Anita Franková

* 1930  †︎ 2008

  • “We were not a very orthodox Jewish family. We all were members of the Jewish Community, though. My parents went to the synagogue once a year. As I later realized, it was on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The mothers of both my parents had already been dead and my Mummy did not have even her Daddy. I went to Jewish religion classes, it was a matter of fact, but otherwise nobody spoke about it very much in our family. I had two best friends, one of them was Jewish and the other one was Aryan. We never kept the Jewish tradition very much. We did not eat kosher food, we did not held Jewish festivals, on the contrary. St. Nicholas always paid us a visit, we always had a Christmas tree and Easter Bunny at Easter. If I can say so, my parents were closely connected with the area of Litomyšl to me. My Mummy had both Jewish and Aryan friends.”

  • “My father had a cousin who lived in Česká Třebová. The families met very often and they liked each other. Just that Ginza's family decided to emigrate to Australia. I know from my Mummy's narration that they persuaded my Daddy a lot to go as well. But my Dad, even if he was an incredibly educated and a clever man and dearly loved all his family, he would never get the idea that we could ever be in such danger. He refused to leave saying he wouldn't leave the sinking ship. He was simply a Czechoslovak patriot.”

  • “They built the notorious platform during our stay and the trains were coming right into the camp since then. The train stopped, people were getting off and there was a selection going on. We all from the family camp, we saw it. It was especially at the end of spring and in summer, it was to do mainly with Hungarian transports. You were incredibly influenced by that. The newcomers had no idea what was going on, we knew it. There were for example old people among them and those unable to move could not even get off themselves. Then, a prisoner responsible for that job took the person, threw him or her onto a dump body of a truck taking them to gas room. We saw that only a few went through those selections. Only young, healthy and childless individuals.”

  • “It was a very bad journey. We had been in quarantine before and everybody tried to withdraw. We went in cattle wagons again and we didn't have as many things as when we went to Terezín. But still. It was said that such a wagon was for ten horses and there were fifty people in it. The most important was, though, that the wagons were sealed. There was stuffy air in them. There were two buckets, one with drinking water and the other one to relieve ourselves. It got full of course during the way. You can imagine what it was like. We went for three days, thirsty, hungry, in stench. I don't know if anyone died right in the wagon. The wagons were sealed all way through from Terezín to Auschwitz. There was just one little hole through which you could see out. Mummy said that when we were passing through Prague and when we saw it in light, I was terribly crying.”

  • “We had the advantage at that time that we could live in our own house to the very last moment. It was not a beautiful flat but a flat in an older house. The Germans looked for flats in new houses with central heating. So we lived in good conditions up to the very last moment. And there, it was a horrible shock for us. There was one huge hall with straw-mattresses, one next to each other on the floor. It was a kind of area for everyone. You could sit or lie all day, you got food there. There were such troughs there, shower room and a kind of holes as toilets. The hall was enormous and it was shared by both men and women. Nobody was used to that. There was a horrible dressage by the SS-men, poor food, you had to hand in all your last possessions such as jewelery and flat keys. The adults were given an additional stamp 'Ghettoisiert' (in ghetto) into their identity documents, all of them already had their 'J' standing for a Jew in their documents. We spent there three days. On the fourth day they took us to Terezín. It was actually at dark at night because they did not want us to be seen. I was quite often ill there at the beginning, which was actually good luck. Because my Mummy and I had been included in a few transports. But luckily, an ill person protected a healthy one at that time, they didn't split families yet. And because I was ill and the Germans wanted that it resembled working transports, they couldn't send an ill person on a bunk. On top of that, I had scarlet fever and then hepatitis and I could infect someone. That was the reason for which we were crossed out of the transports. We were lucky then, we weren't included in the next, the dangerous transports. There were about 60 transports to the East from Terezín. There were about three or four from which only very few people returned. But from the percentage point of view, it was most of all the transports.”

