Interviewee: Anna Mrazkova
Title: The Polak family in Jicin
Place and Date: Jicin, Czech Republic - 1901
This is a picture of the Polak family from Jicin. Sitting at the far right is my grandmother, Helena Polakova [nee Alterova], and standing above her is my grandfather, Hynek Polak. Then sitting on the left is my father, Emil Polak, standing beside him is his sister Hedvika, and in the middle is his brother Bedrich Polak. The photo was apparently taken in 1901.
My grandfather on my father's side, Hynek Polak, was born in 1860 in Jicin. He graduated from business academy and devoted his entire life to business; he and Grandma owned a shop where they sold liquor. His son, Bedrich Polak, and his wife Greta also had a store in the same building in Jicin. His other son, my uncle Josef, had a daughter Hana, who died in the Holocaust, and Vera, who survived the war. We used to go to Jicin to visit my grandparents, but I don't remember it that much, I was still very small.
My grandparents were believers, but observed Jewish holidays more out of tradition, as some sort of folklore. They practiced, but we never really talked about it much. I do know that my father used to go to the synagogue, because it was necessary for ten adult men to meet, meaning men that had had their bar mitzvah, so that they could have a minyan for prayer.
My grandmother, Helena Polakova, née Alterova, died in 1934. Grandpa Hynek spent the whole war in Terezin, luckily he had cataracts, and so always when he was supposed to go into the transport, he went for an operation and thus avoided deportation. This was because the Germans didn't deport sick people eastward, because they were still claiming that there were work camps in the east, and it would thus have been suspicious if they would've been sending the disabled and ill to work. It seems that the Germans were counting on him dying of disease in Terezin, as he was 85! But Grandpa survived all his children, most of his grandchildren, and died long after the war, at the age of 96.
Interviewee: Dagmar Lieblova
Title: Anna Lieblova´s paternal grandparents
Place and Date: Cimelice, Czech Republic - 1910s
This is picture of my grandparents´ home in Cimelice. My grandad is the one in hat standing, sitting woman is grandmum and the standing woman from left is their daughter Ruzena.
I can't remember my grandmother or grandfather on my father's side too well, as I never spent much time with them, even though we used to visit them twice a year in Cimelice, which is a small town near Pisek. My grandfather was born in Lubenec in 1858. He lived in Cimelice, south Bohemia, where he had a farm with land under crop and horses that he was very proud of. He also had a store there, which is still standing, although it now sells Dutch furniture.
My grandmother on my father's side was called Jindriska and was born in 1859. She came from Suchomasty, Beroun. My grandparents were both religious. They had separate sets of dishes, ate kosher food and probably had a Jewish wedding, but my grandfather didn't wear a yarmulka. Their devoutness was not, I think, passed on to any of their children. At the beginning of the 1930s my grandparents sold their house and farm in Cimelice and moved to Beroun, where they built a little house with rooms and a kitchen downstairs and an attic upstairs. Unlike Beroun, I can't remember Cimelice. We always went to Beroun on the first of May, and my parents always wanted us to leave before all the ceremonial processions in Prague started up. We went there from Kutna Hora via Prague. My grandmother used to cook excellent flour dumplings; mom would always ask her how she does it and she would say - 'Don't you know how to do flour dumplings?' We always had dumplings and Polish sauce or goose. Polish sauce is sweet and has plums and raisins in it. There was always good soup, too. I can remember that grandfather would go a bit of the way with us in the car to see us off on our way home. And he always blessed us when we parted I do not remember what he was whispering, but he always put his hand on my forehead. Both my grandparents died before the deportations began - grandmother in January 1940, grandfather six weeks later.
Interviewee: Alena Munková
Title: Marie Synkova and her sister Anna Schwelbova
Place and Date: Kolin, Czech Republic - 1918
This is my mother Marie Synkova, née Steinerova, and her younger sister Anna Schwelbova, née Steinerova. The picture was taken in a photo studio in Kolin, as is written on the photograph. I think that this might have been still before World War I. Here I'd say my mother is about ten to twelve years old.
My mother was born on 9th August 1898 in Kolin - she was four years younger than my father - and died before the war, in 1933, of cancer. As I then found out, her father also died of cancer, a year before her. I don't even know what her religious inclinations were like, I was six when she died - it was at the end of Grade One - she'd already been ill for the last two years.
My mother had one sister, named Anna Schwelbova. She was born on 10th December 1904. She was married about three times, and with one of her husbands, some Neumann, she had a son, Zdenek, who was two years older than I. I think that Neumann, but that I'm not sure of, maybe it was Schwelba, was a barber or hairdresser, something like that. Anna, her son and her mother, my grandmother Hermina Steinerova, went onto the transport already at the beginning of 1942, and maybe didn't even go through Terezin, but straight away somewhere further on. I think that they died somewhere in Poland.
Interviewee: Asaf Auerbach
Title: Marketa Auerbachova preparing for aliyah
Place and Date: Czech Republic - 1920s
My parents met through the Zionist movement. This photograph was taken on one farm where they and other Zionists were preparing for aliyah to Palestine. My mother (Marketa Fantlova) is the person in the foreground. The purpose of their stay here was to learn agricultural work, Ivrit and perhaps also other things. They left for Palestine in 1922 and there founded the Bet Alfa kibbutz, populated primarily by settlers from Czechoslovakia and partly from Germany.
