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Oral history interview with Gertrude Koppel

Oral History | Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.1219 | RG Number: RG-50.477.1219

Gertrude Koppel discusses her childhood in Czechoslovakia; her first marriage; the occupation of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 by Nazi Germany; the institution of anti-Jewish measures; both her and her husband's loss of employment; their life in Prague; working for a non-Jewish engineer, who protected her until the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in May 1942, when he could no longer continue to employ her; the couple's deportation to Theresienstadt concentration camp in December 1942; her experiences in the camp, including her work in the health clinic and witnessing forced abortions of women because they were not allowed to have children; life in Theresienstadt, where she lived until September 1944, when first her husband and then she were deported to Auschwitz; her initial days in Auschwitz and the terrible conditions there; being transported to Birnbaumel, a camp outside of Breslau; the work conditions there; suffering from frostbite because of inadequate clothing; evading a forced march while she was in the sick tent; the camp's liberation by Soviet forces; receiving medical care from Soviet medical personnel; being sent on a train to Odessa for recuperation; persuading a doctor to allow her to leave the train and return to the west; arriving in Czestochowa, Poland; being admitted to a hospital there; fleeing Poland with fellow Czech patients after Nazi Germany surrendered in May 1945 to avoid being detained by Soviet forces; her return to Prague; learning of her husband's death in Dachau/Kaufering in February 1945; working in a children's home until illness prevented her from continuing with that career; her decision to immigrate to Quito, Ecuador to join her sister and her brother-in-law who had fled there in 1939; meeting her second husband there; their marriage and the birth of her daughter; and her reflections on the happy life she was able to lead, despite her losses and the psychological after-effects of her Holocaust experiences.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Gertrude Koppel
interview:  1989 November 01
3 sound cassettes (90 min.).
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:42:17
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