When Bat-Sheva Dagan initial started her obligations within the hellish confines of Auschwitz, she was supervised by SS guards led by a youthful Nazi officer named Franz Wunsch.
Offered his placement in demand, it wasn’t quickly obvious why he expended so a lot time on the processing ground. But he’d rate the spot the place Dagan and other Jewish girls labored, sorting by the suitcases that experienced been unloaded from trains bringing in tens of thousands of individuals to meet their deaths at the camp.
Before long, even so, the Polish teenager grew to become suspicious of Wunsch’s motives. She usually noticed the usually taciturn officer in dialogue with Helena Citron, her fellow prisoner and co-employee.
“He would converse to her and nobody else,” Dagan informed The Put up. “I viewed from a length, but it appeared like they had anything between them.”
As extremely hard as it seems, the two have been carrying on a forbidden romance forged in the shadows of the fuel chamber.
Dagan and other individuals who caught on to the situation struggled to fathom how Citron, torn from her homeland in Slovakia to dwell at the mercy of the Third Reich, could entertain the thought of getting involved with a person of its servants.
The taboo marriage in between Wunsch and Citron is now the focus of the movie, “Love It Was Not” (out Friday). The documentary does not pass judgment and strives to present an unbiased account of the controversial affair that lasted a lot more than two years.
Director Maya Sarfaty embarked on the undertaking immediately after hearing about the courtship from her then-performing teacher, Miki Marin, a favored niece and confidante of Citron, who died in 2007.
“Before I designed the film, I imagined men and women may well not even think the story,” mentioned Sarfarty.
The Israeli tracked down a selection of Citron’s associates at Auschwitz and interviewed Wunsch’s daughter, Dagmar. Remarkably, Dagmar defined how her father was obsessed with his “first love” from the minute they fulfilled in 1942 until eventually his loss of life in 2005.
Wunsch created dozens of copies of a black-and-white photograph of Citron taken at the camp, even pasting her smiling encounter within a gold locket up coming to his possess. (Bizarrely, the Austrian would medical professional postcards of women posing in scenic spots by changing their heads with a cutout of Citron’s.)
The total variation of the initial image demonstrates the dreadful truth of the matter: A quite lady putting on the common-issue striped overalls that dehumanized the prisoners of Auschwitz.
Marin remarked on her aunt’s elegant hairdo and the belt emphasizing her midsection and tactfully pointed out that, unlike victims starved by their captors, her loved 1 appeared nearly plump.
“I really don’t seriously know what to feel for the reason that she seems to be so attractive and healthier,” Marin explained.
Equally, when they labored jointly, Dagan was struck by Citron’s shapely determine and common very well-being. “She was Okay, usually healthy on the lookout,” recalled the Holocaust survivor now in her late nineties.
In fact, Citron, who attributes on Sarfaty’s documentary in thorough excerpts from past interviews, confirmed that Wunsch would supply her with extra foods and give privileges and protection to her and her pals.
“He beloved me to the point of madness,” she admitted.
Citron shared the situations of their initial come upon, which occurred many months just after she arrived at Auschwitz. She was between the first “official” set of 1,000 Jewish women of all ages transported there in 1942.
They fulfilled through her opening change at a unit colloquially named “Canada” since persons perceived the North American place as loaded and abundant. Located a few hundred yards from the crematorium, it was in which incoming prisoners had been divided from their personal effects. Personnel these as Citron were accountable for retrieving valuables and categorizing apparel.
Most of the owners had been gassed on arrival, never being aware of that their treasured possessions were in the approach of currently being looted as they ended up led to their fatalities.
“At midday there was a birthday bash for the SS in cost of the commando,” Citron recalled of the fateful day she satisfied Wunsch in 1942. “Rita, the kapo [a prisoner who assisted guards], walked all around the barrack searching for performers … she asked, ‘Who dances, who sings?’”
As the daughter of the cantor of her smaller city in Slovakia, Citron was volunteered by an inmate who knew about her musical abilities.
“The ladies all explained: ‘Sing, possibly they’ll keep you there. Normally they’ll mail you to the penal commando to your loss of life,’” she remembered. “And I considered: ‘I’m much better off dying than singing.’”
Even so she chose a mournful tune whose words and phrases she knew in German. Titled “Love It Was Not,” it is told from the standpoint of a lady questioning the truth of the matter of a romance.
At the time the show completed, Wunsch, a guest at the social gathering, approached Citron and politely asked her to repeat the track for him. It was the only time a member of the SS had spoken to her with respect.
“Suddenly, I hear the voice of a human staying, not the roar of animals,” she explained. “I listen to the word ‘Please.’ I seem up with tears in my eyes and I see a uniform, and I consider: ‘God, where are the eyes of a murderer? These are the eyes of a human becoming.’”
This distinct memory was recorded throughout Citron’s frank discussion with the Shoah Foundation. The non-revenue, started in 1994 by Stephen Spielberg, has archived the encounters of thousands of Holocaust survivors.
As the other ladies had predicted, Citron stayed in her posture at Canada the place, at minimum for a quick time period, she explained she “hated [Wunsch] at first” and considered him “evil like all of the SS.”
But her mind-set softened when he began slipping her notes that stated, “Don’t fret, I’ll get you out of here” and “We’ll be jointly, even if it is just for one particular working day.” As nicely as giving her food, he’d bring refreshing sheets and pillows to her freezing block, at times gazing at her when she slept.
