HOR­ROR

Daily Record - - NEWS - HANNAH ROBERTS re­porters@dai­lyrecord.co.uk

HELGA Sch­nei­der still re­mem­bers her mother’s words. Suit­case in hand, she bent down, looked her in the eye and said: “Mummy has to go away. Be a good girl, don’t cry.”

With that, Traudi shut the door on the fam­ily home, leav­ing Helga alone with her 19-month-old brother. It was 1941 in Ber­lin. And Helga was just four.

Shunted be­tween homes and put into an in­sti­tu­tion for prob­lem chil­dren, Helga grew up yearn­ing for a mum to com­fort her through the hor­rors of war.

It was 30 years be­fore she fi­nally found her again, and then she un­earthed a truth that would scar her for ever – the mother she had pined for was a vol­un­teer for Hitler’s Nazi Waf­fen-SS and a guard at Auschwitz-Birke­nau.

While Helga had been cry­ing for her mum, Traudi was “proud” to be work­ing at the worst death camp in his­tory, where more than a mil­lion Jewish, Roma and Pol­ish men, women and chil­dren were gassed, starved and worked to death.

And worse still, she had no re­grets – main­tain­ing to the end that “Nazis were just, Hitler was great and the Jews needed to be ex­ter­mi­nated”.

“I was so shocked” Helga, now 80, re­called: “Be­cause af­ter 30 years, when a mother tells you ‘I was with the SS and a guard at Auschwitz’, and she is ‘proud, not re­pen­tant’, you are speech­less. It was ter­ri­ble, ter­ri­ble.

“I’d wanted to find a mother, so when, in­stead of a mother you find a woman who says, proudly, she was a guard at Auschwitz. Can you imag­ine that?”

The trauma of her dis­cov­ery be­came the sub­ject of a best-sell­ing mem­oir and has now been made into a film, Let Me Go, by Bri­tish di­rec­tor Polly Steele and star­ring Juliet Steven­son as Helga.

Helga’s fa­ther Ste­fan was away fight­ing when Traudi left their home in Ber­lin. Helga was looked af­ter by rel­a­tives un­til her fa­ther re­mar­ried a year later.

Through step­mother Ur­sula, whose sis­ter worked un­der Pro­pa­ganda Min­is­ter Joseph Goebbels, Helga met Hitler in 1944. She said: “Hitler, he wasn’t un­pleas­ant, he was nice to us.”

Hitler seemed un­well fol­low­ing the as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt ear­lier that year, she re­called. “He was very pale. He looked ill and a bit sweaty. And he couldn’t walk prop­erly. But his gaze, I don’t know how to ex­plain it. It was fixed, re­solved.”

At 16 Helga ran away to Aus­tria, where she stud­ied to be an ac­tress. On hol­i­day in Italy she met her fu­ture hus­band and went to live with him in Bologna, where she still lives. She wanted to for­get Ger­many – her mother, the war, the lan­guage. Even now she prefers to speak Ital­ian, as Ger­man is too dis­tress­ing.

It was af­ter her son Renzo was born that she de­cided to search for

SHOCKED Helga’s re­union with her mum lasted just 45 min­utes NO RE­MORSE Traudi, top, and with Helga, above. Helga and her brother , be­low

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.