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Biographical remarks about Alice Ehrmann and Ze'ev Shek

Alice Ehrmann (later Alisah Shek) was born in Prague on 5 May 1927. Her Jewish father, Rudolf Ehrmann (1887-1950), was a construction engineer. Her non-Jewish mother, Pavla (1899-1967) came originally from Vienna. She renounced her claim to German citizenship by refusing to get a divorce from her Jewish husband during the Protectorate period. According to the Nuremberg Laws, their children were classified as "Mischlinge" (mixed race); however they were entered into the Jewish register. As soon as the younger child, Alice, turned 16, she was deported to Theresienstadt on 13 July 1943 along with her older sister Ruth, who was 19. Although the parents were able to remain in Prague, her father was arrested in the spring of 1944. He spent the first few months at the "kleine Festung" (Little Fortress) at Theresienstadt, from where he was deported to Auschwitz. Her father survived.

Ze'ev Shek (whom Alice married after the war) was born on 13 May 1920. He was one of the leaders of the Zionist youth movement Maccabee Hazair and was a member of the Theresienstadt Hechalutz. Zeev worked in the youth section and was a member of what was called the Talmud Team, a group of experts who catalogued Hebrew books from liquidated Jewish libraries that were brought to Theresienstadt.

From the very outset, Zeev took it upon himself to preserve as many documents as possible regarding Theresienstadt's true purpose. When they first became friends, Alisah did not understand the purpose of Zeev's collection, although she did respect his efforts. When Ze'ev was deported, she took over responsibility for preserving the documents and continuing his work. The suitcase containing these documents had to be preserved at all costs, even if neither Ze'ev nor Alisah survived.

This task now fell to her. Each day, she secretly removed the orders that were put up on the bulletin board by the Council of Elders. She also saved all prohibitions, bylaws, forms, etc. At this time, she began her diary as well. She wrote in German, but used Hebrew letters in case the diary should fall into German hands. She wrote about events in her own life and about the thoughts and feelings of a seventeen-year old girl confronted with the reality of the camp. That in and of itself would be extraordinarily valuable. However, she also recorded much information that is factually important regarding the development of the camp. Her own observations are augmented by those of Jirí Vogel. Vogel, an engineer and a relative of Rudolf Ehrmann, was a member of the Council of Elders from the opening of Theresienstadt to the ghetto's dissolution.

Alisah was able to preserve the suitcase with all of its documents. She worked on the farm, then in the chicken coops, both of which gave her a certain freedom of movement. She hid the suitcase in the labyrinth of passageways in the Theresienstadt fortress. After the war, she retrieved it and in Prague handed it over to Ze'ev, who had survived not only Auschwitz, but the Dachau Kaufering sub-camp as well. After his return to Prague, he became the head of the documentation efforts organized by the Jewish Agency.

In 1947, Ze'ev received permission to emigrate to Palestine. He studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. That same year he returned to Prague as a member of a delegation to a youth conference and married Alice. Both went to Israel in July 1948, and Ze'ev entered the diplomatic service. From 1950 to 1953 he was the first secretary of the Israeli embassy in Prague. His diplomatic career included postings in London from 1956 to 1960, Paris from 1960 to 1963, Vienna from 1967 to 1971, and Rome from 1977 to 1978, where he died on 2 October 1978.

Translation © Alexandra Zapruder 2001

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For the complete text of Alice Ehrmann's diary in German, go to the Institute for Theresienstadt Studies.

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