EXCERPT FROM THE LONG NIGHT:
“I waited a few days before I tried again, with Meister Hermann, to reach the factory hall and resume contact with my uncle. As we had done previously, we equipped ourselves with electric flex, other materials and a pass, authorising necessary repairs, to provide an apparently legitimate excuse for our presence. Again, I was able to speak to my uncle. He had bloody welts on his face. When I asked, he told me that after our last conversation a Kapo had searched him and found his tobacco. The tobacco was confiscated and he had been beaten. Then I told him I would again put tobacco in a hiding place.
I pleaded with him not to take the small parcel as soon as I left, but to wait a while before retrieving it. As I was about to leave the factory hall, I was profoundly moved when I happened to meet one of my father’s friends. I was stunned by what he had to tell me. “I know your father’s testament.”
Usher Bornstein, Ernst’s father. Only known photo of him.
I stood still to hear more. I could see he was unable to find the words to express what he knew. I could not make sense of his confused stammering and I moved closer to understand him better. I begged him to tell me more about my father. At that instant I was called back by my Meister’s voice. When I turned around an SS man and his Kapo beat me with their clubs and interrogated me. “Do you know it is forbidden to talk to prisoners? Are you involved in any secret activity?” Hermann rushed to my side and tried to protect me. The SS man insisted on searching my body. He wished to reassure himself that I did not have any letters or secret messages which I could pass on to other prisoners. At the same time he told me that if I wanted to avoid being severely punished I must hand over everything I had concealed about my person. I was able to be searched with a clear conscience because I had already hidden the tobacco for my uncle.
After the search was completed without anything being found, the SS man kicked me and shouted, “Make sure you disappear, you dirty Jew!” Then he asked Meister Hermann to supervise me more closely. I was bitterly disappointed as I left the hall. I was filled with indignation because of the despicable behaviour of the SS man. However, what caused me even greater heartache was the conversation with my father’s friend. It was so incoherent that I could not understand his account of my father’s alleged testament.
“Maybe I would have understood if I had been more careful and conducted myself more skilfully…” This thought occupied and tormented me for a long time. After a few days I tried again to meet my father’s friend but I came too late. He was nowhere to be found. “He was already finished, he was no longer alive.” What his companions meant was that when he approached me he was no longer of sound mind.”