Harry Farkas

* 1947  

  • “I was there only for few days, two or three days. Suddenly they told me, ‘You will fly to Israel. You take a plane at certain time flying to Israel.’ ‘I will fly to Israel? I was already granted a visa to Italy, I wanted to see the world. I will not fly to Israel. No way. I won’t fly, I have to make up something instead.’ In the afternoon, when the people met to board the bus for the airport, Harry Farkaš was missing. They couldn’t find him anywhere. The cantor Landerer had two boys, one was about my age and the second one was younger and I made a deal with them. I hid at a toilet and when everyone was looking for me, also the boys were pretending to look for me. They looked and said I wasn’t there, although I actually was. So, they covered me up, the bus had to leave and the plane had to fly without me. I was hidden and two or three hours after the plane left from Vienna, suddenly, Harry Farkaš appeared. ‘Where were you?’ Well, the good soldier Švejk would be the best simile. Thanks to this I could have done what I originally wanted. They wanted to help, but they didn’t count on me having other plans. Well, the people from Sochnut (Jewish Agency for Israel, note ed.) were angry at me, but they could do nothing about it. Then I went by train to Italy with the Spiegle family.”

  • “I visited him in Pankrác prison for a few times. He served his sentence for those months or a year they gave him, I don’t quite exactly remember the length, Anyway, we were allowed to visit him during the visiting days. There was a visiting room, where people always sat opposite to each other. My mother and I on one side and my father opposite to us. At the head of the table, there was the prison guard. It was a long table. Close to us, there sat another people and then other ones, too. My father never smoked. My parents never smoked, neither did I, but the cigarettes were very important in prison. We were allowed to bring him cigarettes, so we did. The guard looked if nothing was hidden inside, and my father could take them and use them in a way he needed. I remember that. Of course, I was wondering why my father needed cigarettes, when he never smoked, but then they explained me everything. We visited him three times, I guess. My father had to undergo a surgery for several times in this prison, due to some stomach problems. However, later he told me, ‘You know, I was in the best hospital that actually existed in Czechoslovakia, because the Jewish doctors were imprisoned there. Thus, the surgery was done by the best doctors I could ever ask for.’ He had different scars after the surgeries. What was he doing there? He patched some sacks together. There were Jews and he was a rabbi, so I can imagine, they treated him quite differently; he never complained.”

  • “We went to attend the trial. The lawyer who defended my father wanted to influence the judge. Thus, they took me to the court as well and arranged all of it with me and my mother. They wanted to send me inside, so when there was a chance and the door opened, they pushed me in. Suddenly, I happened to be in the midst of the court, seeing my father for the first time after so many months. I approached him, he hugged me. [...] Until then he was on remand, he wasn’t sentenced, but we didn’t have any access to him. I met him and they probably wanted to influence the judge in this way. I don’t know whether it helped or not, nobody knew, since the judges back in the communist times were already determined what sentence to pass. [...] Anyway, it was an experience. My mother attended the trial several times. I stayed with relatives and she was there. She said she was very angry as the prosecutor damned Jews, scolded against Zionism. I don’t know if every trial was like that, I attended just that of my father’s, but that’s what I remember. The prosecutor called Jews a nation of a mayfly, that the Jews were just people of evanescence. This really made my mother angry. Comparing Jews, who lived for thousands of years, to a mayfly, that has only a one-day lifespan? I remember that because she used to repeat it quite often. She talked about it with everyone she met. It was similar like she was angry because of the Slánský’s case, how the colleagues offended him. That really shook her up.”

  • “One day early in the morning the doorbell rang. We opened and the State Security members stormed in. I didn’t know, what was happening, my parents dealt with them. My mother normally sent me to school and I went. When I returned, they were still there. They searched everything for two days. At first, they took my father away and arrested him. And then they turned everything upside down in our flat. I used to have a collection of stamps from my uncle, my father’s youngest brother who illegally left to Israel, back then to Palestine, in 1939 by a boat. He was a philatelist. I collected stamps and he used to send me envelopes. Always, when there was some anniversary, a new stamp was issued, so he used to send me envelopes with new postage stamps and postmarks. He collected it himself and always thought about me, too. I had such a collection in Děčín and of course, they found it. They didn’t take everything, but many they did. Furthermore, we used to get packages from our aunts from America, there were some chewing gums. And at the time, the American gums, it was something! So, these gentlemen took share of those, as well. What did they look for? What did they find? I don’t really know. In any case, my mother then hired a lawyer, when my father served his sentence in Litoměřice regional prison. It was not far from Theresienstadt. Then he got to Prague, where the trial was held.”

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    Kolín, Nemecko, 26.09.2017

    duration: 03:15:32
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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Per aspera ad astra - through hardships to the stars

In Israel, 1965
In Israel, 1965
photo: archív pamätníka

Harry Farkaš was born on May 22, 1947 in Bratislava, but his parents lived in Děčín, in Bohemia. His father, Bernard Farkaš, was a Jewish rabbi and his mother was a teacher. In 1957, as a little boy, Harry witnessed how the State Security arrested his father and searched their flat. His father was sentenced for anti-state activity to two years of imprisonment. After the release from prison, in 1958 the whole family moved to Karlove Vary, where the father continued to serve as a rabbi. At last, they settled down in Prague. Harry Farkaš attended grammar school; he was interested in photography and filming. In 1964 his family was granted permission to move to Israel, however, only Harry left and stayed there for two years. His parents wanted to go to Germany, where his father was offered a job of a rabbi in Aachen. Since it was impossible for Harry to graduate in Israeli grammar school in such a short time, he moved with his parents to Aachen. He learned German language and graduated from school of film and photography in Cologne. For forty years he worked in public service broadcasting as a cameraman, he filmed reportages in Germany as well as abroad and took part in many television productions. He visited Prague several times prior to 1989, and after his retirement he likes to return to this city more often, even for a longer time. Although his parents lived to older age, they had never returned to Czechoslovakia.