Jiří Franék

He, his mother and his brother were sent to Terezin in 1942, mother and brother were immediately transferred to Auschwitz, neither of them survived; he came to Auschwitz late in 1943; he was in the labor camp in Schwarzheide, then in Sachsenhausen concentration camp till the end of the war. His father had died before the war.

From one day to the next the situation for Jews was changed. I went to school and a friend laughed at me, “Now you Jews are going to see something….”. With our neighbors, non-Jews, we could listen to western radio. They could have been arrested for that. In front of the door that connected our apartments, we had a bookshelf. We took out two boards and crawled to the other side. jiri-franek In 1940 I was kicked out of my school. I went to Brno to the last Jewish grammar school. When my mother became ill I had to look after her, since she was alone; that way I was safe from doing forced labor for a few months. I learned how to do housework, even slaughter animals. That turned out to be useful later.

In the winter of 1942 my mother, my brother and I were sent to Terezin. My family was immediately sent to Auschwitz. My mother was killed in the gas chambers when she arrived, and my brother died six months later of pneumonia. I was ill and therefore I could stay in the ghetto. This way, the SS could carry on with their lie that the transports were going to a labor camp. My school friends from Brno were also in the ghetto; they organized a job with the youth welfare for me. Life in the ghetto was hard, and those who didn’t have work were lost. Before I could live in the youth hostel I was put up in barracks where they had bunk beds. Because of the bed bugs, fleas and lice I was not able to sleep a single night. In the hostel, every child had his or her own bed, and cleanliness was an issue of high priority. We taught the children. This kind of mental work helped us not to merely survive on a day-to-day basis. We did everything to make them feel as good a s possible. None of my children survived. In Auschwitz I also worked as tutor for a children’s group. That saved my life.

In Terezin had I joined the Communist party. In Auschwitz we had serious plans for an uprising. Two SS-men passed confidential messages to us. The told us that the next transport was really going to a labor camp. We believed them and gave up on our plans. What followed was six months of forced labor in Schwarzheide. They used coal to make petrol. During an air raid my legs were injured. That was toward the end of the war, when they had sent us to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in busses. The gas chambers were no longer operating, and the SS was very nervous. They could not decide whether they should kill us as fast as possible. And so they sent those who were still able to walk on the death march. This killed most people. Because of my injured legs, I remained in the camp.

After the war I got married. My wife’s family accepted me wholeheartedly; they did not hold it against me that I was a Jew. But what was most important for me: I had parents again.

Ph.D., literature professor, publisher, born November 24, 1922 in Vysoké Mýto, married, two children.

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