When Bat-Sheva Dagan first started her responsibilities inside of the hellish confines of Auschwitz, she was supervised by SS guards led by a youthful Nazi officer named Franz Wunsch.
Given his position in demand, it was not promptly clear why he expended so a lot time on the processing flooring. But he’d rate the place where by Dagan and other Jewish females labored, sorting as a result of the suitcases that had been unloaded from trains bringing in tens of thousands of people today to meet up with their fatalities at the camp.
Quickly, on the other hand, the Polish teenager turned suspicious of Wunsch’s motives. She often spotted the or else taciturn officer in conversation with Helena Citron, her fellow prisoner and co-employee.
“He would converse to her and no person else,” Dagan explained to The Submit. “I watched from a distance, but it appeared like they had something concerning them.”
As unachievable as it appears, the two were being carrying on a forbidden romance cast in the shadows of the gasoline chamber.
Dagan and many others who caught on to the problem struggled to fathom how Citron, torn from her homeland in Slovakia to stay at the mercy of the 3rd Reich, could entertain the idea of having included with one of its servants.
The taboo romance amongst Wunsch and Citron is now the concentrate of the movie, “Love It Was Not” (out Friday). The documentary does not move judgment and strives to existing an impartial account of the controversial affair that lasted far more than two many years.
Director Maya Sarfaty embarked on the project following hearing about the courtship from her then-acting instructor, Miki Marin, a favored niece and confidante of Citron, who died in 2007.
“Before I produced the movie, I believed folks may not even believe that the tale,” reported Sarfarty.
The Israeli tracked down a selection of Citron’s associates at Auschwitz and interviewed Wunsch’s daughter, Dagmar. Remarkably, Dagmar spelled out how her father was obsessed with his “first love” from the instant they fulfilled in 1942 right up until his dying in 2005.
Wunsch built dozens of copies of a black-and-white image of Citron taken at the camp, even pasting her smiling deal with inside a gold locket following to his possess. (Bizarrely, the Austrian would health practitioner postcards of women of all ages posing in scenic locations by changing their heads with a cutout of Citron’s.)
The entire variation of the unique photo displays the dreadful truth of the matter: A very girl sporting the common-difficulty striped overalls that dehumanized the prisoners of Auschwitz.
Marin remarked on her aunt’s stylish hairdo and the belt emphasizing her waistline and tactfully pointed out that, compared with victims starved by their captors, her loved 1 appeared just about plump.
“I really do not definitely know what to assume due to the fact she appears to be like so beautiful and nutritious,” Marin reported.
Similarly, when they worked jointly, Dagan was struck by Citron’s shapely determine and standard effectively-staying. “She was Ok, constantly balanced hunting,” recalled the Holocaust survivor now in her late nineties.
In truth, Citron, who attributes on Sarfaty’s documentary in comprehensive excerpts from preceding interviews, verified that Wunsch would supply her with additional foodstuff and give privileges and safety to her and her good friends.
“He liked me to the position of madness,” she admitted.
Citron shared the circumstances of their original encounter, which took place many months following she arrived at Auschwitz. She was between the to start with “official” set of 1,000 Jewish women of all ages transported there in 1942.
They met during her opening shift at a unit colloquially termed “Canada” because individuals perceived the North American state as prosperous and abundant. Situated a handful of hundred yards from the crematorium, it was where by incoming prisoners have been separated from their personal effects. Personnel this kind of as Citron had been accountable for retrieving valuables and categorizing clothes.
Most of the house owners had been gassed on arrival, never ever recognizing that their treasured belongings were being in the approach of getting looted as they were being led to their fatalities.
“At midday there was a birthday celebration for the SS in charge of the commando,” Citron recalled of the fateful working day she achieved Wunsch in 1942. “Rita, the kapo [a prisoner who assisted guards], walked all over the barrack on the lookout for performers … she asked, ‘Who dances, who sings?’”
As the daughter of the cantor of her smaller city in Slovakia, Citron was volunteered by an inmate who knew about her musical skills.
“The girls all explained: ‘Sing, possibly they’ll retain you there. In any other case they’ll deliver you to the penal commando to your demise,’” she remembered. “And I considered: ‘I’m much better off dying than singing.’”
Even so she selected a mournful tune whose terms she understood in German. Titled “Love It Was Not,” it is instructed from the perspective of a female questioning the reality of a romance.
After the display concluded, Wunsch, a visitor at the social gathering, approached Citron and politely requested her to repeat the song for him. It was the only time a member of the SS experienced spoken to her with regard.
“Suddenly, I hear the voice of a human getting, not the roar of animals,” she reported. “I hear the term ‘Please.’ I search up with tears in my eyes and I see a uniform, and I feel: ‘God, where are the eyes of a assassin? These are the eyes of a human getting.’”
This particular memory was recorded through Citron’s frank dialogue with the Shoah Foundation. The non-income, established in 1994 by Stephen Spielberg, has archived the ordeals of countless numbers of Holocaust survivors.
As the other ladies experienced predicted, Citron stayed in her placement at Canada in which, at the very least for a quick period of time, she reported she “hated [Wunsch] at first” and considered him “evil like all of the SS.”
But her perspective softened when he commenced slipping her notes that claimed, “Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here” and “We’ll be alongside one another, even if it is just for just one day.” As well as supplying her food items, he’d deliver refreshing sheets and pillows to her freezing block, sometimes gazing at her while she slept.
