“Each room had a focus of its own. Some were Zionist, some were Czech, and others were Scout. We wore nametags with beavers on them because we were beavers [young boy-scouts]. The chiefs made that up to keep us in the illusion of normality. I recall an SS-man entering one day, looking around and saying: ‘Lauter Biber’ – beavers everywhere.”
“I was placed on a transport to Auschwitz, alongside a colleague who went straight to the gas chamber as they arrived. We were put on the list in the fall of 1944 when there was a series of large transports. I already had a number on my neck and I even received food for the route. My mother who back then sprayed uniforms went to see her head of operations – this was still a Jew – and told him: ‘Leoš, my boy is placed on a transport, I want to join him.’ He said: ‘That is stupid, you won’t even get to spend half an hour with him there.’ Probably, he had some information. She replied: ‘I don’t mind, I will go with him, even if we just spend that moment together. I won’t let him go on his own.’ That guy whom I kept seeing after the war found the courage to go to his superior SS-man and tell him: ‘Look, I have this woman working here, she is experienced and she wants to be put on a transport alongside her son, saying she won’t let him go on his own. Where would I find another experienced worker, though?’ We had to appear next to that house where uniforms were being sprayed, the SS-man came over and said: ‘Na gut’ – alright, then. And just like that, I was discarded from the transport.”
“There was a channel through which people had to pass. There, they inspected people’s suitcases for valuables, which they confiscated to the benefit of the Reich. After losing some of our possessions, we went to the barracks. Back then, there were still civilians in Terezín. Some rooms were ready and we filled in the straw mattresses. It was shortly after the setting up of the ghetto, so there were no bunk beds yet but only straw mattresses. I laid next to my mum. Next to each mattress, there was a gap so that we could lie there and put a suitcase or a military box with essential items under our heads. We could have carried fifty kilos maximum with us but that was just an illusion. Toddlers went to the transports alongside the elderly and none of them was obviously able to carry fifty kilos.”
“There were ten rooms there and in each of them around forty or forty-two beds in which we slept and lived. Those were triple bunk beds, with usually two boys lying next to each other on each of them. Wherever there was space, another triple bunk bed was set up.”
“I had a good job there. We’d drive around with a one-wheel push cart with a friend of mine, because the people who had used it were no longer there. On this cart, we’d deliver the various items that were needed in Theresienstadt. This gave us plenty of various opportunities. When we delivered bread to the various kitchens in the camp, we’d steal some food each time. We really enjoyed tis. My mother then used to say: ‘Afterwards I’ve always been afraid that you’d never break with the habit of stealing anymore’. But I almost managed to break with it...”
“We got used to the fact that we were not allowed to leave the house after eight o’clock. We got used to the fact that we were only allowed to go shopping in the afternoon, I think it was from three to four o’clock... You got used to all these restrictions. Everyone thought this was temporary and we did not want to give the Germans a show. We didn’t want to make a tragedy out of it. So we became isolated from the rest of the society. Then it was decided that we would be concentrated in concentration camps. The whole point of this endeavor was the physical destruction, extermination of the Jewish population, first in Central Europe and then of course even beyond.”
“They arrived in open railway cars used for hauling coal. There, they had been living among the dead. The dead were stacked high and they would use these stacks of corpses as benches to sit on. They literally stumbled out of the railway cars, we saw it with our own eyes. We already knew how to steal bread and we tried to help them. But we were not allowed to go to them because they had other infectious diseases, like spotted fever, which is far more contagious than typhoid fever. So when they stumbled out of the cars, they walked down an aisle with wire fences – such as those you can see in excavations. Pipe structures were separating them from us in order to prevent diseases from spread around the concentration camp. So we had to throw them the food. But after a while we had to stop that because they were fighting over the food, strangling each other. They were mad with hunger and thirst. At that point, they were no more human beings. And that’s when we actually learned the brutal truth of what had happened with our families.”
Pavel Fried was born on June 13, 1930, in Třebíč. He comes from a Jewish family of a Třebíč trader. As well as his parents and older sister, Pavel Fried was deported to Theresienstadt. He left in April 1942 and spent three years in the camp until May 8, 1945, when Theresienstadt was liberated. Meanwhile, his sister perished in Auschwitz, leaving him and his parents the only survivors of war of the whole extended family. After returning to Třebíč, his father tried to pick up his business, but in 1949, it was confiscated by the Communists. In 1946, Pavel Fried began to study at the Industrial School of Mechanical Engineering in Brno. After his graduation, he stayed in Brno and found a job as an industrial designer. In 1951, he was conscripted to the auxiliary technical battalions (PTP) and worked on the construction of airports. After the death of President Gottwald, he was discharged from the army and returned to civilian work. In parallel to his work, he graduated from college, majoring in organization and management at the Technical University in Brno, and in 1968, he was awarded a degree in engineering. During the Prague Spring, he was appointed economic deputy. However, he only held that post until 1972, when he was deprived of his function in the context of the so-called normalization. After reaching retirement age, together with his colleagues from the department of conceptions and prognosis, he established a private company and became its director. At the same time, he began his engagement in the activities of the Brno Jewish community, first as a member of the board and after eight years he became its chairman.