I think that from both families my parents were the only ones that followed Zionism. I don't know what their families had to say about it, you've got to know that they probably didn't like it, that they were going to leave for such a far away place, but you can't prevent young people from doing anything...
My parents stayed in Palestine until 1930. My older brother Ruben and I were born there. Our parents probably didn't plan to return to Czechoslovakia, I don't know why they decided for it. It's possible that there were health reasons, that the local climate didn't agree with them. Afterwards, my parents never spoke at home about what it had been like in Palestine.
Interviewee: Ruth Goetzová
Title: Ruth Goetzova in elementary school
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1920s
This picture of me was taken in the 1st or 2nd grade of elementary school at the end of the 1920s.
Before I started attending school, my governess would take me for French lessons to this one old French woman. We also studied French in high school; our teacher was this incredibly sweet lady. I spoke fluently, but my grammar wasn't very good. And my teacher insisted that I had to learn it, while I insisted that I spoke French the best out of the whole class, so we had a conflict. And she said that if I didn't learn that grammar, she'd fail me. And I contradicted her, that she couldn't do that. And so we argued back and forth, until in 'sekunda' [the 2nd of 8 years], in a quarter where there wasn't a report card given, but an evaluation, she gave me a 4 [5 being the lowest]. And so at home they almost lynched me; I had to do extra studies to make up for it. Today I unfortunately can't speak it at all.
I attended a high school on Slezska Street. Because of the anti-Jewish laws I had to leave in 'kvarta' [4th year]. Through some people we knew I got into a private commerce school, where I spent one year. With this my studies ended, because upon my return from prison camp I had other worries, and so I simply never graduated. My life's goal had been to study medicine, and devote myself to children's medicine, but due to wartime and post-war circumstances this never happened.
Interviewee: Ludmila Rutarova
Title: The Weiner family shop
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1923
In this picture from 1923, our family is in front of our shop in Prague. Sitting in the carriage is my brother Pepik, I?m the little girl standing beside the carriage, and holding the carriage is our servant Helena.
We had a servant, Helena, who was a ?schlonzachka" which means that she was from somewhere by Ostrava, and spoke in their dialect ? a little Czech, a little Polish. I remember that when there were elections, I asked Hela whom she?d voted for. She told me that she's a ?schlonzachka" and so of course has to vote for the Communists!
My parents had a general store where they sold various goods: fruit, vegetables, baked goods, butter, eggs, milk, coffee, tea, sugar, sometimes even chickens and geese. I didn't like being in the store too much, because I had to help! My parents rose early in the morning and would go to the market close to Narodni Trida [National Avenue] for vegetables, fruit, eggs and other goods. At the market, when they?d see our mother approaching, they?d say: "The countess is coming" because she used to root around in the goods. [The Czech word for countess is ?hrabenka" while the expression for rooting or digging around is ?hrabat.?] The market was this big lot, and my parents used to run into various storekeepers there. The Novaks, greengrocers, were from Kvetuse, close to Nadejkov, where I?d lived for three years, so I would occasionally go with them during the holidays.
During the time of the protectorate we had to close the store and move in to one room. Before that we we'd been living in the building where our store was, and we had a small apartment ? one room, a kitchen, and a larger front hall. My father didn't want to live anywhere else other than the house where we had our store, so he'd be close to work.
Interviewee: Jiří Munk
Title: Jiri Munk's relatives, the Vohryzeks, on a trip
Place and Date: Czech Republic - 1930s
A photo from a trip. Uncle Vilem Vohryzek, is standing in the second row in a white hat with a dark ribbon, to the left is Aunt Bedriska Vohryzkova, his wife, directly under the letter 'H'. Aunt Bedriska was my father's sister. My father also had a brother, Josef Munk, who was a Legionnaire in Russia during World War I, and after the war he and the Vohryzek family bought a farm in the Sudetenland named Doubravice.
Auntie Bedriska Munkova married Mr. Vilem Vohryzek and Uncle Josef Munk married Mr. Vohryzek's sister, Marta Vohryzkova, which caused quite an interesting family situation. The Vohryzeks had two children, Hana and Helena. The older daughter, Hana, was very beautiful. It was even said that one adjunct from the farm, where she lived with her family, shot himself because of her. The Munks had only one son, who was named Jiri Munk, like me.
Interviewee: Dagmar Lieblova
Title: Kurt Brodmann's mother, Franziska Goldstaub together with her sisters Rosa and Anni
Place and Date: Kutna Hora, Czech Republic - 1930s
This is my dad in his surgery at the Masaryk Institute for Social Work in Kutna Hora.
My dad was born in 1892 in Cimelice. While studying medicine, he become involved in student activity against Austria and was sentenced to six months at the age of twenty-two. He was only in prison for three years though, because there was an amnesty in 1917 when Emperor Franz Joseph died and a new emperor came along. Dad was condemned and permanently expelled from all the universities in Austria-Hungary. My grandfather Vilem wrote a letter to a prison in Arad, Romania , asking if his son Julius was there and if he was alive and well. He received the letter back with the following note written on it in German: 'We can inform you that your son Julius is here and is well.' A lawyer later explained to me that this made sense because if they had replied on different paper, they would have had to archive it and to send an official reply. After my father had received an amnesty, he later served in the army in a Czech regiment in Hungary, and in 1918 resumed his studies once again. He would often relate what happened when he went to put his name down for the degree ceremony: a clerk at the rector's office looked in his documents and pointed out that he had been permanently expelled from all universities in Austria-Hungary. In response, dad said that Austria-Hungary is no longer in existence. He was a general practitioner all his life.
