January 18, 1945
Epinal, France

No. 6

          And still we twiddle our thumbs. Very little snowing in the last days, but our blanket of white remains except over heavily travelled road-beds. Have become fairly well acclimated when outdoors and moving around, but when the steam-heat in our quarters goes on the fritz and we have to sit around, we do not appreciate it at all.  Chappie has a thermometer that he leaves outside his window and it isn’t till one takes a squint at that that one realizes just how cold he should be feeling outside. This business of the mercury hovering around 0’ and 5’. Below 0’ is not at all to our liking – give us S.F. climate!

          Our Neuro-Surg team has left us, unfortunately. There is a need for them at another Evac within a few blocks of the one Roy is at with Ed. Since Byers is ill and was unable to go at present, it was arranged that Bill Newsom would go with Klemperer, at least until Byers can return to him. Bill, of course, is the only one here who is really especially interested in Neuro-Surg and it is a good break for him. We hope, too, that the fact that Bill is with Klemp will add a lot of weight to our getting the whole team back when we get busy again. We hate to see them go and they hated to leave – all have been most congenial both with officers and men and their enlisted men fitted in with ours perfectly, also.

          Everybody happy to hear the news of the Russian offensive once again. They seem to be doing mighty well. News from South Pacific also mighty encouraging.

          In other good news, Mattie is improving again.

                         Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for my next letter
January 22, 1945

On August 18, 1945, René’s cousin Yvette Baumann Bernard was one of the thousands of prisoners in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland who were forced to evacuate (in advance of the Russian army’s impending arrival). More than 45 years later – on December 13, 1991 – Yvette wrote a poem, “The March” about her experiences on what is commonly called the Death March. Yvette eventually made it to the Ravensbruck Camp in Germany.


The March

Who will be able to, or who could understand?
Is there something to understand?
All of this, is it totally incomprehensible?
Or rather totally impossible to understand at all!
The eighteenth of January 1945 – I believe or I know…or perhaps I …

We found ourselves in a kind of corridor, naked.
A kind of metro corridor, in rows of five.
Terribly numerous, advancing by groups, quite slowly
And then, suddenly, after about two hours,
We were made to leave, always naked,
Thrown in a kind of clothes closet.
Each one took what she could.
I had the chance to recover two shoes
And especially a warm, lined jacket.

We were then put on a road, in rows of five
Cold, wind, snow from all sides.

On both sides of the road also, crushed skulls.
The laggards, a bullet in the head.
Red on the white of the snow, horror,
The snow was red with blood of cracked brains…
We must move forward, we must support ourselves.

We are walking.
In a village, some French prisoners, in French uniforms…
Some local residents pour buckets of water on us
They shout, “Down with the whores.” Again, the horror,
The horror of not being able to say anything.
Our horrible horde is nothing, nothing, nothing!

On the third day, a kind of farm.
We could sleep here, on top of each other.
In the morning, a miracle: a hot bowl!
We are walking again.
There is a station and open cars.
It is minus twenty, minus twenty-five or minus thirty degrees.*
The deportees occupy half of a car.
The other half has the SS, the dogs, around a brazier.

Getting on the train, I discover my dress is soaked.
I take it off. I want to wring it out.
Frozen, it breaks in two.
The solidarity brings me a skirt and a knit pullover.
They are great.

We sat on the ice.
We will not die.
The ice, the cold, the wind,
Without having eaten anything except the snow.
For eight days, without bronchitis, without a cold.
We did not die. Why? How?


* In Fahrenheit that would have been -4, or -13 or -22 degrees.