  • “Introducing limitations was gradual, it was quite a good trick from the Nazis. Some more precautions, commands and orders were slowly coming within half a year, within a year, a year and a half. The Highest German Council didn't even issue them all. They issued rules to do with possessions but all those orders such as where the Jews were allowed to do their shopping, whether they got some garlic or not – such orders were given by the Protectorate Ministries or by Police Stations and Town Halls of individual towns. There were hundreds of such orders. The first thing after the occupation was introducing the Nuremberg Laws. I remember I was in the fourth year of primary school, the year 1939/40 and there were not so many orders at that time yet. They were coming gradually. I can talk about it nowadays not because I would remember it myself but because I know it from literature. I remember, for example, that I couldn't go to the theater, to the pictures, which I was sorry about. I cried a lot. There was a great hit on, a film on Božena Němcová and I was dying to see it. Mummy finally said yes, I could take the star off just for that evening and I could go to the cinema without her. I'm sure Mummy must have been worried sick. It must have been terrible but I think our parents took the orders much more than us, children. Later I couldn't go to my Granddad's in Rychnov for holidays any more, I couldn't go to school, I couldn't go to an ordinary playground. But because we were a group of Jewish children who learned at home, we visited one another, we went to play to playground Hagibor in Vinohrady. It was the only playground where we were allowed. I was sad, I missed my Granddad and such but somehow, we could enjoy our children games and we didn't think much about what could happen to us.”

  • “Then the genuine Polish cruel winter came, which was more cruel than ours. We lay on the floor on some straw. When we woke up in the morning it was frozen at our heads. There was no water. Imagine there was a brook there. We washed ourselves in it, we could do some washing every now and then. But when winter came, the brook froze over and we had nothing. There was a well next to the SS-Men's house but we were not allowed to go there. Mummy dared go once and an SS-Man beat her. It was simply infernal cold there, we were infernally hungry and there was no water. Then loads of snow fell, which was why we gradually stopped going to dig up the trenches. Those who didn't have any shoes stopped first, then those who had bad shoes followed. Finally, no one went as the ground was stone frozen and it was simply impossible. And we were still stuck there, we didn't have even a drop of water. High mortality was on increase. Lice infected with camp-fever started spreading. Out of the ten original tents, in which there were ten people, survived only three of us. Seven of them died still in there.”

  • “First of all we didn't go through selection in the family camp. There were no more selections in that camp in contrast with some other camps where it was common. Secondly, the families remained together. Even if men and women didn't live together, they didn't separate us and the families stayed together.”

  • “Nobody wanted to leave. Everybody who should have gone asked for withdrawing from the list. However, most of the requests were rejected. To ask voluntarily to be transported, that was not a problem. But the other way round it was very difficult. Nobody knew where he or she was going, what it looked like in there. Everybody thought he or she was going somewhere to work and that it would be similar as in Terezín. The Germans really seemed to treat us first as if those were real work transports. There was a limit, I think it was 65 years. If you were older than that you couldn't be transported. However, later on in winter 1942 there was great mortality in Terezín. Various diseases started spreading and the SS-Men started being scared so they prepared so called 'transports of the old.' Then, eighteen thousand people went namely to Treblinka, none of them came back.”

  • “The atmosphere was much worse. Everyone understood we would go to Terezín but nobody had the idea what it was going to be like there. We already had some acquaintance there who sent letters home. But the letters were censored and they had to be written in German only. Not everyone knew German... We had no idea you could go somewhere further from Terezín. The calls to transport were distributed at night. It was awful, you were scared of every door bell ringing. I think there was a three-day limit to get ready, then a few days on the gathering spot and then you were transported to the ghetto in Terezín. I know that we were ready for it because all of us knew there was not much time to pack. My Mummy for example had the linen dyed brown, since she expected there would be poor possibilities to wash it in Terezín. I remember that there were piles of things on the beds in the bedroom, which wasn't used since Daddy's death. We had always supplies of durable bread and such... We were constantly ready to be given the call, today, tomorrow, the next day after tomorrow. I actually looked forward to meeting my friends so I didn't think about it very much. And Mummy used to say that she would not be scared of the call any more and would be able to go to bed calm. Her sister had already been there, a couple of her friends and of mine too. So we did not mind it that much. We said, well, we would go there, all of us would be there and then the war would be over... Such funny optimism, we counted that it would be over by October, January... And we got there and found with horror on the spot that there were further transports from there.”

