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Camps Transnational Resistance Women

Diary from the concentration camp – resistance and self-assertion in Bergen-Belsen

On August 28, 1944 the Yugoslav resistance fighter Hanna Lévy-Hass wrote in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp: “I have taken on the task of looking after the children. There are 110 children of different ages in our barrack, from three-year-old toddlers to 14- and 15-year-old boys and girls.” The trained teacher describes the difficulties faced by this illegal “school” in the camp: “Working without a book is not easy. […] The children are wild, disinhibited, starved. They feel that their life has taken an extraordinary turn, and they react instinctively and brutally.“ Such secret “schools” existed in several concentration camps. Prisoners tried to help each other in this way and to create a daily routine amidst all the violence and misery.

 

The diary of Hanna Lévy-Hass vividly documents the situation of many prisoners in the camp. At the same time, it is itself an expression and product of resistance. Writing had to be organized secretly and the written material had to be hidden somewhere. Despite these difficulties, Hanna Lévy-Hass managed to record her impressions in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp between 1944 and 1945.

 

Born on 18 March 1913 in Sarajevo, Hanna Lévy-Hass grew up in a Jewish-Yugoslav family. She studied Roman languages in Belgrade and Paris and then taught at a school in Yugoslavia. In 1941, she lost her job because of her Jewish origins. She joined the Communist Party and took part in the Yugoslav partisan resistance. When the Germans occupied Montenegro in July 1943 and deported Jews from there, Hanna Lévy-Hass was no longer safe. She was arrested by the Gestapo in February 1944 and deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. At this time, the camp was already overcrowded and the SS used it as a “death camp” in the following months. Prisoners from other concentration camps who were too sick and too weak to work were sent here. By the time of liberation in April 1945, more than 50,000 people had died in Bergen-Belsen, most of them from starvation or disease.

 

Hanna Lévy-Hass survived. She initially returned to Yugoslavia, but then emigrated to the newly founded state of Israel in 1948, where she lived until her death in 2001. Here, too, she was politically active. Her diary from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was first published as a book in Germany in 1979. She dedicated it to her daughter Amira Hass, who was born in Israel in 1958 and who wrote a foreword for later editions of her mothers diary.

 

Dagmar Lieske

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