Into eternity

Woman wrote heartbreaking letter 70 years ago, just before being marched to her death at Auschwitz

A letter written by a Jewish woman to her husband and son in the moments before she was taken to the gas chamber at Auschwitz retains its stunning impact more than 70 years later — and according to museum curators, the document may be the only remaining one of its kind. Vilma Grunwald had quickly jotted down 10 lines on a piece of paper before she, her eldest son, and hundreds of other Jews entered the gas chamber at the notorious concentration camp on July 11, 1944. Her husband, Kurt Grunwald, was also a prisoner at the camp — a licensed physician, he was stationed at a work camp where he was made to treat prisoners so they could return to work. Remarkably, a guard agreed to pass Vilma’s note to her husband — who survived the camps and eventually offered to share the letter with his younger surviving son, Misa, who now is known by the name Frank.

“I didn’t want to see it, I was too upset,” recalled Frank, who was 11 when his father first spoke to him about the letter in 1946. Frank didn’t see the letter again until his father’s death in 1967, when he came across it in a desk in his father’s bedroom. For more than two decades, he read and reread it privately but showed it to no one — not even his wife, Barbara. In the 1990s, he shared it with his family before gifting it to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., five years ago.

“”I thought, ‘Why not expose it so that others can see it?'” Frank, now 85, said. “One of my biggest concerns has always been, ‘Once I’m gone, who will remember my mother?’ Now I believe that fear is neutralized.”

A full transcript of the letter, translated from its original Czech, is below.

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.

Read the full story at The Indianapolis Star.

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