  • “My arrival was tragicomic. It was in November 1945 and nobody in Prague expected anybody else to come back. The repatriation office was still in operation there but nobody took care of us. They left us at Bubeneč Station and said to us to go somewhere to Ďáblice. I can't remember how we got there. I stayed there overnight. They came to me the next day and told me to go to the repatriation office in Hybernská street. I told them I had absolutely no idea where I was and how to get there. Well, they gave me some tickets and explained the way to me. They saw I was skin and bones, dirty and totally disoriented, but nobody got the idea to help me. I understand the officials had some other things to do but still, form the human point of view... People on the tram showed their humanity, though. When they saw me, they collected some money and food vouchers among themselves. I was not shy to accept it but eventually I didn't buy anything for it because I was ashamed of myself. I was ashamed of what I looked like and I was scared to go to a shop like that. They gave me my auntie's address in the repatriation office. My auntie didn't live there any longer. I was roaming hungry through the streets, when I got the idea to go to the police station. Luckily, the police officer asked me who I was and sent me to the Jewish Community. There was a certain lady who knew my aunt very well and she took me at her place. I got to my aunt, I lived there and my Mummy arrived only in March.”

  • “The first change I noticed was when Sudetenland was separated. The villages in Litomyšl surroundings were German. I also remember that we used to go for a walk with my parents in the evening. We went from our house to the bars, the bars that separated Sudetenland. I found it weird and I'm not sure whether my parents explained it to me or not. Another awful affliction was the occupation. My Daddy had to leave his job, advocacy. He had already had some problems before and my parents decided to move to Prague at that time. Daddy thought we would get lost in the city. He was hoping to find a job to be able to support the family. But first of all, it was necessary to arrange everything in Prague. Before it was all ready, we moved at our Granddad's to Rychnov upon Kněžná first. We lived there for about half a year. I completed my third year of school attendance and I spent my holidays there. We moved to Prague in October 1939. But Daddy suddenly died of a heart stroke in November. It was a shock for my Mum and it was terrible for me too even if I did not understand it so well. What Daddy counted with never happened and we were left with Mummy in Prague alone.”

  • “We were there for about two weeks and we felt as if we were on holiday. We couldn't break out of there but at least there was nobody buggering us around. We lay in the sand, I remember Mummy found a stone and took it for her pillow. It was warm because it was in July. We were hungry, we were given soup once a day but nobody buggered us around. Then they transferred us to another camp and they were buggering us again. There were those unpleasant Blockälteste (Block leaders) there again. When people were naughty in their opinion, for example at night, there was not enough space and women were fighting for space. Then the Blockälteste came and poured a bucket of water over us. There were roll-balls there, they also led someone away during the selections so it seemed that there was a small gas room or that they wanted to get rid of that person in another way. They always separated a group of people during selections and they sent them somewhere seemingly to work. And they didn't want to take me, but they took Mummy all the time. Mummy could not stand it any more. She hid me somewhere over a fence before the selection. She went through and then took me out and dragged me to those who managed to get through. Well, she saved my life again, even in that Stutthof.”

  • “I have got the feeling I was totally daft, disoriented, panicking and I still believed my Mummy would do something. When we got to the camp we were put up. I know that it was very hard for Mummy to see, you know, that the prisoners themselves had certain functions. They had exceptional positions, better living and better food. There was actually an SS-Man who was in charge of the camp. But for example Lagerführer (the Camp leader) was also a prisoner, not a Jew but a criminal. Blockälteste (the Block leader) and the clerk were our people. I know that the greatest shock for my Mummy was that she saw some ordinary people we had known and the change that came over them. I was very much influenced by my mother. Those people shouted at us too, they also stroke us with things, they scared us that we would fly through the chimney anyway... I think their doing so was purely intentional. People found themselves in such conditions, unless they were holy, that they would give anything for some better food or living.”

  • “The Terezín board of men of influence tried to make lives of children and youngsters easier as much as they could. They saw the future of the Jewish nation in children, that they would survive and would be at least a bit healthy. They couldn't do much but they did their maximum about as good as it could be. For example, children got some better food and bigger portions. The Germans were totally idle. They simply gave Terezín authorities certain amount of food and they did not care at all how they portioned it then. Children had relatively a good time. However, it was at the expense of someone, of old people in that case. They were really dying of starvation in Terezín. But there was probably no other way of doing it...”

