Erna de Vries was born in Kaiserslautern on 21 October 1923. She is the only child of Jaco Korn and his wife Jeanette and had a lovely childhood without any worries. That changed when the sixteen year old girl was transported to Auschwitz together with her mother. She survived the horror of the concentration camp as if by magic. Today, Erna de Vries is visiting schools to tell her story to young German students. She is doing that on behalf of her mother who once told her: »You are going to survive this and then you will tell the world, what had happened to us.«
»Silence isn’t going to give people an understanding of each other. I think people should try to work together. When you look at a person and he or she is either German, a colored person or whatever kind of human being and is just nice and decent. Why should I oppose that person?«
born 1923 in Kaiserslautern (Germany), resides in Lathen (Germany)
It felt a bit strange not to walk through the thrilling, foreign Israel to visit my next interview partner but to meet her after only one hour ride in the sleepy place called Lathen. Suddenly, I feel the immediate vicinity to the scene of Shoah.
We came with fresh, sweet pastries into the well cared and nice family house of a very brave woman who decided to stay in Germany even though she experienced horrible things in several German concentration camps. Our meeting spontaneously got bigger than planned. We ourselves brought two more guests and Erna’s daughter and granddaughter from Israel visited her at the time. Thus, we were sitting at a big table with three generations, we were asking questions, listening and discussing several topics between different cultures and generations.
Erna welcomed us with open arms, so we did not hesitate and ask all of our questions. Indeed, there are not many people in her environment who ask her about her past, she told us. She is sad about that because she herself has not the strength anymore to approach other people. When she gets an invite of a school, she almost always accepts them. Just one time she had to decline because she got ill at the time.
Meeting Erna showed us that it costs an effort to ask a survivor also personal questions about the past. Anyway, we made the experience that when having the courage to overcome a certain barrier, the result is quite a great and special encounter.