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Käthe Leichter: To my Brothers in the Concentration Camp

Info / context to the poem

Excerpt from Käthe Leichter's only surviving poem from Ravensbrück.

The socialist journalist and resistance fighter Käthe Leichter was deported to the women's concentration camp Ravensbrück in early 1940. She wrote numerous poems there, which she recited to her fellow prisoners but did not write down for security reasons. In January 1942, she was deported to Bernburg together with many other, mainly Jewish women and murdered there by gas.

Rosa Jochmann, who survived Ravensbrück, reports: "We were not allowed to speak or meet with Jews, but we did so anyway. Käthe Leichter organized literary afternoons on Sundays in Block 11, the Jewish block. Taking the greatest precautions, Käthe gave us unforgettable hours with old freedom poems and songs that took us away from hell. The poem 'To My Brothers', which was memorized by the young comrade Viktoria Fila and thus has been preserved, was authored by Käthe Leichter." (Source: Mauthausen Committee Austria)

Author - biography

Käthe Leichter, born on 8-20-1895, studied political science at first in her home town of Vienna. As a woman, she was not allowed to take the finals and so she transferred to Heidelberg in the autumn of 1917 where she joined a circle of active socialist students and graduated as well. As a pacifist and a sympathizer of the Russian October Revolution calling for action to be taken in Germany, the German authorities deport her. Since November of 1918, after the proclamation of the Austrian Republic, she is active in the Social Democratic Party and is especially involved with the rights of working women. As a Jew and prominent socialist, she is in peril following the German invasion of Austria, however, cannot decide whether to follow her husband into exile in Switzerland because of her mother and her children. She plans everyone's legal emigration but her plan is betrayed by a Gestapo informer, and on 5-30-1938, the planned day of departure, the Gestapo arrests her mother. When she informs Käthe Leichter over the telephone, Käthe hurries to her and allows herself to be arrested as well. Her sons can be brought into exile with the help of friends. Sentenced to imprisonment, she is not set free in January of 1940 but displaced to the women's concentration camp Ravensbrück. Here she must perform difficult work in road construction and load bricks onto ships. She is also as politically active as possible here, organizes illegal celebrations and writes a play with Hertha Breuer. In the course of the so-called Action 14 f 13, she is displaced - along with many others, particularly Jewish women - to Bernburg in January of 1942 and gassed. (C. Jaiser)