  • “I remember that my Mummy had her best friend in Litomyšl. We had our stuff hidden at her place and she helped us a lot. She used to send us for instance a goose by post or with some acquaintance and such. She supported us. There were the Březina's in Prague, professor Březina was my Dad's professor at Grammar School in Rychnov. They used to visit us despite all the possible danger and despite our telling them not to. We also entrusted them with our china, glass etc. We had it hidden at their place and they gave it all back to us. However, there were people who didn't return our possessions to us, people who were scared to meet us... It was different.”

  • “Well, my first memories reach back to the mobilization in fall 1938. I did not know exactly what was going on but I knew something was going on. Daddy was not at home because he offered himself and his car to help to bring recruits together. People expected war. There were left only my Mummy, our housemaid and I at home. We did some kind of drill when we lit an oil lamp with a blue chimney and we learned to put on our gas-masks. I had one with a trunk, those were for children. It looked ghastly and I was terribly scared.”

  • “We spent about two weeks in the military hospital in Syzráň. Then they realized that there was no more place for civilians in military hospital. Mind you, it was still at wartime. All was destroyed, everyone had a family member at the front, many dead bodies, huge hardships... They transferred us to a civilian hospital. We lived there, ate hospital food and we were visited by a doctor every now and then. But then, some men started coming to interrogate us. In the meantime the war was over and we tried hard to get home somehow. It was after the war already when we realized we were actually very suspicious to them. We came from the capitalistic Czechoslovakia and capitalism – it was their enemy. On top of that we were Jewish. That was why we were visited by members of NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) and they interrogated us. We got stuck there and couldn't get from that place. Then it was warm, it was in summer in August when they came to us to the hospital. They said we couldn't stay there any longer and that they had to transfer us somewhere else. Then we were transferred to a prison-of-war camp. There were German civilians from the Baltic region and Prussia. All of a sudden we found ourselves in a concentration camp with our enemies. My Mummy had to work with them in brickworks. She didn't mind the work as much as she minded working with people whom she hated. It was true that they did not beat us, we had food and I as a child didn't have to go to work with them. But the war was over and we simply wanted home. Then once during a roll-ball there was that camp leader who said that my friend, another girl from Carpathian Ruthenia and I were going to go home. But my Mummy, my friend's Mum and an elder sister of the girl had to stay. They got a written command that no children were allowed in the camp. We tried to persuade them so that we could go home together or at least stay together, but it was absolutely impossible. There were horrible scenes because of that but they literally tore us from one another. They put us into a truck and we were taken to the railway station. We sat there on a platform for a few days, waiting for a train to the civilized Europe, which came in a few days time.”

  • “The selection took place in one of the blocks, it may have been cleared up just because of that. Mummy said that also Mengele was present there. My Mum was a great fighter. If it were not for her, I would not be here. I was the only one left to her and there would be no point in her life without me. That was why she did all she could so that I survived. A certain advantage was also that we had already been there for some time and that was why my Mum had some acquaintance among the prisoners who had certain functions. For example she knew the camp woman-doctor very well. We went to the selection and of course we failed to go through. Mum did but I didn't. So Mum went to Schreiberei (Office) and let her name erased. When we went there for the third time I was taught to say I was a gardener. But on top of that he asked me whether I destroyed the plants or grew them. I supposedly gave him a silly look and said: 'Herr SS, ich verstehe nicht so viel Deutsch.' (Mr. SS, I don't understand so much German.) He thought it was funny, so he swept his hand and said to both of us to go. I have believed in fate since then. It all very much depended on the condition, the position, on the fact in front of whom you stood and what the mood of that person was. It was a terrible coincidence, a terrible one.”

  • “When we stopped at the station, there came the Auschwitz prisoners in such weird commando. With racket they flung the door open and shouted in German: 'Out, out, everybody out!' They wore prisoner's clothes and striped caps. When their cap fell off we saw that they were bald. It was terrible for us and for the adults as well. We actually didn't know where we were or what to do. They threw somebody out of the train, someone fell out. Then we were taken to a sauna where they tattooed us. They took the rest of our stuff and only children could keep their underwear and shoes, I remember that.”