Dad had been given a position in Kutna Hora as a doctor at the Masaryk Institute for Social Work, as well as setting up his own practice. This is apparently how they met, according to the family. But in fact, they actually met, I think, through a joint friend of Mr. Ohrenstein, the father of the poet Orten.
I think that dad was a good doctor. There are still people around who can remember him. He employed nurse at the Masaryk Institute for Social Work, but he did everything for himself at home. Mom came in the evening to clean his instruments and to boil the syringes. He was the only Jewish doctor in Kutna Hora. Because he was a Jew, he was allowed to work as a general practitioner only until 1939, after which time he could treat only Jewish patients. Dad was a member of a number of professional associations, but I don't think he held any posts in them. He was a retired officer and saw himself as a Czechoslovak patriot. His political sympathies were with the Social Democrats. At home we read 'Pravo lidu' , which was a Czech-language daily paper read by the majority of Social Democrats.
Interviewee: Milena Procházková
Title: Milena Prochazkova with her grandparents
Place and Date: Czech Republic - 1932
This is a picture of Rudolf Stern and Elsa Sternova, my mother's parents. And between them am I, when I was about 2. But I have no clue where the photo was taken. Grandma Sternova was generous, but was stricter with us. On the other hand, Grandpa Stern spoiled us rotten.
My grandparents lived together in Kamberk, where they had a huge farm estate. My grandpa probably had some sort of agricultural high school, because as a farmer he was very successful. But it was terrible drudgery. That estate was really very large, because twelve families lived there. They worked for them in the fields and gardens, basically whatever was needed. And got a salary for that. They had horses, cows, poultry, everything.
From 1928 onwards, when my mother, Hedvika Kosinerova, was married, Grandpa and Grandma lived in Prague. They sold the farm and bought half of an apartment building on Veletrzni Street, and lived on the rent from it. I don't think that this transaction was connected to my mother's wedding in any way, more likely they were toil-worn and wanted to retire. What's more, it had probably been planned for a long time, because they bought the building with some distant relative of my grandmother's, and Grandma had half and they had half, so it must have been agreed upon long before.
As far as religion goes, my grandfather on my mother's side regularly attended synagogue. At least once a month. But mainly he always observed the New Year [Rosh Hashanah] and the Long Day [Yom Kippur]. He was brought up that way at home, likely by his father, because his mother didn't observe anything. You know, what could you observe in those villages. Both his parents were Jews, just like my grandma's, they were generations of Jewish families. But they were village families. I suspect that they tried to live in such a way so as not stick out too much from the other villagers. Some sort of attending synagogue was of course not possible in a village in those days. Nevertheless neither did my grandfather live in some sort of Orthodox fashion, he observed only the High Holidays, didn't eat kosher and on the contrary, spent Christmas with us children. Neither did he try to exert some sort of religious influence or pressure. No one talked about it in that family. He lived his own internal life, but without us.
I think that Grandma finished junior high, and then she worked on that farm - they slaved away there - and also took care of the children. She had five of them, but three died in 1918 or 1919, when the Spanish Flu was at its peak. She didn't live in any particularly religious fashion.
Interviewee: Toman Brod
Title: Arnost Brod and his wife Olga at a Jewish celebration
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1937
This photograph was taken on 5th December 1937 in a large hall at the Auto Club, and in it are my parents, Arnost Brod and Olga Brodova, together with some friends of theirs. I don't know what the celebration was for, perhaps Chanukkah, the others were most likely also Jews. At home we never celebrated Chanukkah.
My father was very occupied by his job, he worked as a grain wholesaler. He had very little free time, I don't remember much about his social life.
Otherwise, as far as my parents' social life goes, I especially remember my mother's lady friends. My mother was a very passionate card player. She had lots of lady friends, who just like her played bridge. It was this social circle that came to visit her, or she would go with them to coffee houses, because they mainly played in coffee houses. This society of women met at our place for various tea parties, afternoons, various women's matters were discussed. Some of these ladies spoke Czech, some German and they would fluidly switch from one language to the other. With some of these lady friends of hers, who had children, we used to go to our summerhouse, as summer holidays were then called. It's interesting that they were all assimilated Jewish families. Really, our family friends were only Jews.
Interviewee: Kurt Brodmann
Title: Funeral of Rabbi Chaim Eleazar Spira
Place and Date: Mukachevo, Czech Republic - 1937
This is a picture from the funeral of rabbi Chaim Spira. The photo was taken in Mukachevo in 1937.
Mukachevo was a Jewish town. It was even called 'little Jerusalem' and it was a center of Hasidism. There was a yeshivah, a Jewish higher educational institution, in Mukachevo. The chief rabbi at the yeshivah was the popular Hasidic rabbi Chaim Spira [Shapira].
Rabbi Chaim Spira died in 1937. Hasidim from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Poland came to his funeral. My father took me to his funeral although my mother protested. She was afraid that I might be treaded down by the crowd. I can remember very clearly the funeral of Spira. The whole town was in mourning. There were black cloths on the houses and people wore dark clothes. It looked as though it got dark all of a sudden. Non-Jewish residents also came to the funeral. There were police patrols in the streets and policemen were wearing special safety hats in case of trouble. People took turns to carry the casket from the house where Rabbi Spira lived, across the town and out of town to the Jewish cemetery. Every five to ten meters the casket was handed over to another group of men. There were so many of those that were willing to carry it that the casket could have been easily handed over all the distance between Mukachevo and Uzhgorod. Men were carrying it on their shoulders to pay honor to Rabbi Spira. People were crying. However young I was I remember this overwhelming grief. So many people came to the cemetery that there wasn't an inch of space left there.
