Paris (Jul. 5)
Chief Rabbi Leo Baeck of Berlin arrived here today on route to London from Theresienstadt, where he had been confined since being deported from Germany in 1943. Although Theresienstadt was liberated by the Russians several weeks ago, Rabbi Baeck refused to leave until liquidation of the camp had begun.
Suffering from the effects of his internment, during which he lost 60 pounds, the 72-year-old Jewish leader, nevertheless, displayed great dignity and comcosure during an exclusive interview with a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent. He was eager for Jewish news, and repeatedly praised the Joint Distribution Committee and the International Red Cross for the food and medical supplies which, he said, reached Theresienstadt until the last weeks of the war.
It was this assistance which enabled the internees to survive, Rabbi Baeck said. "The help and great sympathy given us by American Jewry in this darkest period is a noble chapter in Jewish history, and was the greatest comfort of all during our living death," he declared.
Practically all of the 5,000 half and quarter Jews in Theresienstadt want to return to Germany, the aged rabbi said, and many have already been repatriated in cars sent by the authorities in their home towns. He stressed, however, that none of the full Jews desire to return to Germany, but want to go to Palestine, the United States and other countries.
Theresienstadt was "better" than most camps, he said ironically, in that instead of being killed quickly the internees were allowed to die slowly. He described the harsh treatment, the lack of food, and how he slept on the bare floor, but told with bride of the valiant efforts made to maintain spiritual life. Clandestine weekly sermons were delivered in a dark attic, he revealed, to an ever-changing congregation, Since transports were always leaving for Polish death camps, and new victims were constantly arriving.
Although it was forbidden to teach Jewish children, secret classes were held until "the day came when there was not a single child who could not read or write," rabbi Baeck said.