“He would say: ‘For you, anything,’” she explained to the Shoah Foundation. Even even though the illicit liaison was an open solution between several prisoners and guards, the SS appeared to turn a blind eye. Citron was when interrogated — and tortured — about the marriage but refused to verify its existence. She realized that a official discovery would direct to them both of those currently being executed.
Speculating in “Love It Was Not,” about the reaction of other inmates who understood about the affair, Dagan explained: “On the one hand, [they thought] that she was fortunate, and on the other that she was in danger.”
Envy was an unavoidable component of the equation. “Everyone was so jealous, deeply,” Dagan discussed on digicam. “[Resentful] of the incredibly fact that she experienced that possibility and we would go like sheep to the slaughter.”
The most extraordinary illustration of Wunsch’s devotion to Citron was an intervention which saved her sister, Roza Graubert, from the fuel chamber. The mom-of-two was transported to Auschwitz from Slovakia with her nine-yr-old daughter and newborn son.
Citron listened to about their arrival and ran to the crematorium where by she feared they would be killed. She hysterically informed the guards that she wished to die with them. But a good friend experienced alerted Wunsch, who rushed to the scene as Joseph Mengele, the notorious SS physician recognised as “The Angel of Demise,” callously determined which of the prisoners would are living or die.
Graubert and her small children have been dispatched to the line on the appropriate, which led right to the developing where by the inmates were being gassed. After talking with Mengele, Wunsch won a reprieve for Citron’s sister, somebody the SS assumed could be a excellent employee.
Talking in a video clip clip demonstrated in the Safarty documentary, Graubert recalled: “We were being in which you take off your clothes. Then the doorway opened and another person identified as my name.”
She was questioned if she was Citron’s sister and informed to depart the kids for a minute in the treatment of a different prisoner. Months later on — when Citron could no extended maintain up the pretense about their absence — she lastly informed her sister that her small children experienced been killed.
The romance between Citron and the guard continued, with Citron eternally grateful to Wunsch for conserving the life of her sibling. But insiders, including Dagan, imagine the pair hardly ever experienced intercourse.
“We slept in bunks stacked on best of each individual other in rows of 3,” Dagan told The Article. “It would have been extremely hard.” Equally out of the concern was the opportunity Citron visited the officers’ quarters without being caught.
No one could deny that Wunsch was deeply in really like with his sweetheart. Whether or not his enthusiasm was reciprocated stays subject to debate.
Auschwitz inmate Roma Ben Atar Notkovich instructed Sarfarty: “The reality that, by this romance, she did not have to endure that hell of starvation, built it all worthwhile.”
Yet another prisoner, Katka Potterwright Greenberger, commented: “She liked him back … Perhaps since he was great to her, it appealed to her. And she was also flattered by the fact he selected her.”
The dynamics are complex. Sarfaty hopes her viewers will resist the temptation to attract conclusions that are black or white. “It’s not a uncomplicated story of exploitation and self-safety,” the filmmaker explained. “Helena did whatever she needed to do in purchase to endure — but she produced thoughts for Frank.”
That said, in one particular of her closing media interviews, Citron performed down the significance of the romance. “Love it was not,” she cynically claimed, referencing the music that experienced captivated Wunsch. “It was a tiny fling, a passing infatuation.”
Interestingly, when Sarfaty was deep into her investigate, she identified that the SS officer and his prisoner had remembered the mother nature of the ballad really differently. Citron — whose recollection was confirmed by other inmates at the commander’s birthday celebration — insisted she sang “Love It Was Not.” But Wunsch advised people today that the lifetime-switching tune which brought them collectively had the far a lot more tender title of “My Coronary heart Is Homesick for Your Appreciate.”
Whomever was appropriate, their bond was broken endlessly when the Russians liberated Auschwitz in January 1945. Wunsch’s daughter, Dagmar, confirmed Sarfaty her father’s diary in which he recorded his very last times with Citron before the camp was stormed.
“’Take care, Helena, you’ll make it. I’ve cherished you so significantly,’” Wunsch wrote about their final dialogue. He went on to remember: “She embraces me just one far more time. We kiss lengthy and intimately. 1 previous look and she leaves the barrack promptly.”
Some 27 decades later, Wunsch caught one more glimpse of the love of his lifestyle. Citron, by then married with a relatives and living in Israel, testified at his 1972 trial in Austria for war crimes. The fees bundled dropping in the hydrogen cyanide pellets that gassed prisoners in the dying chambers.
She dismissed threats from Jewish legal rights activists and defended her previous beau in response to a desperate charm from his wife.
“I travelled with a apparent conscience,” Citron told The Shoah Foundation. As soon as in Vienna, she informed the jury that Wunsch “was generally fantastic to me” and “helped inmates in other means.” Continue to, she viewed as it her “duty” to define the “bad things” he had carried out, exclusively his cruel remedy of male prisoners.
Citron recounted the time she refused Wunsch’s request to administer very first help when he broken his hand after an assault on a defenseless person. “[He] claimed to me: ‘You could bandage my hand for me,’” she recalled. “I answered that I wouldn’t bandage the hand that beats my brothers.”
Regardless of what the choose referred to as “an too much to handle evidence of guilt” in the participation of mass murder, Wunsch was acquitted on all counts. He and Citron never observed each and every other all over again.
As for Dagan, you could possibly expect a girl who endured the horrors of Auschwitz to condemn a fellow survivor who served an SS officer escape justice.
But, speaking on “Love It Was Not,” she exhibited compassion. “I feel that [Helena] going [to the trial] was a humane factor to do.” As she stated to The Post: “If she’d stayed absent, people today would consider she was hiding the truth. She was a courageous women of all ages with honesty and integrity.