Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Lawson, Karin (1 of 3) The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
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The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
Lawson, Karin, 1926- (speaker, female)
Curzon, Stella (speaker, female)
Part 1: Family background; Berlin, parents, Jewish family. Parents divorced. Rise of anti-semitism; in 1938 father and 2nd wife emigrated to Riga (Latvia). Karin and mother planned to emigrate to Siam, 1939, but unsuccessful. March 1939, Karin joined father. Mother went to Shanghai. In Riga Karin learned Latvian, trained as dressmaker. 1940, Riga occupied by Russians. Family rounded up with other "foreign Jews" and put on cattle trucks, transported to Siberia. Although not religious Jew, Karin very aware of her Jewish identity; had suffered anti-semitism at school in Berlin, father beaten up, Kristallnacht. Life in Riga had seemed pleasant & safe by comparison. Journey to Siberia took 3 weeks; description of journey, conditions. Arrival at camp in Novosibirsk. Conditions in camp. Interned as Germans not as Jews. Racial mix of prisoners. Starvation, diseases; only young & fit survived. Stayed there for 1 year, then transported to Kazakstan as Germans approached Moscow. Taken to Karaganda on Mongolian border. Larger camp, worked at coal mine. Moved to other camps. Influx of German POWs, Spaniards from both sides of Civil War, ship-wrecked sailors, pilots, French Hungarians, Ukranian spies, Japanese. Prisoners set up "Kulturgruppe"; performed plays, shared books. In 1947, majority of prisoners went home, but interviewee had to remain with 100 others, for 5 years. Moved to new camps every few months to avoid detection. Red Cross parcels. Feelings of despair. Hunger strike by Jewish prisoners to obtain interview with Moscow commission to complain about conditions. Resigned to staying, attempt to lead sort of normal life. Karin had relationship with man in camp; pregnant. Application to marry turned down. He was sent home to Vienna; all attempts to stay together foiled. Birth of baby in appalling conditions. Finally granted release, 1952. Returned to Berlin. Baby's health improved rapidly. Difficulty of life in Berlin. Obtained domestic visa to work in London. Disastrous at first but eventually settled to normal life in England.