That Vilma Grunwald’s letter even exists is extraordinary. She penned it in the minutes before she was gassed at Auschwitz, addressed it to her husband, and handed it to a Nazi guard who did the improbable—delivered it to the man, who was also imprisoned at the camp.
The Washington Post reports she accompanied her eldest child, a 16-year-old named John who limped, to the gas chambers. The Indianapolis Star has the story of the July 11, 1944, letter, which has for the last four years resided at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“I’m always reluctant to say it’s the only such document ever created,” says the museum’s chief acquisitions curator, “but to the best of our knowledge” it is the only surviving letter written at the concentration camp prior to a gassing.
Grunwald’s son, Misa (who now goes by Frank and lives northeast of Indianapolis) learned of the letter as an 11-year-old in 1946 but did not read it until after his father’s 1967 death.
Frank tells the Star that what he found most moving was the 11-sentence letter’s tone: free of anger or resentment, and focused only on him and his father.
It reads in part: “The famous trucks are already here and we are waiting for it to begin. … You—my only and dearest one, do not blame yourself for what happened, it was our destiny. We did what we could. … Take care of the little golden boy and don’t spoil him too much with your love. Both of you—stay healthy, my dear ones. I will be thinking of you and Misa. Have a fabulous life, we must board the trucks.” (This man buried a letter at Auschwitz; now we know what it says.)