On December 11, 1941 Anna Lebel of Belgrade wrote a letter to her husband, who was being held prisoner by the Germans in Berlin. It was the last night Anna and her daughter Jenny spent in their home. A few hours before they were to be taken to the Sajmiste concentration camp near Belgrade, Jenny managed to escape. Anna and all the Jewish women and children interned in the camp were later herded onto gas vans, where they were murdered while driving through the streets of Belgrade. Jenny survived and was reunited with her father and brother after the war.
I am glad you are not here, glad that you cannot feel the humiliation and the disappointment. At the time, you were hurt by the very fact that you were registered and given a number. As it turns out, it is that very number which protects you. I wish we had a number too, with its promise of security and perhaps even salvation.
Strangely enough you and your friends, who fought against the Germans, are imprisoned in fairly good conditions, while we are suffering indescribably although we never harmed anyone. God willing, this craziness, this inhuman period will end. I only hope we have the strength to overcome all the evil which still awaits us – but it seems to me that it cannot be much worse than what we have already been through!
If the Germans speak the truth, we will soon arrive at the ghetto and somehow acclimatize to our new surroundings. I will immediately try to renew our connection and give you our new address. If the ghetto authorities permit it, we will carry on writing to each other. One of these days, we will return home, and I’m sure this won’t take long. I have to say that nothing will ever be the way it used to be….Deep wounds have opened which refuse to heal. We will have to distinguish between true friends and fair-weather friends; we will have to choose true friends from scratch – those who are able to withstand the temptations of time, whose consciences do not degenerate at the first turn. People who recognize the sanctity of human life – every life – and will not see us, the Jews, as stepsons in the family of Man, as a black stain on the fabric of humanity, and who will not make distinctions between blood and blood, between man and man.
My dearest Loni, near or far, wherever and whenever – we have always been and will always be together. If people are only bound together by happy moments, then they are not truly happy. Darling Loni, here - not in the ghetto - we will rebuild a good and happy future after this cruel, short eternity, which must end. We will tell each other all the things we didn’t manage to say, or couldn’t say, or that we only hinted at. We will grow old together, and be with our children and grandchildren. I am sure that this time will come; I do not want to think that our future is already behind us; and when we all get together again, we will laugh reading these lines, which right now seem so pessimistic.
Would that we could read them together when these days are behind us, and laugh at our momentary weaknesses. After all, life is stronger that anything!
I do so wish that my dreams and wishes will be fulfilled. I don’t think they are unreasonable. In the meantime, I sign here with love that transcends time and place. I miss you terribly,