Jana Dubová

* 1926

  • “[One time] they did statistics, how many people are in Terezín, and they did by herding all [the prisoners], except those who were in hospital, to Bohušovice into this kind of basin. There were SS men [standing] all around, guarding. They counted us the whole day, some people completely snuffed it there. It was an insane day. They herded us out before dawn [...], and we didn’t return until after dusk. I don’t know if they actually counted us, but it was awful.”

  • “There were lots of bans and obligations, after a while you could do hardly anything - you weren’t allowed into the shops at certain times, we were only allowed to ride in the last carriage of the tram, then we had to hand over various items, [such as] bikes, basically everything of value [...]. When I handed in my bike, I cried terribly. The laws were getting more and more strict, and I started hating my origin. One day my friends told me that [their parents] don’t want their children to spend time with me. That [...] was a very difficult moment for me. Another blow came at the grammar school, where I was studying with honours, my last class was the junior third - I was banned from attending school, which was a huge disappointment to me. Then I embraced my Jewish family and reconciled myself to who I was.”

  • “[Q: Did you experience (the Red Cross inspection) in Terezín?] Yes, I even took part in it. They herded us youngsters out to a dance somewhere in a café. [...] The pavements were scrubbed. And when the SS men gave out sardines to the children, the children were taught to answer ‘schon wieder Sardinen’, which was supposed to create the impression that they had sardines all the time. The children didn’t even know what the sentence meant. It was an awful swindle, done only for the Swiss Red Cross. When the inspection came to Terezín, everything was clean, tidy, in order. One big lie it was.”

  • “The arrival to Osvětim was horrible after the journey. My mother who was 48 years old looked exhausted and old. We were standing on a ramp and the infamous doctor Mengele divided us into two groups, ones to the left and the others to the right. I was on the left and my mother on the right. And I asked him in German, if I could go with my mother. He told me that we would end up together anyway: ‘Ihr kommt ja ehr zusammen.´ So we parted and said a distant goodbye with the eyes. The other day I found that my mother had died in the gas chamber – with all the others on the right side.”

  • “Do you think that we should have defended ourselves?” “I think that it was bad that the army and the great defense system that the Republic had could not have been used. I think that it would have been terrible anyway, that we would be defeated as badly as Poland. So I think that even though it was bad in the sense that the nation didn’t fight, but maybe it’s good that we saved the lives of the soldiers and so on… But it must have been very sad to hand the weapons over to the Germans intruders. They must have felt miserable… and the whole Czech nation did. I don’t know. I do not understand the situation as much as to tell if we should have fought or not. Maybe it would have made us a prouder nation, but I don’t know.”

  • “I think that I lost memory due to the traumatic experience. But I know that we, the girls that came from Terezín, it was a group of five young girls I didn’t know before, we were some kind of a family. And we laid down on the plank bed and the question was how to survive the night. I already had hepatitis in Terzín and after that I had my first gallbladder attack in the age of seventeen. The second attack came in Osvětim. So it is evident that it was also caused by the stress. The pain is so horrible that you want to crawl on the ceiling. And we were packed like sardines in a box and it was a real torture. And in the morning I woke up with a rash. And of course they were selecting people. They were collecting people. We had to take our clothes off and when they saw the rash they took me away from the girls. And I managed to sneak back to them in the crowd. I just took a chance. And I didn’t know what was happening in the sickrooms, that they carried out tests on people and doing things of the kind. So it probably saved my life.”

  • “After a while, they began prosecuting us. We had to give them our gold and jewelry and I had to give away my bike, my beloved bike that brought me so many nice moments of my childhood. They simply took everything they could. And of course, we couldn’t travel by tram, only in the second wagon, and we had to start wearing yellow stars, that was by the end of 1939, or in 1940. We were branded like some kind of criminals. More and more things were prohibited, we couldn’t enter certain shops and so on. Life became more complicated. We couldn’t travel far outside Prague. It was a matter of few months that we lead normal life, we were on vacation in Davle, which I really enjoyed. And then the worst things came, in 1941 we had to leave the flat where I lived since I was born, for more than fourteen years. And we had to live with other families in a flat at Veleslavínova street in the Old Town. And my relatives, my father’s sister had to live with her family in the same flat, my cousin and his older sister, who participated in the underground resistance, which we didn’t know. And one night, the Gestapo came and took Gita away and searched the flat and again they took everything they could. And Gita was executed later on. I don’t know witch group she was a member of. She was nineteen and it was a great loss for the family.”

  • “Of course, there were new and new transports coming to Terezín, usually a thousand people coming from Prague, Brno, Ostrava or Pilsen or places all around the Republic. Some of them stayed, I don’t know by what they decided about who would stay and who would go, but those who went further east usually didn’t survive, they were disposed of somehow. I spent almost two and a half years in Terezín. In September 1944, the men were transported further east – our men, my boyfriend whom I met in Terezín, my father, all those that were left there, because there had been transports before, like the September pr the December one, that went to Osvětim into a so called family camp. But we didn’t know it. And when the men went away in September 1944, letters came, fake letters that everything was all right and that the women should come and join them, that they were fine. So when my mother was called to the transport, we didn’t protest, because we were going to see my father and my boy. So, if we knew the truth, we would behave differently. The journey was horrible, cattle wagons, we had one bucket for all, men, women, children. I remember a Dutch lady with a small baby, because there were Jewish people from Holland, Denmark, France… wait, not from France, they probably went directly to Osvětim. I am not sure, then of course there were people from Austria and Germany. Old people were dying or suffered with their health. Everybody was hungry. But the young ones could were stronger and more resistant than the old ones. Anyway, leaving Terezín meant leaving some kind of security, it was the Sword of Damocles in the form of transports.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, Česká republika, 28.08.2008

    duration: 01:02:06
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
  • 2

    Praha, 15.11.2013

    duration: 01:52:01
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 3

    Praha, 07.11.2014

    duration: 01:40:58
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I told myself : if you survive Osvetim, you will survive everything

740-portrait_former.jpg (historic)
Jana Dubová
photo: Eva Palivodová

Jana Dubová, formerly Hellerová, was born on August 30, 1926 in Prague. She came from a Czech Jewish family. After the occupation of Czechoslovakia, her father applied for her transport to England, which was organized by Sir Nicholas Winton. She was not accepted, and in April 1942, Jana was transported to Terezín. She stayed in Terezín until 1944 when she was transported to Osvětim. Her mother was executed upon arrival. Jana was chosen to work in a flax factory in the nearby village Merzdorf. The working conditions were harsh, food rations insufficient, and a typhus epidemic raged. Immediately after the camp was liberated by the Red Army, Jana Dubová, along with friends she had made in the camp, followed the frontline on the long journey back to Prague. Of the 30 members of her extended family, Jana and her sister were the only to survive the war. After returning to Prague, she married her boyfriend from Terezín, who had also survived the Holocaust. She studied at the State School of Graphic Arts and worked as a graphic designer. She also painted a series of paintings called “The Dreams of the Dead”, in which she depicted her memories.