Eva Erbenová

* 1930

  • “I was a great thief. I had a bra from Mum, and because I didn’t have breasts yet, I put cabbages into it. We wore these kind of blouses with puffed sleeves, which we put apples into. They weren’t visible there. Frisking girls was not allowed, if there was something in a sack or a bag, the gendarmes could look in there, but they weren’t allowed to touch us. So we wore these pouches pinned between the legs, where we carried various things: carrots, spinach, anything.”

  • “Mum told me she was dying, asked me to tell Dad. At that moment a German [woman] came in, bringing bread. She had an apron, a basin, and chunks of bread inside, which she threw to all the people around. She threw some to me and Mum. Mum died that very moment. I took both pieces of bread and held Mum as she turned cold in my hands. I kept speaking to her, I didn’t want to believe she was dead. Then Goldi [Eva’s Hungarian friend - ed.] came in and started speaking Hungarian at me: ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry!’ But I didn’t even cry, I just wouldn’t accept it. No, Mum wasn’t dead.”

  • “When they told us that the only way out of Auschwitz is through the chimney, we reckoned that the people were a bit crazy. In the beginning we thought that Auschwitz was a factory where men worked. We thought we were going to a labour camp, where we’d meet up with Dad. For a long time I didn’t know... You know what, I both knew it and didn’t know it. Nowadays people spend a lot of time researching how the human psyche reacts and how it processes things. Because people who would realise this and see what was actually happening wouldn’t be able to live.”

  • “We walked twenty-five to thirty kilometres every day. We slept in barns that we found on the way. Ordinary Germans or Poles had to give up their barns. And they crammed us into those. It was insane. Dark everywhere, with hungry and wet people who needed the toilet. Dreadful. Everyone wanted some space, but it was lacking. A lot of people were squashed and died.”

  • “A lot of people couldn’t go on any longer, so they just sat down and said: ‘Finished, I can’t go on.’ Those were shot. Right in front of us. A few metres away from us. You could feel the bullet sizzle. I never wanted the children to see anything bad. For instance, when there was something like that in the television, I closed the door. As an adult, I now often wonder how people can live with such memories. Those memories must be discarded. That is the art of forgetting.”

  • “We have never encountered anti-Semitism. I had no experience with it from school or from the street. Never, never. I don’t know about my parents, but I think they didn’t, either. They began contemplating emigration in 1939 when Winton came. My mom went to Hotel Jalta at that time and she had me registered. How did I learn all this? Suddenly there was a little suitcase in my room, and my mom was folding towels and my clothes there and she told me: ‘Perhaps you will go to London.’ That was because I was asking her where we were going. Now she told me that she had registered me and I started crying terribly. I remember the sentence which I told her, although it was not nice: ‘I will eat wood with you all, but I will not go anywhere.’”

  • “We went for three days because the bombardment continued all the time and the train was stopping constantly. We passed through Dresden and so on. When we arrived to Auschwitz after three days and the women were peeking outside through the cracks, mom said: ‘We are not staying here, this is some camp for criminals. There are dogs and whips and dogs everywhere...’ At that moment the door flew open and the Nazis got in and they kicked us out. Everything that followed was so traumatic, insane. The air was heavy so that you could not even breathe, there was dust, ash, fire, dogs, barking, yelling, snapping orders in German all the time. Then there was the line of people, Mengele, nakedness, undressing, bathing, rags, shaving, and so on. All of a sudden moms were without their children, a girl without her mommy, a person remained alone... Then there was the walk to the barracks; everybody now knows what Auschwitz was and how it looked like. When we came there, each of us got a blanket, a kind of an army blanket, and it was wet, too. Everything was wet, and it was in October when the weather was already cold.”

  • “The way I saved myself was purely accidental. After my mother had died, I was so devastated and I was already perfectly dead, apathetic, and I weighted thirty kilos, I could not even eat anymore. There were already not many of us, and at night they locked us inside some barn. I was still cold inside the barn. This happens when one’s end is drawing near: one feels cold all the time. There was a cow in the barn, and it stood alone in the corner and it was warm there. People always argued – this and that place is better, and there were always chaos. I went closer to this nice little cow and I huddled myself there and fell asleep. When I woke up, nobody was there anymore. I was left there alone. I thus do not have any... I didn’t plan it, I didn’t know, it was not my own wisdom, it just happened that way, it was like that.”

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Dust, ash, dogs, and orders - that was Auschwitz

Eva Erbenová, 1948
Eva Erbenová, 1948
zdroj: Archiv pamětnice, dodala Jitka Radkovičová

Eva Erbenová was born October 24, 1930 in Děčín as Eva Löwidtová. She comes from a wealthy assimilated Jewish family. Her father Jindřich Löwidt worked as a chemist and her mother Marta was a housewife. In 1936 the family moved to the Prague-Strašnice neighbourhood. Her parents tried to dispatch Eva to Great Britain before the outbreak of WWII, but she refused. On December 10, 1941, the Löwidt family was deported to the ghetto in Terezín. Eva lived with her mother and later also with her father in a remodeled attic and she did agricultural work together with other children. Her father was deported to Auschwitz at the end of September 1944, and Eva and her mother followed him there on October 4, 1944. At the beginning of January 1945 she and her mother were evacuated from Auschwitz to the camp Gross Rosen. Nazis evacuated the camp again in April as the war front was approaching, and the prisoners set out on a death march. Eva‘s mother died on April 17, 1945 near the concentration camp Svatava in the Karlovy Vary region. After her mother‘s death Eva fled from the death march and several days later she got to the village Postřekov where the family of Mr. and Mrs. Jahn took care of her and provided her with a hiding place until the end of the war. Eva‘s aunt from Heřmanův Městec found Eva after the liberation, and Eva then lived with her for one year and afterwards she went to Prague to the Jewish orphanage in Belgická Street. She took a course for nurses and later she befriended Petr Erben. She went with him to Paris in August 1948, and from there the couple continued to Israel. Mr. and Mrs. Erben had three children in Israel. Eva Erbenová wrote autobiographical books titled „Mom, Tell Me How It Was“ (1994) and „Dream“ (2001). Her fate is also depicted in the book by M. Mališová titled „The Life of Eva L.“ (2013). Eva Erbenová and her husband live in Ashkelon.