“We are going through a very grave period here. This time Walter Matzdorff and many of my pupils are on the list [for deportation to Riga]. I have to work hard and try to help as many people as possible.’ – Hertha Feiner
The keys slowly clacked like a train
rolling on frost-bitten tracks.
Her eyes squinted to read another
list of names. Her lips repeated
the columns like prayers. Her touch
embossed the brittle pages.
Friends, neighbors, and room-mates
shackled from past and present
grazed the teacher’s fingertips.
Hertha penned the pages,
their sentences announced
in the streets of Old Berlin;
she believed it was her
script that put them on the trains.
This labor kept her alive.
This is the job Mutti rarely
revealed to her daughters.
About Hertha Feiner
Hertha Feiner was a divorced (from a gentile) mother of two daughters, Inge and Marion. She was a teacher in a Jewish day school in Berlin before the Nazi’s came to power and taught until she was forced to work elsewhere (she was later assigned by the SS to type the deportation lists). Feiner’s passion was teaching her students but her love was for her daughters whom she had sent to boarding school in Gland, Switzerland (Les Reyons) to save them from the Nazi’s inevitable atrocities. Hertha wrote to her daughters as frequently as she could – many of these letters were collected in the book Before Deportation: Letters from a Mother to Her Daughters: January 1939 – December 1942 (Northwestern University Press: Evanston (IL), 1999). Feiner committed suicide while on a train making its way to Auschwitz.