InvestigationTreasures of the “World”. Every Sunday, we unearth a striking article from our archives. Today, the story of a German woman who her mother had abandoned as a child to become a Kapo in Auschwitz. Thirty years later, she recounts this trauma.
She has an unremarkable face, of course, the mother of Helga Schneider. Nothing on her face suggests that this old lady with white hair, so petite, so fragile, who smiles awkwardly in front of the camera, was, in the 1930s and 1940s, in Berlin, a Nazi activist, member of the Waffen-SS. Nothing, when you see her, suggests that this frail creature, with slightly hunched shoulders, was a guardian in the death camps of Ravensbrück and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Nor that she was convicted in 1946 by the Nuremberg Tribunal.
Nothing betrays her, except, perhaps, her jaws which begin to tremble when a question disturbs her. ” The jaws ! The jaws ! “, repeats her daughter Helga, pointing to the television screen, as if this senile tremor constituted an admission.
The report from the RAI, of which Helga Schneider carefully keeps the cassette, dates from 1998. It was the second time, since 1941, that the girl had seen her mother again. In the film, we also discover her in this hospice on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, where the Italian television crew has found traces of the formerhead of IIIe Reich. The old woman has no remorse. Close up on his face. What makes his jaws tremble is more of a kind of anger. Besides, hey, she says it, she spits it out: yes, she was Waffen-SS. So what ? The white-haired monster smiles. Helga Schneider, she has tears in her eyes. She suddenly stops the tape.
An unnamed mother
Sitting in the living room-office of her small apartment in Bologna, in northern Italy, the one that the Turin daily The print baptized the “Girl from a nightmare” tries to remember where she might have put the photos of her mother.
In total, she only has three. Two of which she had taken herself, in 1971, during their first reunion. The idea that she might look like the one that gave birth to her, that idea “Haunts” and the “Lightning”. Does she think abjection can be passed on through genes, like her blonde hair and blue eyes, inherited from her mother – whom she is, she shudders, « the portrait all spat “ ?
Until the age of 34, Helga Schneider does not know anything about her mother
Is that why Helga Schneider, now aged 65, took so long – more than thirty years: one life! – to rediscover the path towards childhood, towards Berlin, towards this mother, finally, this unnamed mother, who had left her husband and her two young children in 1941, without ever making a sign again, this “Mom” impossible, this unpronounceable thing, which she has at first, “Out of naivety”, tried to hate?
You have 78.86% of this article left to read. The rest is for subscribers only.