Interviewee: Anna Hyndrakova
Title: Frantisek Kowanitz and Gertruda Kowanitzova on their wedding day
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1941
This photo was taken in Prague in October 1941, on the wedding day of my sister Gertruda Kowanitzova, nee Kovanicova. You can see her here with her husband Frantisek Kowanitz.
My sister was seven years older than me. I think she went to a Czech high school and then to a private school of advertising. She then got a job in an office somewhere and drew for fashion magazines, from which she earned a living on the side. She was very clever and good with her hands. She could speak French and German and was really smart and beautiful. She could also play the piano, even though we didn't have one. We liked each other a lot, but we only realized this during the war, when it was too late for everything.
In October 1941, my sister married the Jewish man Frantisek Kowanitz in Vinohrady Town Hall. It was a civil wedding, and, for the occasion, I got some leather gloves and silk stockings. They got a red dinner service from Aunt Elza, which I still have to this day. From another aunt, my sister got a gas oven, as well as an embroidered lace tablecloth with twelve covers, which was - and still is - very expensive. Frantisek was born in 1916; he was a distant relative. He worked as a chief clerk and was in the coal business. By the time I met him he was no longer allowed to do his job. We all lived together. I didn't like him at first, because they talked a lot and were all very jovial while I had to do the dishes. I was about 13 and I kept a diary in which I wrote that I didn't like him because I had to be in the kitchen all the time. My sister probably read it, because he started coming into the kitchen after that and said things like 'You're my sister-in-law' and 'Dear sister-in-law', so I liked him a lot then.
Frantisek was really good-looking and clever. He was a fine person. But we didn't know each other too well. My sister and me didn't understand each other too well either, on account of the big age difference between us. By the time we had started to see eye-to-eye, we were in Terezin. They obviously got married quickly because deportations were already taking place at that time and they wanted to go together. Immediately after the wedding, Frantisek was sent to a work camp [forced labor camp] in Lipa and then to Terezin. My sister went to Terezin in December 1941.
Interviewee: Chava Pressburger
Title: Chava Pressburger´s class portrait
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1942
This is a picture of my class at the Jewish elementary school in Prague. It was the last school year, 1941/1942, before we had to leave the school because of our Jewish origin. You can see that we all have a Jewish star on our clothes. I?m in the second row from the top, the fourth from the left.
Both my brother Petr and I grew up at home. We started our school attendance at the Jewish elementary school in Prague on Jachymova Street. I think that my favorite subject at school was drawing. Outside of school we didn't have any private tutors, but we both regularly attended the gym, which I liked a lot. My girlfriends from elementary school were in a similar situation as I, all came from well-to-do Jewish families and our childhood was very happy. Besides my Jewish classmates I don't remember any friends outside of school.
In our home it was important that the children pay attention to their responsibilities and that all was in order. In the morning we rose, the maid prepared breakfast and then Petr and I would walk by ourselves to school. In those days there weren't very many cars about and the streets were safe for us. We lived at Tesnov, close to Hlavkuv Bridge. It was a beautiful walk; on winter mornings the gas lamps would still be lit and the snow would crunch under our feet. School was in the morning, I usually finished earlier than Petr and my mother would be waiting for me in front of the school. Then we would have lunch at home; only our father was in the office and came home later. After lunch our mother would go lie down and we would do our homework; in those days there wasn't much of it.
Then we would play a bit at home, and then go out for a walk, usually with the maid. Often we would go to Stvanice, which is an island in Prague, there we would toboggan or play with a ball, and when it was warm, you could bathe in the Vltava there. And in the winter we would again go to the Vltava, to skate; the river froze over regularly and we would skate from Hlavkuv Bridge to the weir and back again. Sometimes we would go skating to the arena on Stvanice, but there you had to pay. They had music playing there and you would skate round and round. We would go shopping to the market at Ovocny Trh. I remember how there would be old women sitting there, selling pats of butter and cheese, and would let us have a taste, which I liked to do very much. The butter would then be kept in the pantry, in cold water. We would also have fruit preserves or sauerkraut stored there. When we returned from our walk, it was suppertime, and then Petr and I would like to read, there really wasn't any other form of entertainment. Reading was our main hobby.
Interviewee: Ota Gubic
Title: Cartonnage workshop at the Novaky labor camp
Place and Date: Novaky, Czech Republic - 1942
This photo is from the Novaky labor camp. The picture was taken between the years 1942 - 1944. It was taken by the Novaky concentration camp photo workshop.
My brother arrived at the Novaky camp in 1942. As he was the son of a book printer, they assigned him to the cartonnage workshop, and it was in the cartonnage shop that an interesting incident took place. In 1943, after the Battle of Stalingrad, a delegation from the Ministry of the Interior came from Bratislava. The delegation was composed of members of the Ministry of the Interior, and the head of the delegation was named Pecuch. They probably came to sniff out what Jews thought about the solution to the Jewish question. Pecuch came up to my brother, and asked, 'What will happen to us after the war?' At that moment my brother was working on a machine that was processing cardboard. He didn't answer him, but drew a hammer and sickle on the cardboard. Pecuch asked him again, 'Well, and what will you do with us?' My brother answered him, 'You'll hang!'
