“Why did I do it? When we walked to work in our prisoner uniforms every day in Gleiwitz [ed. note: an auxiliary camp for the Auschwitz concentration camp], I was sixteen and people must have known that I was no murderer or such, yet they turned away instead of helping the least bit. So I said to myself that should I survive I would be different – I would try to help everyone I can. Then I had a problem dealing with it all when I came back home. I thought I had to honour my parents somehow because they had given me good upbringing. It took me a year to find out. The best thing that I could do for them would be living a good life.”
“Once someone in our room stole food, which is something you don’t do, even though we were hungry. So we said, let’s try and catch him. I remember being active in that; we got some pills in the ambulance, I think they were called panflamin [ed. note: probably panflavin]. We put those in a bun and then left the bun on the table. The bun disappeared and then we went with everyone who had to take a pee. And we caught that boy. Then we set up a court and a jury and tried him. He confessed immediately and said: ‘I have no parents here and my brother is six or seven years old and he cries of hunger all the time, so that’s why I did it.’ We saw that nothing was black or white. And instead of sentencing him, we tried to help him and give him some of our own food.”
“My aunt, my mother’s sister, came [to Terezín] with her family and they went on to Auschwitz right away. It was called Birkenau at the time, or Březinka in Czech. When the Red Cross came to Terezín – that’s another story – there were worries that they would like to see Auschwitz too. So to show them that people survived there they set up a ‘family camp’ there. They did not select people to kill or to keep alive and instead they put them in a family camp for six months. Then, after the six months, they told the prisoners to write letters or cards to their friends or relatives with a later date – three months later – because the post was so slow. My aunt knew that my mother had died so she wrote ‘We will meet Greta tomorrow.’ Greta was my mother. When we got the card in Terezín it never occurred to us that she meant ‘I will be murdered tomorrow’ so we understood it like our mother was alive in Birkenau. When we got that card Hana wrote a card; someone had to pre-write it for her. She wrote: ‘Dear mother, I hope we will meet soon’ and so on. But since she wrote eight lines and we were only allowed to write six, the card came back to Terezín, and we still have the card. We thought our mother was alive and they were trying to tell us that our mother was dead too.”
Praha, Eye Direct studio, Hroznová ulice, 27.10.2016
Jiří Brady was born on 9 February 1928 in Nové Město na Moravě to the family of a local Jewish shopkeeper; daughter Hana was born to the Bradys three years later. The siblings’ harmonious childhood ended with the demise of Czechoslovakia and establishment of the Protectorate. Their mother Markéta helped her relative, a resistance movement member from Belgium, and was arrested and deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp in the spring of 1941. Their father was arrested in the autumn of the year and Hana’s and Jiří’s uncle took care of the children. Eventually they too had to board a transport and were deported from Třebíč to the Terezín ghetto in May 1942. Jiří came to the facility L 417 where a community of boys formed and issued the Vedem magazine. Jiří and his sister Hana were deported to Auschwitz in the autumn of 1944. Jiří survived the selection and was assigned to work at the Gleiwitz auxiliary camp. The war front came near Auschwitz in May 1945 and the prisoners from Gleiwitz relocated to the former Blechhammer prisoner-of-war camp, which became a target of gunfire. The witness along with other prisoners escaped through a hole in the wall. Jiří came to his hometown after a long trek through Uzhhorod and Budapest in May 1945, but his parents and younger sister Hana never came back from the Nazi camps. Jiří was against the communist coup and decided to emigrate. He settled in Canada. The story of his sister inspired the globally renowned educational project, Hana’s Suitcase. While on a visit to the Czech Republic in October 2016, Jiří Brady received many official and civic awards, including the Memory of Nation Award, for his lifelong efforts geared towards preserving the memory of the holocaust.