Saga of Clotilde Lehmann



    This section details the travails of a remarkable woman, Clotilde Lehmann, a survivor of camps at Riga, Latvia, and the notorious Camp Stutthof near Danzig (Gdansk).  For more details regarding Riga, see Riga, Latvia.  These materials were given to Henry Schwab by Mrs. Lehmann.  Henry assured her that the materials would be maintained in a format that would preserve her story.  This has been accomplished through numerous exhibits at stamp and educational shows, as well as as Henry's book, The Echoes That Remain, pages 135-42.  I feel privileged to be able to continue the preservation of her story by including these materials in this website.  The following summary of Clotilde Lehmann's journey through the Holocaust is from The Echoes That Remain, P. 136:

"Clotilde Lehmann and her husband, Hugo, were part of the first transport of 512 Jews that left Nüernberg, Germany by train, on 27 November 1941, destination Riga, Latvia.  Only 15 of that number were eventually to survive.

The torturous journey took 3 days and 3 nights.  Upon arrival the deportees were confined in the concentration camp Kaiserwald, located near Riga, as well as the KZ camps Spilwe and Jungfernhof, as well as the Riga Ghetto.  They performed hard labor in forests, construction and other projects under the Wehrmacht supervision until May 1944.  With the approach of the Soviet armies the Germans abandoned these camps, transporting the inmate population by ship (see  map below) to KZ Stutthof (Sztutowo), near the port city of Danzig.

Stutthof was originally established in August 1939 as a small crudely erected penal and detainment facility for Polish "undesirables".  Its population grew from 200 to 110,000 prisoners by mid 1942, having been expanded and rebuilt.  At full capacity it had also become an extermination camp with gas chambers and crematoriums.  During this time a large number of Jewish prisoners had arrived there and also at the more than 60 labor camps in this area.  Stutthof became overcrowded and notorious for its indescribable barbaric conditions.  Tens of thousands of inmates died of disease and starvation.  Beginning on 25 January 1945 the Germans began its evacuation of the inmate population in the face of Soviet forces approach.  This was to continue for some time, until 25 April 1945, by boats, by train and on foot.  Only 3,000 were to survive, out of 30,000 that were involved in this evacuation phase.

Clotilde Lehmann, after several months of confinement in Stutthof, together with a small group of other women prisoners, was transferred to subsidiary camps in Korben and Thorn nearby, where they performed hard labor, mostly road repair work.  As the German retreat from this area accelerated due to the Soviet continued advance in January 1945, the evacuation of the prisoners was sped up as well.  The forced marches, rightfully often referred to as death marches, exacted heavy prices in casualties.  Clotilde Lehmann's ordeal culminated in the vicinity of Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), where on 27 January 1945 the German guard troops abandoned their charges and fled.  The former inmates were left to their own devices, utterly exhausted, starving, and suffering terribly from the cold winter weather."

Evacuation Map

    Below is a thumbnail of a map from Martin Gilbert's, Atlas of the Holocaust, (1982), which shows the route of the evacuation from the Riga area to Danzig.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Evacuation Map" in the left frame to return.


    Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard written by Clotilde to Martin Lehmann in Lucerne, Switzerland.  The postcard is dated and postmarked Bydgoscz (Bromberg), February 10, 1945, which was two weeks after the city was liberated by the Soviet army.  The card is franked with new postwar Polish stamps and cancelled with with a German type circular which was still in use.  The return address is "Hauptpostlagernd" (general delivery) Bromberg with Clotilde's birthdate which was required of camp inmates.  The card bears Polish military and British censor marks.  It reached Lucerne on August 25, 1945, after being routed through the Soviet Union, Turkey and Gibralter.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "February, 1945 Postcard" in the left frame to return. The translation of the postcard is as follows:

"Dear Martin:

Can you believe it, I am alive and I am free.  Do you have news where my children are? Three years and three months I survived in the Concentration camps, and only the hope to see my children again has kept me alive.  I still hope to find my dear husband again.  Our dear mother regretfully is no more.  Dear Martin, please send me news at once, and if you can, continue to help me.  I am together with Beryl Seiferheld, born August 20, 1912.  Perhaps you can help us so that I can get to my children, or rather to Ilse and Louis.

With love, your, Clotilde Lehmann


    Below are thumbnails of a letter written by Clotilde to her sister in New Jersey.  Her handwritten two page letter was written March 4, 1945, and details the story of her confinement.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "March, 1945 Letter" in the left frame to return. 


    To give one an idea as to how slim Clotilde's chances were for survival, below are thumbnails of two pages from the official list of deportees on Clotilde's transport from Nüernberg to Riga in November, 1941.  Of the 147 persons listed on these two pages, only 5 survived.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "List of Deportees" in the left frame to return.