Well, that caused a big uproar in the camp, everyone thought that they'd grab my brother and hang him, but nothing happened. He had a tendency to act the hero. In that sense my brother became the hero of the Novaky camp. That was already in 1943, after Stalingrad. After the camp's liberation, he also joined a partisan unit, and returned home after the war. We weren't in the same unit, and didn't know anything about each other until after the war.
Interviewee: Eva Meislová
Title: Eva Meislova's husband Jiri Meisl and her mother Stepanka Bohmova
Place and Date: Tabor, Czech Republic - 1946
This picture was taken in Tabor on my wedding day in 1946. It shows my mother, Stepanka Bohmova, and my husband, Jiri Meisl, as they are entering the wedding hall.
In April 1946 we had a double wedding, me and Jiri, and Richard and Marta, who was Jewish and had lost her husband during the Holocaust. The wedding was on the same day a year after I had been liberated. I didn't realize until I received a telegram with congratulations from my former co-prisoners.
We shared a house with Richard, his wife and their two daughters, Marcela and Zuzana. Jiri and Richard rebuilt the confectionary warehouse of their parents after the war. We didn't have very much money but the Orion confectionary factory gave them a credit in the name of their father, and so we got started. I worked with them, and my mum was at home cooking for us and doing the housework. We sold goods to small businessmen. We had a Tatra and an assistant driver. We were successful, but we worked really hard for it. I was in the shop or in the office every single day. When communists nationalized the warehouse in 1948, I was actually glad that I got rid of it.
My husband began to work in a textile factory in Ceske Budejovice in 1948. He was diligent, worked his way up and soon held a distinguished post. However, some communists didn't like it because he used to be a businessman, and they fired him during the program '77.000 persons to manufacture' [the program was actually called 'Action 77,000'] so he had to start all over. There was a silicone fiber production factory in Tabor, so he went to work there with a friend of his. He started as a manual laborer, it was nonstop work, including Saturdays and Sundays. In the end he worked his way up, but again he was told that as a former businessman he could be no more than a foreman. Jiri said to the director, 'Comrade director, you say I cannot be production planner but you let me be a foreman who can influence hundreds of people?' He did become a foreman but slowly worked his way up again, and then he was in a really good position until his retirement in 1981.
Interviewee: Pavel Fried
Title: Rabbi Feder during the unveiling of a Holocaust memorial in Trebic
Place and Date: Trebic, Czech Republic - 1947
This picture was taken on the occasion of the unveiling of a memorial for the Jews in Trebic that died during World War II. The collection for the realization of this monument was organized by my father, Viktor Fried. Out of 297 members of the Jewish community that existed in the town before the year 1939, only nine of us remained. The photographs is from around the year 1947. The man sitting in the middle is Dr. Richard Feder, provincial rabbi - chief rabbi of the Czechoslovak Republic. He was chief rabbi until his death in the year 1970. All of the other people in the photograph are chance passers-by. In don't recognize any of them, because all of the Jews were standing in front of the monument and the photo shows people standing behind the Holocaust victims' monument.
Interviewee: Marietta Šmolková
Title: Jaroslav Smolka at the Jewish birth registry office
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1948
This is a photo from the Jewish birth registry, which was located at the Jewish community in Prague at 18 Maiselova Street, on the second floor. All of these people are employees of the registry; my husband is the one in the back, in the middle with a tie. They were terribly busy, because after the war no one had ID and everyone used to come there for documents. The photo could be from about 1948.
My husband was named Jaroslav Smolka. He was born in Bernatice in Southern Bohemia in 1900. We met on the street in Prague after the war, but we'd already known each other from Terezin, because his brother had married Uncle Viktor's first wife.
Jaroslav graduated from high school in Pisek and continued his studies at the University of Economics in Prague. He had his first final exam, when in 1925 his father died. So Jaroslav returned, to take care of his mother and take over his father's business. His father had still made his rounds to the farmers on foot, to offer them farm machinery. Jaroslav already had a motorcycle. He always told me about how he wished that he wouldn't have to make a living in this way after the war, basically in the role of a supplicant, greatly dependent on how the harvest would end up, and if he would get paid in the end. He said that he'd be a civil servant after the war, which also happened.
It took about six years before we were married. My husband was afraid of the large age difference, but for me, at the age of 21, it didn't matter at all. All my life I had actually gravitated towards older people, from the time I was little I was around older people. So for years we lived separately. In 1949 the Jewish community decided that it would turn a building in Siroka Street in Prague, where it had offices, into apartments for its employees. Unfortunately only for those that lived somewhere and could offer their own apartment in exchange. But my husband was renting, and I was living with Aunt Gusti. A friend of his helped him, who worked at the community and together with Mr. Gutig administered the Jewish community's real estate. In the neighboring building in Siroka Street he found a laundry room right at the top in the attic, and they had it converted to an apartment, which was then given to Jaroslav. I live here to this day.
Our wedding took place in 1954. We didn't have any children, both of us worked very hard, so we divided up the household chores. We had a beautiful relationship. At the beginning of our life together my husband said to me: 'I've got two requests. We'll never argue, and we'll never be without bread at home, because I don't want to be without bread ever again.' We really never argued, and I'd say that in time we melded to the degree that one actually didn't exist without the other.
