My dear ones,
A [Red Cross] nurse from [Amsterdam] intends to speak today with the Consul. Here, every petition [on behalf] of fully Jewish Catholics has been forbidden since yesterday. Outside [the camp] an attempt can still be made, but with extremely little prospect. According to plans, a transport will leave on Friday. Could you possibly write to Mère Claire in Venlo, Kaldenkerkeweg 185 [the Ursuline Convent] to ask for [my] manuscript [of the Science of the Cross] if they have not already sent it. We count on your prayers. There are so many persons here who need some consolation and they expect it from the Sisters.
In Corde Jesu, your grateful
Saint Edith Stein
Letter 341 to Mother Ambrosia Antonia Engelmann, OCD, Echt
Drente-Westerbork Transit Camp, Barracks 36
5 August 1942
Who were “the Sisters” to whom Edith refers in her closing comment?
In Letter 340 to her prioress, Mother Ambrosia Antonia dated August 4, St. Teresa Benedicta states:
All the Catholics are together and in our dormitory, we have all the nuns (two Trappistines, one Dominican)…
In our Quote of the Day for 3 August 2019, the eyewitness Dr. Lenig identified that there was a Trappist priest who offered Mass in the Camp; “his six brothers and sisters who had all joined the same Order were with him.”
Dr. Lenig, being Jewish, can be forgiven for not being aware of the difference between religious orders. The Trappistine abbey at Berkel-Enschot themselves confirmed that only two nuns were arrested on 2 August 1942: Mother Hedwigis (Lina Löb) and Mother Marie-Thérèse, also known as Theresia (Door Löb). The third “sister” was not a Trappist, but may have been Sister Judith Mendes Da Costa, who was from the Dominican community that managed the sanitarium Berg en Bosch in Bilthoven, Holland; she worked in administration there.
To learn more about the third Trappistine in the Löb family, Mother Veronika, O.C.S.O. (Wies Löb, Door’s twin sister), who escaped deportation in August 1942 because she was ill with tuberculosis, consult the excellent research by Peter Steffen in Can a seamless garment be truly torn?: questions surrounding the Jewish-Catholic Löb family, 1881-1945.
Based upon Sr. Judith’s journal from her years in Nazi internment, Steffen indicates that there were other religious in the camp, as well: “this group of religious also included a postulant from the Good Shepherd Sisters, a Sacred Heart Sister, Sr. Miriam of the Franciscans of Saint Joseph (who was dressed as a nurse), and the Polish-German doctor, Lisamaria Meirowsky,” who was a portress and doctor at the Trappistine Abbey (Steffen 2014, p. 423).
Further, Sr. Judith’s journal indicates that the two Carmelites and the two Trappistines kept to themselves in Barracks 36, creating a kind of cloistered environment of silence and seclusion, replicating their former way of life to every possible extent.
“The Trappistines (Hedwigis and Theresia Löb) and the two Carmelites (Rosa and Edith Stein) stayed in their barrack, though, just as they had previously stayed within the enclosure of their monasteries. They got up quite early the next morning, as they were accustomed to in their monasteries, but they were not allowed to leave the barracks. Later they did some cleaning in the barracks and then in the afternoon they had to line up again for roll call” (Steffen 2014, p. 424).
It was on the morning of August 5 that Edith, Rosa, and the Löb family learned their fate: they would all be sent to Auschwitz without reprieve.
The next morning, all the new arrivals had to report to the commandant. It was a really big group, and they all had to wait in a tiny little room until they were called, one by one, to go into the next room where they would find out whether or not they would be granted a reprieve or be put on transport. Many came out of that room disappointed, and there was already talk of all reprieves being rescinded. The Löb brothers and sisters were not granted a reprieve.
Edith Stein and her sister Rosa underwent the same fate as the Löbs. Sr. Judith saw Edith leaving the commandant’s small office: she looked “really pale but resigned, and she was still comforting her fellow sufferers.” Lucie Bromberg had contact with Edith Stein several times while they were in Westerbork and she regarded her as being really silent, calling her a “Pietà without a Christ” (Steffen 2014, pp. 424-425).
STEFFEN, P. (2014). Can a seamless garment be truly torn?: questions surrounding the Jewish-Catholic Löb family, 1881-1945. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=4546377_0.
Excerpt from Edith Stein's Self-Portrait in Letters, 1916-1942, Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Discalced Carmelite, translated by Josephine Koeppel (The Collected Works of Edith Stein, vol. 5) Copyright © 1993 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc. Published by ICS Publications, Washington DC