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Inge Auerbacher was the last Jewish child born in Kippenheim, a village in South-Western Germany located at the foot of the Black Forest, close to the borders of France and Switzerland. She was the only child of Berthold and Regina Auerbacher (nee’ Lauchheimer.) Both of her parents came from observant Jewish families who had lived for many generations in Germany.
Inge’s father was a soldier in the German Army during WWI. He was wounded badly and consequently awarded the Iron Cross for service to his country. Inge’s father was a textile merchant and the family owned a large home in Kippenheim.
Christians and Jews lived peacefully together until the massive riot against the Jews in Germany and Austria on November 9-10, 1938. Inge was only three years old, but her memories of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) are still vivid. Her maternal Grandparents had come to visit. They lived a few hundred miles away in Jebenhausen, an even smaller village than Kippenheim. Her Grandfather was arrested in the synagogue while saying his morning prayers. Her father, grandfather and other Jewish males over the age of sixteen were sent to Dachau concentration camp. Every window in their house was broken. They had to hide in their backyard shed to save themselves from the rioting mob. Their beloved synagogue was severly damaged. Miraculously, both men were released from Dachau after a few weeks. They had both been treated very badly.
Inge’s family sold their house, and moved in with her grandparents in Jebenhausen in 1939. Here Inge had many Christian friends. Her grandfather soon died of a broken heart both spiritually and physically. He was bitterly disappointed in the country he loved.
Inge was only allowed to attend a Jewish school located a train-ride away in Stuttgart. She was forced to wear a yellow Star of David as a six year-old child. Her school career ended after six months when the transports to the “East” began.
All doors to the free world had been shut. There was no way to escape. The Holocaust was in full swing by the end of 1941. Her grandmother and other members of her family were sent to Riga in Latvia, where death by shooting awaited them; others were sent to Poland never to be heard of again.
Inge and her parents were deported in August, 1942. She was seven years old; the youngest in a transport of about twelve hundred people. Their destination was the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. She arrived clutching her beloved doll, Marlene.
Terezin was selected by the Nazis as a transit camp before inmates were to be deported to killing center further East, like Auschwitz. It consisted of large brick barracks, underground cells and broken down houses. It was sealed off from the outside world by high walls, wooden fences and barbed wire. Inge’s life in Terezin was a nightmare. Death, fear and hunger were her constant companions. She saw most of her friends sent to the gas chamber in Auschwitz. She contracted serious illnesses and spent months in the so-called hospital. She was in Terezin when the International Red Cross came to inspect the camp. Inge also remembers when the children’s opera “Brundibar” was performed.
Between 1941-1945, a total of 140,000 people were shipped to Terezin; 88,000 were sent primarily to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, and 35,000 died of malnutrition and disease in Terezin. Of the 15,000 children imprisoned in Terezin, Inge is among the one percent that survived.
After three long years, liberation came by the Soviet Army on May 8, 1945. Inge was 10 years old at the time.
Miraculously, Inge and both her parents survived. Marlene, Inge’s beloved doll also made it through the terrible times. After a short stay in a Displaced Persons’ camp in Stuttgart, they returned to Jebenhausen. They learned that at least thirteen close relatives were slaughtered by the Nazis as well as many more of her extended family.
Inge and her parents immigrated to America in May, 1946. Inge was stricken with a deadly disease caused by years of malnutrition in the concentration camp. She was hospitalized for two years, and fought a valiant battle for many years to regain her strength. Although she had lost many years of schooling she graduated with honors from Bushwick High School in Brooklyn, New York after only three years in 1953. She completed a college degree (BS in Chemistry) in 1958, and continued with post-graduate work in Biochemistry. Inge worked for over 38 years as a chemist with prominent scientists in research and clinical work.
Inge’s hobby is writing. More than 50 of her poems and numerous articles have been published. She was silent about her war experiences until 1981, when she wrote the lyrics “We Shall Never Forget.” The music was written by her Christian friend, Rosalie Commentucci-O’Hara. This was the only original song presented at the first “World Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors” in Jerusalem in 1981. More of her lyrics have been set to music by James Donenfeld, Barney Bragin and Cantor Sol Zim. Some have been recorded.
Inge has been lecturing on the Holocaust since 1981, and has spoken to thousands of people in the USA, Canada and Germany. She is fluent in German and English. Her audiences consist of school children, college students and adults of any ethnic background. She has appeared on many radio and television programs both in the USA and abroad. Prize-winning documentary films have been made about her, which have been shown in the USA and all over the world.
Her most recent film: “The Olympic Doll” based on her book “I Am A Star” was especially made for middle school children as a lesson of tolerance.
Inge is the Author of the following best-selling and award-winning books:
She has been awarded the following prestigious awards for her work teaching tolerance and human rights:
Her hometown, Kippenheim has instituted the Inge Auerbacher Prize awarded to students and institutions promoting tolerance and human rights.
(This award is sponsored by D.I.A. (German-Israeli Workman’s Circle. Martin Gross, President.)
The award was given for the first time to Karl Kopp, Principal of the Kippenheim School and the Kippenheim School on July 4th, 2001.
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