My husband was somewhat similar to my father in that he preferred spending his free time with me, and didn't need to associate with other people. He also read a lot, like my father. He respected the fact that one day a week my aunt would come visit us, and that we would visit her once a week. He liked my sister, who lived in Teplice, but occasionally came here to visit, and we would visit her too.
Interviewee: Ota Gubic
Title: Communist Party meeting
Place and Date: Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic - 1950s
This photograph was taken in Karlovy Vary at the beginning of the 1950s, at a Communist Party meeting. I took the photo.
I don't even know anymore how they convinced me to become the regional Communist Party secretary. Before February 1948, the Communist Party created the position of so-called district secretaries. Each region was divided up into districts. It was a major coup for the Communist Party, because they got close to the people. I was in charge of about five organizations. Meetings were held at least once a week, sometimes even twice. In February, I also took part in those February events.
I started working as the secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. I held this position for five years, and then was a cultural officer at the Regional Committee. This is a sad chapter of my life, even though my hands are clean. I don't have even a smidgen of blood behind my fingernails, neither was I persecuted after the revolution, because I acted normally. I can look back at those five years with a clear conscience, but on the other hand, it was after all no smooth ride being a secretary of the Communist Party. There were enough of all sorts of Communists here, so it was quite difficult. I also had a lot of enemies. Finally I had to leave my position and then worked only as a typesetter, from where I went into retirement.
I lived through democracy as a social order, I had the partisan movement behind me as well as illegal Communist work. For me it was a matter of fact that after the war I remained a Communist. In the 1950s they threw me out. I didn't accept it very easily, so I tried to get them to take me back, which I finally succeeded in doing, but then they threw me out again. I was too much of a democrat for their tastes.
Interviewee: Ota Gubic
Title: Ota Gubic as a typesetter in the Straz print shop
Place and Date: Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic - 1960s
That's me on the right, working. The photo was taken in the 1960s in the Straz print shop in Karlovy Vary. I don't remember the man beside me.
After the war I started working at the Patria printing house as a typesetter. I had this childhood dream, as a typesetter I wanted to study typography in Leipzig, because Leipzig was the biggest typographic power in Europe. I knew that it was only a dream and that I couldn't get over there, so I accepted a position in Prague. So in 1945 I set out for Prague in the back of a truck belonging to Carpathia. The Heumans, the owners of the jam factory, had given me an address to go to. Surprisingly, I found it very easily.
I got a room on Liliova Street. There were three of us living there. I, the Heuman's son, and some woman. Heuman then moved away, so I remained alone. I was close to work, all I had to do was cross the courtyard, and I was in the print shop. It was a good thing for me, I was being paid 4500 crowns. I was single, I was five minutes away from the National Theater and the Estates Theater, the Vltava River was also five minutes away, and my window looked out over Bethlehem Square, so for me the years 1945 and 1946 were beautiful.
In 1947 I arrived in Karlovy Vary, and here I met my wife, who used to come here to visit a girlfriend. One thing led to another, and on St. Nicholas Day in 1947 we were married. I started working as the secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. I held this position for five years, and then was a cultural officer at the Regional Committee. This is a sad chapter of my life, even though my hands are clean. I don't have even a smidgen of blood behind my fingernails, neither was I persecuted after the revolution, because I acted normally. I can look back at those five years with a clear conscience, but on the other hand, it was after all no smooth ride being a secretary of the Communist Party. There were enough of all sorts of Communists here, so it was quite difficult. I also had a lot of enemies. Finally I had to leave my position and then worked only as a typesetter, from where I went into retirement.
Interviewee: Martin Glas
Title: Gertruda Glasova at the grave of her parents in Jihlava
Place and Date: Jihlava, Czech Republic - 1964
My mother grew up in Jihlava, and from time to time she?d go to have a look at where she?d spent her childhood. She would then return, sad, saying that she didn't recognize any one there, not even one old granny. It's no wonder, Jihlava used to have many Germans, who were deported after the war, and Jews that didn't return. To this day the grave of my grandfather, Carl Fisher, is at the local Jewish cemetery.
After the war we were no longer members of the Jewish community. My mother did consider converting back to Judaism, but the ceremony that she would have had to undergo, for them to take her back, discouraged her from it. While when I was becoming a member of the community, they weren't interested in whether I'd been christened or not. The wanted to know my mother's origin. The reason my mother wanted to return was that she wanted to be together with Father. But I used to tell her that she'd meet up with him one way or the other. I think that what a person has in his heart is more important than what religion he formally belongs to.
In 1960 they caught Eichmann in Argentina. A colleague of mine at the time, also a Jew, the foreign editor Vladimír Tosek, lent me a book about Eichmann's kidnapping. I read it, and because I myself didn't remember Eichmann much, I wanted to see if my mother knew the name. There was a lot written about Eichmann in the papers, but my mother didn't read papers, didn't have a TV, and on the radio listened only to music broadcasts from Vienna, so she didn't know anything about what was going on with him. I came over to her and asked: ?Mom, does the name Eichmann mean anything to you?? She turned deathly pale, and just whispered, almost inaudibly: ?That's transports, that's transports.?
I realized that whenever Eichmann appeared in Terezin, that meant that there'd be more transports. That was his responsibility. His office was grandly named the Office for Jewish Emigration. When they were gassing Jews, that was supposed to be that emigration. I then felt terribly sorry that I had tried my mother like that, even so many years after the war, it was still an absolutely living memory for her.
