Katherine Ritter describes the end of the war in Bergen-Belsen and the challenges that persisted after liberation.
Katherine (Kaethe) Ritter, nee Koblitz, was born in 1913 in Vienna, Austria. Her father, Siegfried Koblitz, died in the First World War so her mother, Valerie Klien, raised three children by herself. Katherine was the middle child, with an older and younger brother. Her older brother joined the Czech army and eventually went to England whereas her younger brother went to the United States and joined the American army.
After the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi-Germany in 1938, Katherine moved from Austria to Prague, using her Czech citizenship. In Prague, Katherine married her husband, Fritz Mandovsky. She lived with her mother and grandmother, until the transportations started in late 1939/early 1940. Her grandmother and mother were eventually transported to Theresienstadt, followed by Katherine. Both of them died by the time Katherine had arrived. She lived in Theresienstadt from August 1942 to December 1943. After this time she was sent to Birkenau.
Before her original transport to Birkenau, Katherine contracted Diphtheria. She attributed this to saving her life as the transport she was designated to take was sent to the gas chambers. Although she survived the camp, her husband, Fritz Mandovsky, passed away. She had mixed feelings about his death, as she was sad he was gone, but she also felt a sense of relief as he did not have to suffer anymore.
From Birkenau, Katherine was selected to be sent to Hamburg, where she was given the job of cleaning up bombed buildings. In Hamburg, she and a friend found material to make clothes, which they sold for rations.
From Hamburg, Katherine was sent to Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated on April, 15th, 1945 by the British Army. After having rationed food for so long, and with a variety of foods right in front of her, she and many others got sick, as their bodies could not handle the rich food.
Katherine immigrated to Canada with her second husband, Henry Ritter, in 1948. Katherine passed away in 2008.
The people died like flies.
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