Concentration camp survivor to speak at remembrance ceremony

by Ed Drohan
Europe Regional Medical Command Public Affairs

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Dr. Eva Iszak Djordjevic was 17 when American Soldiers entered the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp in April 1945, liberating her and thousands of other prisoners who had survived the Holocaust. After being treated for typhoid fever, she returned to her home of Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia), and hasn’t set foot on German soil since — until now.

Djordjevic will be the guest speaker at the Days of Remembrance event from noon to 1 p.m. April 19 at Nachrichten Kaserne’s Wilson Theater in Heidelberg. The theme for this year’s event is “Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue,” and all are welcome to attend.

Djordjevic, now 84, was a young Jewish girl in 1941 when her father was taken to the Topovska Supa Concentration Camp in Belgrade. She was able to escape to Budapest, Hungary, shortly after, where she lived using false documents, working as an apprentice in a women’s clothing workshop.

In 1944, Djordjevic was taken by the German army that had by then occupied Hungary and was forced to march with other Jewish women 30 to 40 kilometers a day, stopping at times for forced work details, until they reached the Austrian border. There, a train took them to Ravensbruck, a notorious women’s concentration camp 90 kilometers north of Berlin. The women were subjected to beatings, harsh work and starvation.

In a letter written sometime after liberation,  Djordjevic said that from 4 to 8 a.m. the prisoners were forced to stand on Appell Platz, a square where the roll calls were held. The temperatures were -10 to -20 degrees Celsisus and Djordjevic was wearing only a summer dress and thin jacket.

“At 8 a.m., exhausted and frozen, with a cup of black water coffee and a thin piece of bread made of a mixture of flour and scrapings of wood, we (were) pressed to work outside,” she wrote.

The women were forced to do heavy labor both day and night.  Thousands died from starvation and torture, but Djordjevic held out until she was transferred to Burgau and then eventually Turkheim, both Dachau subcamps, in March 1945. By this time, she and most of her fellow women prisoners couldn’t work because of the effects of starvation.

“The Appell continued there, also the starving, humiliation, but they could not send us to work because we were living corpses,” she recalled. 

After being liberated by American troops and treated for illness and starvation, Djordjevic returned to Belgrade where she learned her father had been killed by his captors just days after she last saw him. 

“After all (my psychological) and physical sufferings, I started a new life, but an eternal scar persists in my wounded soul,” Djordjevic wrote. “The irreplaceable loss of my father, of many relatives and friends, loss of my home, (psychological) and physical sufferings, humiliations, tortures cannot be replaced with even all the money in the world.”

In the decades since the end of World War II, Djordjevic has lived in Belgrade and raised her family, but has never been back to Germany. Her visit to participate in the Days of Remembrance will be her first trip to Germany since leaving 67 years ago.

Days of Remembrance runs from April 15 to 22. The U.S. Congress established the Days of Remembrance as the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust.
For more information on this year’s event, call Master Sgt. Jason Reisler, Europe Regional Medical Command equal opportunity adviser, at 371-2604.