Few letters survive from the death camps built by the Nazis to exterminate the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Here is an almost unreadably poignant short note, from the Czech prisoner Vilma Grünwald to her doctor husband, Kurt.
She, Kurt, and their two children, John and Frank (Misa), were arrested like thousands of other innocent Jewish families and transported to Auschwitz. At the selection, the S.S. doctor Josef Mengele sends the limping John to the left—for instant execution in the extermination camp. His mother, knowing what this means, chooses to join him in an act of maternal love. She writes this note moments after she and John have been separated from the other two, then hands it to a guard and asks him to convey it to Kurt, who would be set to work in the neighboring slave-labor camp as a physician responsible for restoring injured prisoners to a state that they might work again. Vilma and John are gassed moments later.
Amazingly, the letter reached Kurt, who survived the Holocaust, and upon his release was re-united with his surviving son, Frank, who eventually donated the letter to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Vilma Grünwald to Kurt Grünwald, July 11, 1944
You, my only one, dearest, in isolation we are waiting for darkness. We considered the possibility of hiding but decided not to do it since we felt it would be hopeless. The famous trucks are already here and we are waiting for it to begin. I am completely calm. You—my only and dearest one, do not blame yourself for what happened, it was our destiny. We did what we could. Stay healthy and remember my words that time will heal—if not completely—then—at least partially. Take care of the little golden boy and don’t spoil him too much with your love. Both of you—stay healthy, my dear ones. I will be thinking of you and Misa. Have a fabulous life, we must board the trucks.
Into eternity, Vilma.