Created: Friday, 08 February 2019 14:00
Written by FRFI
In remembrance of Eva Tichauer, who died in December 2018, we publish below a letter from Colette Levy and republish a review from FRFI no. 158, December 2000/January 2001 of Eva's book, I was no. 20832 at Auschwitz.
Dr Eva Tichauer died on 15 December 2018. She would have been 101 on 26 January 2019. There was no funeral; she had donated her body for research.
Eva was born in Berlin but came to France with her parents and brother in 1933. She is for us, my twin sister and I, an unforgettable person. She marked our lives forever. We were inspired by her strength, her tragic past and her humanity.
She spent over three years in concentration camps, where she became a communist. Her book, written originally in French, I was number 20832 at Auschwitz bears witness to this time. In 2000 I worked with [FRFI writer and editor] Nicki Jameson to translate the text into English.
My sister and I had a great affinity with Eva as we had also known Nazism against us, with the deportation and murder of our father, who was deported to Auschwitz in November 1942. He must have known Eva in Drancy, a transit camp near Paris. We, the children, had been hidden in a village, which was nearly burned out in August 1944 in the same way that Oradour-sur-Glane had been razed two months earlier.
Eva will always be among us. She belongs to our lives. I had spent entire days with her, on several memorable holidays. We feel deeply the loss of her voice and her sound opinions.
Activist against fascism
I was No. 20832 at Auschwitz
Published by: Vallentine Mitchell, London, 2000 (1988), ISBN 08-53033-96-X
‘With their hooked canes, the SS on the left catch their victims by the neck…three-quarters of our workforce has disappeared…we see the trucks arrive, I count 17 of them…our comrades who we can hear screaming, know as well as we do that they are going to be gassed. They howl in the face of death. Have you ever heard human beings howling in the face of death?’ (Eva Tichauer)
Born in Berlin at the end of the second world war to Jewish socialists, Eva Tichauer emigrated to Paris in 1933 to escape the rise of Hitler and the German Nazis. In summer 1942, Eva and her mother were rounded up, detained for two months at Drancy and then herded into cattle wagons for a hard journey east to Birkenau, one of the Auschwitz concentration camps.
Split up from her mother, who was sent straight to the gas chamber, Eva recounts the horrors she endured for nearly three years until liberation by the Red Army. Several points are clear from Eva’s story. Firstly, the relentless brutality of the concentration camp system was designed to reduce human beings to beasts. As workers they were treated worse than slaves. Secondly, the German population, at least in some regions, was aware of what was happening in the concentration camps and that their inaction was tantamount to complicity.
Thirdly, the solidarity between the women in the camps was vital to their survival and enabled some communication with comrades outside, including the French resistance movement. Eva was politicised during her experience and became a member of the underground Communist Party of Raisko camp in 1944.
‘Today I still believe that if it had not been for Hitler, exile, war and deportation, I would have retained the idealistic position of German social democracy, just like my parents…I left behind for ever the salons where the world is changed with words; I placed myself on the side of the oppressed, the exploited.’
Eva is now a member of the Federation Nationale des Deportes Internes, Resistants et Patriots, fighting for peace, disarmament and the development of the third world. In a letter to FRFI, No. 121, October/November 1994, she wrote: ‘After liberation of the camps, we pledged “Never Again” and promised to fight together for a world of justice, of peace and of solidarity between peoples, for liberty and rights for all mankind. Half a century later we need to take up that torch again, if we are to maintain hope.’
FRFI no. 158, December 2000/January 2001