  • “We came to Terezín shortly after the whole village had become a ghetto. All inhabitants living there till June 30 had to move out and their houses started being lived in. At that time people didn't live only in the barracks but also in those houses. There lived a few people in each house, the houses were poorly equipped. I remember the first house was called 'At the Sun,' it was still its old name. We lived there for a few days. We lay on the concrete in the laundry, there was no more space anywhere else. Then we were moved to the barracks and I was even allocated to a children room. I accepted it only with great difficulties. I became a very quiet and a shy person after my Daddy's death. I still had friends but I was fairly dependent on my Mummy and I wanted to be with her all the time. I saw my Daddy dying and I was incredibly scared about my Mummy.”

  • “We were simply commanded to line up. They said they would take us to a truck waiting for us somewhere and we would go on. However, some adults recognized on our way that we were led to the place where the grave was, where we buried people. They even saw a dug-up grave over the plane. I didn't think very much but the adults understood we were led somewhere to be shot dead or killed somehow. They started running away but the SS-Men started shooting after them. Sometimes they hit them, sometimes they missed. We went behind since my legs weren't too good and I couldn't walk. I went slowly but Mummy supported me, even if she couldn't any more and was totally shattered herself. They were scared they wouldn't finish it by the time the Russians came, you could hear cannonade in the distance. Well, they wanted to beat those staying behind to death. They started beating our heads with their gun-stocks. Each of us got three blows. Mummy lost her consciousness and I saw it all. Before I collapsed I knelt down, I put my hands together and said in German: 'Mr. SS, leave me alone, please, I can't any more.' He hit me and I lost my consciousness. We both stayed lying there in January, in the freezing Polish weather, in the snow, on the ice, it was already getting dark. Luckily, none of the blows killed us, we even didn't get frozen to death out there. We somehow got back to our tents. None of us could remember how that happened. I can still see the large snowy plain in front of me, there were two figures walking across, supporting each other and there was a large circle of the sun in front. It must have been at sunrise or at sunset when we got there. My friend who miraculously saved her life said that she was hidden and that was why she remembered how we came to the tent. We were both bleeding all over, we almost couldn't move. My Mummy started raving because she was actually unconscious. I only sat and cried, I couldn't say a word. We stayed there, all alone, the SS-Men ran away. There were about ten, fifteen, twenty of us, I don't know. We were only five Czech women there. Two mothers with their daughters and an orphan. My Mummy came to herself after two or three days. She was limping around, well, it must have been dreadful for her. But she walked to a village, the village went up the hill from our camp. She walked there in order to beg the Polish people for food. And she said they were wonderful. She was dirty, lousy and they were wonderful. They let her in, they sat her at their table, they didn't detest her. They gave her to eat and added some food for us on top of that. We lived that way and luckily the Germans left and the Russians came. They looked after us. They cleared a house for us, they moved us in there. They shaved us, burnt all we were wearing and gave us some clean clothes.”

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    Praha, 28.08.2008

    duration: 01:58:12
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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It all depended very much on the condition, the position, on the fact in front of whom you stood and what the mood of that person was

Anita Fischerová před válkou
Anita Fischerová před válkou
photo: archiv Post Bellum/Adam Drda

Mrs. Anita Franková was born in Litomyšl in 1930. Her father was a barrister, the family lived a peaceful life till the German occupation. Then they decided to move to Prague. Unfortunately, their Daddy suddenly died shortly after that. Anita (Fischerová at that time) was left alone with her Mummy. Both of them were deported to Terezín in 1942 and later to Auschwitz in 1943. Although their arrival to Auschwitz was an enormous shock for them, there were some lucky moments connected with this transport. They didn’t undergo any selection and the new arrivals were placed in so called ‘family camp.’ Except for the absence of the initial selection, the family camp was characterized especially by the fact that there lived both men and women, i.e. families were not separated. The first inhabitants of the family camp were killed in March 1944. Another collective slaughter was supposed to come in July 1944. Anita Franková’s Mum managed to go through the selection and she pushed her daughter through with her. She saved her life this way many times. Having gone through Auschwitz women labor camp, both mother and her daughter left for the concentration camp Stutthof. They were sent from there to work to a branch labor camp Gutau. Cruel local conditions ruined their health. The fleeing Nazis wanted to kill all the maimed individuals by beating their heads. Both of them miraculously survived and even lived to experience the arrival of the Russian Army. However, they were taken to Syzráň upon Volga by mistake. Anita Franková returned to Prague only in Nvember 1945 and her mother in March of the following year. Anita Franková died on 10 March 2008.