František Daniel

* 1921  †︎ unknown

  • “There [in Auschwitz-Birkenau] they gave me a bread, and I gave it to my sister, she [had arrived] much earlier so she knew it there. We were like in quarantine, there, in block 16. My mother had already died, so my sister ate the bread. Well, and then one more of my sisters died. One of my sisters had eight children, we’ll get to that. And she lay there, in block 14. I visited her there. All the children in block 14 were so ill! They were so ill that they didn’t even eat bread anymore and said, ‘Uncle, help yourself to that bread.’ They held it like this and said, ‘Take it, uncle, take that bread.’ I simply wept and didn’t take the bread, even though we were hungry there. I said: ‘Jeník, eat it up.’ And so on I said. I knew that this was really, that this is… the end. My sister was so beaten up that she died. I heard about that from other Roma who were in that block, who returned home. My brother, he was next door… There where the Jewish camp was - the Jewish and Roma camp. And it was there that I met that doctor who treated my hand. And there I like talked to him and he said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘you’ll return, but I won’t.’ We knew very well that the Jews who were there six months and more… That six months and then like went to be cremated. And I like saw... the liquidation of that camp. So that he was liquidated... and then... then burnt.”

  • “I told him, that I’m going to the lavatory. And there in that lavatory I looked through the window and simply had a look at the whole way, which would be the best way to make an escape, see. I had to see, there was water there, which way, whether there are wires there. So simply I had a good look round, well and...” [And what did you wear?] “I had normal...” [Civilian clothes?] “No, no, no, no no. They were prisoners’ uniforms.” [And you wanted to escape like that?] “Well, I escaped naked (laughter). I escaped naked, because I didn’t know how to swim and I said to myself that it was a question of sink or swim. Either I’d drown or like… I then paddled like a dog. I still remember that to this day. That was...” [And in which month was it? Approximately, according to the weather?] “Well it... it could have been ... it could have been in June. About in June. Well, and... [So that you...] “…and I had to ask permission to go to the lavatory, see. Ask the guards. Yeah. And I had to come back within 15 minutes. Announce, “Yeah, I’m here” “Go along”. He looked at you and knew that I’d go. And I in those 15 minutes managed to swim across that water. Under the bridge, yeah. To the other side. And on the other side… it’s still there today… I was there… there’s a normal kind of path and I simply went along that path. Good gracious! People were going to work. This was at seven o’clock in the morning, when I managed to escape. So I simple went… although I hadn’t intended to run. I didn’t intend running, so that I wouldn’t draw attention. But then I began to be afraid, and I again began to run.” [And how did people react when you walked up to them naked?] “Well that’s difficult to say. I didn’t even have time… they simply saw me, but I didn’t take them in. I simple went on, I went along slowly. Well and then as I was struck with fear I began to run. And I ran into a kind of wood, a kind of acacia wood. Well, and that was… I simply ran. Well, and the main thing was I kept to the woods and so on. Well, but... here I no longer heard, but I imagined, see, that the sirens were already going off because a prisoner had escaped and so on. Or I imagined this. Well, so I ran. Only Zátopek [note. Czechoslovak athlete, runner] could have caught me. He would not have caught me. It’s amazing what fear does!”

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In Birkenau, the guards stirred up confusion by using force, so the people did not have time to think or do anything. So that the people were as tame as lambs.

František Daniel
František Daniel
photo: video

František Daniel was born on June 9, 1921 in Chvalkovice, Vyškov province, Czechoslovakia (nowadays Czech Republic). He grew up in a large Romani family of 12 siblings, from which, for misbihavior, was internated at the age of 5 into a reform institution in Moravský Krumlov where he spent 10 years. At the age of 15, he returned back home with his family, and went to school, fulfilling with the basic education of 8 grades. When coming back home, he started the professional blacksmith training under his father, but didn’t finish it and returned soon back to Moravský Krumlov. In 1940, when the WW2 was in its major course, František’s father and brother-in-law, were sent in transport with other Roma people from the zone, to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where his father later died. František, in the same year of 1940, was sent to forced labors to Hodonín, from where he escaped, but when traying to cross the border, he was captured by the German army and ended up imprisoned in Cieszyn, Poland, from where he escaped again and headed back home. However, in 1942, when the situation escalated after the atentate on reichsprotector Reinhard Heydrich, František was again captured and imprisoned, now in the Vyškov prison, and later in Brno. He ended up in Hodonínek concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and in the same year 1942, he went in a transport to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland, where he reunited with other family members. Later, he was moved to Buchenwald and finally to the Dora concentration camp in Germany. When the WW2 was at its very end, František was liberated in Nordhausen by the British Army. After the war, he returned to Chvalkovice, later lived in Prostějov and Pilsen, he got married twice, as his first wife died, and he dedicated himself to metalurgy. His testimony on the Roma holocaust is one of the key narratives about the atrocities of the Nazi regime against the Romani nation. From the 12 Daniel siblings, only five survived the war. RECORDING SOURCE: