Ib Katznelson

born 30.10.1941 in Copenhagen

Ravensbrück: 24. November 1943 – 24. April 1944, together with his mother Karen Katznelson (20.11.1917 Copenhagen – 12.02.2009 Copenhagen)

Theresienstadt: 24. April 1944 - 15. April 1945


Economist, Civil servant

Ib Katznelson, 2019, Foto: Privatbesitz
Ib Katznelson, 2019, Foto: Privatbesitz

The German occupation of Denmark was a so-called “peaceful occupation”, and the Danish Jews lived a daily life as all other Danes. That lasted until the 1st of October 1943 when the German persecution of the Danish Jews began. Most of the Jews managed to escape to Sweden (7.600). Less than 500 were arrested and virtually all of them sent directly to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in the Czech Republic. However, there were few exceptions.

My father was deported to Sachsenhausen and was interned there from the 24th of November 1943 until mid-January 1944 when he was deported to Theresienstadt.

My mother and I were interned in Ravensbrück, in the prison and not in the blocks. The plan was to keep us there temporarily until we could be deported further on to Theresienstadt.

Around Christmas 1943 I got seriously ill and was taken away from my mother. For more than a month she had no information about me, neither about the disease, if I was treated, where I was and even if I was still alive. About the 1st. of February 1944 I came back to her in the cell and infected her with what appeared to be diphtheria. We were both taken to the revier and she was so ill that another prisoner said to her that she should “let me go” and that if she ever managed to get out of this hell she could always get another child. I was taken away from her, and we were only reunited the 23rd of April 1944 and then deported to Theresienstadt.

What happened during the first time I was taken away from her I have known only since 2019 when I in Germaine Tillion’s book “Ravensbrück” read that I in the revier was placed in a cot between her and the Czech prisoner Hilda Synkova. She writes that the ss-doctor Treite, who was responsible for the diphtheria department in the revier took me on his lap, gave me an apple and said “he is cured so we can send him to Auschwitz”. And she continues “he knew what Auschwitz meant and the next day the boy was gone”.

I was not deported to Auschwitz with the other 800 who were on the list to be deported. Most likely Hilda Synkova was instrumental in getting me out of the revier and back in the bunker to my mother. Apparently, the diphtheria was not completely cured as I infected my mother. We were both treated for the disease by the Czech prisoner dr. Zedenka Nedvedova.

In Theresienstadt my mother and I were united with my father, my grandparents and my aunt and we were all saved by the White Buses which brought us safely to Sweden where we arrived the 17th of April 1945.

I don’t remember anything about my 1 1/2 year in the concentration camps. But after I found out what happened I have felt a moral obligation to tell my story to the younger generation with the purpose of making them aware of what happened because of antisemitism and discrimination of people who are different from ‘us’. Holocaust started with words and because nobody dared to say ‘stop’ it ended being the worst catastrophe in the history of mankind. Let it never happen again.