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Saturday, 2 November 2013

Balancing fact and imagination



I continue with Clara’s experiences in Theriesenstadt. I’ve had to find out some more details:
·         What would happen if a child was born
·         How women coped with menstruation and post-partum bleeding
·         Whether roll-call was as strict there as at other camps
·         What they might have eaten
·         What sort of work they would do
Childbirth in the camps
Babies born in the camps would often disappear. I’ve had to find a reason here for this one not to. Selda, Clara’s friend from Rexingen, goes into labour at the end of a strenuous roll call. Clara’s friendly nature and the way people always want to be nice to her mean that one of the Ghettowache, Benjamin, is helping her little and turning a blind eye to some things. He knows what is going on and sends a midwife to help. Another inmate, a man who is still running a business from inside, gently bribes the other guards also to turn a blind eye. Clara has charmed him, too, and the Nazis really need what he is manufacturing.
Menstruation and post-partum bleeding
No towels were provided. As the women starved, their periods would stop anyway. But there would be a few months’ humiliation first as blood would just run down their legs. Post-partum bleeding is going to be heavier. Benjamin has already secured a bundle of clothes for Clara, Selda, Kyla (Selda’s daughter) and the new baby. Clara will make some of these into rags for Selda.
What they might have eaten
Not a lot. Thin porridge, soup and stale bread. Clara will give much of hers to Selda who is breast-feeding her baby.
Roll-call in Theriesenstadt
Yes, it happened. Compared with many it was straightforward at Theriesenstadt. Even so, inmates had to stand in rows of ten for quite a long time until they had all been counted and the numbers tallied. This would be quite tiring for someone who was nine months pregnant. I had to imply something was wrong that day – maybe an attempted escape or perhaps a hole on the fence- that made the guards check four times.   
What sort of work they did
I did find out that they made coffins in Theriesenstadt. So, I created Clara, Selda and Kyla working on the linings. Even someone as small as Kyla would have been able to hold the cloth.
A fine balance
It’s always a question of given these circumstances what would Clara do. It almost becomes an algebraic formula. These circumstances plus Clara’s personality equals this outcome. Sometimes she’s predictable. Sometimes she takes me by surprise. That’s imagination for you.    

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