Nina Orsten


“…..they wanted to interview me about an underground organisation which I was supposed to be helping and my actual crime was ‘high treason’.  So I knew immediately it must have something to do with these letters which I was writing….”

“….from that moment on I somehow was resigned to the thought that I shall not be able to get out of this.  But one didn’t think any further, whether one is going to die or what’s going to happen.  I only knew that I was caught and that I’ll never be able to tell them anything that would save me…. “

“You think you are at the lowest ebb of life but there always is an even lower one and it is in human nature that you come to appreciate the one you are in because of it.” 

“We had to really walk very fast because the Russians came nearer and nearer.  We were not allowed to stop and those who couldn’t walk fast enough were just shot.  So everybody just was running for their lives. “

“…there came huge trucks and tanks on that road with big white stars on it.  And my heart sank.  I said, “Now, after all this, we are again in the hands of the Russians.” I didn’t know that the white stars were American, the sign of the American Army. So we were very relieved and we just walked along that road…..”

“…after I’d rung the bell my father came out on the balcony and I said to him, “Hello, Mr Essler.”  And he looked and he said, “Hello?”  Like to a stranger, because he never expected me because they had heard only a few days before that I had died.”


Transcribing and editing my mother’s words has given me a terrific insight into the bravery, fortitude and determination which carried my mother through her wartime experiences. In 1974 at the age of 19, when I recorded the interview, I was unable to grasp the enormity of what both mum and dad had been through and how all this must have affected their lives.

I am incredibly proud of my mother and what she achieved during her incarceration in prison and concentration camp and her subsequent successful escape. I hope that this story can be read by family and friends and appreciated as one of the many unique memories of my mother

Memories of the war

As recounted to Nina’s son on the 8th January 1974