God was on our side/I’m a German swine/I was happy going to Auschwitz

Katerina SidonovaPrague
When I would go into my father’s study when was a little girl, my attention was always caught by a picture hanging on the wall just above his typewriter.
It was a very dark and gloomy oil painting of my father’s father: my grandfather.
He was killed in the Little Fortress in Terezin. That was all I knew about him. And that he had been Jewish.
This is why I was interested later in World War II.
I think that all the people who have Jewish ancestors are interested in the War. We are somehow stigmatized by Holocaust, even if we have no feeling anymore of being Jews.
I asked two older women to tell me about their lives during the War, and heard about a third. And I was fascinated by how different their fates were.
My grandmother—- my mother’s mother – is Czech. When the War began she was a student at a German business school in Prague.
"We had to greet our teachers ‘Heil Hitler.’ This was impossible for us Czech students. But we didn’t dare not to do it. So we mumbled something instead. I was lucky it was my last year. I graduated and started to work in an office in a factory.
When Heydrich [the Nazi governor of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and a principal author of the Final Solution] had been assassinated, we were all terrified. The Germans killed hundreds of people every day. They murdered the people from Lidice and took their children away to be brought up by German families.There were columns of names of executed people in the newspaper every day.
Everything was scarce. I had a wedding and my mother exchanged a bicycle for a goose so that we could have a wedding feast. We had a dinner at the Evropa restaurant but we had to bring all the food. The cooks prepared it for us.
We had to go to church by tram: there was no petrol in the country.
Then the Americans started bombing Prague.
We had to run to cellars and shook with fear. We slowly grew accustomed to the air raids, and believed that the Americans were our friends, and that they didn’t want to hurt Czech people: we thought that all the bombs would be dropped on factories and barracks. We stopped hiding in cellars and were glad to hear sirens.
But one day the Americans bombed the center of the city. We didn’t expect anything like that.
I don’t remember much from that day, but I do remember that I was in the kitchen and my three-month-old daughter—- your mother – was in the bedroom. All of a sudden a bomb fell on the house next to us. The ruins fell on our house and I heard a terrible noise from the bedroom. I rushed into the room and saw that the ceiling had fallen down. Everything was lying under bricks and ruins. And the dust was so thick I couldn’t see through it.
I started to scream because I thought my baby was dead.
But God was on our side that day. A big picture had fallen down from the wall and covered the bed of my child like a lid. It protected your mother from bricks and dust. She was safe.”
“There were also good Germans in Prague. My teacher from the business school, for instance.
When she got to know that I had a child she brought me chocolate and cocoa. She kept coming bringing me food or coupons to buy meat or butter. She was very nice and helped me a lot. Your mother was very weak and I had little milk to breast-feed her. She wouldn’t have survived without milk coupons from my teacher.
I went to see her after the War, but she no longer lived in Prague. People told me what had happened to her.
When the War ended in May, Czech people wanted to get rid of the Nazis. They came to her flat, stole anything they liked, and then shaved her head and stuck a note on her back saying: ‘I’m a German swine.’ They dragged her through the streets spitting at her and beating her.
She didn’t deserve that. I was very sad when I heard that. And I was ashamed.”
My grandmother’s friend Zuzka was German. At least everybody – including Zuzka – thought so.
They spoke German at home. They were Catholic, and went to church every Sunday.
But Zuzka’s father was a Czech Jew who never spoke about his origin and felt no link to the Jewish community.
Zuzka married a dentist who happened to be also of Jewish origin. Nobody thought it was important.
They had a daughter Ella. She was in her teens when the War began.
“We had to go to Terezin. My husband died there of typhoid fever. My daughter Ella was about thirteen and worked in the vegetable garden. They grew vegetables for the Nazis. But she managed to smuggle some food into the ghetto quite often. She always hid it under her skirt.
The German soldier who was to guard them never searched her. He liked her.
One day there was some other soldier on the guard and that soldier caught Ella with some carrots under her dress.
I was in the ghetto when somebody came to me saying that they were taking Ella to the transport to Auschwitz – right from the garden.
I panicked. I didn’t think about anything but my daughter.
I ran to the railway station. The train was about to leave and wagons were full of people bound for Auschwitz. I ran as fast as I could. I thought the soldiers would shoot me down.
But nothing happened.
Nobody stopped me, and I jumped into one of the wagons. At that very moment the train started moving.
Only then did I realize what I had done: ‘What if Ella isn’t here?’
The wagon was overcrowded. I pushed my way through the mass of people shouting ‘Ella, Ella, are you here?’
And suddenly I heard :’Yes ma. I ‘m right beside you.’
I was happy. I was happy even though I knew I was going to Auschwitz.”
_____________________16 May 2002
Our names are PAvla Ticha and Tereza Losovaand we would like to tell you that we areinterested in the War even though we have no jewish ancestors. We can´timagine what suffering had the people go through every day. We have heardstories from our grandparents and we read about it in books, but still it isnot the same as to hear it from people who had survived the concentrationcamps and the Warand were able to live after the War without hate to all Germans.
Pavel I. Koller/CZECH ROMNI NEWS at crn@novinar.cz responded on 16 July 2002:
I am 18 years old and I attend a secondary school of social studies.
I am a Romani journalist and I am of course interested in the Holocaust. My grandparents died in Auschwitz. My granny was born there. My grand uncle fought with partisans.
We had an opportunity to speak to those who survived Auschwitz. I was moved by their stories. When they were telling us how their kids had been taken away from them I wept. I wrote an article about their experiences and I published it on our Web page as well as on the page of our school.
It is good that there are projects like yours. We can learn something fromthis human tragedy.

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