“He would say: ‘For you, anything,’” she instructed the Shoah Basis. Even nevertheless the illicit liaison was an open up solution among the quite a few prisoners and guards, the SS appeared to transform a blind eye. Citron was the moment interrogated — and tortured — about the partnership but refused to ensure its existence. She knew that a formal discovery would guide to them each becoming executed.
Speculating in “Love It Was Not,” about the reaction of other inmates who knew about the affair, Dagan claimed: “On the one hand, [they thought] that she was fortunate, and on the other that she was in threat.”
Envy was an inescapable element of the equation. “Everyone was so jealous, deeply,” Dagan defined on digicam. “[Resentful] of the very actuality that she experienced that probability and we would go like sheep to the slaughter.”
The most spectacular case in point of Wunsch’s devotion to Citron was an intervention which saved her sister, Roza Graubert, from the fuel chamber. The mom-of-two was transported to Auschwitz from Slovakia with her nine-12 months-aged daughter and newborn son.
Citron heard about their arrival and ran to the crematorium exactly where she feared they would be killed. She hysterically advised the guards that she desired to die with them. But a friend had alerted Wunsch, who rushed to the scene as Joseph Mengele, the notorious SS medical professional recognized as “The Angel of Demise,” callously made a decision which of the prisoners would reside or die.
Graubert and her youngsters ended up dispatched to the line on the suitable, which led straight to the making exactly where the inmates ended up gassed. Just after speaking with Mengele, Wunsch gained a reprieve for Citron’s sister, an individual the SS assumed could be a great worker.
Talking in a online video clip demonstrated in the Safarty documentary, Graubert recalled: “We have been in which you get off your apparel. Then the door opened and a person identified as my name.”
She was questioned if she was Citron’s sister and told to leave the little ones for a second in the treatment of one more prisoner. Months later on — when Citron could no for a longer period continue to keep up the pretense about their absence — she at last told her sister that her small children had been killed.
The romance concerning Citron and the guard continued, with Citron eternally grateful to Wunsch for preserving the daily life of her sibling. But insiders, which include Dagan, believe the few never ever experienced intercourse.
“We slept in bunks stacked on top of each and every other in rows of a few,” Dagan told The Publish. “It would have been not possible.” Equally out of the problem was the prospect Citron visited the officers’ quarters without getting caught.
No one could deny that Wunsch was deeply in really like with his sweetheart. Regardless of whether his enthusiasm was reciprocated remains topic to debate.
Auschwitz inmate Roma Ben Atar Notkovich explained to Sarfarty: “The fact that, by way of this connection, she did not have to endure that hell of hunger, produced it all worthwhile.”
Yet another prisoner, Katka Potterwright Greenberger, commented: “She liked him back again … Probably because he was fantastic to her, it appealed to her. And she was also flattered by the point he chose her.”
The dynamics are elaborate. Sarfaty hopes her viewers will resist the temptation to draw conclusions that are black or white. “It’s not a straightforward story of exploitation and self-security,” the filmmaker said. “Helena did whatsoever she necessary to do in purchase to survive — but she created thoughts for Frank.”
That said, in 1 of her remaining media interviews, Citron played down the importance of the romance. “Love it was not,” she cynically mentioned, referencing the track that had captivated Wunsch. “It was a tiny fling, a passing infatuation.”
Apparently, when Sarfaty was deep into her exploration, she identified that the SS officer and his prisoner had remembered the mother nature of the ballad quite in another way. Citron — whose recollection was verified by other inmates at the commander’s birthday occasion — insisted she sang “Love It Was Not.” But Wunsch explained to individuals that the lifetime-changing tune which brought them collectively had the far extra tender title of “My Coronary heart Is Homesick for Your Enjoy.”
Whomever was correct, their bond was damaged without end when the Russians liberated Auschwitz in January 1945. Wunsch’s daughter, Dagmar, confirmed Sarfaty her father’s diary in which he recorded his past moments with Citron in advance of the camp was stormed.
“’Take treatment, Helena, you’ll make it. I’ve beloved you so a great deal,’” Wunsch wrote about their closing conversation. He went on to remember: “She embraces me one particular a lot more time. We kiss very long and intimately. One particular very last look and she leaves the barrack promptly.”
Some 27 years later, Wunsch caught a further glimpse of the really like of his lifetime. Citron, by then married with a family members and living in Israel, testified at his 1972 demo in Austria for war crimes. The rates bundled dropping in the hydrogen cyanide pellets that gassed prisoners in the loss of life chambers.
She overlooked threats from Jewish rights activists and defended her previous beau in reaction to a desperate enchantment from his wife.
“I travelled with a very clear conscience,” Citron advised The Shoah Basis. As soon as in Vienna, she educated the jury that Wunsch “was constantly very good to me” and “helped inmates in other means.” Still, she viewed as it her “duty” to outline the “bad things” he experienced accomplished, particularly his cruel therapy of male prisoners.
Citron recounted the time she refused Wunsch’s ask for to administer initial help when he destroyed his hand soon after an attack on a defenseless gentleman. “[He] explained to me: ‘You may possibly bandage my hand for me,’” she recalled. “I answered that I would not bandage the hand that beats my brothers.”
In spite of what the decide called “an overwhelming evidence of guilt” in the participation of mass murder, Wunsch was acquitted on all counts. He and Citron never saw every other again.
As for Dagan, you could count on a woman who suffered the horrors of Auschwitz to condemn a fellow survivor who helped an SS officer escape justice.
But, speaking on “Love It Was Not,” she exhibited compassion. “I assume that [Helena] going [to the trial] was a humane point to do.” As she spelled out to The Submit: “If she’d stayed away, people would imagine she was hiding the fact. She was a courageous females with honesty and integrity.