Interviewee: Marietta Šmolková
Title: Marietta Smolkova receiving a state award
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1968
In this picture I was photographed in 1968 as I was accepting an Award for Excellent Work, for which I was nominated by the company where I worked at the time.
In 1948 I started working as a secretary for the Strojimport company, located in Prague on Wenceslaus Square, which did business internationally. I worked there until I retired in 1977. I started as a secretary in the machine tool department, gradually I worked my way up to departmental manager, then I became a vice-director in the woodworking machinery department and later for some time we had no director, so I managed a group of about 70 people. But I never counted on being named director, as I had never been a member of the Communist Party. They never directly pushed me into joining the Party, but of course offered me membership. Nevertheless, in the meantime the Slansky trials took place, which were so markedly anti-Semitic that I refused to join.
At work everyone knew that I was Jewish, I never tried to hide it in any way. I'd say that they quite respected the fact that I had survived the Holocaust. I'd be lying if I said that I was badly off there. In my political profile it stated that I was the daughter of a businessman, a porcelain manufacturer. It was put in a very oblique manner, they could have come right out and written that I come from a bourgeois family and that I'm the daughter of an industrialist, as it was put back then. I even got a state award, For Excellent Work, for which the company had nominated me.
It began with the fact that we were tasked with importing some set of machines for making hardware. It was a purchase that involved a great deal of money. The general directorship had an offer for these machines from one Austrian company, which had good connections here and had lots of contacts, so received a lot of opportunities. But from their offer there was no way of telling who manufactured the machines, the only thing that they told me was that they were from the United States. This was in 1964, when the political atmosphere in Czechoslovakia was beginning to loosen up a bit. People began to receive permission to travel abroad. I told my husband to try requesting an exit permit, because his brother Arnost was in America, whom he hadn't seen in a long time. He said that he wouldn't go without me, but I knew that they wouldn't give both of us a permit, for fear that we'd then stay. My husband got an exit permit, and so did I, after my colleague at the time, Vladimir Boruvka, vouched for me.
So I was in America, and knew that those machines for the hardware industry were supposed to be from there. I had a copy of the Austrian company's offer. In New York in the phone book I found some association of machine tool manufacturers, who couldn't help me, but who gave me this large catalog, so I could try to find among the appropriate manufacturers someone who would be appropriate to the size of the order. I actually succeeded in doing so, and I then asked that company for an offer, which in the end was 45% lower than the one from the Austrian company. In that same year I then flew to America one more time for a few days, with the general director and his two assistants, so we could negotiate the technical details of the deal directly in the factory in Chicago. The company then nominated me for an award, which I received in 1968.
Interviewee: Jiri Franek
Title: Jiri Franek at graduation ceremonies at Charles University
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1970
This photograph is from graduation ceremonies at Charles University, taken after my return from Germany, shortly before they expelled me from the faculty, in 1970.
I became Mathesius' successor, then I was in Germany for four years, where I had significant successes. I went to Germany in 1966, when they were looking for someone to lecture on Soviet literature. First they invited Soviets, but were unhappy with them because all they did was Soviet propaganda. So they invited emigrants, but they on the other hand did nothing but political anti-Soviet propaganda. This they didn't like either, so they wrote to Prague. Here they decided that I would go there for three months. I was very successful there, because I presented it as a unified whole. For me it was simply Russian literature. So they were satisfied with me, I got a professorship there, and wanted to stay for as long as possible, but I didn't want to emigrate. Then I received a one-year Humboldt scholarship. During that year I was allowed to work on only my own things, then I went to Tübingen. I worked at the foremost German universities, and lectured for a total of four years. In 1970 they wrote me from the CSSR that I have to decide, to either immediately return, or be considered an emigrant. I was in Germany with my entire family, so I guess it was my free choice that we returned.
After we returned from Germany, they very quickly threw me out of the Faculty, threw me out of the Party, but that I had already been thrown out of. In the critique they wrote: 'Associate professor Franek comes from a rich jewish family from Prague.' In those days that was the worst thing you could be. Meanwhile we hadn't been rich, when my father died, my mother sometimes didn't know if she'd be able to put dinner on the table, and I'm not exaggerating. I wasn't born in Prague, but in Vysoke Myto, but 'rich jewish family from Prague' sounds better. I never denied being from a jewish family. At that time jews were being persecuted, so they wrote from a jewish family.
How did I find out about it? It was all top secret, but somehow they made a mistake in my critique and had to write a new one. They took it out of the typewriter and threw it in the wastepaper basket. One day the cleaning lady knocked on my door and said, 'I have something for you.' I said to her, 'What do you have for me?'. 'It's your vetting review, from the garbage.' I have it stored away to this day. I know exactly what they wrote about me. I had been away on official business, but despite that, when I returned they threw me out of the Faculty as a German spy. I worked in the Lidove Publishers, in fact as the assistant chief editor, but because I had been thrown out of the Party, someone had to vouch for me. One acquaintance of mine did vouch for me, the literary critic Vladimir Dostal, but when he died the director of the publishing house immediately threw me out, and I ended up working for the railway.
Interviewee: Jiri Munk
Title: Jiri Munk with his wife Alena and friends on a tennis court
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1993
This photograph wasn't taken until after the revolution. I'm standing on the left with my wife, Alena Munkova, nee Synkova, on the right are the parents of the famous Czech tennis player Renata Tomanova. In the middle is another friend of ours.
