Charlotte Guthmari Opfermarm was born in Wiesbaden, Germany. She attended public school there until the restrictive anti-Jewish legislation made this impossible. Her father was prominent Jewish attorney in weisbaden. Her uncle was also a Justizrat'4,which is a court counselor, a title conferred by the Kaiser to deserving lawyer. I had an older brother as well and it was understood that he and I would follow in these footsteps and study law as well. These plans came to naught when all education for Jewish children was canceled.
Charlotte spent her years as a Nazis prisoner. Her family was offered opportunities to escape but turned them down because her stated that he must help his clients and the members of his congregation first. There efforts were very successful, more than half the congregation escaped to freedom. Later there situation became much more difficult and in spite of extensive efforts they were unable to leave the country. Charlotte's whole family was captured and was sent to concentration camps and ghettos in the East and killed-- Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Lodz, Riga, Theresienstadt and others.
There were only three Jewish family's left in her town by the end of 1942. Everyone else had been deported. The local "Judenreferent9' (Jew specialist) had given them a few days notice that they were going to be deported to Frankfurt. Her family was gathered at a collection point in Frankfurt before the actual transport. Charlotte was only seventeen when she was first arrested and deported.
Charlotte stated," I was terrified when we entered Theresienstadt. I knew a little about this camp because several weeks earlier my grand father and all of our friends and my father's clients were deported there, my father had sent a courageous Christian friend and colleague to travel there and report back what he could observe from the outside and, if possible, to make contact with prisoners. I also knew that any concentration camp meant death. I did not know how we would die, however."
Her family was together but not for long. Her father and brother were re-deported to Auschwitz. Her father was killed on arrival but, her brother was sent to many different death march re-deportations. he was sighted at Kz Buchenwald, listed on the roster of Kz Oranienburg, and finally killed at Kz Mauthausen just before the liberation of that camp by the US Third Army.
In the camp, Charlotte had a very hard time, "My Life in the camp was one of desperation, hard work, hunger, disease, and being eaten alive by vermin. Instead of plush toys, small children played with live rats. A typical day: I'd wake up (then living with 6000 other women on the unfinished, unheatable, vermin infested attic of one of the large barracks for women, not counting additional thousands in the rooms downstairs) from the noise and commotion of all the women around me trying to get ready for work. I would go downstairs and stand in line at the latrine or in front one of the 6 or 8 toilets ( two or three such set-ups for many, many thousands of women). There usually was no water for flushing or washing. No separating, privacy affording stall. No toilet paper. Everybody cussing and telling us to hurry up. Then, if there was time, 1 would rush to the food distribution center to fetch our assigned cup of imitation coffee ( made from grain and chestnuts) for my mother and me. No other food was provided. If I had any bread left (usually I didn't) I'd soak a dry slice of bread in this brew. Then I'd rush to report for work and march off to wherever our " Hundertschaft" was assigned to that day. In the evening we would again line up for food. Three times a week this evening meal consisted of" coffee" with nothing else to accompany it Other times it 91 was a ladle of barley. Or some undefinable, tasteless, unflavored soup in which swam (if I was fortunate) a chunk of unpeeled, dirty potato or a bit of carrot or a slice of turnip. If I was extremely lucky ( and I or if I knew the kitchen personnel, could persuade them to scoop my ladle from the bottom of the container) even two or three of the above. That was heaven for and evening. We had an hour to fetch food. run errands ( visit family or friends). If there was water, we'd try to find some to drink or even to wash. Again, standing in line for the toilet. At 8 PM we had to turn lights out.
Charlotte was a member of one of the hard labor groups which was assigned to cleaning. She also worked for Czech farmers in the surrounding area, marching out early and back late always with police guards. The farmers, who claim they knew nothing of what was going on, hired the workers for cheap labor from the 55 commander. Charlotte was later assigned to Youth Labor Distribution administration. She then nearly died from diphtheria, she was given better housing and a new job as caregiver to sick and orphaned children, which was some how arranged by her friends.
All the children she helped had to start work at the age often. Her immediate superior in this job was Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck of Berlin, whom the Nazis refereed to as" The Pope of the Jews". Charlotte also wrote, directed, and produced a theatrical production " Die Schwarze Hand" ("The Black Hand") which was credited with having helped keep a positive spirit among her charges.
Charlotte started telling the children about the outside life she had ounce experienced like different books she had read. Most of the children had no idea what the outside life was like since they had only lived in the hellish environment. The only thing they knew was hunger, despair, sickness, deportation, and death. She started to tell them about stories she knew the kids would relate to and act out the characters. She says this became there bed time stories. This was the start of the theatrical performances which Rabbi Dr. Leo Baeck finally approved and even attended.
After the war , Charlotte says, things got almost worse. Many people arrived by walking or in cattle carts who were in serious need of help. Many were dead or dying. There was not enough nurses or doctors to handle all of the patients and there sicknesses. She says that on night a cattle car arrived with more dead than alive.
After the war she returned home hoping to find her father or brother but both of them had died. Her grandfathers were also killed along with many uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and neighbors. Her grandmother had chosen suicide rather than deportation. Her mother survived the camp the camp but was never well and died a few years later.
Charlotte returned to Germany to try and continue her education but she could not establish and emotionally secure life in post war Germany. She left for America and soon returned to marry a half-Jewish childhood friend. With her husband she moved around as he worked with his European industrial farms. They raised two daughters together and later divorced. Charlotte started teaching, writing, and assisting with Holocaust research in America and Germany. She has made educational movies, written books and short stories, and has written a play. She stated," My writing and lecturing about the Holocaust, initially was done for German readers and audiences, out of a sense of frustration and in an attempt to find closure. For the last two or three years I have done the same in this country."By Ryan "The Italian Stallion" Russell