The Watchmaker's Daughter by Larry Loftis

The Watchmaker's Daughter by Larry Loftis

Author:Larry Loftis
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2022-12-17T00:00:00+00:00

AS EVENING FELL the women of Barrack 28 began returning from their work assignments. They poured in by the hundreds—sweat-soaked and filthy. Their barrack had been designed to house four hundred, but because prisoners were being transferred from Austria, Poland, France, and Belgium, fourteen hundred had been assigned to it. And to serve all residents there were only eight toilets, several of which were backed up.

At bedtime, Corrie and Betsie discovered that seven other women would be sharing their particular space. Everyone made the best of it, though, and managed to get some sleep.

That morning at four a.m., a piercing whistle awoke the women. Breakfast—the small ration of bread and coffee—awaited them in the middle of the room. After that everyone had to be outside for the four-thirty roll call. With 35,000 other women from surrounding barracks, Corrie and Betsie hustled outside and into rank. Prisoner numbers were read off and work crews announced. The ten Boom sisters, with thousands of other women, received the worst of it: the Siemens factory.

Guards marched them out of the camp and down the road a mile and a half, where they came upon a complex of mills and railroad terminals. Here Corrie and Betsie were ordered to push a massive handcart to a railroad siding, where they would unload heavy metal plates from a boxcar, load them into the cart, and then wheel it to a receiving gate at the factory. The work was grueling and exhausting for the young and fit; for two weakened sisters in their fifties, it was torture.

At it they went for eleven hours, pausing only at noon to eat a boiled potato and ersatz soup. By the time they returned to the barracks they were bruised, blistered, and beat. Their swollen legs testified that Siemens was “hard labor.” So exhausting were the Ravensbrück conditions that seven hundred women died or were killed each day.

After several weeks Corrie knew that she and Betsie had to find another job. From a fellow prisoner she learned that they could report to the knitting crew—the women she had seen making socks on the first day. Sure enough, when Corrie and Betsie reported, they were given knitting needles and wool and set to work. It was a lifesaving respite.

A few nights later a clerk came by their bunk and told them that they’d have to report to the Siemens factory in the morning.

“But that’s impossible,” Corrie replied. “We are both in the knitting commando.”

The worker scratched their names off the list and gave them each a red card. The cards classified them as unfit for heavy labor, she said.

In the morning Corrie found out from another prisoner what the clerk didn’t say.

When the camp became overcrowded—as it was now—those holding red cards were gassed.


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