the awful contrast between my happy carefree life and the love showered on me with what the adults must have been feeling and the stress they must have suffered.

During one visit to Granddad’s, I got revenge on Bobik for all the times he had frightened me. It was a hot summer’s day and Grannie had put a big bowl of water in the garden for me to paddle in. I tipped the whole bowl over the poor sleeping dog. The dog jumped up and shook himself furiously, spraying everyone in the garden. No-one escaped the shower!

Granddad always gave us some of the food which he made in the factory, when we went home. The