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There Is a Secret Corner in My Heart 1

Freda Isaksen

When I first met Gerd 2 she was ten years old, a lovely happy child nearing adolescence. She had her mother’s dark hair and outgoing personality, she ran and skipped and sang and enjoyed her free time from school riding her bicycle in summer or running the ski slopes in winter. She was typical of her peers with school friends and cousins her own age and gender.

I came to live in her home town of Trondheim as a young bride when I married her uncle. Then her feminine curiosity was aroused and she wanted to know all I could tell of the big city that I came from. Did the girls behave differently in London? Were fashions for girls the same? What subjects were my favorites in school? Were sports activities the same in England as in Norway? There were many questions to answer the eager mind of a young girl.

I was her Tante Freda and proud to hear her confidences. As the years went by, Gerd and I were always close friends as she became an attractive teenager with boyfriends and new interests but she always remained eager to share my news of the big city of London which was far away.

She had been somewhat indulged materially and why not? It had not spoiled her character. As the only daughter of loving and affluent parents why should she not have enjoyed the best of life before the inevitable stresses of life’s adversities?

One summer her parents planned to take a vacation while Gerd and her two brothers would stay at a resort farm. The original intent was to send the household maid to supervise them, then Gerd suggested and asked if I would accompany them instead.

I was delighted to have the opportunity for a free vacation and to be with the children who I dearly loved. The four of us spent a wonderful two weeks together whilst our relationship strengthened. The youngsters enjoyed the farm life and helped to participate with the chores required on a farm so the experience was educational as well as fun. They petted and played and fed the animals until one day the young calf disappeared with no explanation from the owners.

A couple of days later we were served veal for dinner. The children’s sensibilities were greatly disturbed as they realized that all the edibles on a farm are home grown, animals and chickens have to serve a useful purpose.

Gerd especially, with her young female sensibilities, was extremely revolted and swore to become a vegetarian. Shortly after we returned home Gerd was suddenly taken to hospital with an emergency appendectomy. Immediately I rushed to see her, she cried to me that she was extremely anxious about the unknown; worried about the unknown of the unexpected surgery.

I assured her that she would be given a sedative, that she would sleep through the whole ordeal and that she would feel no pain or discomfort and would not be permanently bodily scarred. She was afraid to be left alone so her mother and I did our utmost to be by her side whenever possible for the next few days. Of course Gerd recovered very fast and I wish I could say that after that incident her teenage years continued as one would expect with minor and possibly major occurrences that would inevitably happen and be overcome.

But Gerd was not destined to live a normal life because on April 9, 1940, Norway was invaded by the Germans, and on October 26, 1942, Gerd, her two brothers, and her mother and father, along with 558 Norwegian Jews, were deported to Auschwitz on the German ship Donau. That is all that will ever be known of their suffering or how they died. Only 11 of those good people were liberated.

I always mourn for all those good people who were murdered, but for beautiful Gerd, sixteen years old, who was so young and innocent and sensitive there is a secret corner in my heart that aches and yearns to know how, when, and where did my lovely niece suffer at the hands of the brutal Nazis. And why?

Footnotes

  1. For the context of this story, see Freda’s Autobiography.
  2. The family relationship between Freda and Gerd is explained in The Isaksen Family History.


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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