Already during the time of the Normalization we used to go play tennis with friends, because back then a person didn't have a lot of opportunities for a social life, so we tried to at least play sports and meet with friends. At the tennis club we had a good group of friends, so we used to spend Saturdays and Sundays there.
We lived through thirty years of normalization in this sort of subdued fashion. No one hoped any longer that he'd live to see some fundamental changes in the regime, and so many people emigrated. It wasn't that difficult any more, but we didn't consider it. Our ties to the Czech environment and mainly to Prague were too strong.
But despite that, even during this time various opportunities in sports and culture presented themselves. As far as culture goes, we assiduously attended excellent concerts, small and large theaters, and exhibitions, both officially permitted and not. Translations of international literature were published, quality foreign films were also shown. Occasionally we even got abroad.
Even now we also try, in the realm of our capabilities, to keep in good physical and mental shape for as long as possible, so as not to be a burden on anyone. We exercise, swim, play tennis, improve our English and work on a PC. In this respect the Jewish community helps us by putting on various courses and so on.
Interviewee: Asaf Auerbach
Title: Asaf Auerbach and his family at a concert in honor of his brother Ruben
Place and Date: Prague, Czech Republic - 1987
This is a photograph of me and my slightly wider circle of relatives in front of the statue of Franz Kafka by the Spanish Synagogue in Prague. We gathered on New Year's Eve, when one of the memorial concerts in my brother Ruben's honor was held.
Ruben's daughter Mirjam said to herself that she'd like to in some fashion honor her father's memory. She was discussing it with someone from the Jewish community in Prague, and he suggested to her that she could organize a series of memorial concerts.
Ruben liked classical music. Not that he was some sort of great expert, but he had his favorite composers, Beethoven, Richard Strauss and mainly Wolfie, Mozart. The concerts took place in the Spanish Synagogue and performing in them was Vaclav Hudecek, a leading Czech violinist.
This is the text on the invitation:
Vaclav Hudecek's Music Holidays
A concert from the Memorial Concert Series cycle, taking place on New Year's in the Spanish Synagogue.
This series of concerts is dedicated to the memory of Pavel Potocky. Pavel Potocky was a person who lived his life during exceptional times. He was born as Ruben Auerbach on 31st December 1924 in Palestine, where his parents, among the first Czechoslovak Zionists, founded the Beth Alfa kibbutz. In 1930 the family returned to Prague, where Ruben spent his youth. In 1939 Ruben and his younger brother left on the last of three trains with Czech Jewish children for Great Britain. In 1942 his parents were transported to Terezin and afterwards to Auschwitz, where they died.
Ruben spent his adolescence in Britain, where at the age of 18 he joined the Czechoslovak army abroad, in which he served until the end of the war. He then returned to Prague, where he was later persecuted by the Communists for the fact that he had been a member of the armies of the Western Allies. In 1968, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, he was forced into a second emigration. Because of his longing for freedom, Ruben (now Pavel) left with his family for the USA, where he remained until the end of his life. He died on 18th October 2003.
Music was a great joy in Pavel Potocky's life, and his fervent wish was for all people to live in freedom. On this day, when Paul would have celebrated his 80th birthday, his family and friends from all around the world dedicate these concerts to his memory, with the hope that his dream of freedom will be realized in the following year as well as in the whole of the future.
Interviewee: Bedriska Felixova
Title: Mrs. Felixova at a memorial ceremony in Terezin
Place and Date: Terezin, Czech Republic - 2004
This photograph was taken in Terezin in May 2004, on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the liberation of the Terezin ghetto. I am standing on the right.
Each year we remind ourselves of the liberation of the Terezin ghetto. Regularly on this occasion many Jews and non-Jews get together. The survivors walk through the entire site, reminisce about the hard times they experieced and talk about the undignified conditions in which the prisoners lived and about the experiences that they gained in the ghetto. Usually a representative of the Czech government holds a speech. There is a Catholic and Jewish service and prayer for the dead..
On 7th May 1945 at around 9:30 in the evening the Russians arrived in Terezin. The Germans had run away about three days before their arrival. All of a sudden we were in no man's land, we had no idea what was or wasn't happening. Shots and explosions which at that time carried to us all the way from Prague all of a sudden ceased and a strange quiet came over the camp. In the evening we were slowly falling asleep when we heard some sort of metallic sound. With us was the master seamstress under whom my mother had had her dressmaking exams. She ran off to see what was going on. She returned out of breath: 'Girls, the Russians are here!' Both started crying and Mother tore off my star, almost taking my dress with it.
Trains with prisoners from the liberated concentration camps began arriving at Terezin train station full of wretches that had been forced to take part in the death march. Being a little girl, I ran about between those wagons searching for my dear father. He wasn't to be found, however. Out of the wagons tumbled emaciated people, the living along with the dead. The dead were buried right there in the Terezin cemetery and the ill were treated in the local hospital by Red Cross workers. Many of them were so exhausted that they couldn't even say their name and would only lifelessly show their arm, where their ID number was tattooed. While I was running back and forth between the wagons hopelessly searching for my father, a family friend saw me, and immediately berated my mother that I could catch some disease there. The thing is that typhus had begun spreading. Shortly thereafter I fell ill. A doctor came to see me, and said that it didn't look like typhus, but more like tonsillitis. I got a poultice, and tea with lemon for the first time in five years, and that doctor said to me: 'Little girl, show me what you're capable of.' Well, I guess I was capable, because I'm still alive.