Alma Rose: Vienna to Auschwitz

By Richard Newman; Karen Kirtley | Go to book overview

22

Death in the Revier

No, they did not put Alma in chains. She remained a free bird in her feelings and her faith like a naive child. She always thought that she would survive the camp. -- Manca Švalbová

On Sunday, 2 April 1944, Alma led and played with the orchestra in an afternoon concert. There was praise from all quarters, and Alma told the orchestra women that she was proud of their performance.

Later in the day, Alma was called to the SS office. She returned to the Music Block in high spirits. Both Regina and Fania said that Alma enthusiastically confided she was to be released from the camp to play outside. According to Fania, she said she was going to play for "the soldiers of the Wehrmacht"; according to Regina, she was to play in the Katowice Opera House "and not for German troops."

Fania wrote that she expressed shock and dismay at Alma's eagerness to entertain German soldiers, "the instruments of Nazism, racism."1 Alma supposedly retorted that at least Frau Schmidt, a true friend, was happy for her good fortune. Many survivors of the orchestra doubted Fania's report, for as Zofia Cykowiak reported, " Fania and Alma were not that close. . . . In fact, despite Fania's gifts as a musician, her driving ambition and schemes were often at odds with Alma. There is no doubt that Alma respected Fania for her professional musicianship, but I cannot imagine her as a confidante."

The women in the Schreibstube, a staff of thirty-five according to camp office survivors Zippy, Wanda Marossányi, and Anna Polarczyk-Schiller, 2 remain convinced that such a prisoner release would have been impossible. "The Gestapo would never have allowed it," said Zippy. Numerous attempts to release the highly respected office chief Katya Singer had been rejected. Wanda added that even if Alma had been allowed to play outside the camp, she would have continued to "belong" to the camp administratively.

In the evening Alma left the Music Block for the Bekleidungskammer to

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