- The photograph depicts a group of women posing on the street outside of a bookbinding factory, "Bunge Reichsnahrstand Bucherei," in Germany. Pictured from left to right are: Marga Lakritz, Erica Drenske, an unknown woman, and Ruth Walter.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Marga Lakritz
- Collection Creator
- Marga Lakritz
Marga Gussinoff was born in Berlin, Germany, on May 17, 1924, to Russian Jewish parents, Isaak and Sara-Leah Gussinoff, born March 15, 1899. Her sister, Eva, was born on June 12, 1927. Her father had been a prisoner of war in Germany during World War I and decided to remain there, after the war ended in 1918. In the early 1930s, her father went to Russia to visit family, but never returned. They received one letter from him and never heard from him again. By this time, Hitler had become Chancellor of Germany, Kristallnacht had occurred, and the persecution of Jews was becoming increasingly severe. Because both of her parents were Russian, Marga and her sister also were considered to be Russians and received some protection from the Swedish Consulate throughout World War II.
However, at 13, Marga was no longer allowed to go to school. All three women were made to do forced labor; Marga worked at a bookbinding factor, her little sister in a shoe factory, and her mother in a munitions factory. Marga had to wear the Jewish star and was harassed and sometimes beat up on the way to work for being Jewish. During bombing campaigns of the city, she would stay in her room because she would “rather be killed by the English than in the cellar by the Nazis.” One day in 1943, they heard that the Germans were planning to raid their apartment. Her younger sister, Eva, was sent to hide with a German friend. Marga and her mother spent two days and nights wandering the city, then went back to their apartment to get some things. But the concierge alerted the Gestapo who came and arrested them. They demanded all their money and valuable, but Marga “being that I was rebellious, I had this watch, a gold watch, and I decided not to give it to them. And I pick it, --and at the time I had nice hair--, and I put it in my hair. And this survived the Holocaust with me…”
Marga and her mother were taken to Sammellager, a camp in Berlin where people where held while the authorities decided where to send them. Her mother attempted suicide, so Marga made the decision that her sister should join them, and her mother did get better. Soon, they were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. They were placed in Barrack 29, Zonder Barracks, with other non-German prisoners. For 1.5 years, they lived “like on a death row,” 2 blocks from the gas chambers, with lice, rats, no food, and an open ceiling that let in rain, ice, and snow.
In January 1944, a Sturmfuhrer came to the barracks looking for the Russian women. They were being transferred to another camp because of demands from a Swedish commission to see them in person. They were taken to Vittel, France, where a luxury spa had been converted to an internment camp. They were treated much better, as the Germans wanted them to appear healthy for the inspectors. Not long after they were seen by commission, the Allied Armies landed in Normandy, France. Vittel was liberated by the United States Army on September 12, 1944. Marga, now 20 years old, her mother, and her sister were sent to a displaced persons camp, La Bourbole, where her mother again attempted suicide. Marga was able to get transit papers for them and they soon left France to settle in Palestine. At first, they had to live in a camp in Haifa, and both her mother and sister became ill. Marga worked three jobs to support them. In a few years, Marga was married Mr. Lakritz and had a son, Ilan. They eventually emigrated to the United States. Her son, Ilan, married and had two children. Marga died in the Long Island area of New York on March 18, 2009, at the age of 85.
Mrs. Lakritz spoke frequently of her Holocaust experiences for schools and other organizations, showing audiences her gold watch that “survived the Holocaust with me.” In 1998, in an oral history interview for a 14 year old middle schooler, she said:
“Anyway, this is the basic of the story. I immediately decided once I was liberated, not to become bitter. I am grateful. I am very grateful. You understand? Some people are so bitter – I don’t blame anybody but my attitude was to be grateful and to help people. And this is why I devoted my whole life to helping people. And I hope I did, and I still do.”
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- Conditions on Access
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Keywords & Subjects
- Topical Term
- Holder of Originals
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- The photograph was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Marga Lekritz in 2000.
- Record last modified:
- 2023-02-24 14:24:04
- This page:
Also in Marga Lakritz collection
Contains photographs documenting the experiences of Marga Lakritz and her family before and after the Holocaust. Some of these materials may be combined into a single collection in the future.
Contains two photographs. One from pre-1933 Berlin, Germany, showing an outdoor scene with six adults and one infant, seated on blankets, in grassy, wooded area having a picnic; written on the verso: "Grunewald/picknic [sic]/Berlin/Germany/shortly/before Holocaust/to the right/my mother,/sister myself/(dark hair)." The second image taken 1945-1946, La Bourboule displaced persons camp, in France, image showing two women, dresssed in winter coats, walking toward camera, buildings visible in background; written on verso: "After liberation [underlined]/D.P. Camp 'La Bourboule'/France/My sister/myself plaid coat/donated from Red Cross."