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January 11, 1903
|Died||October 6, 1944
|Occupation||Poet and writer|
|Known for||German-language songs for Jewish children|
Ilse Weber (January 11, 1903 - October 6, 1944) née Herlinger, was born in Witkowitz near Mährisch-Ostrau. A Jewish poet, she wrote in German, most notably songs and theater pieces for Jewish children. She married Willi Weber in 1930. She was voluntarily transported to Auschwitz with the children of Theresienstadt and killed in the gas chambers, along with her son, Tommy. Her most popular book was "Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children" (1929).
As a child she learned to sing and play guitar, lute, mandolin and balalaika, but apparently never considered a career as a musician.
In 1930 she married Willi Weber and settled in Prague, where she wrote for children's periodicals and became a producer for Czech Radio. Following the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939 the Webers were able to get their oldest son Hanuš safely to Sweden on a "Kindertransport" before they were confined to Prague's Jewish Ghetto. Hanuš was first sent to the U.K. to live with a friend of his mother who was the daughter of a Swedish diplomat. He survived the war in Sweden, and lives in Stockholm in retirement. His son, Tommy, born in 1977, is named in honor of his younger brother, murdered with his mother in Auschwitz.
The Webers arrived at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in February 1942. Ilse Weber worked as a night nurse in the camp's children's infirmary, doing everything she could for the young patients without the aid of medicine (which was forbidden to Jewish prisoners). She wrote around 60 poems during her imprisonment and set many of them to music, employing deceptively simple tunes and imagery to describe the horror of her surroundings. In performance she accompanied herself on guitar. Her songs include "Lullaby," "I Wandered Through Theresienstadt," "The Lidice Sheep," "And the Rain Falls," and "Avowal of Belief."
When her husband was deported to Auschwitz in October 1944, Ilse Weber volunteered to join him with their son Tommy because she didn't want to break up the family. She and the boy were sent to the gas chamber on arrival. Willi Weber survived them by 30 years.
Her most popular book was "Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children" (1929). The title character, a kind elderly man, mysteriously receives a magic coin that enables him to become invisible at will. He uses this power to perform anonymous good deeds for his neighbors. Weber's sharp observations and gentle humor make these stories appealing for all ages.
Her early fiction, dating from 1925, was collected as "The Scooter Race and Other Stories" (1930).
Weber's Theresienstadt poetry was collected in the book "Inside These Walls, Sorrow Lives" (1991). Her songs have been frequently recorded, particularly "Lullaby," most recently by mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and Christian Gerhaher (2007). In 2008, the Munich-based publisher Carl Hanser Verlag brought out a collection of her letters and poems entitled: Wann wohl das Leid ein Ende hat (When will the suffering come to an end) collected by the German historian Ulrike Migdal. Weber's surviving son Hanuš participated in a cultural program commemorating his mother's work in Berlin on May 22, 2008. He is the author of a book on her life, Ilse: A Love Story Without a Happy Ending.
- Märchen (Fairy Tales), 1928
- Die Geschichten um Mendel Rosenbusch: Erzählungen für jüdische Kinder (Mendel Rosenbusch: Tales for Jewish Children), 1929
- Das Trittrollerwettrennen (The Scooter Race), 1936
- In deinen Mauern wohnt das Leid: Gedichte aus dem KZ Theresienstadt (Inside These Walls, Sorrow Lives: Poems from Theresienstadt Concentration Camp), 1991
- Wann wohl das Leid ein Ende hat (When Will Suffering End), 2008; ed. Ulrike Migdal, ISBN 978-3-446-23050-7
- Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt (Wandering Through Theresienstadt)
- Ade, Kamerad (Goodbye, Friend)
- Und der Regen rinnt (And the Rain Falls)
- Wiegala (Lullabye) - recorded on Terezín - Theresienstadt (Anne Sofie von Otter album)
- Weber, Hanuš. 2004. Ilse: A Love Story Without a Happy Ending. Stockholm: Författares Bokmaskin, ISBN 91-7910-561-0