Kinder Sculpture

 

Dec 2004 Journal

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Dutch girl's concentration camp love letters

'Freedom from behind barbed wire'

Love letters written in a Dutch concentration camp by an 18-year-old Jewish girl and smuggled to her boyfriend outside have been rediscovered. They describe Helga Deen's last month of imprisonment in the Vught camp in July 1943 during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Their significance has been compared to that of Anne Frank's diary.

Helga was in her final year at school in Tilburg before she was imprisoned in April in Vught, where more than 31,000 people were held between January 1943 and September 1944. She described life inside the camp and her despair, and wrote about the 'prisoners' delousing and children being transported to Auschwitz'.

The 'diary' was brought to the Tilburg archive by the son of her wartime boyfriend, who revealed that his late father treasured her letters, kept for 60 years in a purse with a lock of hair, which no one else was allowed to touch. The Dutch Institute for War Documentation said that it was an exceptional discovery: 'Very few diaries were written in the camps ... they were rarely recovered because people's luggage was taken away when they were deported.' The letters had been concealed in a green school notebook marked 'physics'.

Following the deportation of 1,300 children to Auschwitz and Sobibor, on 6 June 1943 Helga wrote: 'Transport. It is too much. I am broken and tomorrow it will happen again ... If my happiness and willpower die, I too will die.' It was to be her last entry. Helga and her father, mother and brother were transported to Sobibor, where they were murdered immediately on arrival.
Ronald Channing

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