Mrs. Diamant began by asking me about my project and how I came to learn of Terezin. Then she began to tell me about her background and story. Judy Diamant was born in the Moravian village of Ostrava, in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1932. Her parents divorced before she was born and her mother later married a Czech Christian man. This action likely saved Judy’s life, because her stepfather’s “Aryan” status conferred a certain degree of protection on her and her mother. But because she was Jewish, Judy’s mother, who suffered from tuberculosis, was forbidden from going to a sanatorium and getting the treatment that was available at the time. The disease progressed, and her mother ultimately died from tuberculosis in 1943. A year later, her stepfather’s Aryan status no longer could protect her, and at age twelve Judy was put on a train to Terezin.
Soon after arriving, Judy and the other new arrivals were told they would need to shower. By this point in the war stories of death camps and gas chambers had reached Judy’s hometown, and when she heard the word “shower”, Judy trembled in fear and began crying uncontrollably. A woman who was a stranger spoke softly to her and tried to comfort her, assuring her that only water poured from these showerheads. The woman stayed by Judy’s side as they walked to the communal showers. Though not a new arrival and not required to shower at that time, the woman also undressed and stepped beneath the cold drops of water, to assure Judy that there was nothing to fear. Judy never learned the woman’s name or who she was, but she never forgot this woman’s act of kindness.
Illness was rampant in Terezin, in particular the typhus outbreaks, and Judy was ill much of the time. Despite her illnesses, certain memories remain vivid: the boiled potatoes and lumps of cooked barley that made up most of the rations, the disease, her young Aunt Lily being sent away on one of the last transports to Auschwitz, how the camp was cleaned up and renovated, stores and cafes constructed as part of the deception on the Red Cross. Despite these terrible memories, there is also the memory of one very devoted and compassionate woman. Her name was Bertha Wolf, and as you will see, she had a profound impact on Judy’s life.