Bromberg (Bydgoszcz)

    From the outset, Clotilde's goals were (1) to get information about her two children who had been sent to England in July, 1939, and (2) to get back to her hometown, Füerth in Bavaria.  Her first stop on this journey was Bromberg (Bydgoszcz).  Below are thumbnails of various documents pertaining to her time in Bromberg (Bydgoszcz).  The first document is an ID issued by local authorities on March 30, 1945.  The second document is from the Bydgosz Employment Office, dated April 11, 1945, and  certifies that Clotilde resides at Welniany Rynek 11 and is employed through their office.  The third document is a prescription dated April 22, 1945.  The fourth document is a temporary certificate from the Polish Army dated May 5, 1945, certifying that Clotilde has been employed at the Army hospital as a nurse since May 1, 1945.  The certificate was valid until May 20, 1945.  The fifth document is the front and back of an ID issued May 22, 1945.  This ID was written on the back of SS stationery, probably due to a paper shortage.  The sixth document is a travel permit dated May 29, 1945, from the Jewish Committee in Bromberg.  The last document is an ID dated May 30, 1945.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Bromberg (Bydgoszcz)," in the left frame to return.



    The next stop on Clotilde's journey was Berlin.  Below are thumbnails of various documents pertaining to her stay in Berlin.  The first document is an ID paper issued June 4, 1945, by the office of the Mayor of Berlin, District Wedding.  The document requests that every consideration be given to the holder, especially lodging, meals and transportation to enable her to reach her place of origin.  The second document is an ID dated June 12, 1945, by the Jewish Committee in Berlin and bears a rubber stamped cachet "Reichsvereingung Der Juden" which was used during the war by the Nazis.  The third document is the front and back of a certificate dated June 22, 1945, by the Civil Administration of Berlin attesting to the fact that Clotilde is on the way to Füerth and asking all military and civilian authorities to assist her.  The document is in English, French, Russian and German.  The fourth document is the front and back of a Certificate dated June 26, 1945, by the district administration of Berlin-Lichtenberg permitting Clotilde to travel to Füerth by railway and to pass the line of demarcation.  The document is in English, Polish, Russian and German.  The last document is the front and back of a ID dated June 30, 1945, issued by the District Mayor, Wedding District, Berlin.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Berlin" in the left frame to return.



    The next stop on Clotilde's journey was Erlangen, a city in Bavaria just north of Nüernberg.  Below are thumbnails of the front and back of an ID form issued by a Berlin Magistrate on June 28, 1945.  The back of the form contains rubber stamps from authorities in Erlangen, dated July 31, 1945,  indicating that the holder of the ID is eligible and should be supplied with food stamps and travel passes for two days in the city of Erlangen.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Erlangen" in the left frame to return.



    Clotilde finally reached Nüernberg in early August, 1945.  Below are thumbnails of various items pertaining to Nüernberg.  The first is the front and back of an attestation from the Civil Administration of Berlin, Wedding District, dated June 30, 1945, requesting that Clotilde receive assistance in connection with her travels.  The back of the form contains an authorization from Nüernberg officials for food stamps for the period of August 8, 1945, to August 10, 1945.  The next item is the front and back of a photograph of Clotilde in Füerth.  The back is dated Füerth, October 15, 1945, and inscribed "Greetings From Freedom".  The last item is the front and back of a letter from Clotilde's sister in Newark postmarked October 22, 1941, to Paula Lindo (Clotilde's mother) in care of the Lehmanns in Nüernberg.  The letter was intercepted by British postal censors and held throughout the entire war until released in 1946.  The card was returned on September 5, 1946.  The cover bears two rubber stamps: (1) "Haus zerstoert- Adresse unbekannt" (house destroyed, address unkown); and (2) "Weitere Wohnung...unbekannt" (further address unknown).  Also below is a thumbnail of the letter contained in the cover.  Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Nüernberg" in the left frame to return.


Reunion With Family

    Clotilde was reunited finally with her two children when she arrived in New York in July, 1946.  Below are excerpts from an article in the July 19, 1946, issue of the Newark Evening News, headlined Peacetime Reunion--- After Seven Years:

"New York-- A language more basic that words spoke volumes as two Newark children were reunited with their mother here yesterday after seven years separation.

Mrs. Clotilde Lehman, 39, of Nuremberg, Germany, survivor of 10 Nazi concentration camps put her arms around her children, Henry, 17, and Erica, 14, and wept.

They met outside Pier 95 after docking of the S.S. Marine Flasher which brought 832 refugees from Bremerhaven.

The youngsters speak only English.  Henry, a South Side High School student, and Erica who attends Bergen Street School, have forgotten German, the language of their mother.  'We'll have to teach mother English,' the youth explained.

The reunion ended a wartime odyssey that began in Nuremberg in July, 1939, when the family parted.  The father was killed in a concentration camp in December, 1944.

Henry remembers his mother giving him and Erica wrist watches and farewell advice.  'Be good.  Be truthful and luck will be yours, ' Mrs. Lehmann had said.

At their reunion, she told them through an interpreter of her years in concentration camps in Latvia, Danzig and Germany where she did heavy labor building Nazi airfields.

'There we were as dead,' she said.  'We had no hope, no things of our own, no letters, no pictures.  I did not know what had become of my children.  I tried not to think of them.  I was sure I would never see them and that, I, too, would die.'

Meanwhile, the children lived in foster homes in England.  In 1943 they arrived in Newark, at the home of their aunt, Mrs. Louis Lauer....

Mrs. Lehman, a cheerful, robust woman after a year's freedom, is joyful about the future.  'I have worked hard.' she said.  'I am strong and I will work and make a home for my children'."

    Clotilde Lehmann died in 1987 at the age of 91.

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