Jerusalem (AP) Hidden beneath a onesentence love letter
on a 1943 postcard from Poland, a message in invisible ink makes
an urgent request for supplies: flare pistols for nighttime escapes,
a camera, invisible ink.
In fragmented sentences that read like a horrific poem, the writer
makes a wrenching cry for help, vividly described a Nazi death
camp with words like "killing by gas" and "agonizing
The message, which researchers think may have been written by
an inmate or escapee from Auschwitz or another camp in occupied
Poland, provides a glimpse into the desperate effort to resist
the Nazi Holocaust from the very edge of the abyss.
Although many questions about the postcard remain unanswered,
it "adds to our knowledge on the activities and modes of
communication of the resistance movements," said Yehuda Bauer,
director of Yad Vashem's International Center of Holocaust Studies.
The visible message on the postcard, approved by a stamp from
a wartime censor, is written in scrawling black script to Jacob
Rosenblum of Bucharest.
"My darling, I remember you with love," it says in German.
The postcard is dated Aug. 20, 1943, and signed by a Lola Bergman
of Krakow, where the card was mailed.
The hidden message beneath now visible in faded rustcolored
letters that change from cramped script to block print
is also written in German and signed simply "Otto."
"Death camp, the rest deceit," it says. "From the
night of the witch hunt: hunger, starvation, dog food, oat porridge,
a dog's life, an epidemic, torture, torture chamber, degradation,
disrespect, violence, incitement, terror, fright, killing by gas,
execution ... murder, incinerator, agonizing hell.
The newspaper arrived ... K is fulfilling his mission," it
adds cryptically. "We will do what
we have to."
The last paragraph of the message requests "signal pistols,
camera, invisible ink. Urgent."
It ends: "The time has come, the kettle is boiling."
The postcard is from the collection of Theodore Feldman, a Holocaust
survivor who died five years ago. Feldman believed the hidden
text described the horrors of the Auschwitz death camp.
Feldman's daughter donated the collection to Yad Vashem, where
archivist Shaul Greenstein began studying the postcard two months
"This is unique," Greenstein said Thursday. "We
have a lot of postcards from this period. but not one which was
written in invisible ink."
Bauer, writing in the fall issue of the Yad Vashem magazine, said
such documents are very rare, "as they were meant to be destroyed
This card contains what appears to be an eyewitness account of
a concentration camp from the inside," he said. "In
addition, it proves that there were people on the outside who
knew a great deal about the life of those incarcerated."
Greenstein has not been able to identify "Otto." But
because of the request for supplies, Greenstein believes he worked
for an underground organization either from inside or outside
a Nazi camp.
"Otto" could have been a member of the Otto Haas Organization,
an Austrian socialist group that opposed Hitler and the Third
Reich, he said.
Another possible author is Otto
Kusel, a German prisoner at Auschwitz who
was classified as a criminal giving him more rights than
the Jewish inmates, Greenstein said. Kusel worked with the Polish
underground movement in Warsaw, which had a base in Romania.
Greenstein said he believes the flare pistols could have been
used for signaling in nighttime escapes from Nazi camps. Despite
the immense the Nazi machine, Jews in the camps did make efforts
to resist. A Auschwitz in 1944, inmates set fire to the crematorium
and killed several guards before escaping.
However, Greenstein said more likely that Otto's message from
a prisoner in a less restrictive camp or from an escapee.
Another possibility, he said, is that it was written by someone
on the outside on information smuggled o camp.
"Everything is possible," "We have more questions
than answers, unfortunately."
Among the unanswered the identity of the card's receiver, Jacob
Rosenblum. It is also unclear how the card ended up with Feldman
Greenstein said a Jewish woman from Krakow named Lola Bergman
was deported to the Plaszow death camp in March 1943, transferred
to Auschwitz and finally liberated from BergenBelsen. Greenstein
does not know what happened to her liberation.
Lola Bergman may not have been the author of the postcard at all,
Greenstein said. An Undergound organization may have used her
name as a cover.