It was the most forbidden love of them all under the rule of the Nazis. As soon as Hitler took power in 1933, regime bureaucrats began drawing up the grotesque Nuremberg Laws banning relationships between 'Aryans' and Jews. But such relationships DID exist in the Third Reich - even between its most monstrous servants and their victims. Nowhere during the 12 years that the Nazis ruled most of Europe was a place as warped, hideous and murderous as the Auschwitz death factory in occupied Poland. This was the place where people did anything to survive, anything to avoid 'selections' that would mean a one-way trip to the gas chambers. Helena Citronova was among them and saved her life and those of her family by relenting to the affections of a hated SS guard.
Although she slept with her saviour, Wunsch, and admitted that she eventually harboured deep feelings of love for him, Helena's forbidden relationship was only forged because she wanted to stay alive in the most terrible place on earth. A Jew from Slovakia, she worked in the giant warehouse at the camp called 'Canada' where the belongings of the doomed were sorted before they were shipped back to Berlin to fuel the Nazi war effort. There she met Wunsch in 1942. Their relationship was portrayed by the PBS network in a programme about the death camp in which at least 1.2million people were liquidated.
'The relationship between SS man Franz Wunsch and Jewish woman Helena Citronova is certainly one of shock,' it said. 'Who could comprehend that, in a place such as Auschwitz, a place full of death, pain and sadism, an emotion as pure as love could be around?' Had it not been for the fateful moment when Helena was asked to sing for Wunsch's birthday, she wouldn't have survived. She had been sentenced to death earlier that day.
Wunsch sent her biscuits, passed her notes saying 'Love - I fell in love with you'. He even saved her sister Rozinka from certain death. 'When he came into the barracks where I was working, he threw me that note. I destroyed it right there and then, but I did see the word "love" — "I fell in love with you",' she said years later in Israel.
'I thought I'd rather be dead than be involved with an SS man. For a long time afterwards there was just hatred. I couldn't even look at him.' But she admitted that her feelings for Wunsch changed over time, especially when her sister and her sister's children arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau. Helena learned that they were to be sent to the gas chamber and her SS admirer tried to help them.
Helena went on: 'So he said to me, "Tell me quickly what your sister's name is before I'm too late." So I said, "You won't be able to. She came with two little children."
'He replied, "Children, that's different. Children can't live here." So he ran to the crematorium and found my sister.' Wunsch was able to save Helena's sister by saying she worked for him in Canada, but he could do nothing for the children. Helena and her sister survived Auschwitz, and although her relationship with Wunsch never developed further, she did testify on his behalf years later at his war crimes trial.
Helena, who died in 2005, said in an interview with UK filmmaker Laurence Rees: 'Here he did something great. There were moments where I forgot that I was a Jew and that he was not a Jew and, honestly, in the end I loved him.
Kemo D. 7
Credit: Daily Mail