The following was received from Ron Chaulet, the discoverer of the survivor narrative.
“A brief introduction is appropriate to explain the facts surrounding the Magdeburg letter before you decide to read it. On the 18th of November 2008, in my search for Polish history books on the internet varying from Amazon, AbeBooks and finally Ebay, I came across the following caption: “Typed Memoir WWII young Jewish Polish Girl 1939-1945”. Intrigued by this title I felt compelled to read the attached description: “This is the original heartbreaking memoir of a young WWII Polish Jewish Girl, who suffered greatly at the hands of the German Occupation…and survived. The 5-page account is in English and was typed in 1945, immediately after the Liberation. You can’t read it without recalling the similar sad episodes of Anne Frank.”
Thereafter I read the letter, which is well written in English by an unknown author, who described her life, her family, the fear and the places where she had lived during world war two. She explains how the Jews were treated and compelled to give up all their belongings and subjected to leave their homes to move into the ghetto. Life was not easy to find food and work and without them, there was no future. Death was constantly all around the Jews living in Poland. The fear of dying was relentless, as well as being sent away by train, never to be heard of again. This makes this document a firm memory of the Holocaust and inspired me to find it’s truthful author.
The memoirs start: “I begin the story of my sad experience in this terrible war as follows: The first of December 1939. The war broke out. It was a terrible day for all people of Poland. After several days of battle the first German troops occupied Cracow. It was a fatal moment in my life. I was eighteen years old.”
This initial paragraph was the first clue to find the author; she would now be 87 years old today. There is one slight error in the above statement and that is the war broke out in Poland on September 1st, 1939. The paper, that this memoir was typed written on was also a significant clue. It was thick German stationery from “Der Kommandant” at Hillersleben near Magdeburg, but not dated. The paper was old, because it was yellow faded and it was certainly the original as could be seen by the punctuation points, since they punched slightly through the paper as could be seen from the back of the paper.
The last passage provides another historical clue in order to find who the writer is: “I shall never forget what I owe the American Army. I hope I will be able to estimate its right value, what the Americans have done for us. Now, after five years of suffering I shall know to appreciate more my liberty. ”
Looking at the last statement it was possible to find the liberation of a German train on April 13th, 1945, since it was recently described on the internet by Dr. George C. Gross, the first liberator to arrive in his tank, his story being: “A Train Near Magdeburg”. I eventually found the officer and spoke with him on the phone about the letter. It was a meaningful conversation as he described the number of survivors, that since placing his story on the internet, together with the pictures that were taken that day, that had already contacted him after so many years to express their gratitude and thankfulness for his part in their liberation. His pictures captured all those precious moments for those who survived the train journey for seven days with standing room only. He also spoke about his interpreter during that event, Gina Rappaport, who assisted in translating all the experiences and thankful words from all the other passengers of the train wishing to speak to him and shake his hand. His help, photos and words word were listed on Matthew Rozell’s site, a history teacher from up state New York. Mr. Gross at the time of our conversation was not well and he was not able to review the letter until much later.
Knowing that the age of most of the survivors and liberators were well above retirement age, it was useful to have Matt to assist in finding the author, since he had so many contacts with his site: “Because History Matters.” The time was crucial to proceed as quickly as possibly to find others or the author to confirm who wrote this letter. It was then, decided to post the first part of the letter on Matt’s web site. Within a short time, contact was made by Yoav Leitersdorf, requesting Matt to send the full version of the letter to him. Yoav, soon thereafter, contacted me to speak about the letter and to arrange a visit with me in Amsterdam.
Yoav and I met to share the letter I had recently found: “The Memoirs of A Jewish Polish Girl.” This 63 year-old letter was quite an experience to step into someone’s life as the writer tells what had happened to her from September 1st 1939 up until her freedom on April 13th 1945, when the train she was on was liberated by the American Army. The events, the places and the dates were familiar stories for Yoav, since he was Gina Rappaport’s grandson. Thereafter we spoke on the phone with Yoav’s father, Eran Leitersdorf, he happened to be Gina Rappaport’s son. He confirmed many of the events and places in the letter. He stated that Gina did have a sister that she was also in the liberated train. Thereafter Yoav and I called to speak with his grandmother. Gina was in a very good mood then and after telling her that I had found her 63 year-old letter, she began to laugh and said: “does the post take that long to delivery!” We did have a nice conversation thereafter. I was convinced that Gina Rappaport was the author. The family agreed that this letter was a historic document and should be available for all to see on Matt’s website: “Because History Matters”.
Later that same week Dr. Gross sent me an email congratulating me. He also said: “You have verified one more piece of evidence to the remarkable lady, and I am glad of that. Please keep it with the other documents of Gina’s story, which must be kept alive. Please give Gina my best. I think of her every day. She is in my eyes a very great lady.”
I would like to thank Dr. Gross, Matt and Gina Rappaport and her family that made it possible for me to bring this letter back to it’s rightful owner and to share it with others.